Milan is a fascinating destination in northern Italy that seamlessly blends history and modernity. Fashion and art continue to thrive in the city of Milan where Leonardo da Vinci first started his craft back in the 15th century.
Milan is a vibrant and stylish city that is worth visiting. Known as the fashion capital of the world, Milan is home to designer boutiques, trendy cafes, and world-class museums. The city boasts a mix of stunning Gothic-style and modern architecture and is also renowned for its incredible cuisine.
If you are asking yourself is Milan worth visiting, read on to discover our list of 21 reasons to visit Milan. To help you plan your visit, this article includes many interesting things to see and do in Milan as well as information about local food specialties to try, hidden gems and where to get the best panoramic views of Milan.
Is Milan Worth Visiting? 21 Reasons to Visit Milan
1. Visit the Iconic Duomo of Milan (Duomo di Milano)
The Duomo of Milan (Milan Cathedral) is one of the best places to go when you are visiting Milan. The Duomo of Milan has a stunning gothic façade and is one of the largest cathedrals in the world after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. One of the best things to do is to buy a ticket and climb to the roof terrace to experience panoramic views of the city.
Is the Duomo free to visit? Yes, it is free to enter the cathedral to pray or to attend a mass. Otherwise, you need to buy a ticket to visit the cathedral and to access the terraces and museum. Click on the link below to pre-book an entrance ticket to the Duomo and terraces. You will also receive a 10 % discount in the Duomo shop.
To admire the stunning architecture and height of Milan’s cathedral, stand in the Piazza del Duomo. This is the main square of Milan and is an open space situated next to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Of course, to get the best views of the Piazza Del Duomo and the rest of Milan, you need to climb to the roof terraces of the cathedral.
2. Be Dazzled By the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was the first shopping mall built in Italy. In my opinion, it is charming. Inside you will find Milan’s most exclusive shops.
If you can’t afford to shop at Prada, don’t worry! You can still go and have a coffee in Biffi opened in 1852 or, if you prefer, McDonald’s! This McDonald’s is very posh with golden decorations.
La pièce de résistance is the magnificent dome and four mosaic designs on the floor. If you see people spinning over a bull on their heel, it is normal. Legend says that if you close your eyes and successfully spin 360 degrees with your right foot on the bull, you will be lucky.
3. Explore the Chic Brera District
The best way to discover the Brera District is to have no plan, just wander around and you will stumble on museums, art galleries and charming streets. Brera is known as the artists’ quarter of Milan and starts after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Brera is an elegant and vibrant area where you may even spot some celebrities. If you are tired, you can stop for a coffee in an authentic coffee shop. This area is loved by the locals. While you are in this neighbourhood, you can also visit the famous Pinacoteca di Brera.
4. Soak up the Art on Display in the Pinacoteca di Brera
The Pinacoteca di Brera is a Milan’s premier art gallery. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, but it is one of the biggest museums in Italy with more than 400 pieces of art.
This art gallery houses some of the most prestigious masterpieces of ancient and modern art. The Pinacoteca di Brera is considered to have one of the best art collections in Italy. So, this is an art lover’s paradise!
Click on the link below for details about how to combine an informative 2-hour guided tour of the Pinacoteca di Brera with a guided tour of the Brera District.
5. Discover Sforza Castle (Sforzesco Castel or Castello Sforzesco)
Sforza Castle is found right in the middle of the city and was built in the 15th century. The castle has undergone various renovations and expansions and now houses various museums and exhibitions.
Access to the castle is free, but you need to pay if you want to visit the museums and exhibitions. Click on the banner below to make the most of your visit by pre-booking skip the ticket line entry plus an informative app-based audio guide.
6. Marvel at The Last Supper in the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church
The Santa Maria delle Grazie Church is located in the heart of Milan and was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Its splendid architecture and connection with Leonardo Da Vinci made this church one of my favourite places to visit whilst in Milan.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous and instantly recognisable fresco, The Last Supper, is found in the Convent refectory in Santa Maria Delle Grazia. To make the most of your visit, click on the banner below to enjoy skip the line access and a guided tour of Leonardo’s masterpiece and Sforza castle.
7. Realise Your Football Dreams with a Tour of the San Siro Stadium
The iconic Giuseppe Meazza Stadium (know as San Siro) is the home of two famous Italian football clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
If you are a football fan, this stadium tour is well worth a visit. Amongst other things, you can visit the changing rooms, walk down the tunnel and onto the pitch! A professional guide will also tell you fascinating facts and history about the San Siro Stadium.
