Top 10 things to do in Turin: sights, palaces and food
Weekend in Turin

Top 10 things to do in Turin: sights, palaces and food

Turin is a multifaceted city. It is as elegant as Paris and for the locals it is «piccola Parigi», a little Paris. I’ve lived in Turin for 6 years, I’ve been featuring it on my instagram for 3 years now, and I’ll tell you what is a must do if you find yourself in Turin.

The capital of Piedmont is surrounded by mountains, and walking around the center, you can see the snow caps of the Alps in winter or emerald green hills in summer.

What you need to know about Turin:

  • Turin was the first capital of united Italy. Few people know about it.
  • Fans of esotericism and mysticism adore this city. They claim that it forms one «triangle of white magic» together with Lyon and Prague, and a «triangle of black magic» with London and San Francisco.
  • Nostradamus, Paracelsus, Count Cagliostro, Honoré Balzac, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy have all visited here. Fyodor Tyutchev served as a diplomat in Turin, and Friedrich Nietzsche complimented him: «I can say nothing bad about Turin, it is a wonderful city.»
  • In 2006, the Olympic Winter Games were held here.

Turin is so unremarkable that it is very difficult to single out ten things to do in Turin. It took me a few years of exploring the city to do so, and now I can share my «mast-do» list with you.

The best sights in Turin

1. See the symbol of Turin

Mole Antonelliana is the symbol of Turin. This spire over the rooftops of the city is most often seen on postcards from Turin.

Originally, the Mole was to be a synagogue. However, when the Jewish community realized that the construction costs were increasing by the hour and not by the day, they decided to sell it to the Commune of Turin.

At the end of the 19th century, the Mole was the tallest building in Turin, with a height of 167.35 meters. It now houses the Cinema Museum and a panoramic platform that offers an extraordinary view of the city. The Museum of Cinema is an interactive place where you can learn about the history of cinema and even become a director, actor, writer or spectator.

11 €
Entrance to the museum — 11 €. Elevator — 8 €. Single ticket to the museum and elevator — 15 €.

Tickets to the Museum and the dome can be purchased on the official website.

Mole Antonelliana
Mole Antonelliana

2. A peek into the palaces in Piazza Castello

The city’s main square, Piazza Castello, is home to several iconic sites: the Royal Palace, the Madama Palace, the small but ornate royal church of St. Lawrence, where the Shroud was first shown in Turin and where you can now see a copy of it.

The Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) was the seat of the Savoy dynasty until 1864. In it you can see the royal apartments with beautiful frescoes, tapestries and furniture of the XVII–XIX centuries, the Royal Armory, the Savoy Picture Gallery. In the courtyard of the residence you can stroll through the royal gardens with a picturesque fountain. Tickets to the palace cost from 15 €, on Mondays — 10 €, but on the first Sunday of each month from October to March the Royal Palace can be visited for free. Under 18 years of age, admission is free at any time.

The Royal Palace in Turin
The Royal Palace in Turin

Palazzo Madama was built on the site of gates left over from the Roman Empire. It was first rebuilt into a bastion and then into a castle with towers and a courtyard. In the 18th century, the castle was given a Baroque facade by Madama Maria Giovanna Batista.

The palace now houses the Museum of Ancient Art with a large collection of decorative arts and paintings.

Palazzo Madama
Palazzo Madama

Before leaving the palace, check out the café on the second floor of the building — there you can see a beautiful panorama of the city through the ancient windows of the magnificent palace, and climb the medieval tower of the palace.

Tickets to the palace are €10. On the first Wednesday of each month, except holidays, the Madama Palace is free of charge.

The Royal Palace has a view of the Mole
The Royal Palace has a view of the Mole

3. To try to see the Shroud of Turin

The main Christian relic of the city is the Shroud. The story of its origin is long and confusing. While scholars argue about its authenticity, thousands of pilgrims come to the city to visit the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (La cattedrale metropolitana di San Giovanni Battista), where it is kept.

The Shroud of Turin is only revealed to the public in certain years. The last display was in 2015. Otherwise, when visiting the Duomo, you can only see the chapel and the sarcophagus in which it is kept and watch an introductory video about it.

You can enter the cathedral for free. Cathedral website.

View of the Duomo
View of the Duomo

Piedmont is said to have another relic, the Holy Grail. According to legend, its location is indicated by the gaze of one of the statues in the Basilica of the Gran Madre di Dio, a statue of Vera with a cup in her hand. Only Vera has no pupils and we never recognize the direction of her gaze.

The Basilica Gran Madre di Dio is externally similar to the Roman temple Pantheon and is modestly decorated inside. The church stands on the bank of the Po River, by the stone bridge of Vittorio Emanuele I.

Basilica Gran Madre di Dio
Basilica Gran Madre di Dio

4. Travel to Ancient Egypt

There is an unexpected museum in Turin — the Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio). It is the world’s second most important museum of Ancient Egyptian history and culture after the Cairo Museum.

Now it has more than 3300 pieces of ancient Egyptian art on display, with another 26000 artifacts in storage. If you want to find yourself in ancient Egypt without leaving Turin, look here. The most interesting halls of the Egyptian Museum: the Gallery of Kings, the Gallery of Sarcophagi, the Temple of Hellesia, the tomb of Kha, the Valley of the Kings.

