Museum lovers will definitely love Turin!
You can spend a good few days in this beautiful city in the north of Italy just exploring all the museums and palaces it has to offer.
If you plan to visit Turin’s museums, and want to see more than two or three, I recommend you get the city pass, called Torino + Piedmonte Card. It will give you free entry to all the major museums, plus discounts on some other tourist attractions.
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This is one of the most famous museums in Turin, and when you visit you’ll see why. It’s certainly one of the most unique museums I’ve seen.
The National Cinema Museum (Museo Nazionale del Cinema) is an experiential museum with many interactive items that encourages you to push buttons all the time! It has many special screening rooms and generally I’d say it’s full of surprises 🙂
The first part of the museum covers the history of cinema, all the way from shadow theatre (beautiful!) through replicas of ancient equipment and a cool panorama of Turin that might make you dizzy.
It’s interesting to see all the methods used throughout history to present moving images. I learnt about quite a lot of old techniques I had no idea ever existed.
After the historical part, you move on to the modern part where things look much more familiar. The layout of this part of the museum is just wonderful.
The Cinema Museum is housed in the Mole Antonelliana – an iconic building in Turin that you see in all the postcards. When you reach the modern part of the museum, look up to see its dome from the inside.
You can also take the panoramic lift while you’re there to see the city from above.
Towards the end of your visit to the museum, it may feel like you’ve seen enough for one say, but don’t miss the movie poster gallery, especially if you’re a fan of vintage movie posters.
There is a lot to see in this museum. If you’re short on time, just focus on the highlights marked with a big red eye. Descriptions in English are available for everything on display.
More about the National Cinema Museum
Besides the Cinema Museum, the Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio) is also one of the points of interest that Turin is famous for.
The museums has a fascinating collection all about ancient Egyptian art and culture.
It’s a great way to learn history by looking at ancient artifacts, some of which look almost intact. You’ll a lot of tombs and sculptures, and even a mummy.
Exhibition texts are available in English, Italian and Arabic.
When you buy your ticket, I recommend you get the audio guide, that’s also available in English. It is invaluable and will help you make the most of the visit, make sense of what you see and navigate the large collection. You can take the full 90 minute tour or a shorter 1 hour tour with the audio guide.
If you’re not into audio guides, you can explore by yourself and if you want to dive in more deeply, take a guided tour.
Right in the central Piazza Castello, close to the Royal Palace, is the palace that was historically used by two queens of the Savoy family, hence the name “Madama”.
You can’t miss its impressive facade and the interior is just a magnificent.
The building houses the Civic Museum of Ancient Art (Museo Civico di Arte Antica), with medieval Renaissance and Baroque works of art.
There’s also a large and impressive collection of decorative arts on the top floor.
I especially loved the Baroque floor, the rooms are just steeped in luxury!
The Museum of Decorative Arts
Don’t miss out on this gem if you love design, especially interior design.
The Museum of Decorative Arts (Fondazione Accorsi Ometto – Museo di Arti Decorative) is a private museum based on a collection of and antique dealer from Turin called Pietro Accorsi.
The display is really impressive. You start the tour with a curated collection of small items, such as porcelain dinnerware, snuff boxes and jewellery from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Later in the tour you reach what for me was the highlight, or more like a series of highlights, of this museum.
Gorgeous reproductions of themed rooms with exquisite and unique interior design: living rooms, a music room , a Chinese style room, various bedrooms and so on.
All of them include artwork, sculptures and furniture, with great attention to detail.
To visit the museum, you need a guided tour (included in the ticket price). Specify the language you require when you make a reservation at the ticket office, as some tours are only in Italian.
In the centre of Turin, in Piazza Castello, a large building with a white facade houses Turin’s Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale di Torino).
This was the house of the Savoy family. You’ll hear about them a lot when you visit Turin…
The Palace is now a museum, or rather a collection of several museums next to each other in the same building, that you can access with the same ticket.
The complex includes Galleria Sabauda, where you can view the Royal art collection.
Follow the arrows along the visitor route to see the gorgeous rooms of the palace. There are clear explanations in English in each room about what it was used for.
One of the room in the Royal Palace
Visit the chapel of the shroud with its beautiful dome by local architect Gaurini, who designed quite a few of the most important buildings in the city.
Don’t skip the armoury room, even if you, like me, are not into swords and helmets. The painted ceiling in the room is so worth it!