8. Immerse Yourself in Opera at La Scala
The Teatro alla Scala (or La Scala) is Milan’s famous opera house and has a world-wide reputation for hosting the most prestigious operas. The interior of the opera house is also impressive and is an interesting historic building to visit whilst you are in Milan.
If you want to visit La Scala, you need to either book to see a performance or buy a ticket to visit the La Scala Museum. You can’t just turn up and visit the opera house, so click on the banner below to pre-book your tickets and avoid disappointment.
9. Learn About Leonardo da Vinci as an Engineer at the Museo Nazionale Sczienza E Tecnologia
The Museo Nazionale Sczienza e Tecnologia (National Museum of Science and Technology) is the biggest science museum in Italy and one of the most important science and technology museums in Europe. The museum is over 40,000 square meters, so there are plenty of things to see and do inside and it is a great place to go with kids.
Inside, you will also find the largest permanent exhibition dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci that includes many models and artefacts. There is also an interactive laboratory. Don’t miss Da Vinci’s aerial screw model which was the predecessor to the helicopter.
10. Relax By the Canals of the Navigli District
When we talk about canals in Italy, we always tend to think about Venice. However, Milan also has canals (naviglio in Italian) in its Navigli District. Both the Naviglio Grande (Grand Canal) and Naviglio Pavese are great for walks. You will find plenty of bars, shops and restaurants along the way where you can relax.
As you walk along the canals, take time to look around you because the canals are also lined with historical buildings. Originally, the canals were built to transport goods from the nearby lakes but they are not used in this way anymore.
11. Try Some of Milan’s Delicious Food Specialties
If you are a food lover, you will love Milan as there are so many delicious dishes to discover! Milanese food is well known for great specialities like:
- Risotto alla Milanese
This is the most well-known dish, but also one of the best. To be honest, I love all Milanese food, but this is a creamy rice with a pinch of saffron and cooked slowly.
Saffron is a very expensive spice, so don’t try a cheap Risotto or you will be served a yellow rice made with food colorants.
- Veal Milanese
Veal Milanese is a piece of veal cased in breadcrumbs. To prepare this dish, veal is placed in flour, then into eggs and, after that, rolled in breadcrumbs. The meat is then cooked.
- Osso Buco
This dish is veal shanks slow-cooked with wine, spices, tomatoes, celery and onions. However, it was originally cooked with cinnamon, bay leaf and gremolata. This dish is very good in winter, and is usually served with saffron rice.
12. Check out Milan’s Hidden Street Art
Unlike Brussels, Milan isn’t particularly known for its Street Art. (Read more about Brussels Street Art in our other article about whether Brussels is worth visiting.) However, Milan does have great Street Art artists. If you wander around the city, you will come across many examples of Street Art in various locations in Milan.
If you want to see something amazing, you need to go to Lambrate railway station where you will find Street Art from Blu. He was concerned about Milan transport, so he expressed himself by painting a bike over cars. Nothing special, I can hear you say, until you realise that this mural is a giant 300 meters long.
13. Find Peace in the Ancient Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio
The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio was the first church to be built in 387 AD in a Lombard Romanesque Style and become a model for later buildings.
You will notice the originality of the building. For instance, there are 2 bell towers, one smaller than the other one. Inside the basilica, you will discover plenty of sculptures, a crypt and a very impressive atrium.
14. Enjoy a Boat Ride on the Canals of Milan
To see the city from water is very relaxing and in Milan you can easily do this by taking a canal boat ride. I love to be on the water, perhaps because I sailed for more than two years. You will see the city from a different perspective and navigate under old bridges.
You need to be on the water long enough to enjoy it, but not too long, so I advise you to consider this one hour tour. If you book using the link below, you will learn about the different landmarks with an audio tour.
15. Make the Most of Things to do in Milan at Night
Milan is the perfect place to have a great evening. First, you can start it with an Aperitivo. Some bars serve Aperitivo. This is basically pre-dinner snacks or a small selection of nibbles which are free when you order a drink.
Some Aperitivo selections are good-quality and very generous. For example, you might have pizza, ham, vegetables, pasta and olives.
If you are visiting Milan in the summer season, a lovely thing to do is to eat on the terrace of a restaurant. Take your time and enjoy the evening.
To have the best view of the city at night, climb the Torre Branca at sunset. This metallic tower is open almost every day until midnight. You can stand and enjoy the view from the viewing platform which is 100 meters high. In fact, the Torre Branca is one of the highest buildings in Milan.
