When someone’s mentioning Milan, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? The most common answers would be fashion, finance, and sports, right? What about the things to see in Milan? The capital of Lombardy is so much more than you could imagine! Even if we take these 3 topics I just mentioned, each would be a lifelong topic to discuss. Not let’s dig right into the city, starting by discussing 10 things not to miss in Milan!
About the city of Milan
Milan is the 2nd largest city in Italy with a population of 1.5 million. It has the largest metropolitan area in the country, and it’s known as one of the global alpha cities.
The capital of Lombardy has a strong base and influence in many fields and industries. Such as commerce, design, art, education, entertainment, media, and research.
Milan is one of the four motors of Europe. We have to mention, that it’s the wealthiest non-capital city, having the 2nd largest economy on the continent.
It’s also one of the four fashion capitals in the world. These four are Milan, New York, Paris, and London. All these things add up to be a very rich and memorable venue for travelers.
On my first visit in 2017, I spent just a couple of hours in the city, and that left me with a bad after-feeling. In January 2020, my trip to Milan was really insane! Well, I actually was lucky to have someone to show me around this time. So, let’s see those 10 things in Milan that you’ll have to put on your bucket list!
Top 10 things not to miss in Milan
1. Duomo di Milano
You can’t visit Milan without seeing the duomo. It’s that one place that you must see when you visit this city! The top attraction of Milan. The colossal cathedral is one of the most amazing pieces of Gothic architecture in the world!
The constructions began in the 14th century, and it took nearly 6 centuries to be completed. The duomo, otherwise known as Milan Cathedral is the 2nd largest church in Europe. It’s also the 5th largest church on the planet.
The plan consists of a nave with 4 side aisles. The nave of the cathedral is about 45 meters tall. The structure is held by 40 immense pillars. If you’re looking from the right angle, it looks like a forest of columns.
The rose windows are the other highlight of the cathedral, why it’s really great to visit from inside, as they are stunning!
Visitors are allowed to enter just on the right side of the cathedral. There are different pass combinations you can take, that include visits in the cathedral, or just the rooftop visit. Check out these options below:
The cheapest ticket is €8.00. You can also visit the rooftop of the cathedral. It’s really worth doing, as it’s like a forest of beautiful pinnacles and spiles, not to mention the view. The duomo, as I said, it the more important of the things not to miss in Milan!
2. Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II
On your list of things to see in Milan, the Vittorio Emmanuele II Gallery should be the second. It’s definitely the second top famous landmark in the city. Named after the first king of unified Italy. The fun fact is that the galleria is the oldest functioning shopping mall in Italy.
The complex was built at the end of the 19th century. Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele is an asymmetric 4-story glass-vaulted Neo-classicist building, with some Baroque elements. The building consists of two arcades intersecting in an octagon in the middle.
The structure of the ceiling is glass and cast iron. The central octagonal space is covered with a glass dome. This is really beautiful, especially during the winter holidays when it’s decorated with lights too.
Standing under the glass dome, there are four mosaics showcasing the four coats of arms of the three Kingdoms of Italy. These would be Turin, Florence, Rome, and also Milan as the fourth.
The tradition says if you spin around three times with a heel on the testicles of the bull from Turin coat of arms, you’ll have luck. However, as this is damaging the mosaic, I recommend not to practice this tradition, please!
The Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele is connecting the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza della Scala. The otherwise called il salotto di Milano, is hosting many worldwide known luxury brands. And obviously, all the famous Italian brands sell Haute couture, jewelry, books, and painting. The name il salotto is coming from the fact that it was always a popular meeting point, hosting plenty of restaurants and cafes.
3. Teatro alla Scala
The opera house is located on Piazza della Scala. As I mentioned, it’s easy to get there from Piazza del Duomo by crossing the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II. On the square, you’ll see a beautiful sculpture of Leonardo da Vinci, a genius figure of the Renaissance age.
Teatro alla Scala opened in 1778. It is acknowledged at one of the leading ballet and opera theatres in the world. Most of the greatest operatic artists from Italy, but also many of the finest singers in the world have been on its stage.
As for the building, this is another masterpiece of Neoclassicism, with the most stunning architectural style, auditorium, and opera boxes.
As for the plays, shows, operas, etc. Check the official website of Teatro alla Scala. It’s on my Milan bucket list, to see the La Traviata here. To give you an idea about the costs, below you can see the prices for La Traviata season 2019-2020.
4. Brera Design District
The Brera Design District is my favorite neighborhood, and one of the best things to see in Milan. This area gave me that feeling what I was missing on my first visit, in 2017. Because Milan is much more developed, it feels more like a usual European big city. And I was missing that Italian vibe of it, well, until I came to Brera.
The neighborhood where art, fashion, and design create a unique atmosphere.
We’ve been staying in this neighborhood on the first night. I couldn’t see too much, as it was late, but my first impression was very positive, as the streets were clean, beautiful buildings, and I felt absolutely safe.
Brera consolidated its role in the past years to become the most important benchmark for design on international levels.
The idea came to life in 2009 as a project serving territorial marketing purposes. It, however, escalated on international levels in quite a few years. Two of the most important events organized during the year are the Brera Design Week and Brera Design Days.
The district developed around the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera – Fine arts Academy. This made it become the most fascinating neighborhood in the historic center, featuring many incredible art galleries, showrooms, and restaurants. Many streets are for only pedestrian use, which makes it easier to explore. Brera is unmissable, one of the most important things not to miss in Milan!
