Nestled against the backdrop of the majestic Alps, Turin is the capital of the Piedmont region in northern Italy. Elegant, cultured and refined, this enchanting city is many times overlooked by some other famous cities. However, Turin is in fact one of the most important in Italy, with an ancient history and a strong economy, which makes it a versatile place that combines its old heritage with a lively atmosphere.
Turin's history dates to the pre-Roman era when it was founded by the Taurini, a Celtic-Ligurian tribe. In 28 BC, the Romans conquered the region and established the town of Augusta Taurinorum which flourished as a crossroads for trade routes. After various changes of rulership during the mediaeval period, it was the House of Savoy that would shape the destiny of Turin for centuries to come, with significant developments. In the 19th century, the city became the first capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy, although for a short period of time. This created rapid industrialization and later served as the headquarters for iconic Italian automobile manufacturers, such as Fiat and Lancia.
Over time, Turin diversified its economy and became a prominent cultural city and a captivating tourist destination, offering a plethora of attractions and experiences that will leave you enchanted. To make things easier for you, we selected the 10 best things to do in Turin!
Immerse in the luxurious Royal Palace
Located in the heart of Turin, the Royal Palace, also known as the Palazzo Reale, is a magnificent architectural masterpiece that offers a glimpse into the lavish lives of the Savoy dynasty, who once ruled over Italy. Exploring the Royal Apartments allows you to immerse yourself in the private chambers of the royal family, where you will find yourself surrounded by exquisite art, elegant furnishings, and intricate decorations that span several centuries.
As you wander through the lavishly decorated rooms, you'll witness the splendour of their living spaces, including the sumptuous Throne Room, the royal bedrooms, and the private chapel. Each room offers a unique glimpse into the rich history and refined tastes of the Savoyards. The Royal Armory is one of its highlights, housing an impressive collection of armaments, armour, and weaponry from different historical periods.
Beyond the captivating interiors, don't forget to take a moment to appreciate the beautiful Royal Gardens surrounding the palace. These meticulously landscaped gardens offer a tranquil respite from the bustling city, with elegant pathways, vibrant flowerbeds, and charming fountains.
The Palazzo Reale the Turin is one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, a collective listing that includes several royal residences in and around Turin, that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit the superb Palazzo Madama
Palazzo Madama is another one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy recognized by UNESCO for its architectural beauty, historical significance, and the art collections it houses. Originally built as a Roman gate in the first century BC, underwent several transformations over the centuries and it later became the residence of the influential Madama Christine of France, hence its name.
One of the most striking features of Palazzo Madama is its captivating façade, which showcases a harmonious blend of Medieval, Baroque, and Renaissance architectural styles. The palace houses the Turin Civic Museum of Ancient Art, a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces. The museum's collection spans from ancient times to the 18th century and features an impressive array of sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and decorative arts. One of the highlights of a visit to Palazzo Madama is the magnificent staircase adorned with beautiful stuccos and sculptures.
Go up Mole Antonelliana and explore the Cinema Museum
One of the must-visit attractions in Turin is the Mole Antonelliana, an iconic symbol of the city's skyline. This towering structure offers not only breathtaking views but also houses the National Museum of Cinema, providing visitors with a unique and immersive cinematic experience.
Initially designed to be a synagogue, it was conceived in 1863 by architect Alessandro Antonelli, who stole its name. It was in 1889 that it opened to the public, who from the outside could contemplate the tallest building in Europe at the time, with 167.5 meters high. The glass elevator ride to the top is an adventure, offering awe-inspiring views that unfold as you go higher. Once you reach the observation deck, you'll be treated to a magnificent 360-degree panorama, where the Alps, the river Po, and the city's architectural wonders come into view.
However, the journey doesn't stop there. Within the Mole Antonelliana lies the National Museum of Cinema, a captivating exploration of the history, art, and magic of cinema. The museum's exhibits are spread across multiple floors and encompass a vast range of artefacts, interactive displays, and multimedia installations. The collection spans from the earliest days of silent films to modern-day blockbusters, tracing the evolution of cinema as an art form. You'll encounter vintage cameras, costumes worn by famous actors and actresses, film posters, and even props from iconic movies.
