12 Best Things to Do in Milan

Milan - What is it Famous For?

One of Italy's most fashionable cities, Milan is home to some of the country's major fashion brands. One of the best spots in the city centre to find them in one spot happens to be the world's oldest shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Milan's not all about fashion, though. It's among the great Italian cities, where you can find rich history, art and culture through grand landmarks, such as the majestic Duomo and its grand collection of basilicas. Add the city's cherished gastronomic traditions and you'll have plenty of compelling reasons to put a trip to Milan in your bucket list.

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The Duomo

Enjoy dramatic skylines from the terrace of this famous Gothic cathedral
The Duomo

The Duomo is Milan's largest Gothic cathedral, located at Piazza del Duomo in the heart of the city. Take some time to admire this massive architectural wonder with its 135 spires and countless statues, and head up to its rooftop terraces for amazing cityscapes. A lift inside takes you up 70 metres to these terraces for around €13. Numerous sculptors worked on the Duomo over the years - try spotting quirky elements such as tennis rackets and boxing gloves among the Gothic reliefs.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 7pm
  • Location: Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 7202 2656

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Decipher the mysteries of da Vinci's The Last Supper
Santa Maria delle Grazie

This Renaissance church in downtown Milan is famous for its monastery that's home to Leonardo da Vinci's mural, The Last Supper. The church is a 5-minute walk from Cardona station and is free to access. However, you'll need advanced booking (tickets from €16) to enter the refectory. You have 15 minutes as part of a group to see the famous fresco. Many try to reveal hidden messages in the painting, inspired by the thriller novel, The Da Vinci Code.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 7am to 12pm and 4pm to 7:30pm
  • Location: Via Giuseppe Antonio Sassi, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 467 6111

Teatro alla Scala

Experience the acoustics at Milan's legendary opera house
Teatro alla Scala

Watch an Italian opera, an orchestral concert, or classical ballets at Milan's 18th century opera house. The façade may not be as dazzling as Milan's other great landmarks. But enter its auditorium, and you'll be amazed by its interiors. Overlooking the stage, theatre boxes are arranged over four levels, and all are heavily gilded and adorned with maroon drapes. Mind that not all seats have great views, and most rear seats have no backs. The Platea and Palchi seats offer best views, but at a price... they cost around €150.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 5:30pm
  • Location: Via Filodrammatici 2, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 88791

Museo del Novecanto

Admire Italian arts and climb the grand spiral staircase for views over the Duomo
Museo del Novecanto

Museo del Novecanto is right beside Milan's Duomo, and serves as a great retreat from the busy piazza. The museum houses a good mix of 20th century Italian arts, with works ranging from Picasso to Modigliani, as well as life-size contemporary sculptures. But its grand spiral staircase is well worth the climb to the top floor, where floor-to-ceiling windows allow for superb views over the piazza and the massive Duomo. Visit after 2pm on Tuesdays, or 2 hours before closing time any day for free access.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday from 9:30am to 7:30pm, Monday from 2:30pm to 7:30pm
  • Location: Via Guglielmo Marconi, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 8844 4061

Try Risotto alla Milanese

Discover Milan's Own Specialty Risotto
Try Risotto alla Milanese

Northern Italy is well-known for its risotto, but one specialty to try out in Milan is its own saffron-infused version. Each chef in Milan has his own special approach in preparing the dish, but a perfectly al dente Risotto alla Milanese should have the right savoury balance between its use of lard and parmesan, and with the right pinch of saffron to bring its aroma and golden glow. For the experience, try the upscale Il Marchesino, right next to the Scala opera house, for its Risotto alla Milanese d'oro - garnished with real gold leaf!

  • Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: from 8am to 10:30pm
  • Location: Via Filodrammatici, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 7209 4338

Castello Sforzesco

Wander off Piazza del Duomo to Milan's 15th century castle and museum
Castello Sforzesco

Despite its name, Castello Sforzesco looks more like a fortress with a large courtyard than a castle. The complex has a library and several museums. Some of these hold the works of Michelangelo and da Vinci, as well as arts and artefacts from Ancient Egypt. The castle is free to enter, but the museum charges around €5 (or free, an hour before closing time and on each first Sunday of the month). The castle's around 800 metres northwest from the Duomo.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday from 9am to 5:30pm
  • Location: Piazza Castello, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 8846 3700

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Walk through the glass-ceilinged arcade of the world's oldest mall
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is testament to Milan's title as one of the world's fashion capitals. This wondrous, glass-ceilinged arcade which connects the piazzas of the Duomo and the Teatro alla Scala opera house, is lined with cafes and high-end boutiques, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada (formerly a McDonald's). Enjoy a coffee stop before heading to the piazzas, and sip your cappuccino as the Milanese do: standing up by the bar. If you choose a spot at their terraces, be prepared to pay extra.

  • Location: Piazza Castello, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 8846 3700

Cimitero Monumentale

Walk through Milan's stunningly artistic Necropolis
Cimitero Monumentale

You'll find some of the world's most epic tombs at Milan's Cimitero Monumentale. The impressive architectural features, massive mausoleums and beautiful sculptures throughout the cemetery make this an open-air museum rather than a cemetery. Some of Italy's most honoured figures are buried within this 25-hectare gravesite. Each tomb is different and thought-provoking. Check out the beautiful white tower tomb of the Bernocchi family near the centre, with its detailed sculptures depicting the life and death of Christ.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday from 8am to 6pm
  • Location: Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 8844 1274

Go for Aperitivo

Enjoy an afternoon tipple in true Milano style
Go for Aperitivo

You can complete your Milanese experience with an aperitivo: the classic and well-cherished Italian predinner tradition. It all began in 18th century Turin, the birthplace of vermouth. However, Milan manages to reign top spot for modern aperitivo, with its great collection of downtown bars. One is Bar Basso on Via Plinio, home of the Negroni Sbagliato. For around €10, enjoy your glass accompanied by cicchetti (small platter of nibbles). For a young and stylish crowd, try Deseo on Corso Sempione. It's a good spot to try out the legendary Aperol Spritz, and you can find your way through their extensive all-you-can-eat buffet, for around €11.

  • Opening Hours: Varies among venues, but aperitivo is mostly between 6pm and 9pm.
  • Location: (Around the city centre) Milan, Italy

Leonardo da Vinci National Science Museum

See da Vinci's curious flying machines from up close
Leonardo da Vinci National Science Museum

The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology is one of Milan's most inspiring and engaging historical sites. From the outside, it's a Renaissance monastery. Inside, you'll find a rich showcase of interactive and educational exhibits. There's plenty to see and learn about, from real-life 3D realisations of da Vinci's mechanical designs, to aviation, particle physics, locomotion, and multimedia that let you explore the galaxies. The kids will love exploring the life-size WWII submarine. Full tickets are from €10.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday - Friday from 9.30am to 5pm, Saturday - Sunday from 9.30am to 6.30pm
  • Location: Via San Vittore, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 485551

Sant'Ambrogio Basilica

Reminisce about ancient trade at one of Milan's oldest churches
Sant'Ambrogio Basilica

As one of Milan's beautiful and oldest churches, the Romanesque basilica of Sant'Ambrogio is a well-hidden landmark in the city that's worth finding. It's just a few minutes' walk northeast of the namesake metro station in the city centre. Explore its colonnades where ancient trade took place, and try to spot some of its intriguing symbols and reliefs on its walls and columns. These include a yardstick used for measuring textiles in ancient times, a Corinthian "devil's column", and a chessboard at the basilica's door. Access is free.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday - Friday: from 9:30am to 5pm, Saturday-Sunday: from 9:30am to 6:30pm
  • Location: Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, Milan, Italy
  • Tel: +39 02 8645 0895

Brera District

Shop for bargains at the Sunday market
Brera District

Walking through Milan's charming district of Brera introduces you to one of the most picturesque neighbourhoods in the city's historical zone. Brera's home to an academy of fine arts and an art gallery, which explains its artistic vibe. Vendors selling arts and antiques gather at Brera's flea market on Via Fiori Chiari every third Sunday. Brera's narrow streets are lined with small but stylish cafes and speciality shops, which light up after sundown for a unique and atmospheric walk through Milan.

  • Location: Via Brera, Milan, Italy
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