Before or after your visit to the Palace, you can also take a walk around the lovely Royal Gardens that are open to the public.
This was one of my favourite places in Turin. When you walk around Turin, not too far from Piazza Castello, you’ll come across a beautifully symmetrical red-brick Baroque style building.
Inside you’ll get a chance to see the splendid reconstructed apartments of the Princes of Carignano.
You will learn the history of the palace and a bit more about the history of Turin.
The rooms are pretty amazing, with gold decorations all over the walls, complete with beautiful painted ceilings.
To visit, you’ll need to join a guided tour that runs once an hour. Ask for a guide who speaks English. My tour was in both English and Italian, but an English speaking guide is not always guaranteed.
Alternatively, you can also see the palace as part of a guided tour of the city (in English), that also includes other highlights, like the cathedral that houses the Holy Shroud.
Museum of the Risorgimento
In the same building of Palazzao Caringnano, but with a seperate entrance and a seperate ticket, is the museum documenting the history of Rigsorgimento (Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano).
This museum is practically a visual history lesson, using photos, paintings, documents and videos to tell the story of the Risorgimento.
What’s the Risorgimento? Italy wasn’t always the single state it is today. There were several different states on the same piece of land and it took a long process during the 19th century to unite them. This movement of Italian unification is called the Risorgimento.
There’s a nice video shortly after your enter that will give you a lot of the historical background you need. Then just follow the numbers in each room that will guide you through the museum.
One of the museum’s highlights is the old building of Parliament from 1848 that used to be housed in the same building.
Extra tip: Pay attention to the painted ceilings as you walk around, they’re gorgeous!
Museum of Oriental Art
As the name suggests, the Museum of Oriental Art (Museo d’Arte Orientale (MAO)) has an absolutely beautiful collection of artifacts from Asia.
The Permanent exhibition covers China, Japan, Southern and Southeast Asia, the Himalayas and Muslim countries.
Even if you don’t know much about these countries when you come in, you’ll end up learning a lot while you visit.
The display includes sculptures, pottery, paintings and other objects and artifacts with explanations (also available in English) that put them in a historical context.
When you visit, don’t forget to look up at the decorated ceilings, the building itself is beautiful.
The museum has four floors and a convenient layout that makes it easy to follow the exhibitions.
The Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art
Turin is full of classical art and gorgeous palaces, but this museum is the place to see some more contemporary art.
The Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Turin (Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM)) features 19th and 20th century artists from Europe, with both a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.
It’s a large but well curated collection, including paintings, sculptures, photography and installations.
You’ll see works by some famous artists, and get to know some Italian artists you may not have heard of.
CAMERA – The Italian Centre for Photography
The Photography Centre in Turin has about 3 temporary exhibitions that change 3-4 times a year. There is no permanent collection.
It’s a spacious museum, but not too big, just the right size to focus on the display. The adjacent Leica store also has its own photography exhibitions.
They also offer talks, workshops and seminars all about photography and there’s a lovely bookshop when you enter.
The Torino + Piedmonte Card
Turin’s city pass – The Torino + Piedmonte Card – is worth buying if you want to save money on admission to the city’s museums and palaces, as well as many other tourist attractions.
Just show the card whenever you enter one of the museums or attractions and get your ticket.
Is the card worth it? It is. Generally speaking, if you plan to go to more than 2-3 museums and palaces, you will save money with the card. (View the current prices here).
Many of the museums charge €10 to get in and some charge even more. For example, admission to the Egyptian Museum costs €15 and entry to Venaria Palace costs €25. Most of Turin’s museums are completely free with the city pass.
How many attractions can you visit in a day? Turin is a pretty walkable city and many of the museums and attractions are quite close to each other.
This means you can easily go to several points of interest each day without wasting time on transit, so you can really make the most of your card.
If you want to travel outside of the city, the card grants you free entry to some attractions around Piedmont as well.
Many are free, some offer discounts. Everything is marked clearly on the list. You will also receive this list as a booklet when you collect your card.
Pick the ones you want to see and start planning!
At the first museum or attraction you visit, the card will be activated and it will stay valid for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days, depending on the card you buy.
Tip: When you make your plan, do check the opening times of the museums you picked. Quite a few museums are closed on Mondays, some are closed on Tuesday, so take that into account when you decide when to activate your card.
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I’d like to thank Turismo Torino for the Torino + Piedmonte Card. All opinions are my own.