Unveil the extraordinary collection of the Egyptian Museum
The path to Egypt must go through Turin! Although they are two completely different places, there is one thing that connects them: the Egyptian Museum of Turin, with one of the most amazing collections in the world, second only to, of course, the one in Cairo.
The Egyptian Museum of Turin was established in 1824, making it the oldest Egyptian museum in the world. After 5 years of renovation, the Egyptian Museum of Turin is now a modern and large space with splendid windows that allow the visitor to move freely, without barriers, getting close to the mummies and sarcophagi. The idea of closeness is so great that the sensation is almost as if we were entering the tombs of the pharaohs.
The collection contains some amazing treasures that are must-sees, like the Sarcophagi Gallery, with beautiful sarcophagi from the period 1100 BC to 600 BC. The Kha’s tomb is undoubtedly the greatest treasure of the Egyptian Museum of Turin, as it was discovered by Schiaparelli still intact and sealed. You can see the sarcophagi and all the funeral trousseau that has about 550 objects, including a Senet (a board game), a preserved wig, a box with beauty products, linen tunics, funeral beds and even fossilized food. The visit ends in the hall of the statues of the kings, with splendid statues, like the pharaoh Ramses II and the gigantic statue of Sethi II, over 5 metres high.
Go for Apericena and taste Piedmontese cuisine
Indulging in a culinary experience is a must when visiting Turin. When it comes to experiencing the local food culture, two concepts stand out: Apericena and Piedmontese cuisine.
Apericena is a term that combines "aperitivo" (aperitif) and "cena" (dinner) and represents a unique dining experience in Turin. It is a relaxed and social gathering that typically takes place in the early evening, where people come together to enjoy a drink, like in the aperitivo, but here it is accompanied by a variety of appetizers and light dishes that showcase the flavours of Piedmontese cuisine.
One iconic Piedmontese speciality that often makes an appearance during Apericena is the vitello tonnato. This dish features tender slices of boiled veal topped with a creamy sauce made from tuna, anchovies, capers, and mayonnaise. Or bagna cauda, a warm dip made from anchovies, garlic, and olive oil, served with an assortment of fresh vegetables. Another popular delicacy is “carne cruda”, which is raw minced beef seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and aromatic herbs. It is usually served with a side of bread or crispy grissini.
The Piedmont region, with its fertile lands and proximity to the Alps, is known for its exceptional ingredients, like the meats or truffles, and cheese production, often served during Apericena, such as Castelmagno, Toma, Robiola and Gorgonzola. These cheeses pair wonderfully with the region's excellent wines, including Barolo and Barbaresco.
While Apericena provides a fantastic introduction to Piedmontese cuisine, exploring the local food scene in Turin goes beyond this concept. The city is home to numerous traditional trattorias and osterias where you can indulge in hearty dishes like agnolotti, small pockets of pasta stuffed with meat.
Turin also offers a tempting selection of sweets and desserts. Piedmont is the birthplace of gianduja, a smooth and creamy chocolate made from a mixture of cocoa and hazelnuts. You will find gianduja-based treats like gianduiotti (chocolate pralines) and gianduja cake, which are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
Explore San Giovanni Battista Cathedral and go up the bell tower
Located in the heart of Turin, the San Giovanni Battista Cathedral, also known as the Turin Cathedral, is a magnificent architectural gem that beckons visitors from near and far, renowned for its stunning Renaissance architecture and numerous works of art and religious artefacts.
One of the most revered treasures housed within the San Giovanni Battista Cathedral is the Holy Shroud or the Shroud of Turin. This sacred relic is believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. While the Shroud is rarely displayed to the public, its presence within the cathedral adds to the sense of awe and spirituality that permeates the space.
To truly appreciate the beauty of the San Giovanni Battista Cathedral and enjoy panoramic views of Turin, visitors may ascend the bell tower. Also known as the Campanile, it offers a bird's-eye view of the city and its surroundings. The climb to the top may require some effort, but the reward is well worth it. From this elevated vantage point, you can admire the architectural splendour of the cathedral itself, marvel at the nearby Piazza Castello, and soak in the beauty of the surrounding Alps that serve as a majestic backdrop.
Visit the Automobile Museum
Whether you have a passion for cars or are just curious about the impact of transportation on society, a visit to the Automobile Museum in Turin is a must. It stands as a captivating tribute to the rich history and cultural significance of the automotive industry and showcases a vast collection of automobiles, tracing the evolution of cars and their impact on society.
