13 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Milan
| by Assia A. |
| Last Updated April 13, 2023 |
- This Destination Has a Free Tour offer
The first thing that pops into your head when you think about Milan is fashion and shopping. Yes, indeed Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world and has been known for its creative style. But the city also has a rich historical heritage that dates back to ancient Roman times, and an incredible amount of beautiful sights and attractions, from the La Scala Opera House, the Castello Sforzesco, to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
The city has always been home to great Italian artists, designers, and music icons – like Verdi, Caruso, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Armani, and Versace, they all worked and live in Milan, it was a huge opportunity for them.
Toscanini frequently conducted concerts at La Scala throughout his lifetime, while Napoleon crowned himself king of Italy at the Duomo, Mussolini founded the Fascist party in Milan, and all sorts of fashion shows take place here twice a year.
With all this historical past and wealth, the bustling metropolis is now one of the most cultural cities in the world, with rich culture, art, and stunning architecture that you will enjoy for sure.
To help you plan your stay in this beautiful Italian city, we have put together a guide to the 16 best tourist attractions in Milan. You will find loads of places of historical and cultural interest, starting with one of the most symbolic tourist attractions, Milan Cathedral.
Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy
1. Il Duomo (Milan Cathedral)
Milan’s Cathedral, the largest in Italy and the fifth largest in the world, is called “Il Duomo” by its residents. The church is covered in intricate Gothic ornamentation and is one of the most grandiose examples of Flamboyant Gothic architecture ever built. The construction of the cathedral began in 1386, but its façade was completed by Pellicani under Napoleon in the early 1800s.
The roof is entirely made of 135 meters of carved stone pinnacles, while its façade is decorated with 2,245 spectacular marble statues. The interior of the church is magnificent with its 52 gigantic pillars, and 5 sumptuous naves. While the light filtering through the stained glass windows to the aisle makes the whole thing super impressive!
Top highlights include the seven-branched bronze candelabrum by Nicholas of Verdun (c. 1200). You can also admire sarcophagi and tombs of several archbishops, as well as a crucifix made by the master Leonardo Da Vinci himself.
Walking on the roof of this beautiful cathedral is a unique experience, an elevator will take you to the roof where you can walk and enjoy the most spectacular view among the carved stone pinnacles, and capture the panoramic sights of the entire city!
2. Opera at Teatro alla Scala
La Scala is the most famous opera house in the world. It’s been run by famous opera artists for centuries and it’s only gotten more prestigious since then. The legendary premiere performance was Antonio Salieri’s “Europa riconosciuta.” The opera’s audiences are known as some of the most demanding in Italy and with a capacity of 2,800 theater seats.
It can be difficult to get tickets to the biggest event of the year and will often require getting your tickets through your hotel concierge. The box office is still another option here.
The same building houses the Teatrale alla Scala museum where you can find a collection of paintings, costumes, statues, and other documents from outstanding performances of the greatest operatic artists like Giuseppi Verdi, Rossini, Puccini, and the memorable concert conducted by the great Arturo Toscanini in May 1946.
3. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper
Santa Maria Delle Grazie is one of the most important churches in Milan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Housing the magnificent masterpiece Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. The Gothic brick church in the Corso Magenta was designed by one of Italy’s most influential Renaissance architects at the time–Bramante and its construction took decades to be complete.
On the night of 15th August 1943 during World War II, Allied forces bombed the area surrounding the church and the refectory, they were both badly damaged, but fortunately, some of the walls survived, including the one that holds The Last Supper.
The reason why thousands of tourists come every year to visit Santa Maria Delle Grazie is to appreciate da Vinci’s most famous work which represents the last meal of Jesus Christ, painted on the refectory wall of the former Dominican monastery in 1495 and 1497.
You need to head down the north aisle to get the chance to see the Baroque chapel of the Madonna Delle Grazie, decorated in gold and blue with an altarpiece of the Madonna.