5. Palazzo Brera
Location: Via Brera 28, Milano
The Accademia di Belle Arti (Fine-Art Academy) is a public athenaeum functioning in the Palazzo Brera. The academy is specialized in arts and science as well, having thousands of students applying every year. Accademia di Belle Arti is one of the oldest schools in Italy, and a symbol of arts.
The building complex is home to the academy, but also to the Pinacoteca di Brera.
The Pinacoteca di Brera is the main open gallery of arts in Milan. Also located in Palazzo Brera. This gallery has one of the foremost painting collections in Italy.
As an addition, there’s a stunning, stunning library on the top floor of the building. If it’s open, it’s really worth seeing, as it’s really beautiful! For book-lovers it’s a must!
6. Castello Sforzesco
Sforza Castle is one of the most important landmarks in the history of Milan. The castle is located on the North-West side of the historic center, close to the Brera Design District.
It was built by Francesco Sforza, Milan’s 4th duke in the 15th century. However, he was never officially recognized as a duke, as he took the power over with force.
Castello Sforzesco was known for a long time as one of the largest citadels in Europe. It was enlarged once between the 16th and 17th centuries and it was rebuilt at the end of the 19th century extensively.
Today it’s the home of some of Milan’s archeological, art, civil-history, numismatics, music, and design museums. It has also a rich fine art collection to explore.
To visit just the castle, you won’t need to pay. If you’re interested in the museums, check out the official website of the Sforza Castle for details! The tickets cost €5,00.
7. Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa
Location: Piazza Santo Stefano, Milano
One of the most unique things to see in Milan! This church is a really, really unique one, and it’s not something you’ll find too often anywhere. San Bernardino alle Ossa was first built in the 13th century and rebuilt after a fire destroyed it in the 18th century.
A remarkable piece of the Baroque and Rococo style, known for its ossuary and famous skull chapel. The chapel is on the right-hand side as soon as you enter the church, at the end of a small corridor.
At the beginning of its history, the ossuary was built in 1210, to collect the bones from a nearby hospital’s graveyard. Later the church was attached to it.
The tall chapel is covered all around with thousands of human skulls and bones from the ossuary and other nearby cemeteries from the 17th century. The ceilings are covered with breathtaking frescoes by Sebastiano Ricci.
This chapel is a really unique experience, an important piece of the things not to miss in Milan!
8. Navigli neighborhood
Navigli is the most colorful neighborhood I’ve seen around Milan. That just means I’ve got enough orange and authenticity here, that I’m always craving for when I’m in Italy. There are cute colorful houses, restaurants, cafes, and bars on the sides of the canals between many others we’ll see soon!
I’ve been lucky to catch the flea market on Sunday in Navigli, and I was super excited, as someone who’s obsessed with old books and unique, vintage items. I love for the same reason the Navona neighborhood in Rome. And I did actually find two books on topics I’ve been looking for for ages.
Navigli is a great place to visit during the day if you fancy exploring some authentic, possibly quite noisy neighborhood of canals and passages.
Taking a walk along the charming canals, and getting lost on hidden alleyways is always leading to finding unexpected gems.
You can also visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo church, art galleries, try some great street food, or sunbathe near the Darsena canal.
It’s also a very popular evening-night destination for folks looking for fun, so if you’re looking for a night out in Milan, definitely pay a visit in Navigli!
9. Milan’s financial district
Porta Nuova, Milan’s financial district is one of the wealthiest in Europe, and it’s continuously developing. Its name comes from the Neoclassic gate built in the 19th century in this zone.
Its financial district, hosting the Italian stock exchange and headquarters of big national and international companies. Three companies of the Fortune magazine’s Fortune 500 list are also based here.
The best area to explore close to the financial district is the Isola, a very colorful neighborhood just around the corner. You’ll find here the famous vertical forest towers of Isola along with plenty of restaurants, and amazing street art around!
10. Street art in Milan
As someone loving arts, architecture, and basically everything that’s created by creative minds and hands, street art started to grab my attention too. Street art is one of the unique things to see in Milan. It’s different.
As I discovered already plenty of beautiful masterpieces in Rome, Florence, and Bologna, that didn’t happen otherwise in Milan either. I’m pretty sure when I’ll have the chance to discover more of the city, I’ll find many more beautiful pieces. So far, I found really fascinating the ones we’ve spotted on the way to Navigli, in the center of Milan, near the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore.
When to visit Milan?
If you’re thinking about the best time to visit Milan, I would say to try to avoid the summer. It can be really hot, and really humid, plus its tourism high season. But basically, Milan has to offer things to do in each season.
The above-listed 10 things you can do in Milan are doable in two days! So if you’re planning a short city break, you can visit it all! This list of things not to miss in Milan can be visited in as short as a weekend.
Where to stay in Milan?
Skyline Milan is one of the most stunning places to stay in Milan if you’re looking for peace, quiet, and luxury. The penthouse offers a 360degree panorama over Milan, with a rooftop terrace, jacuzzi, and a stunning apartment that will satisfy all your needs. It’s a great place for weekend getaways with friends, or if you want to just relax too. You can also read my detailed article about Skyline Milan too for more info!
Also, there are many great luxury hotels like the Armani Hotel, hostels, and holiday rentals to choose from for different types of travel and budget. You should also consider one of my favorite places, the top-rated Aparthotel Meneghino as well as Monocase Milano. You can find with the below widget plenty of options depending on your needs and budget.