Turin’s Best-Kept Secrets: Historical Landmarks to Architectural Delights

best things to do in turin

My list of the best things to do in Turin is ever-growing. With every visit, I want to move the Girl’s Gotta Drink headquarters to the city. But, alas, day trips and weekends keep my wanderlust at bay! Since Elena lives there, I tapped her to help with this piece. Andiamo, ragazzi! 

Situated in the heart of northern Italy, the city of Turin offers a rich history, vibrant culture, and an endlessly tempting culinary scene. Often overshadowed by more famous Italian counterparts, this lesser-known European city is a treasure trove awaiting discovery. Don’t come to Turin expecting the pulsing concrete jungle of Rome or NYC. The city’s beat is far more refined with its long roads, beautifully arcaded sidewalks (look up!), Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, and hard-working Torinese grinding away at open-air mercati almost on the daily.

In Turin, find the locals al banco (standing at the bar) starting the day with a morning espresso, then an apertivo to greet the evening. Let us share with you the best things to do in Turin so don’t miss the stunning architecture, historical landmarks, and mouthwatering cuisine that make it so different from other European city’s. 

things to do in turin
Construction of the Mole Antonelliana began in 1863, soon after Italian unification. It was completed in 1889

The Best Things to do in Turin

From the towering Mole Antonelliana, which offers breathtaking views of the city, to the opulent Royal Palace and its beautifully manicured gardens, Turin’s history and architecture are incredible. But it’s not just the landmarks that captivate visitors; the city’s vibrant energy and charm truly sets it apart.

Turin history: the House of Savoy

When it comes to the city’s architecture, you find a beautiful melding of styles, most notably Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, and Art Nouveau. The city gives a decidely French vibe, which began when the Duke of Savoy Emmanuel-Philibert made Turin his capital in 1562. During the reign of the House of Savoy, which later ruled the Kingdom of Sardinia, Turin was Italy’s first capital from 1861 to 1865.

Dig into the Turin food scene

When it comes to culinary delights, Turin blends tradition with innovation. Turin is renowned for its chocolate, coffee, and talented chefs who create mouthwatering dishes that showcase the region’s finest ingredients. Definitely do a guided Turin food tour to devour the city’s best delights. 

Explore Turin’s historical landmarks and architecture

  • Mole Antonelliana: A city steeped in history, Turin’s historical landmarks pay homage to an illustrious past. One of Turin’s must-visit landmarks is the larger-than-life Mole Antonelliana. Originally built as a synagogue, this iconic structure now houses the National Cinema Museum and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city. As you ascend the tower, drink in its stunning architecture and the stories it holds.
  • The Royal Palace: Another historical treasure in Turin is The Royal Palace. Once the residence of the House of Savoy, this opulent palace is now open to the public and showcases the grandeur of the royal family. Stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens and immerse yourself in the history and splendor of this royal residence. The gardens are a feast for the eyes. In fact, Turin’s Royal Palace Gardens were designed by André Le Notre, landscape designer of another incredible garden space: Versailles!
  • Turin Architecture: Turin is a kaleidoscope of styles that tell a story of the city’s colorful history. My personal favorite is the curvy, ornamental Art Nouveau style, a movement that originated in Paris in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. An expat friend took me exploring in her favorite area for architecture spotting: Cit Turin. Read Diana’s detailed report on how to get there, what to see, and more: Where to find Art Nouveau in Turin
best things to do in turin
One of my favorite things about Turin is the city’s beautiful architecture, a grand exploration of styles.

Uncover Turin’s culinary delights

When it comes to culinary delights, Turin is a food lover’s paradise. Renowned for its chocolate and coffee culture, find endless cafes and chocolatiers to indulge your taste buds. Don’t miss the chance to try the famous gianduja, a delicious chocolate and hazelnut spread that originated in Turin. Skip the Nutella and head straight for this elegant, decadent cream. 

Also know for its exquisite cuisine, in Turin you taste everything from traditional Piedmontese dishes to innovative creations. Make sure to try the agnolotti, a local specialty pasta filled with meat or vegetables, and the bagna cauda, a warm dip made with garlic, anchovies, and olive oil. Pair your meal with a glass of Barolo, a renowned red wine from the region, for the ultimate dining experience. Learn all about traditional Piedmontese cuisine and where to eat and drink in Girl’s Gotta Drink’s Insider’s Guide to Turin Food and Wine. 

