Attractions in Milan: 16 places to see
Milan is the second capital of Italy, country’s economic center, and main fashion city. Moreover, it is endowed with priceless cultural and architectural heritage which is not surprising since the city was founded approximately in 600 BC. Historically significant places and even more modern-looking sights can bring you vast positive experience. IGotoWorld.com compiled a list of the most memorable places in Milan you should definitely check out if you ever happen to be a guest of this city.
For the sake of convenience, we divided landmarks in Milan into several categories: religious architecture, the most visited museums of Milan, natural attractions, places for shopping, strolls and cultural activities as well as remarkable sights of the city.
The main highlight of Milan, of course, is considered to be its grand architecture that Italians cherish more than life. It is nearly impossible to postpone visiting any of the religious buildings here. However, some of the religious attractions in Milan are especially noteworthy.
Milan Cathedral – the gothic gem of the city
Should we talk about Milan Cathedral? Of course, we should and rapturously so! This fantastic gothic church made of white marble is the main symbol of the city. It was being constructed for many years or, to be exact, centuries – from 1386 to 1965. The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary or, as Italians call it, Duomo is one of the largest European temples that can accommodate up to 40 000 people. Greatness and exterior design of this cathedral deserve particular attention. Milan Cathedral is definitely an interesting place to see in Milan.
Photo source: © Henry Bonn Fotolia.com.
By getting up on Duomo rooftop which is accessible by stairs of the special elevator you get an opportunity to enjoy fantastic views.
Sections in the cathedral:
- Duomo Museum.
- Church of San Gottardo.
- Hall of the Columns.
- Milanese Hall.
- Milan Cathedral is open daily from 8:00 до 19:00.
- Duomo Museum and church of San Gottardo: from 10:00 till 18:00 every day, except for Wednesday.
- Terraces: from 9:00 till 19:00 every day.
- Cathedral, Duomo Museum, and church of San Gottardo – 3 euros.
- Terraces (observation deck) – 9 euros by foot and 13 euros by elevator.
- Archaeological area – 7 euros.
How to get: Cathedral is located in the very heart of Milan on Piazza del Duomo. You can reach this place by taking the subway to Duomo station.
Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio – city’s main spiritual center
The Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio was built between 1080 and 1128 in a martyr burial area which dates back to the early Christianity. This is another temple that survived through many centuries. There are relics of Ambrose and his only genuine portrayal kept inside the building.
The Basilica is also notable for its oratory called San Vittore where a 13th-century mosaic depicting Christ Pantokrator as well as another mosaic from the 5th century under the name «Golden Sky» can be found.
Photo source: Jofrigerio.
The Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio is believed to be Milan’s main spiritual center. In the left wing of the building, there is a museum of Sant'Ambrogio; a house that once belonged to the bishop contains a huge jewelry collection.
- The basilica is open daily from 10:00 till 12:00 and from14:30 till 18:00; from 15:00 till 17:00 on Sundays.
- You can visit the museum from 10:00 till 12:00, from 14:30 till 17:30 every day and only in the afternoon on weekends.
How to get: Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio is situated on Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, 15. You can get here by:
- subway (Sant'Ambrogio station);
- taking bus № 94 to Carducci stop.
Santa Maria delle Grazie and da Vinci’s «The Last Supper»
The construction of Santa Maria delle Grazie that was designed in the early Gothic style began in 1469. It is famous for its beautiful murals and, of course, main treasure – fresco «The Last Supper» created by Leonardo da Vinci.
Photo source: Davide Oliva.
This legendary masterpiece is housed in refractory of the church. Special conditions were developed in the room for better preservation of this artwork. Worldwide known fresco isn’t the only da Vinci’s creation the church can boast – he also painted the gate medallion.
Opening hours: from 7:00 till 12:55 and from 15:00 till 19:15 on weekdays. On Sundays it opens and closes 30 minutes earlier. Santa Maria delle Grazie offers guided tours:
- at 9:30 and 15:30 – in English;
- at 10:00 and 16:00 – in Italian.