You can find ticket discounts on the Egyptian Museum’s website: free admission for birthday boys, March 8, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.

15 €
Admission to the museum is 15 € for adults and 11 € with a Trenitalia ticket. 1.5 hours before closing time, admission to the museum is 5 €.

5. See Turin from a bird’s eye view

According to legend, during the French siege of Turin in 1706, Vittorio Amadeo II climbed to the top of Superga Hill to assess the battlefield and vowed to the Madonna to build a shrine there in case of victory. When the Piedmontese defeated the French, he fulfilled his vow.

The Basilica di Superga is now open for visits, with the Savoy family crypt and the royal apartments. You can take the historic streetcars up the hill and admire the unforgettable scenery.

  • Entrance to the basilica is free, entrance to the crypt and apartments is 5 €, climbing the dome is 3 €. Closed on Wednesdays.
  • Basilica website.
Basilica Superga
Basilica Superga

6. Find Paris in Turin

Those in love with Paris will find a piece of France’s capital at Galleria Subalpina. It is built on the principle of Parisian arcades. It houses antique stores, a second-hand bookshop, a movie theater and one of Turin’s historic cafes, Baratti&Milano.

Subalpine Gallery
Subalpine Gallery

7. See the flower house

Turin is known as the city of the Liberty style, a style known in Italy as Art Nouveau in France or Art Nouveau in Russia.

There are many buildings in this style in Turin, especially on Corso Francia. One of the most famous is Casa Fenoglio-Lafleur, which means «flower» in French.

Dom Lafleur
Dom Lafleur

8. Getting lost in the alleys of the royal park

There are many parks in Turin, and one of the most beautiful and popular is Parco del Valentino (Valentino Park) on the banks of the Po River.

The park takes its name from the Valentino Palace, which was built by Madama Christina, daughter of Henry of Navarre and Maria de' Medici. The magnificent palace is similar to the French palaces.

A medieval town was built here on the occasion of the Italian General Exposition in 1884. It is a replica of a real Piedmontese settlement from the 15th century.

Valentino Park is the locals' favorite. It’s a place to relax, walk, run, and play with dogs. Get lost in its alleys and find the 12 Months Fountain, which was built in 1898 for the World’s Fair.

The Medieval Village can be entered at any time, and the Valentino Palace is home to the university faculty, so it is only open to tourists one day a month.

Palazzo Valentino
Palazzo Valentino
The Po River and the stone bridge in the distance
The Po River and the stone bridge in the distance

9. Find traces of ancient Rome

You can see the Turin of the Roman era right next to the Duomo — in the archaeological zone. The ruins of the theater and the walls of the ancient city have been preserved here.

The Palatine Gate (Porta Palatina) is one of the best preserved ancient Roman gates in the world. They were built as early as the first century BC.

Palantine Gate
Palantine Gate

10. Taste Turin

Not only Turin claims to be the gastronomic capital of Italy, but the locals do not recognize other candidates. Several world-famous Italian dishes, the iconic Barolo and Barbaresco wines and the sparkling wine from Asti, a favorite of Russian ladies, were born here. Piedmont is famous for its cheeses: Robiola, Toma, Tomino, Castelmagno.

What to try while in Turin:

  • Vitello tonato — thin slices of boiled or baked veal in tuna sauce.
  • Agnolotti del plin are small dumplings filled with minced meat and cheese, served with butter and sage sauce, truffles or with meat ragout.
  • Bagna cauda sauce — translates from Piedmontese as «hot sauce». It is made from garlic, cold-pressed olive oil, anchovies and a small piece of butter and is usually eaten with various vegetables.
  • Brasato al Barolo is one of the culinary symbols of Piedmont. To prepare it, the beef fillet is marinated for 24 hours in red Piedmontese Barolo wine with herbs, and then braised in this marinade for several hours.

Turin is considered the mecca of chocolate: back in the 19th century, people came here to learn how to make it. I recommend trying the city’s confectionery shops for chocolate candies and hazelnut pastes called gianduiotti, cremini and pralines.

Drinks and desserts that Turin is proud of:

  • Zabayone is a cocktail of egg yolks whipped with sugar and Marsala wine.
  • Bicerin is a drink invented at Café Al Bicerin back in the 19th century, made from chocolate, coffee and cream.
  • Piedmontese desserts: marron glace — candied chestnuts;panna cotta cake; bonnet pudding made of cocoa, amaretti liqueur, yolks and milk.
A restaurant on a city street in Turin
A restaurant on a city street in Turin

One of the main treasures of Piedmont is its wine. What you need to know about Piedmontese wines:

  • Piedmont’s most famous and expensive red wine is Barolo, with a bottom price of €20.
  • Famous Piedmont red wines include Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Roero, Freisa.
  • The best white wines are Roero Arnez and Favorita.
  • Piedmont also makes sweet wines: Asti Spumante, Moscato del Monferrato, Bracchetto.
  • Vermouth was also invented in Turin.

Turin is one of the top ten most popular tourist cities in Italy and has a lot to show travelers. It is worth coming here for a few days to feel the rhythm of the big city and get into its spirit. Galleries, palaces and parks make Turin luxurious and large-scale, and the best wines and dishes — cozy and delicious. And if you only have a day or two — use my tips to see the best of it.

Courtyard of an apartment building in Turin
Courtyard of an apartment building in Turin