Entrance is limited so you need to pick up an advanced timed ticket. But there is an easy way to see this and other most famous sites in Milan, which is a Milan Half-Day Sightseeing Tour with da Vinci’s The Last Supper! This 4 to 5-hour walking tour takes you to a variety of attractions and includes a ticket to see The Last Supper and entrance to La Scala.
4. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, linking Piazza del Duomo to Piazza Della Scala is the oldest active shopping gallery in Italy. It was designed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni in 1861 and built between 1865 & 1877. beautifully embellished with magnificent arcades and a stunning dome made of glass and iron 48 meters high above the mosaic floor.
Representing one of the first examples of modern architecture in Italy, today is a fine example of the 19th-century iron and glass industry. It is still a lovely and lively place where locals and visitors meet for lunch or coffee in its chic cafés and restaurants and wander through its luxury brands shops.
For good luck, don’t forget to celebrate the ancient city ritual: spinning your heel 3 times around over the mosaic bull under the gallery’s splendid dome.
5. Castello Sforzesco
The Sforza Castle is a medieval fortification that was built in 1368 by the Visconti and Sforza families who ruled Milan from 1277 to 1447, the castle has been rebuilt multiple times since the most recent being in 1905 by Luca Beltrami. It is made of cut stone and features three floors with a 70-meter tower that can be seen from most places in Milan.
The castle is home to many of the city’s museums with the largest art collections that include, Pietà Rondanini, Michelangelo’s last masterpiece, Andrea Mantegna’s Trivulzio Madonna, Titian works, and more.
Other museums are home to a wide range of artwork and displays, from decorative art to Egyptian antique items. They also feature significant historical items like weapons and armor, as well as musical instruments.
The Castello’s (castle) interior houses an extensive array of art, in particular paintings of famous painters like Bellini, Correggio, and Mantegna. You’ll have plenty to see and admire here!
The bustling Naviglio area of Milan (where the canals and squares run together) is a popular place for young people to visit at night, with cafés and music clubs. In the daytime, it is also worth visiting for its artists’ workshops, chic boutiques, and restaurants.
April is a fun time with so many activities in this Milan neighborhood. The “Festa di Fiori” is filled with flowers and the “Festa del Naviglio” is full of exciting concerts, vintage crafts, antique markets, and more.
In mid-June barges along the canals are decorated to celebrate the Festival of Saint Christopher (Sagra di San Cristoforo), The anniversary is highlighted by the Opera Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi performing at 50 concerts on Thursday and Friday evenings, while festival visitors enjoy special presentations on Sundays.
Sant’Ambrogio is one of the most ancient churches in Milan, it was built by St. Ambrose in 379–386. In the following centuries, the church underwent several restorations, the current appearance of the church is a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture in the 12th century.
There is so much history embedded in this wonderfully diverse building, starting with the large portico, a beautiful atrium dating from the 9th century, the capitals are carved by animals, human figures, and fantastic motifs of pre-Romanesque origin.
When you walk into the church, you will see the pulpit which has beautiful old carvings, and an amazing sarcophagus underneath it, created in the 4th century. There is also the tomb of Emperor Louis II and the crypt in which the remains of the saints: Saint Ambrose, Saint Gervasus, and Saint Protasus are located.
8. Pinacoteca di Brera
The Renaissance Palazzo di Brera with over 24,000 square meters dates back to 1651 was originally a Jesuit College, then becoming a national galleria of ancient and modern art. The palace houses the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the most visited attractions in Milan, and an amazing library and observatory along with it.
As you walk through the courtyard you will see an 1809 monument to Napoleon I by the sculptor Canova, various statues of famous Milanese personalities such as the monument to Cesare Beccaria by Pompeo Marchesi and the monument to Giuseppe Parini by Gaetano Monti.
Venetian paintings by the 15th-century Italian painter Mantegna (Madonna in a Ring of Angels’ Heads and Lamentation), Tintoretto (Discovery of the body of San Marco ), Giovanni Bellini (Sermon of St. Mark in Alexandria in Egypt ), Veronese ( Dinner in Simone’s house), and a large selection of other Italian artists.