Admission: 10 euros. A guided tour will cost you 3,5 euros (plus entry ticket). A maximum amount of people allowed to participate in one tour which lasts 15 minutes is 30. Entry is free on the first Sunday of the month, advance booking is mandatory.
How to get: Santa Maria delle Grazie is situated on Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, 2. You can get here by taking:
- subway to Cadorna (ММ1, ММ2) or Conciliazione (ММ1) station;
- tram №16 to Santa Maria delle Grazie stop.
The most visited museums in Milan
Museum world of Milan is pretty diverse and replete with art masterpieces, ancient artifacts and many interesting things that can make any visitor genuinely astonished.
The Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum – introducing an outstanding scientist
The most interesting museum in Milan for both adults and children was founded in 1953. Its primary goal is to preserve all inventions and discoveries great da Vinci made and pass the passion for science onto the next generations.
The Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum features one of the best collections of projects and paintings created by the artist. These exhibits can basically tell a whole history of science and technology in Italy.
Photo source: Davide Costanzo.
You might find this interesting: the museum is separated into several themed sections. It offers an opportunity to get on a submarine, visit a medieval pharmacy, admire wooden models made by da Vinci himself and glimpse through a telescope.
You can also learn something new in interactive laboratories, for instance, discover how ink or unpoppable bubbles are made. The section called «Science for young people» helps children between the ages of 3 and 6 to follow the road of becoming future explorers and unlock their potential.
Opening hours: from Tuesday to Friday from 09:30 till 17:00 and till 18:30 on weekends.
Admission: 10 euros. Price may be reduced to 7,5 euros for people under the age of 26 euros provided that they produce relevant documents (same goes for people aged 65 years or over).
How to get: the Leonardo da Vinci Museum is situated on Via San Vittore, 21. You can reach this place by taking:
- buses № 50, 58 to San Vittore stop, 94 to Carducci stop;
- subway to S. Ambrogio station (M2).
Sforza Castle – centuries-old fortress and museums
Sforza Castle is another popular sight in Milan that carries great architectural value. It was built in the 14th century; however, its mighty walls survived through numerous events and changes. Currently, Castello Sforzesco is open to the public as a museum complex.
Photo source: Mauriziozanoni.
If you want fully explore the castle and its lavish interiors, you will need a lot of time for that, but it definitely won’t be wasted. There are few quite entertaining exhibitions put on display here. So don't miss a chance to visit in Milan something interesting.
Museums in Sforza Castle:
- The Pinacotheca.
- The Egyptian Museum.
- The Museum of Musical Instruments.
- The Museum of Ancient Art.
- The Antique Furniture & Wooden Sculpture Museum.
- The Prehistoric collections of the Archaeological Museum of Milan.
- The Applied Arts Collection.
- The Museum of Rondanini Pietà.
- The Achille Bertarelli Print Collection.
Opening hours: the castle is open daily from 7:00 till 19:30. Museums are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 till 17:30.
Admission: entry to Sforza Castle is entirely free; however, you are to pay 10 euros if you want to visit the museums. There is also a flexible discount system and admission-free days available for guests. All the necessary information can be obtained through the official website.
How to get:
- Subway, M1 line, Cadorna FN or Cairoli station; M2 line, Cadorna FN or Lanza station.
- Buses № 50, 57 (Cairoli stop) 58, 61, 94 (Cadorna).
- Trams № 1 or 4 (Cairoli stop); 2, 12 or 14 (Lanza).
Poldi Pezzoli Museum – medieval treasure house
One of the most prominent museums of Milan was made possible thanks to Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli’s passion for collecting various valuables. It was opened to the public in 1881. Halls of Pezzolli Museum are filled with medieval weapons, armor, Persian carpet, Flemish tapestries, Murano glass, antique ceramic artworks and other priceless ancient pieces.
Photo source: agentika.com.
Besides that, paintings made in 14–19 centuries, sculptures and furniture dating back to Renaissance can be found in the museum as well. Artworks created by artists from northern Italy and Early Netherlandish painters are the key features in here.
