Milan, often referred to as the fashion and design capital of Italy, is a city that seamlessly blends the old and the new, offering a remarkable fusion of history, culture, and modernity. From its iconic landmarks to hidden gems, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the top 10 things you absolutely must do when visiting Milan.
Explore the Magnificent Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano)
Your Milan adventure should start with a visit to the awe-inspiring Milan Cathedral, also known as Duomo di Milano. This Gothic masterpiece is renowned for its intricate architecture, featuring an astonishing 135 spires and 3,400 statues. As you explore the interior, don’t forget to look up at the stunning stained glass windows. The true highlight, however, is the opportunity to climb to the top of the cathedral for panoramic vistas of the city. You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Milan’s skyline, offering a unique perspective on the city’s layout and architecture.
Admire Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper"
No visit to Milan is complete without paying homage to one of the world’s most famous artworks. “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci is housed in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This masterpiece, created between 1495 and 1498, is a testament to da Vinci’s extraordinary talent and innovation. Be sure to book your tickets well in advance, as access to this delicate fresco is limited to preserve its beauty. It’s an experience that art lovers and history enthusiasts will cherish.
Stroll Through Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco)
Sforza Castle is a historical fortress that encapsulates Milan’s rich history. It is home to several museums and art collections, including the Museum of Ancient Art, the Museum of Musical Instruments, and the Egyptian Museum. Take a leisurely stroll through its lush courtyards, explore the museums, and don’t miss the chance to see Michelangelo’s unfinished masterpiece, the Rondanini Pietà. The castle’s expansive grounds also offer a serene escape from the bustling city.
Shop 'til You Drop at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Milan is synonymous with high fashion, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a testament to the city’s passion for style and design. This opulent shopping arcade, often dubbed the “Salotto di Milano” or Milan’s living room, is a fashion lover’s paradise. Here, you’ll find a plethora of high-end boutiques from renowned Italian and international fashion houses. Even if shopping isn’t your primary goal, the stunning architecture of the Galleria is worth the visit. Be sure to spin on the bull mosaic for good luck—a Milanese tradition that’s become quite popular.
Visit the Brera District
The charming Brera district is a hub of art, culture, and gastronomy. Explore the Pinacoteca di Brera, a renowned art gallery that houses works by masters like Caravaggio and Raphael. Afterward, wander the picturesque streets of Brera to discover art studios, antique shops, and cozy cafes. The neighborhood’s atmosphere is particularly enchanting in the evening when the warm glow of streetlights enhances its romantic ambiance.
Experience the Navigli Canals
The Navigli district is famous for its picturesque canals, offering a romantic atmosphere day and night. Take a leisurely walk along the waterways, admiring the historic buildings, and perhaps enjoying an aperitivo at one of the many riverside restaurants. The Navigli area truly comes alive after dark, with bars, live music venues, and open-air markets creating a vibrant nightlife scene. The last Sunday of the month brings an antique market, where you can hunt for unique treasures.
Witness the Serenity of Santa Maria delle Grazie
In the heart of Milan, you’ll find the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture. This serene church is a welcome escape from the bustling city. While its architecture is impressive, the main draw is the refectory where “The Last Supper” is located. Visiting this sacred site offers a peaceful and contemplative experience.
Discover Da Vinci's Machines Exhibition
For a unique and immersive experience, don’t miss the Da Vinci’s Machines Exhibition. This interactive showcase brings Leonardo’s inventions to life, providing a fascinating journey into the mind of one of history’s greatest geniuses. You’ll be able to interact with reconstructions of his designs, gaining a deeper appreciation for his visionary concepts.
Savor Milanese Cuisine
Indulge in Milan’s culinary delights at traditional trattorias and fine dining restaurants. Milanese cuisine is a treat for your taste buds, offering an array of flavors and textures. Don’t miss out on classic dishes like Osso Buco, a rich and hearty veal shank stew, or Risotto alla Milanese, a creamy saffron-infused rice dish. For dessert, indulge in the iconic Milanese Christmas cake, panettone. Pair your meal with a fine Lombard wine, such as a Chianti or a Nebbiolo, to complete the ultimate Milanese dining experience.
Attend a Football Match at San Siro Stadium
For sports enthusiasts, catching a football match at the San Siro Stadium is an exhilarating experience. This legendary venue is home to two of Italy’s most prominent football clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan. The passion, energy, and enthusiasm of the fans are palpable, creating an electric atmosphere that’s contagious. Even if you’re not a die-hard football fan, attending a match is an unforgettable Milanese experience.
Milan’s rich tapestry of history, culture, art, fashion, and culinary traditions makes it a captivating destination for travelers. These top 10 activities will help you experience the very best this vibrant city has to offer. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, fashion enthusiast, or simply a traveler seeking new experiences, Milan has something special to offer. Don’t forget to savor the local cuisine and immerse yourself in the Milanese way of life to create unforgettable memories in this stunning Italian metropolis. Enjoy your Milan adventure!