As you step into the Automobile Museum, you will be greeted by a captivating display of vehicles that spans over a century of automotive history. The collection includes iconic cars, rare prototypes, and historic vehicles that tell the story of automotive design, innovation, and engineering. One of the highlights is the chance to see legendary cars that have left an indelible mark on automotive history and evoke a sense of nostalgia and admiration for their timeless beauty and engineering prowess.
Savour a traditional bicerin
When in Turin, have a bicerin! This is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made with coffee, chocolate and cream and it is delicious! Its origin dates from centuries ago, from the coffee shop “Al Bicerin” which still keeps secret of its original recipe. Being very close to the Santuario della Consolata, this drink allowed the faithful to quench their hunger after the fast of communion and Easter since hot chocolate was not considered food. The rich taste of this drink, with its mixture of hot chocolate and coffee, has won the hearts of the inhabitants of Turin.
Bicerin in the Piedmontese dialect means small cup. The bicerin ritual initially included the three ingredients served separately. But in the 19th century, they were mixed in a single cup and offered in three variants: Pur and fiur (similar to cappuccino), Pur and beard (coffee and chocolate), 'n Poc' d Tut (a little of everything), including the three ingredients. This last was the most successful and ended up prevailing, taking its name from the small glass cups in which it was usually served. This type of glass cup allows you to observe the nuances given by the different densities and contrasting colours of the ingredients used. The secret to savouring the real bicerin at its best is not to mix it, letting its various components blend directly into the palate, with its different densities, temperatures and flavours.
Go back in time at Borgo Medievale
Nestled within the beautiful Parco del Valentino in Turin, the Borgo Medievale is a meticulously crafted replica of a medieval settlement, designed to transport visitors back in time and immerse them in the ambience of the Middle Ages.
Built in 1884 for the General Exposition of Italian Industry and Applied Arts, the Borgo Medievale was intended to showcase the diverse architectural styles and cultural aspects of medieval Italy. Today, it continues to captivate locals and tourists alike with its well-preserved structures and enchanting atmosphere.
As you enter the Borgo Medievale, you'll find yourself stepping into a world of cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and charming squares reminiscent of a bygone era. From the imposing Castello (castle) to the humble artisan workshops, every corner of the Borgo Medievale exudes authenticity and attention to detail. Step into the church to admire its beautiful frescoes, or visit the blacksmith's forge to witness traditional metalworking techniques in action.
In addition to its architectural marvels, the Borgo Medievale hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the year, further enhancing the immersive experience. From historical reenactments and medieval festivals to craft workshops and live performances, there is always something happening within the village's walls.
Take the tram and head up to the Basilica of Superga
A trip to Turin is not complete without a visit to the magnificent Basilica of Superga, perched atop the Superga Hill overlooking the city. To reach this splendid religious site and enjoy breathtaking views of Turin and the surrounding countryside, a tram ride up the hill is the perfect way to embark on this memorable journey. The tram journey is an experience in itself!
Upon arriving at the summit, you'll be greeted by the grandeur of the Basilica of Superga, an architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 18th century. The basilica is a testament to Baroque splendour, with its imposing dome, elegant façade, and intricate details. Inside you'll be enveloped by a sense of awe and tranquillity.
If you want even better panoramic views of Turin, climb the stairs or take the elevator to the rooftop of the Basilica. From this elevated vantage point, you can marvel at the city of Turin sprawling below, with its majestic landmarks, sweeping boulevards, and the mighty river Po meandering through the urban landscape.
In addition to the basilica itself, the Superga Hill offers more attractions to explore. Take a leisurely walk through the surrounding park, enjoy a picnic amidst the tranquil greenery, or simply savour the serenity and fresh air. The hilltop location provides a peaceful respite from the city below, allowing you to soak in the beauty of the natural surroundings.
Let's discover Turin!
While Italy is filled with amazing destinations to explore, Turin stands out as a vibrant city that seamlessly blends its rich historical heritage with modern innovation. It’s a city that showcases an array of architectural styles and, with its historical legacy combined with its cultural offerings, makes it a captivating destination for travellers seeking a unique experience. With easy access either by plane, train or road, you just have to pack your bags! Let’s discover this enchanting Italian city together!