Milan attractions

Top Milan sights

When planning a trip to Italy, Milan might not be the first place you think of. And that’s exactly why you should visit.

While it doesn’t have the pulling power of Rome, Florence or Venice, Milan doesn’t suffer tourist crowds and isn’t short on must-visit attractions and cultural hotspots either. So, though it may be a less conspicuous holiday destination, there’s plenty to see and do in ever-fashionable Milan – from architectural wonders and palazzos filled with renaissance paintings to awe-inspiring cathedrals and an iconic cathedral of football.

This well-heeled city is the financial hub of the country, but it’s not all-work-no-play: there’s quality food to sample, lively events to take your breath away and grandiose buildings with spectacular interiors. By evening it emits a romantic, atmospheric feel, which can be best experienced in the picturesque Navigli district, with its small craft shops, restaurant-bars and shared palazzi di ringhiera retaining its original appeal.

Whatever Milan holidays you’re looking for, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Italy’s most vibrant city.

  1. Milan Duomo
  2. Santa Maria delle Grazie
  3. Sforza Castle
  4. Bar Luce
  5. Navigli District
  6. The fashion district
  7. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
  8. Teatro alla Scala
  9. Street art
  10. San Siro
  11. Day trips

Sounds good? Watch our video, read through our recommendations and discover some unmissable Milan attractions.

1. Milan Duomo

One of the brilliant things about Milan is how its oldest buildings sit so nicely amongst modern skyscrapers. But for the efforts of all the ‘starchitects’ that have increasingly flocked to the city in recent years, one building is still the undisputed must-see in Milan – the Duomo di Milano. The city’s marvellous cathedral is a feast for the eyes, whether you’re on ground level gazing up at its marble facade or down at the ant-sized people from the cathedral’s rooftop. This gothic masterpiece sits slap-bang at the heart of Milan and looks just as good on the inside as it does from the outside. Visit early to avoid crowds, and swing by Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo for legit Neapolitan pizza while you’re in the area.

Best for: Panoramic views.

While you’re there: Visit the adjacent museum to find out about the history of the Duomo.

2. Santa Maria delle Grazie

Another church? You bet. The Santa Maria della Grazie is stunning, gothic, and stunningly gothic all at once… oh, and it’s home to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. You know it. You’ve seen it a million times before. But if you’ve never seen it up-close then you should do so when you’re in Milan. The paint has been deteriorating since the 16th century, so check it out before it disappears forever. To view Leonardo di Vinci’s most famous mural, you’ll need to book your ticket for the exact day and time you want to go – visit the website to find out more.

Best for: Iconic masterpieces.

While you’re there: Visit Leonardo’s vineyard behind Casa degli Atellani.

3. Sforza Castle

Not far from the Duomo di Milano is Sforza Castle.This 15th-century fortress, Built by the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, once defended the city from outside attack; today, you can wander around inside and be instantly impressed by the range of museums and artwork they each hold: the Museum of Ancient Art displays ancient fragments detailing Milan’s cultural history; the Pinacoteca art gallery displays masterpieces by Bellini, Tintoretto and Canaletto; the Furniture Collection presents 15th–20th century furnishings; while the Museum of Decorative Arts holds an extensive collection from various materials. It made people go ‘phwoar’ then (we assume) and it’ll make you go ‘phwoar’ now.

Best for: Cultural Milan – perfect for a rainy day.

While you’re there: Stroll around the pleasant courtyard at the centre of the castle. It’s even more romantic at night.

4. Bar Luce

We’ve already put together a guide on where to eat in Milan when taking a break from sightseeing but for moments when you want both, head to Bar Luce. If visiting this 1950’s-style bar/café feels a little like walking into the set of a Wes Anderson film, you’d be half right – it was designed by the film auteur himself. Suddenly the pastel colours, ‘Steve Zissou’ pinball machine and kitsch design all make sense. This ludicrously Instagrammable bar is open 9 am - 8 pm (10 pm on weekends) daily except for Tuesdays.

Best for: Wes Anderson fans.

While you’re there: The bar is inside Fondazione Prada so leave enough time to explore the art in this renowned gallery.

