I’m not really sure the Royal House of Savoy needed to prove its power to anyone at the time. But, just in case there was any doubt, this Italian family set out in the 16th century to build a vast series of impressive palaces in Turin to remind everyone who was in charge.
What was created – what we can now enjoy as visitors – were the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy.
The royal titles for the family began in 1003 when they controlled Savoy, a piece of land that is now around where the borders of Italy, France and Switzerland meet.
Over the centuries, they expanded their territory until they ruled most of northwest Italy – the region then known as Sardinia.
In the end, the House of Savoy led the unification of Italy in 1861 and ruled the Kingdom of Italy from then until the end of World War II, when the country became a republic.
As I said, a very important family that had little to prove.
But that didn’t stop their ambitious construction plans after they moved their capital to Turin in 1562.
Over the coming years, they built a series of enormous palaces throughout the centre of Turin, while recreational lodges were established in the surrounding countryside.
Who was the Royal House of Savoy?
The House of Savoy is the name of one of the most important family dynasties in Europe. Founded in the 11th century, they controlled land in France, Italy, and Switzerland in the Middle Ages. Most importantly, though, the House of Savoy unified Italy and ruled the country from 1861 to 1946.
What are the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
The Residences of the Royal House of Savoy is the name of a World Heritage Site that includes 22 palaces and villas built by the dukes of Savoy from 1562. 11 of them are in Turin and the other 11 are in the surrounding countryside.
What is the best palace in Turin?
Although there are some exquisite palaces in Turin and the surrounding region, the Royal Palace of Turin in the city centre is certainly the most important and the most opulent.
The Residences of the Royal House of Savoy were luxurious by the standard of the time – and still by today’s standards, to be honest.
They were opulent residences and holiday homes that were seen by only a small part of the population – the ruling family and their guests. Yet this was part of their power, and they were also a symbol of an absolute monarchy that should not be challenged.
Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
Today, the royal palaces of Turin and the countryside lodges have been protected and you can visit many of them. Collectively, they are part of a World Heritage Site that has 22 palaces and villas across 14 locations.
I have marked them on this map below so you can see where each of them is.
For this trip through Italy, I don’t have a car and have been relying on public transport. As it turns out, it’s quite difficult to get to many of the Savoy residences around Piedmont on public transport. (I guess they weren’t built to be convenient!)
So, for this article, I’m going to focus on the palaces in Turin – which are much more impressive in scale and opulence anyway.
At the end of this post, I’ll give you a bit more information about the best way to visit the Turin palaces, because they each have their own entrance fees, but there are ways to save money when you’re in Turin.
For now, though, let me show you the four best palaces in Turin – any of which are a delight to visit.
Royal Palace of Turin
The Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace of Turin) is on the northern edge of the main square in the historic centre of Turin and is hard to miss. A palace was originally built here in the 16th century but the main building that you see now is from the 17th century.
As you go through the Royal Palace of Turin, you’ll be able to see how lavishly-decorated each of the rooms is. Most walls are either painted, wall-papered, or hung with paintings. There are huge chandeliers throughout and displays of armour and swords.
From the vast marble entranceway and through to the gardens at the rear, everything here is done to impress – and it works!
I would suggest starting your visit to the city here at the Palazzo Reale so you have something to compare to all the other palaces in Turin. Make sure you also go into the adjacent Chapel of the Holy Shroud, which was built to house the Shroud of Turin.
- The Royal Palace of Turin is large and you can easily spend about two hours here.
- The visit will lead you through multiple floors and to several interconnected buildings, including to the Savoy Gallery and the Archeological Museum.
- If that’s too long for you to walk unassisted, you can ask the ticket office for a wheelchair.
- Access to the Royal Library is allowed only from Piazza Castello 191. (There is access for wheelchairs.)
To get more out of your visit, I would recommend this skip-the-line guided tour of the Royal Palace.
The Royal Palace of Turin is in the centre of the city. The address is Piazzetta Reale, 1, 10122, Turin. You can see it on a map here.
The Royal Palace of Turin is open from Tuesday to Sunday: 9.00 – 19.00.
The palace is closed on Monday.
A standard ticket is €15 and a reduced ticket is €2. (Until 15 December 2023, there’s also a €1 levy to help with flood recovery efforts.)
Also on the main square is the Palazzo Madama. It appears to sit in the centre and, from certain angles, looks like a castle. This is no coincidence because the building has had a long history.
The site was originally a gate for a Roman wall in the first century BC. Later it was turned into a defensive castle and then, in the 1600s, it became a lavish royal residence. When you visit, you can see remnants of each of these stages.
On the ground floor, Palazzo Madama has a very impressive art gallery, which has a collection of pieces from various stages of history.
On the lower floor, you’ll find some exhibitions about the ancient history of the building. On the upper floor, there are the beautifully-decorated rooms that you expect from a Savoy residence.
- To save time, you can buy your ticket in advance to Palazzo Madama.
- The Palazzo Madama also offers a multi-museum ticket that you can use to visit GAM (Turin Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art) and MAO (Asian Art Museum)
- It is possible to request a guided tour in a foreign language: (1h €80, 1h30m €95, 2h €115)
- The service at Caffè Madama is currently suspended. Drink and snack vending machines are available to the public in the South Veranda.
Palazzo Madama is in the centre of Turin. The address is P.za Castello, 10122 Torino TO, Italy. You can see it on a map here.
