Milan is one of Italy’s most fashionable cities, 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. But 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. These include the majestic Duomo and its grand collection of basilicas. Add the city's gastronomic traditions and you’ll have plenty of compelling reasons to put a trip to Milan on your bucket list. 

    What are the best things to do in Milan?

    1

    Piazza del Duomo

    Take in the buzz of Milan from its beautiful square

    Piazza del Duomo is Milan’s grandest square, home to the city’s largest Gothic cathedral. Take your time soaking up the scene at a café, then visit the massive Duomo with its 135 spires and countless statues. You can 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. 

    Location: Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Italy

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +39 02 7202 2656

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    2

    Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

    Walk through the glass-ceilinged arcade of the world's oldest mall

    Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is testament to Milan’s title as one of the world’s fashion capitals. This wondrous, glass-ceilinged arcade connects the piazzas of the Duomo and the Teatro alla Scala opera house, and is lined with cafes and high-end boutiques, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada. 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 del Duomo, Milan, Italy

    Phone: +39 02 8846 3700

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    3

    Sforza Castle

    Milan's 15th century castle and museum

    Despite its name, Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle) 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 every first Sunday of the month and every first and third Tuesday of the month after the 14th). The castle’s around 800 metres northwest from the Duomo.

    Location: Piazza Castello, Milan, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 7 am to 7.30 pm

    Phone: +39 02 8846 3700

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    4

    Brera District

    Shop for bargains at the Sunday market

    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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    5

    Leonardo da Vinci Museum

    See da Vinci's curious flying machines from up close

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    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 lets you explore the galaxies. Kids will love exploring the life-size World War II submarine.

    Location: Via San Vittore, Milan, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 9.30 am to 5 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm

    Phone: +39 02 485551

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    6

    Da Vinci's The Last Supper

    View the famous mural in Santa Maria delle Grazie church

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    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 Cadorna station and is free to access. Even so, you’ll need an advanced booking 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.

    Location: Via Giuseppe Antonio Sassi, Milan, Italy

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 12 pm and from 4 pm to 7.30 pm

    Phone: +39 02 467 6111

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    7

    Teatro alla Scala

    Experience the acoustics at Milan's legendary opera house

    • Couples
    • Nightlife
    • History
    • Luxury

    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 interior. 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 – from around €150. 

    You can visit the museum and theatre prior to performances and book an evening show on the same day at the Biglietteria Filodrammatici (Amateur Dramatics Theater), next door. 

    Location: Via Filodrammatici 2, Milan, Italy

    Open: Performances start around 8 pm (museum open daily from 9 am to 5.30 pm)

    Phone: +39 02 88791

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    photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST (CC BY 3.0) modified

    8

    Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio

    Learn about the origins of Ambrosian spirituality

    Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio lies south of Cadorna station which is one of Milan’s oldest areas and a cornerstone of the city’s spirituality. Built by order of Ambrose, bishop of Milan, then rebuilt in the 11th century, its unusual exterior features a 4-sided portico and 2 bell towers of different heights.

    Inside the church, it’s shaped like a Roman basilica, and under the pulpit is the elegantly sculpted Sarcophagus of Stilicho. In the crypt lie Ambrose, Gervasio and Protasio. On the left of the Basilica is a Roman column nicknamed the Devil's Column due to the 2 strange holes supposedly left by the devil's horns when Ambrose kicked him.

    Location: Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, 15, 20123 Milan, Italy

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to noon and from 2.30 pm to 6 pm, Sunday from 3 pm to 5 pm

    Phone: +39 02 8645 0895

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    9

    Parco Sempione

    Vast green oasis in the heart of Milan

    This pleasant green space right in the heart of Milan adjoins the Sforza Castle. The little ones can enjoy running freely across green lawns and even going on some classic rides or having fun in dedicated playgrounds. Meanwhile, mum and dad can enjoy the lovely views and even discover some of their own favourite spots within the park. The lake here is home to ducks and turtles, and there are plenty of places to sit and have a picnic.

    Location: Piazza Sempione, 20154 Milan, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 9 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +39 02 8846 7383

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    10

    Naviglio Grande

    Milan’s scenic and historical canals

    • Couples
    • Photo

    The Navigli area is a different but lovely side of Milan, where you can soak up a charming urban atmosphere away from the city hub. It’s great for people-watching from the various restaurants, bars, and gelateria that line the Naviglio Grande (grand canal). There are also different sections of it featuring open-air art markets. Sharing a late afternoon stroll down the canal can be special, with the twinkling shop lights along the canal and the sunset colours over the water making it magical.

    Location: Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 20143 Milan, Italy

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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