You could travel around Italy for months and be unfamiliar with it, it has so many incredible places! In addition to visiting the unforgettable Rome, Florence or Venice, we suggest you go off the beaten track to get to know Turin, the capital of Piedmont. Here’s what to see in Turin, an ideal place for a weekend break.
Famous for its squares, its royal palaces and its young and dynamic cultural atmosphere, the city has undergone a huge transformation in recent years, which has made it even more appealing.
Egyptian Museum of Turin
It may sound strange that the first thing we recommend you do in Turin is go to an Egyptian museum, but believe us, you’ll love it. The Egyptian Museum in Turin is, no less, the oldest museum of Egyptian culture in the world.
Located in a baroque style building, it is the result of the fondness for Egyptian culture, since the 17th century, of the Savoy family, the former kings of Italy. Officially founded in 1824, it was completely renovated and reopened in 2015. At present you will find more than 10,000 square meters in which are located about 3,300 objects, including the “royal canon of Turin” (the list of the pharaohs of Egypt), the mummified legs of Queen Nefertari and the temple of Ellesiya, which was donated by the Egyptian government.
If you are determined to include the Egyptian Museum in your list of things to visit in Turin, keep in mind that you will need at least 4 hours to enjoy it as it deserves. There are audio guides that take you on a guided tour of the most important pieces.
The Mole Antonelliana is the symbol of Turin and one of the emblems of Italy. Not for nothing does it appear on the back of the 2 cent coins that have been minted in the country of the boot. It is a huge building built in the second half of the nineteenth century under the direction of the architect Alessandro Antonelli. Although it was born with the intention of being a synagogue, to demonstrate the religious tolerance of the city, at the moment it hosts the National Museum of the Cinema.
The best way to enjoy this Turin landmark is to see it from the heights, either from Monte dei Cappuccini (which we will tell you about later) or from the Turin Eye, a captive balloon that rises up to 50 metres. However, it is also worth taking the elevator at the Mole Antonelliana for a completely different perspective.
It would be strange if you didn’t pass by Piazza Castello several times, the square that gathers some of the most interesting places to see in Turin. There you will find Palazzo Madama (which will surprise you with its medieval and baroque facade), Teatro Regio, Palazzo Reale di Torino (which was the former residence of the Savoia family), the Church of San Lorenzo (baroque style) and the Cathedral, where you will find the Shroud of Turin.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, but you should know that the relic can only be seen when the Pope visits the city and makes what are known as public appearances. At other times you can only see the chest in which it is kept.
Valentino Park and Valentino Castle
The green lung of Turin is the Parco del Valentino or Valentino Park. Located next to the Po River, it is known as the “beach of Turin”, as people usually lie down on the grass to enjoy the sun, play sports or go for a walk, especially during the weekends.
Besides getting to know the atmosphere of the park, you will find several attractions to visit in Turin. For example, the famous sculpture of the bench with the two embraced streetlights, Valentino Castle (which was the Savoy summer residence and can be seen inside) and the Borgo Medievale, an open-air museum of medieval architecture built for the 1884 Universal Exhibition.
Basilica of Superga
It is said that Victor Amadeo II of Savoy made a promise before facing the troops of the French army. Climbing the hill of Superga, he asked the Virgin to win in order to preserve the independence of Turin and Piedmont. If he succeeded, he would dedicate a monument to her in the same place, which today is known as the Basilica of Superga.
We recommend you to include it in your list of things to see in Turin not only because of the beauty of its architecture and because you can visit the Royal Tombs of the House of Savoy, but also because you can admire one of the best views of the city. You will climb the 131 steps that will take you to the outer balcony of the dome of the basilica, from which you can see Turin surrounded by the main mountains of the Alps: the Rocciamelone, the Gran Paradiso or the Apostles’ Group.
It is still possible to contemplate the remains of Iulia Augusta Taurinorum, the quadrangular Roman city that gave rise to what is now Turin. It probably had 4 doors, one at each side. Two of them are preserved: Porta Decumana and Porta Palatina. This colossal entrance was part of the fortress that in medieval times was known as the “Palatium”.
So, if you want to delve into the historical importance of the capital of Piedmont, do not hesitate to visit the Porta Palatina and the rest of the Archaeological Park of Via XX Settembre, which also includes the vestiges of the Roman theatre and the Museum of Antiquities.
As you can see, there’s a lot to see and do in Turin. In case you need to make a stop to get your strength back, our advice is to go to the so-called Quadrilatero Romano. This is where the ancient Roman city we told you about in the previous section was located.
In its streets you will always find a lot of vine thanks to the great variety of shops and restaurants, but the best time is around the afternoon-evening, when people are used to having an aperitif or apericena, that is, a cocktail (like the famous Campari or Spritz Aperol) accompanied by a buffet of Italian food where you can have it as many times as you like.
Prices range from 10-15 euros, so it is a low cost plan that unites gastronomy and Turinese tradition.
Historical cafés in Turin
Not everything you see in Turin is a palace, a museum or a square, you also have to give prominence to the so-called historical cafes. These emerged at the time of the Risorgimento, in the 19th century, when politicians and intellectuals from all corners of Italy came to Turin, which was the first capital of Italy.
Political gatherings took place within its walls decorated with boiseries, mirrors and satins, accompanied by coffee, chocolate and pasta. If you want to travel back in time, don’t hesitate to visit at least one of these historical cafés in Turin: Baratti & Milano, Fiorio, Platti, Mulassano or Bicerin.
Viewpoint Monte dei Cappucini
If you see that the day is clear, don’t hesitate for a moment, one thing you have to do in Turin is to climb the Monte dei Cappucini Viewpoint. Cross the Pont Vittorio Emanuele I (which is also not a waste) and climb the slight slope that will take you to the church of Santa Maria del Monte, at the top of the mountain. The views of Turin and its surroundings are magical, especially at sunset, our favourite time.
You see there are all sorts of things to do in Turin, but we’re not done yet! Shopping lovers have their space in the capital of Piedmont too. The Gran Balon is one of the symbols of Turin and takes place on the second Sunday of every month in the Borgo Dora district.
It is not a tourist place, but a market where you can find antiques, clothes, furniture and, of course, products of the gastronomy of a region as rich as the one we are in. You can gossip about its more than 250 stalls, but above all, enjoy the atmosphere of the terraces.
National Film Museum of Turin
Even if you’re not much of a film buff, one of the most interesting places to visit in Turin is the National Film Museum. Located in the Mole Antonelliana, it has a lot of rooms where the history of cinema is told through posters and videos, but the most interesting thing is to lie down in one of the seats on the second floor.
Relax and be surprised by the sound coming directly from the speakers located in the seats. And if you are planning to visit Turin with children, don’t hesitate, they will have a great time!
Are you thinking of including other destinations in Italy? Then don’t miss out on these items:
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The 10 experiences you should have in Italy, no excuses