Insider’s Guide to Turin, Italy: Best Museums, Palaces, Parks, Food & More
July 5, 2023
Why visit Turin?
Torino, Italy—known to English-speakers as Turin—is one of the country’s largest cities. Between Turin’s size, and the number of attractions it offers, it’s surprising that it remains so off-the-beaten-path for tourists.
Boasting chic piazzas, Baroque architecture, palaces, and castles, the capital of the Piedmont region is so elegant, it’s been nicknamed Italy’s “little Paris.” In fact, the Savoia family, the last monarchy to rule Italy before it became a republic, resided in Torino for centuries. (And when the Republic was founded, Torino, not Rome, was its first capital).
In later years, Torino distinguished itself as an important hub of Italian business; Fiat, the Italian car manufacturer, was founded in Torino in 1899 and is still a major industrial protagonist in the city.
Curious about what to see as a visitor in Turin? Here are some of our favorite attractions!
Museums in Turin
Mole Antonelliana and the National Cinema Museum
Strange, but true: Torino is the home of the world’s tallest museum. That’s because of the Mole Antonelliana, the large tower that’s become the symbol of the city. Originally built as a synagogue, the landmark now houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Cinema Museum), which traces the history of international cinema. Take the elevator to the top floor for breathtaking panoramas… but beware of the local legend, which holds that students who head to the top to enjoy the view won’t graduate from their courses!
We love the expansive Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum), one of the most important Egyptian museums in the world. It houses a vast collection of artifacts spanning over 4,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. (Prepare to spend several hours here!)
The museum’s collection is truly impressive, with more than 30,000 artifacts on display. It includes statues, sarcophagi, papyrus scrolls, jewelry, and everyday objects that provide insights into the religious beliefs, social structures, and daily life of the ancient Egyptians.
Highlights include the Turin King List, a papyrus document dating back to the 19th Dynasty that lists the names of the pharaohs of Egypt. It also houses several beautifully preserved royal mummies, providing visitors a glimpse into the funerary practices and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians.
Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile
Turin’s Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile (National Automobile Museum) showcases the history and evolution of the automobile industry with a collection of over 200 vehicles. The iconic museum displays a wide range of cars, including vintage models, prototypes, and concept cars from different eras. Visitors can explore the exhibits and learn about the technological advancements, design innovations, and cultural impact of automobiles. With its rich collection and engaging displays, the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile offers a fascinating journey through the world of automotive history.
Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano
History buff? The Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano (Italian Unification Museum) is the place for you.
This museum is dedicated to the history of the Italian Risorgimento, the movement that led to the unification of Italy in the 19th century. It showcases a comprehensive collection of artifacts, documents, and artwork that highlight the key events, figures, and ideas of this pivotal period in Italian history. Visitors can explore the exhibits, which cover topics such as political movements, military campaigns, and cultural developments, providing a deeper understanding of the struggle for Italian unity. The Museo del Risorgimento offers an immersive and educational experience for those interested in Italy’s journey towards nationhood.
Palaces in Turin
Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace)
Want to get a taste of the luxurious life of royalty? Look no further than Piazza Castello, where you’ll find the opulent Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace).The site is actually a collection of historical buildings that house several significant museums. The complex includes the Royal Palace, the Royal Armory, the Royal Library, and the Archaeological Museum.
The Royal Palace, in particular, is a majestic structure that served as the official residence of the House of Savoy, Italy’s royal family. It features opulent interiors, including lavish halls, grand ballrooms, and beautifully decorated chambers. The palace also showcases a remarkable collection of artwork, furniture, and historical artifacts, offering visitors a glimpse into the royal history and cultural heritage of Turin.
Not only is Palazzo Madama a palace, it also houses a beautiful art museum. Former residence to both royals and the first senate of the Italian kingdom, this palatial home is a remarkable palace with a rich history.
Originally a medieval castle, it was later transformed into a prestigious residence for the noble families of Savoy. The palace features a captivating blend of architectural styles, ranging from medieval to baroque and neoclassical. It is known for its iconic central tower, ornate facades, and elegant courtyard. Today, Palazzo Madama houses the Civic Museum of Ancient Art, where visitors can explore a diverse collection of art and artifacts, including sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and decorative objects, spanning from ancient times to the modern era. The palace offers a unique cultural experience, combining history, art, and architectural beauty.
Torino’s finest parks
Parco del Valentino
Parco del Valentino is one wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Enjoy a picnic or relax along the Po River, overlooking a castle and medieval village.
Giardini Reali (Royal Gardens)
We highly recommend visiting the Giardini Reali (Royal Gardens), which were designed by the same architect who created the gardens at Versaille!
A bit more remote than the previous two parks, the hilltop gardens along the Superga Basilica offer splendid views of the city.
Insider’s Tip: One of the best ways to explore Torino is by bike, heading down the wide streets (many bike- or pedestrian-only) and to the city’s magnificent parks.
Other top attractions
The Shroud of Turin
The mysterious Shroud of Torino—the cloth Jesus was believed to be buried in, bearing the image of his face and body—attracts many visitors to the city. Check it out in the Duomo di San Giovanni, the main cathedral of Torino. (Note that the shroud on display in the church is a copy of the relic; the delicate original is rarely put on display!).
Sports in Torino
For sports-lovers, Torino has a lot to offer! Torino hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, and its renovated stadium and colorful Olympic Village, now used for apartments and offices, are historic landmarks. The city is also home to the world-renowned Juventus Football Club, with its ultramodern stadium located just outside the city center.
The Gran Balon is the largest and oldest flea markets in the cit, known for its vast array of antiques, vintage items, collectibles, and second-hand goods. The market is held on the second Sunday of every month, except for January.
The name “Gran Balon” translates to “Great Balloon” in English and is derived from the French word “ballon,” which refers to a type of puppet show that used to be performed in the area. The market takes place in the streets surrounding the Porta Palazzo square, near the historic city center.
Visitors to the Gran Balon can expect to find a diverse range of items for sale, including furniture, clothing, books, artwork, jewelry, and much more. It is a treasure trove for collectors, antique enthusiasts, and bargain hunters.
Eating and drinking in Turin
If castles, museums and parks weren’t enough, Torino’s also chock-full of gourmet experiences. Many of Turin’s shops and restaurants are influenced by the Slow Food movement (which started in the region), offering fresh produce and products by local vendors. The original Eataly (a gourmet market that’s now also in Rome, Bologna, and New York City) is also here.
Look for local Torino specialties like gianduja (chocolate made with hazelnut paste) and grissini (thin, crispy breadsticks). And don’t miss aperitivo, a big part of any evening in Turin; we suggest heading to the Quadrilatero Romano for a pre-dinner drink. (Here’s what to know about aperitivo in Italy).
Visiting nearby Milan? Join our Best of Milan tour, which includes a visit to the iconic Last Supper along with other stops around the city.
by Elena CipriettiView more by Elena Ciprietti ›
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