Palazzo Madama is open from Wednesday to Monday: 10:00 – 18:00. Last entry is at 17:00.
The palace is closed on Tuesday
A standard ticket is €10 and a concession is €8. There’s free entry for under 18s.
The Palazzo Carignano is a fascinating building that is definitely worthy of a visit. It was built in 1679 as a residence for the Prince of Carignano (hence the name). These days, it is used to house the Museum of the Risorgimento.
The ‘Risorgimento’ means unification. This is the largest exhibition in the country that tells the story of the unification of Italy in the 19th century and the history that led to that point (and what came after).
I think it’s actually really interesting and I would suggest taking some time to look at the displays – although there’s a lot to see so you’ll need to skip quite a few sections.
Of course, you’ll be able to see the opulent architecture and decoration of the palace. Of particular note is the Subalpine Chamber of Deputies that was used for legislative debates.
I think this legislative chamber is worth visiting Palazzo Carignano for in itself – it really is impressive. But the museum also gives you another reason to spend some time here.
When it comes to the best palace in Turin, one of the things I like is that they each offer something a bit different, so you won’t get bored if you go to a few of them.
Palazzo Carignano is in the centre of the city, across the road from the Egyptian Museum. The address is Via Accademia delle Scienze, 5, 10123 Torino TO, Italy. You can see it on a map here.
Palazzo Carignano is open from Wednesday to Monday: 10:00 – 18:00. Last entry is at 17:00.
The palace is closed on Tuesday
A standard ticket is €6 and a concession is €3. There’s free entry for under 18s.
Castello del Valentino
A short walk south of the historic centre, to a lovely park along the river, will bring you to the Castello del Valentino, another of the Savoy residences in Turin.
There was once an ancient castle on this site but what you can see today is from the 1600s and was built for as a residence for a princess. Castello del Valentino is not as large as the other palaces and has a horseshoe shape that makes it seem much open.
The building is used these days as the Architecture Faculty of the Polytechnic University of Turin. For this reason, not all of it is open to the public.
However, you can go through the gate at the road and look at the exterior of the building from the main courtyard, or you can take one of the guided tours.
- The rooms on the main floor can only be visited only through a free guided tour, which is offered on Saturdays. The one-hour itinerary includes a visit to the rooms on the main floor, the columns’ room and the chapel on the ground floor.
- The guided tours are led by graduates of the Polytechnic of Turin, for a maximum of 25 people (book early). They’re in Italian but there’s usually an English translator.
- If you haven’t booked, there is the possibility to take the spots of those that have cancelled their reservations.
Castello del Valentino is in the centre of Turin. The address is Viale Mattioli, 39, 10125 Torino TO, Italy. You can see it on a map here.
Castello del Valentino is open for tours on Saturdays from 9:30 – 11:30.
Entrance is free.
BONUS: Save money when visiting the royal palaces in Turin
I mentioned earlier that there are two different sightseeing cards that you can buy that will save you money if you’re planning to visit the palaces.
I would definitely recommend buying one (and if you get it in advance online, that will save you some time during busy periods).
If you are mainly interested in the Royal Savoy Sites and you’re planning to see some of the lodges in the countryside, then I would recommend getting the Royal Pass.
It includes free entry to all of the locations that make up the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy World Heritage Site, including the four best Turin palaces I’ve just talked about!
The Royal Pass costs €30 for a standard ticket, which includes free entry for an accompanying child under 12. You can buy it in advance here.
(Note, that state and municipal museums offer free admission to children under age 18, so it may not be worth it in that case.)
As well as free entrance to all of the public sites, you will get access to some of the special events and tours that are offered.
If you are going to mainly spend your time in Turin and you’ll also want to see other museums and sites in the city, then I would suggest getting the Torino+Piemonte Card.
This is what I did and I was really impressed with what else was included with the card.
Choose the duration you want the card for, and you’ll get free entry to all the palaces in Turin I’ve mentioned, plus more than 70 of Turin’s top sights like the Egyptian Museum, the National Museum of Cinema, and the National Automobile Museum.
The Torino+Piemonte Card costs:
- 24 hours: €29 (for a maximum of three free entries)
- 48 hours: €38
- 72 hours: €44
- 72 hours (for an under 18): €18
- 120 hours: €49
I recommend buying it in advance here.
As with the Royal Pass, the card includes a child under 12 with every adult. Older children will have to buy their own card, although state and municipal museums offer free admission to children under age 18 anyway. The only concession option is for the 72-hour card.
One more thing to consider is where you would like a guide to show you around some of the palaces in Turin, to help offer a special insight into the significance of these mighty buildings.
For the Royal Palace of Turin, there’s this excellent skip-the-line tour that I would recommend.
Or there are some other tours here that might be of interest:
Either way, exploring the top palaces in Turin is about more than just the architecture or the art. This is about getting closer to the story of the House of Savoy – the family that made Italy what it is today.
I know there’s a lot of history to see when you travel through Italy, but when it comes to the modern era, this is some of the most important!
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN TURIN
A lot of the best hotels in Turin are in historic buildings, so it’s easy to get a sense of the city’s heritage.
In a former fire station, Combo Torino is clean and modern with comfortable beds.
The atmosphere is very friendly and Hotel Torino Porta Susa is also great value!
Simple but modern, there’s a great sense of style at NH Collection Torino Piazza Carlina.
With old school decadence, you’ll feel like royalty at the 5-star Royal Palace Hotel & Spa.