Milan is known as the Italian fashion capital and has a faster pace of life than most of Italy but its historic center holds many interesting sights. Its stunning Duomo, or cathedral, is one of the world’s largest Gothic cathedrals and you can walk on its roof! Milan is also famous for La Scala Opera House and Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper.
Top Things to See and Do in Milan
Milan’s main square is the lively Piazza del Duomo where the cathedral sits. The Duomo, which took almost 500 years to complete, is a spectacular sight. Be sure to go up on the roof for a close-up look at more than 3000 statues, including hundreds of gargoyles, and 130 spires. You’ll also have fantastic city views. While it’s possible to walk up the many stairs, the best way to go up is on the elevator. Buy skip-the-line Duomo rooftop tickets or tickets for the Cathedral, Rooftop, and Museum.
Linking the squares of the Duomo and La Scala, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a huge glass-roofed shopping arcade lined with elegant shops, bars, and restaurants. Built in 1867, it has mosaic inside with the symbols of the cities forming the newly united Italy. It’s considered good luck to stand on the testicles of the bull of Turin.
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, in the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie, is one of Italy’s most famous art works but you’ll need to reserve tickets in advance. Buy tickets for The Last Supper that include an audio tour.
Castello Sforzesco, a 15th century castle in the city’s historic center, has been turned into a museum complex. Michelangelo’s last sculpture, the Rondanini Pieta, is in the art museum. Other museums include the Museum of Ancient Art, a musical instruments display, and the Archeology Museum with Egyptian and prehistoric artifacts. The National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci is housed in a former monastery from the 16th century. The castle’s courtyard is a park, making it a good place to wander around even if you don’t want to go to a museum.
Visit the 11th century church of the city’s patron saint, Sant’Ambrogio, to see beautiful mosaics, interesting carvings, and relics. Basilica Sant’ Ambrogio, Built on the site of a fourth-century church, visit the crypt to see Sant’Ambrogio and second-century martyrs.
Of course Milan is a great place for shopping, from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade to boutique designer fashion shops in the Quadrilatero d’Oro, or Golden Quadrangle, around Via della Spiga. Shopping streets in the center include Via Dante between the Duomo and Castle, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II near Piazza Della Scala, and via Monte Napoleone near the Duomo. For less expensive shops, try Corso Buenos Aires.
Plan Your Visit to MilanWhere to Stay:
- The Square Milano Duomo is a 5 minute walk from the cathedral and Opera House.
- Hotel Gran Duca di York, in an 18th century palazzo, is within walking distance of the Duomo and Galleria.
- Spice Hotel Milan is a 5 minute walk from the main train station.
- See the hotels map at the bottom of the page for more lodging choices.
Milan has two airports. Malpensa, to the northwest, is a big international airport where most foreign travelers arrive. Linate airport serves mainly flights from Europe and within Italy. Milan’s central train station is a main rail hub for northern Italian cities and European destinations, including direct trains to Paris. The city has several other train stations, an extensive tram and bus system, and a metro. Driving in the city center is not recommended.
- Rick Steves Milan and the Italian Lakes
- DK Eyewitness Top 10 Milan and the Lakes
- The Fashion Lovers Guide to Milan
Places to Go Near Milan
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