Opening hours: daily (except for Tuesday and holidays) from 10:00 till 18:00.
Admission: 10 euros. People aged 65 years or over can purchase tickets for only 7 euros, children between the ages of 11 and 18 have tickets available for 4,5 euros.
How to get:
- Subway, M3 line, Montenapoleone or Duomo station; M1 line, Duomo station.
- Tram №1, Montenapoleone M3 stop.
Natural attractions in Milan
Those who wish to take a break from an eventful touring through the main Milan sights can find a place for some rest somewhere around those many city cafes and restaurants. You can also enjoy a green panorama in the old park zones while relaxing thereby get away from all this tourist city fuss.
Parco Sempione – accessory of Sforza Castle
The most famous recreational park in Milan is situated around Sforza Castle. Parco Sempione is an excellent place for taking a break from the trip through Milan. After all, nothing beats green oasis covered in shadows of the trees. Palazzo dell'Arte is considered to be the highlight of the park. Decorative arts exhibitions are held here as well.
Photo source: JasonParis.
How to get:
- Subway, M1 line, Cadorna FN or Cairoli station; M2 line, Cadorna FN or Lanza station.
- Buses № 50, 57 (Cairoli stop); 58, 61, 94 (Cadorna stop).
- Trams № 1 or 4 (Cairoli stop); 2, 12 or 14 (Lanza stop).
Ancient Naviglio Grande
Not everyone is aware that Milan has its own Grand Canal. This is not your average canal – it is an ancient, probably the oldest channel in Europe. The Naviglio Grande was constructed in the 12th century.
Photo source: ru.oddviser.com.
Previously the canal was used for cargo delivery and served as a place for washing clothing. Today lots of stores, bars, and restaurants can be found around there. On a fine day, you can also make the city tour even more pleasant by taking a walk or by traveling by boat along the promenade of Naviglio Grande.
How to get: take the subway to Porta Genova station.
Shopping and strolls
Ancient architecture is not the only thing Milan is famous for. It is a common knowledge that the city is a fashion capital filled with boutiques and stores – basically a paradise for shopaholics. It would be a shame not to take advantage of such an opportunity if you ever happen to find yourself in this Milan sea of shops. Why not combine a city stroll with unforgettable shopping?
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (also referred to as Milan marketplace) is one of the first examples of the arcade. It was being constructed from 1865 till 1877 under the guidance of architect Giuseppe Mengoni. The gallery shape resembles a Latin cross with octagonal central space that symbolizes all world continents. The passageway serves as a connection between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala.
Photo source: Burghard Fischer.
Mosaics that create this magnificent picture under the glass dome, as well as statues dedicated to great Italians, are the most striking features of the passage.
Back in the day trade used to be in full swing in here, but today this crossroad is engulfed with boutiques and cafes. Various concerts and exhibitions are usually carried out right in this mall.
If you’ve been dreaming about purchasing something branded, then stores owned by Prada, Stefanelli, Louis Vuitton, Tod’s and Massimo Dutti wait just for you. There is also a department store La Rinascente, Zara and Pollini stores set on Piazza del Duomo near the gallery.
How to get: take the subway to Duomo station.
Piazza Mercanti is probably the most historically significant place in Milan. This old 13th-century square with its age-old buildings merits particular attention. You can find Palazzo della Ragione, Palazzo Giureconsulti, Loggia of Osii and Palatine School here. Notice a well which dates back to the 16th century set in the center – it is adorned with two columns. All these buildings are witnesses of the medieval life of Milan. To this day the place is still filled with the spirit of the past centuries.
Photo source: pedrik.
Various busy fairs were held on Mercanti up until the 19th century, but even today it is quite lively here especially considering the number of cafes, restaurants andantique stores. The heart of the old Milan is located between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Cordusio.
How to get: take the subway to Duomo or Dante Cordusio station.