The Insider’s Guide to Turin Food and Wine

One of the Best things to do in Turin: visit lesser-known museums and art galleries

While Turin is home to world-famous museums like the Egyptian Museum and The National Museum of Cinema, don’t miss the city’s wealth of lesser-known museums and art galleries. 

Turin Museums 

  • The Egyptian Museum: The Museo Egizio houses one of the most extensive collections of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt. Explore the ancient tombs and marvel at the intricate hieroglyphics that adorn the walls.
  • The National Museum of Cinema: The Museo Nazionale del Cinema, housed within the iconic Mole Antonelliana, stands as a pinnacle of cultural significance. This captivating journey showcases remarkable collections and traces the evolution of cinema, immersing guests in an interactive exploration of its history from inception to the modern era. Ascend swiftly in just 59 seconds on a vertical journey to reach the Panoramic Terrace, situated 85 meters above ground. From this elevated vantage point, guests are treated to an unparalleled vista of the cityscape and the majestic expanse of the Alps in the distance.
  • The Automobile Museum: Museo dell’Automobile showcases a captivating collection of automotive history, tracing the evolution of transportation through the decades. Here are exhibited over 200 authentic automobiles, dating from the mid-1800s to contemporary times, showcasing a diverse array of over 80 distinct automotive brands originating from multiple countries. These include Italy, as well as France, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States. I took the little man when he was 5 years old and he was awed! 

The Turin Automobile Museum is located in Lingotto, an easy train or bus ride from the city center. 
museums in turin
I was beyond thrilled to find a little piece of home at the Turin Automobile Museum! Colorado, baby!

  • Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli: A must for art enthusiasts. Located inside the Lingotto building, this contemporary art museum showcases a collection of works by renowned artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, and Warhol. Take your time to admire the stunning artworks and immerse yourself in the world of modern art.
  • Musei Reali: Explore Turin’s rich history at the Royal Museums, starting from Palazzo Chiablese in Piazza Castello. With one ticket, delve into centuries of heritage, from Roman origins to the era of Savoy dominance and the Unification of Italy. Discover treasures like the Royal Armory, Library, Palace, Sabauda Gallery, and more, all encapsulating over 2000 years of Turin’s fascinating past.
  • Gallerie d’Italia: In Piazza San Carlo, the most important square for locals, it’s located inside Palazzo Turinetti, a new, large space for art and culture. Five floors mainly dedicated to photography, with a selection of works from the Piedmontese Baroque era, featuring diverse pathways that invite continuous discoveries.

Wander Turin neighborhoods 

Experience authentic Turin with adventures beyond the tourist hotspots. Explore the city’s off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods. 

turin neighborhoods

  • Quadrilatero Romano: Start your journey in the Quadrilatero Romano, the city’s oldest neighborhood, where narrow streets are lined with charming cafes, boutiques, and artisanal shops. Indulge in some shopping and sample local delicacies in this vibrant district.
  • Porta Palazzo: For a taste of local life, head to Porta Palazzo, one of the largest open-air markets in Europe. Find a bustling atmosphere, vibrant colors, and a wide variety of fresh produce, cheeses, meats, and more. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the city’s biggest market!
  • Centro Storico: In the heart of the city, find some of Turin’s most important sites, like Piazza Castello, Palazzo Reale, and the Mole. Close to Piazza Casetello sits the Torino Porta Nuova Railway station. 
  • San Salvario: A vibrant, diverse neighborhood with bohemian and artistic vibes. In addition to art galleries, street art, and unique boutiques, visit the city’s Parco del Valentino a short walk to the Po River.

Turin Neighborhoods Map

Best Things to do in Turin: Explore hidden gardens and parks

Take a break from the city’s hustle and bustle in Turin’s hidden gardens and parks. 

  • Parco del Valentino: A picturesque park located along the banks of the Po River. Take a leisurely stroll through the park’s lush greenery, admire the beautiful flowers, and enjoy a peaceful moment by the river. Inside the park,
  • Find the Orto Botanico inside Parco del Valentino: The tranquil botanical garden houses a diverse collection of plants and flowers. Explore the different sections of the garden, from the succulent greenhouse to the aromatic herb garden, and take in the beauty and serenity of nature.
  • Parco della Maddalena: Atop Turin’s highest hill find the Remembrance Park and the Parks of the Piedmontese Partisan Republics. Sitting at an elevation of 2.5 feet, Maddalena Park stands as the city’s highest point.
best things to do in turin
Situated along the west bank of the Po River, Parco del Valentino covers an area of 500,000m² / 123 acres making it the second larget park in Turin.

