If you are planning a trip to Piedmont and would like to know the top things to do in Turin, you are in the right place! I am a professional tour guide of Turin and Piedmont and during my tours, I have observed the emotions and reactions of tourists who were visiting the city for the first time. Thus, I have compiled a list of the 10 things + 1 that will make your visit unforgettable!
Map of the Top 10 Things to Do in Turin
Let’s start in the city centre of Turin:
1. Piazza Castello (Castle Square)
Piazza Castello, the central square that contains all the history of the city, from its Roman foundation to the memorial stone reminding us of a Turinese resident deported to Auschwitz (161 Piazza Castello). At the centre of the square is the Castello degli Acaja (Castle of the Acaja) (13th -15th century) which is transformed into Palazzo Madama (Lady Palace) (17th – 18th century), the ancient residence of the Royal Ladies which then became the seat of the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy (Turin was the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1864). You can also find the Real Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Royal Church of Saint Lawrence), a baroque masterpiece by Guarino Guarini dated 1679, whose interior will leave you speechless.
Piazza Castello Turin
2. Piazzetta Reale (Little Royal Square)
Piazzetta Reale, is delimited by the beautiful neoclassical gate designed by Pelagio Palagi for King Carlo Alberto, with the statues of the two Dioscuri to symbolically guard the entrance to the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace). The building was the residence of the kings of Italy and of the Savoy family starting from their settlement in Turin at the end of the 16th century, until the end of the Kingdom of Italy in 1946. The complex also includes the Cappella della Sindone (Chapel of the Holy Shroud), built specifically by Guarino Guarini at the request of the Savoy family to preserve the precious relic, which was part of their collection, and the Giardini Reali (Royal Gardens), designed by André Le Notre at the end of the 17th century.
3. Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre) / Porta Palatina (Palatine Gate)
The remains of the Teatro Romano (1st century) and the Porta Palatina (1st century) still entirely preserved, both testimonies to the Roman foundation of the city, Augusta Taurinorum, around 25 B.C.
4. Chiesa della Consolata (Church of the Virgin of the Consolation)
The Chiesa della Consolata, as called by the Turinese (its true name is the Santuario di Maria Consolatrice) first built in the 11th century and then enlarged in the 17th century by Guarino Guarini and again in the 18th century by Filippo Juvarra. Today it is the triumph of the Turinese baroque, sumptuous and rich in its interior with precious works of art. Next to it on the façade is the Campanile di Sant’Andrea (Bell Tower of Saint Andrew) originally from the 11th century and in front of the bell tower the small historic cafe Al Bicerin. Founded in 1763, still with original furnishings, it is where you can enjoy the typical drink of Turin, the bicerin (hot chocolate, coffee and cream) that was invented in this very place and where it is still prepared following the original recipe.
5. Chiesa di San Domenico (Church of Saint Dominic)
The Chiesa di San Domenico, the only example in Turin of an original Gothic church from the 13th century, inside of which there is the only series of 14th century frescoes in Turin. Adjacent to the church, if you are there around lunch or dinner time, the L’Acino restaurant is ideal for a food and wine experience of the best Turinese tradition.
6. Via Garibaldi (Garibaldi St) / Via Roma (Rome St)
Via Garibaldi and Via Roma the principal shopping streets of Turin: the first, pedestrian-only, traces the ancient Roman Decumanus and offers a rich choice not only of shops but also of bars, restaurants, ice cream parlours, pizzerias and clubs for all budgets. Meanwhile, the seventeenth century Via Roma, elegant and arcaded, leads us to the so-called “Living room of Turin”: Piazza San Carlo. Extremely elegant with an intentionally symmetrical architecture, this square will amaze you with the balance and uniformity of the buildings that surround it up to even the two churches that close it to the south and are called, not surprisingly, the twins. In the centre there is the equestrian statue representing Duke Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy. A very important figure for Turin since he was the one that decided to move the capital of the Duchy of Savoy from Chambery to Turin, thus beginning the turning point that led Turin to become the great city that it is today.
7. Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum)
The Museo Egizio of Turin, the second Egyptian museum in the world (after the one in Cairo) for the richness of the collection and the only one in Europe exclusively dedicated to the art and culture of ancient Egypt. (I talked about it here).