Cultural activities in Milan
Besides all these exciting places in Milan, there are those imbued with centuries-old wisdom. There is nothing quite like this unique aura. You might notice how the culture of this ancient nation is reflected on paintings and sculptures in museums, old narrow streets and citizens’ smiling faces.
Brera district and Brera Art Gallery: wandering through the most romantic places of Milan
Brera district, the most romantic district in Milan, lies not far from Duomo. Cozy narrow alleys, musicians, street performers set the tone for strolls through such an atmospheric setting. Because of the vigorous artistic activity, Brera is often called Milan Montmartre. This is one of the most popular nightlife districts of the city.
Photo source: travelask.ru.
Palazzo Brera is believed to be the primary place for pilgrimage here. This 17th-century palace consists of the Brera Observatory, the Brera Academy, the Brera Botanical Garden, the Brera Botanical Garden and famous Brera Art Gallery that houses paintings in its 38 halls. So all in all, there are plenty of options.
Photo source: Davide Oliva.
Painting collection includes artworks made by European artists of 15th–17th century and masterpieces created by Italian legends such as Raphael, Caravaggio, Modigliani, Tintoretto, and Bramante.
Opening hours of the Brera Art Gallery: from 8:30 till 19:15 every day, except for Monday.
Admission: full ticket costs 10 euros, reduced one – 7. Entry is free on the first Sunday of the month.
How to get:
- Subway, M2 line, Lanza station; M3 line, Montenapoleone station; M1 line, Cairoli station.
- Bus № 61, via Monte di Pietà or via Pontaccio stop; bus №57, Forobuonaparte stop.
- Trams № 1, 2, 12 or 14, via Cusani stop; tram № 4, Lanza stop.
La Scala Theatre – the heart of the opera world
Renowned La Scala Theatre is a real center of the opera culture. The building was under construction from 1776 till 1778. Previously the spot where the theater is situated was occupied by the church of Santa Maria alla Scala from which it got its name.
Back in the day, La Scala Theatre was one of the largest constructions. However today it delights its visitors from the inside. Remarkable acoustics charms even those who don’t consider themselves opera fans. Therefore La Scala Theatre is definitely a must-see in Milan!
Photo source: milan4you.com.
La Scala Theatre has always presented the fanciest performances to the public and gathered the best artists from around the world, such as Titta Ruffo, Enrico Caruso, Giuseppe De Luca, Mario Del Monaco, Feodor Chaliapin, etc.
La Scala Museum. There is also a museum at the theater which owns a collection of statues, paintings, costumes and other exhibits related to theater’s history and development.
Opening hours: the museum is open daily from 09:00 till 17:30. Afternoon performances start at 15:00 and 16:00, evening ones begin at 18:00 and 20:00.
Admission: tickets for the museum cost 10 euros. Typically a ticket for one performance in La Scala Theatre costs from 20 and up to 250 euros. The schedule is available on the official website.
How to get:
- Subway, red line, Duomo or Cordusio station; yellow line, Montenapoleone or Duomo station.
- Bus № 61, Verdi – via dell'Orso stop.
- Trams № 1 or 2, Manzoni – Scala stop.
Ambrosian Library and Art Gallery
The oldest library in Milan was opened to the public in 1609. It was named after Ambrose, bishop and patron saint of Milan. This was the first time when books weren’t chained to shelves and visitors could get comfortable in the hall. Several reading rooms are available in the library today.
Photo source: agentika.com.
Main treasures in the Ambrosian Library include ancient records and folios, illustrated «Iliad» issued in the 5th century and other timeless masterpieces. The art gallery can be found in a few halls, it features artworks created by Caravaggio, Leonardo, Titian, Bruegel, Botticelli and other legendary painters. You can also enjoy various sculptures of Italian artists here.
Opening hours: the gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 till 18:00.
Admission: ticket costs 15 euros. Further information is available on the official website.
How to get:
- Subway, M1 line, Cordusio or Duomo station; M3 line, Duomo station.