Raphael’s “The Restored Marriage of the Virgin” is one of the most famous paintings in the gallery and is one of his finest works during his first period. The museum includes also some of the most famous foreign artists like Rembrandt (portraits of women), Van Dyck (Princess Amalia of Solms), and El Greco (St. Francis).
9. Cimitero Monumentale
Italian architecture is known for its striking examples of ancient Greek, Roman, medieval, and Renaissance art. then there’s the Art Nouveau period, known locally as Stile Liberty. The Cimitero Monumentale is a great example, it teems with eye-catching pieces of architecture and stunning designs which look distinctly Italian to this day.
The Cimitero Monumentale is one of the best places in Milan to admire Art Nouveau sculptures by famous Italian sculptors, displaying them behind a monumental, flamboyant striped marble portico. these monuments house the tombs of the rich and famous people of Milan from the late 1800s through the mid-20th century.
The beautiful Romanesque basilica of Sant’Eustorgio was built in the 12th century. It was for years an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Holy Land. Looking beyond the church’s choir, you’ll find one of the earliest examples of Renaissance architecture, the Cappella Portinari by Michelozzo, which was completed in 1462-68.
Don’t miss to visit San Lorenzo Maggiore which is not far from San Eustorgio, it was built between the late fourth and early fifth centuries, and in the following centuries, the church underwent several restorations. In the late 15th century the dome of the basilica suddenly collapsed, but the construction of a new dome in a more modern style began in the 16th century.
Just in front of the church, you can see the largest surviving monument of Roman Mediolanum, an impressive portico that was made out of 16 Corinthian columns.
11. Museo Bagatti Valsecchi
This 19th-century palace is located in the Montenapoleone district of downtown Milan and is one of the most stunning museums to visit in the city. It is home to the large, private art collection of the Bagatti Valsecchi family,
What makes this museum especially interesting are the furnishings and decorative pieces in it that were collected by two brothers the Barons Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, to give their Renaissance palazzo’s interior the look as it might appear in the past.
Not only will you see a renaissance era palace in modern life with rooms full of historic clocks, textiles, scientific and musical instruments, and walls covered with many paintings, but the English signage allows you to follow along on their collecting process, so you can get the historical and artistic information about each piece.
12. Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology
The city of Milan has dedicated its huge and largest science and technology museum in Italy to the great scientist and painter Leonardo da Vinci. Housed in a former 16th-century monastery, the museum focuses on the history of science & technology from early days into modern times.
The Leonardo da Vinci exhibition is of particular interest with working models of many of his inventions from war machines to measuring instruments, which were created from da Vinci’s drawings.
The da Vinci section is only a small part of this huge museum. There are several floors where you can explore objects that represent the history of Italian science, from aviation, telegraphy, rail transport, railroads, automobile, naval transport, motor vehicles, space, technology, and communications.
Always book your tickets in advance in order to avoid waiting at the entrance of the museum, that is what I always do.
13. Civica Galleria d’Arte Moderna (Modern Art Gallery)
The Galleria is the biggest municipal collection of 19th- century works of art, and was Napoleon’s residence when he occupied Milan, this amazing palace is located in the Porta Venezia area and faces the Indro Montanelli Gardens. Today, the residence retains its original decorative details and stucco work inside.
The Art Gallery focuses on Italian Romanticism and later movements in the 19th-century, but there are hundreds of different artworks, from Neoclassical to Post-Impressionist. They have a wide variety of pieces by Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Rouault, Modigliani, Dufy, and Vuillard, as well as a large group of Neoclassical sculptures by Canova.
The ground floor with an English-style and a botanic garden is dedicated to temporary exhibitions and services, although there are many fascinating works that you can see along the way to the first floor, like ‘Cupid and Psyche’ by Giovanni Benzoni, ‘The Achille Ferito’ by Vincenzo Fraccaroli or the sculptures of Antonio Canova and Alessandro Volta.
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