Unique experiences in Turin: Underground tunnels to rooftop views

Turin offers a range of unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else.

Turin’s Best Guided Tours 

  • Torino Sotterranea: The tour journeys 15 meters / 49 feet below the city. Armed with a flashlight and led by a certified guide, delve into these enigmatic and historically significant sites. Explore the catacombs beneath Turin’s ancient churches, subterranean cellars, galleries from the 18th century, the royal icehouses of Porta Palazzo, utilized during periods of conflict and scarcity, the lower levels of Baroque palaces, and a myriad of other intriguing locations. Be warned, the space is close quarters. I took the little man a few summers ago, and it seems mommy forgot she’s claustrophobic! I was hopeful he’d want to bail last minute, but alas, he was leading the way with our guide while mommy took deep breaths! 
  • Torino Magica: An evening tour that regularly takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays in Turin. Participants uncover the city’s most peculiar and clandestine facets, intertwined with the realms of esotericism and Freemasonry. According to legend, Turin maintains profound ties to both the white magic triangle, encompassing Lyon and Prague, and the black magic triangle, alongside San Francisco and London. The tour it’s also great because at the same time it shows all the Torino’s highlights. 
  • Turin Gastronomic Cultural History Tour: We offer an fantastic 4.5-hour gastro tour through the streets learning about history, culture, and eating all the way! Inquire for availability and pricing! 
best tour in Turin
Turin’s underground tours are a fascinating journey through history, deep below the city’s sidewalks. Forever a highlight tour for my little man!

Day trips from Turin: exploring the surrounding countryside

Consider day trips from Turin to explore the surrounding countryside and mountains.

A direct train ride away, visit the medieval town of Alba, known for wine and white truffles. Walk the charming streets and indulge in a wine tasting session to savor the flavors of the region. During Truffle season from October to November, visit the Alba White Truffle Fair that runs every weekend. Read How to do a Barolo Day Trip from Turin. 

Head to the mountains for skiing in the winter and trekking or cycling in the summer. Nearby find Bardonecchia, Susa, the Aosta Valley, and more! 

turin day trip
Take a day trip to the Piedmont mountains. Bardonecchia offers outdoor activities of all types!

Insider tips for discovering Turin

To make the most of your visit to Turin, here are some insider tips to help you uncover the city’s best-kept secrets:

  1. Get lost in the streets: Turin’s charm lies in its hidden corners and narrow streets. Take the time to wander aimlessly and discover the city’s secret nooks and crannies.
  2. Try the local aperitivo: Like many Italian cities, Turin has its own version of the aperitivo. Head to a local bar and enjoy a pre-dinner drink accompanied by a selection of appetizers.
  3. Attend a local festival: Turin hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from chocolate to jazz music. Check the events calendar and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture.
  4. Take a guided tour: Check out one of the guided tours noted above, or we offer an incredible Gastronomic Cultural History Tour that everyone raves about! Turin walking tour themes include art, history, gastronomy, culture, coffee culture, market visit, and more! 

things to do in turin

Why Turin is a must-visit destination for those seeking hidden treasures

Turin may be a hidden gem, but it is a destination that deserves discovery. With its rich history, stunning architecture, mouthwatering cuisine, and wealth of hidden treasures, it beckons every traveler. Explore historical landmarks and indulge in local cuisine. The best things to do in Turin captivate the senses and leave you with memories that last a lifetime. 

Book your Turin food experiences tour and start planning your Piedmont travel,

CLICK HERE!


Turin’s Best-Kept Secrets Contributor: Elena Pasero

Italy travel planner

About Elena, Travel Designer & Licensed Guide

With a Bachelor’s in Food Culture from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra and a multicultural hospitality career spanning Italy and the USA, Elena is our Girl’s Gotta Drink foodie expert. And, she knows her way around a wine cellar, too! 

A self-proclaimed disaster in the kitchen, Elena’s pursuit of tasty treats makes her the travel planner and tour guide you want! Elena’s always on the prowl for the best eats that showcase her native Piedmont region as well as her adventures across Italy and the globe.

Read articles by Elena: 

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