- Trams № 12, 14 or 16, Cantù Orefici station; № 2 or 3, Duomo station.
The Gallery of Modern Art – great art made royal
The Gallery of Modern Art is housed in the Villa Reale of 18th–19th century. This mansion once owned by Belgiojoso is actually a valuable architectural monument by itself. It is sometimes referred to as Bonaparte’s villa since it was given to the French emperor as a gift. The gallery was founded here in 1921 with the support of Lombard patrons and dedicated primarily to Italian art of 18th–20th century.
Photo source: Giovanni Segantini.
It is quite difficult to describe how big the gallery is. Artworks fill up nearly 50 villa’s halls. Among them, there are creations of Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Renoir, van Gogh, Modigliani and other recognized artists.
Opening hours: from 9:00 till 17:30 every day, except for Mondays.
Admission: 5 euros. Entry is free after 16:30 and every Tuesday from 14:00.
How to get:
- Subway, Palestro station (M1 line) or Turati (M3).
- Tram № 1 or 2, Piazza Cavour stop.
- Bus № 94 or 61, Via Senato stop.
Extraordinary tourist attractions in Milan
Every city has its unusual places that are entirely unique. Milan is, of course, no exception. You will see one-of-a-kind landmarks anywhere you look. However, there are some places you just cannot miss.
Monumental Cemetery or «the city of the dead»
A place for grieving and an open-air sculpture museum at the same time – that’s what Monumental Cemetery in Milan is. So-called «city of the dead» was founded in 1866, and since then the noblest men had been competing for the most unique-looking gravestone. Only wealthy people could afford such luxury.
Photo source: mfrid.dreamwidth.org.
Today you won’t find gravestones that have even the slightest similarities – all of them are entirely unique. Various cultural influences are reflected on the stone ranging from Egyptian pyramids and Greek temples to all kinds of saints. Honorary citizens of Milan rest in the memorial chapel.
Opening hours: from 08:00 till 18:00 from Tuesday to Sunday.
How to get:
- Subway, M2 line, Garibaldi station; M5 line, Monumentale station.
- Bus № 70, Via Farini Via Ferrari stop.
- Trams № 2, 4 or 33, Via Farini Via Ferrari stop or № 10, P.le Cimitero Monumentale stop.
Velasca Tower and its unconventional shape
Velasca Tower that attracts people with its unusual architectural design is considered to be one of the most recognizable constructions. This famous Italian skyscraper was built in 1958. In mid-twentieth century it was an innovative project.
Visually this 100-meter building looks like a mushroom. Appartments take up space in the cap, and all the offices are situated in the stem.
Photo source: David Orban.
Façade design is also pretty peculiar since it’s a mix of industrial architecture and some elements taken from medieval fortifications. As a result, the completed building was called ugly. This feature was probably what made the tower so famous and distinctive. It gets included in lists that highlight the worst looking constructions and many people want to see it themselves.
How to get: take the subway to Missori station (M3 line).
Where to stay
Milan has a very well-developed tourism infrastructure. That’s why there are so many accommodation options in Milan. You can stop at a luxurious hotel as well as at an inexpensive hostel. Everything depends on the level of service and location. The city is very big, and before you choose where you want to stop we advise you to decide on the purpose of your trip and which sights in Milan, you would want to see in the first place.
- Not far from the central city square, close to Duomo, there are popular hotels, such as Hotel La Madonnina, Hotel Spadari Al Duomo.
- Near the University of Milan, you can find the hotel that belongs to the famous Hotel Ascot.
- Hotel Michelangelo, Starhotels Echo receive guests right at the central railway station. Hotel Mediolanum is located a few blocks away.
- In the Corso Buenos Aires area, you can find Worldhotel Cristoforo Colombo.
- You can also stop at Holiday Inn Express Milan-Malpensa Airport which is near Milan–Malpensa Airport.
- Many travelers choose a less-costly accommodation option which is staying in small towns neighboring with Milan, for example, in Brescia or in Bergamo which has a well-developed transportation system.