5. Navigli District

A cyclist-friendly city, and you’ll find some of the best cycle routes in the city in the canal-heavy Navigli district. The Navigli district is lined with al fresco bars and restaurants, where punters spill out onto the streets and watch the passersby and activity on the canals.

An undeniably scenic one follows the Naviglio della Martesana out of town, through ancient villages, noble villas and picturesque parks. The beautiful lakeside city of Lecco is one potential destination, but if you’re a cheese lover you’ll want to head to Gorgonzola – it’s fine, you’ll (probably) burn all those calories off on the cycle back into the city. Simply hop on a BikeMi or Mobike and gorge on this creamy blue cheese until your heart is content.  

Best for:  Evening strolls.

While you’re there: There’s also a monthly antique market – colourfully raucous in all its eclectic glory.

6. The fashion distrcit

Whether you’re a fashionista or not, you’re going to be surrounded by some of the most seriously stylish people in Milan. Not only is the city home to the superlative Milan Fashion Week, but it’s the ultimate shopping experience – even if it means only window shopping (the window displays are a performance in themselves). Quadrilatero della Moda is the fashion district, and is home to designer labels, both boutique and household names alike. 

Best for: Trendy boutiques, design ateliers and tailoring services.

While you’re there: In the district are the Museum of Costume Fashion and Image and the Bagatti Valsecchi House Museum.

7. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Walking through the arcaded Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Milan sightseeing at its finest, with glittering designer shops, slick restaurants and hot-to-trot shoppers forming tourist attractions in their own right! This elegant building, built in the 19th century, is Italy’s oldest shopping arcade and has managed to retain its opulent atmosphere. Even if you don’t step foot into any of the shops, simply gaze up at the embellished mosaics, balconies and glass dome roof, and soak up Milan in all its glittering glory.

Best for: Historic opulence.

While you’re there: It’s adjacent to the Duomo.

8. Teatro alla Scala

First opened in 1778, the Teatro alla Scala puts on some of the most encapsulating opera and ballet performances in Milan. The likes of Pavarotti, Carla Fracci and Verdi have performed there at some point, and although it’s undergone many restorations, it’s high-end charm for a spot of high-end culture still persists. Watching a live performance here is one of the most captivating things to do in Milan.

Best for:  Thespians.

While you’re there: If the theatre is closed for a performance or rehearsal, visit the adjacent museum.

9. Street art

There’s no shortage of places to go in Milan if you want to seek out superlative renaissance paintings and frescos, but if you fancy something more modern, head to the city’s Isola neighbourhood for some modern-day masterpieces. Milan is a mecca of street art, and this modest, creative neighbourhood is ground zero – the area is filled with street art, often created by locals. Walk it yourself or book onto a street art walking tour to make sure you don’t miss the best bits! 

Best for: Art lovers.

While you’re there: Book a street art tour of Milan to see the best of the city’s graffiti. 

10. San Siro

Milan’s famed San Siro stadium is home to two of Europe’s football giants – A.C. Milan and Inter Milan. With a capacity of 80,000, this football temple is one of the biggest in Europe and juggles home games between the two teams from August until May each year. Concerts take over in the summer, and over the years this iconic stadium has hosted Madonna, Beyoncé & Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna and more. There aren’t many places like it. 

Best for: Football fans.

While you’re there: Learn about the history of A.C. Milan and Inter Milan with the San Siro Museum and Tour. 

11. Day trips

But Lecco and Gorgonzola aren’t the only day trips you can take from Milan. Hire a car and head for the handsome, historic fortress town of Bergamo (only an hour drive away) or postcard-perfect Lake Como (less than 45 minutes by train). Visiting Milan with a star-crossed lover? Hop on a train and visit nearby Verona (just over an hour away) for Romeo and Juliet-y stuff, charming architecture, fine food and irresistible regional wines. If you don’t mind early starts and sitting on trains for ages, or simply fancy a more substantial trip away from Milan, St. Moritz in Switzerland could be an option – it’s roughly 4 hours away by train.

Best for: Escaping the crowds.

While you’re there: Hire a boat on Lake Maggiore and visit the beautiful Borromean Islands.

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