Alternatively, grab a cocktail at the Nottingham Forest Cocktail Bar, which is known as being one of the best cocktail bars in Milan.
16. Shop Until You Drop in Milan
Milan is the capital of fashion and is therefore a paradise for shopaholics! The most popular places to shop in Milan are:
–Via della Spiga for high-end boutiques. This street is closed to cars so it is also a nice place to walk and window shop.
– Corso Buenos Aires is where you will find shops like H&M or Zara and plenty of other retail outlets. Once again, it is an attractive street to walk along and admire the 19th 20th century style buildings.
– Via Dante is the best place to buy some souvenirs. You will also find high street chain stores here as well.
17. Wander Around the Historic Piazza Mercanti
The Piazza Mercanti is a historic square which was originally home to small artisan shops and market areas. At one time, this square was used to impose the death sentence. Today, the fountain marks the place where this happened in the past. This square also played an important role during the revolt of Masaniello as this is where it started.
The piazza is a good place to visit. Although it isn’t the most beautiful square in the world, it is full of history. Interestingly, the shape of the piazza isn’t square or rectangular but is irregular. There are also many different churches. If you are in Milan for Christmas, the square has plenty of interesting small shops which are worth a visit.
18. Discover Milan’s China Town
Milan’s China Town or the Quartiere Cinese is the oldest and biggest in Italy so is worth a visit. The main street of China Town is considered to be the via Paolo Sarpi but it stretches out to via Bramante, via Aleardi and via Niccolini.
Milan’s China Town is a unique city within another city. It’s a great place for a quiet walk or to browse the many traditional products which are on sale in over 150 stores. Of course, you can find authentic Chinese food here as well, especially Zhejiang cuisine.
19. Ride a Bike
One way of seeing the sights of Milan and is by bike. Exploring a city by bike is environmentally friendly, fun and keeps you fit! The BikeMi system is Milan’s bike sharing rental system. You can discover the city at your leisure and drop off the bike at a convenient Bike Sharing Stations which are dotted across the city.
If you are feeling less confident about finding your way in the city or you want the company of others, you could consider a private guided tour. With the tour below, you will discover all of the principal landmarks of Milan by bike. Click on the banner below to find out more details.
20. Lose Yourself in the Past at the Milan Archaeology Museum
If you are interested in history, the Milan Archaeology Museum is located in the former Maurizio convent which dates back to the 8th and 9th century. Inside you will find archaeological finds from key historical periods including the Romans, Greeks, Etruscans and Egyptians.
21. Relax and Enjoy the Outdoors at Parco Sempione
The Parco Sempione offers locals and tourists green space away from the bustle of the city. This large park (approximately 116 acres) is found in the north-west of Milan and is the perfect place to walk, run or have a picnic. In addition to the landscaping, the park is also full of attractions which are suitable for all the family.
One of the popular places to visit in the park, which is sure to please the kids, is the aquarium (Acquario Civico). The Acquario Civic is housed in an impressive Viennese Art Nouveau building and features a large statue of Neptune. Inside you will discover over 100 different varieties of fish. The museum costs 5 Euros to visit and is open every day except Monday.
Within the park, you will also find a sports stadium (Arena Civica) which dates back to 1807. The arena can hold 10,000 people and is now used for football/rugby matches and international concerts. If you don’t want to attend a sporting or musical event, you can still go inside the stadium and run around the track.
Other attractions within the Parco Sempione, include the Napoleonic arch or Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace). This marble arch features impressive statues of horses and was built in tribute to Napoleon’s victories.
Milan’s medieval castle (the Castle Sforzesco or Sforza Castle) is also located in this park (see point 5 above), as is the steel tower (Torre Branca) mentioned in point 15.
If that wasn’t enough, there is also art in the park! The Palazzo dell’Arte houses an international exhibition of decorative arts which change periodically. Exhibitions include contemporary art, architecture, design and sculpture.
Where is Milan?
Milan is in the north of Italy in the Lombardy region. Milan international airport (Malpensa Airport) is at little less than one hour away by train. Alternatively, the journey to the city centre is quicker by taxi but more expensive.
Is Milan Worth Visiting?
Milan is a busy and vibrant city which has plenty of things to do and see which will entertain solo travellers, couples or families over a long weekend. You can rely on eating great food in this Italian city and soak up the history and culture which it has to offer.
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