8. Piazza Carignano (Carignano Square)
Piazza Carignano, a small fief belonging to the Savoy-Carignano family, a branch founded in the mid-seventeenth century by Prince Tommaso (Thomas) as a minor branch of the Savoy family, and then replaced by the main branch through Carlo Alberto (Charles Albert) and his son Vittorio Emanuele II (Victor Emmanuel II), the first king of Italy. The square is characterized by Palazzo Carignano (Carignano Palace), the town residence of the Savoy-Carignano family, designed by Guarino Guarini (1679) with its spectacular concave-convex façade, which later became the seat of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy. Opposite, there is the Teatro Carignano (Carignano Theatre), the family’s theatre, and the Ristorante del Cambio (“the Change” Restaurant), founded in 1757 and famous for being frequented by members of parliament, in particular by Cavour, the first prime minister of Italy. Still in business today, it has been awarded 1 Michelin star. The restaurant preserves its nineteenth-century furnishings in the Risorgimento room, while the adjacent space is reinterpreted through the installation of the famous mirror paintings by the celebrated contemporary artist Michelangelo Pistoletto (of whom I spoke of here).
9. Mole Antonelliana
The Mole Antonelliana, the symbolic monument of the city of Turin (which is imprinted on 2 cents coin), is the result of the brilliant audacity of the architect Alessandro Antonelli. At 167.5 meters high, construction was started in 1863 and finished in 1899. It owes its particular shape to the fact that initially it was meant to be a synagogue, then it was transformed into a monument that pays homage to human genius. Do not miss the climb to the temple (80 meters) with the completely transparent panoramic lift that will allow you to see from inside the architecture of the Temple Hall. Today the Mole Antonelliana hosts the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Cinema Museum), an interesting and interactive journey, also suitable for children, to discover how the invention of the seventh art came about and how films are made today.
10. Piazza Vittorio Veneto (Vittorio Veneto Square)
Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a very elegant and large square in Neoclassical style (1825), which will give you a wonderful view of the Turin hills, with the Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio (Church of the Great Mother of God) (1827-1831) in the center. The square ends on the Po river and gives access to the Murazzi, which are the banks of the river built in the early nineteenth century for the warehouses where the goods that arrived in Turin via the river were stored. In the 90’s the warehouses were turned into entertainment venues that were the nerve centre of the artistic-musical scene and the nightlife of Turin. Today the Murazzi provide a panoramic view along the Po river, a destination for Sunday walks for the Turinese and tourists alike.
11. Parco del Valentino (Valentino Park)
The plus 1 on this list is the Parco del Valentino, the most frequented city park in Turin, a relaxing destination to include in your itinerary and a great way to feel Turinese and truly experience the city. Inside the park you can traverse the Borgo Medievale (Medieval Village), built in 1884 on the occasion of the Italian General Exposition, reproducing medieval buildings of the 15th century that existed in Piedmont and the Aosta Valley; walk in the Giardino Roccioso (Rock Garden), a real garden created inside the park with streams, bridges, benches and exotic trees; admire the spectacular Fontana dei Mesi (Fountain of the Months), designed by Carlo Ceppi in 1898 on the occasion of the Italian General Exposition and for the 50th anniversary of the Albertine Statute. And why not? While walking in the park you will certainly come across its nicest inhabitants: the squirrels!!!!
I hope the tour did not disappoint and that you really enjoyed Turin! If so, this is only the beginning: Turin is huge and there are so many other places to discover and visit, and I know them all!! Follow me and I will reveal them to you in my next post!
Useful Info on Turin:
Where to Stay – Hotels in Turin
Whenever we travel in Italy, we always try to stay at an NH Hotel. They are simply the best! The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed. The staff are always very friendly and helpful. And they have the most delicious breakfast! In Turin, we are fortunate to have several NH Hotels but there are definitely two centrally located that we can highly recommend: the NH Collection Torino Piazza Carlina and the NH Torino Santo Stefano. Both are beautiful hotels in the city centre, walking distance from all the main tourist attractions.
If you are looking for something a little more economical, we can also highly recommend the Le Petit Hotel, a sweet little hotel in the heart of Turin, just next to Piazza Solferino and walking distance to all the main attractions and museums.