Milan is known for being “The Fashion Capital of the World” filled with fashion brands and stores. However, the cosmopolitan city is more than just about luxury. There are many things to do in Milan from its historic center to the modern skyscrapers. It is no surprise that the city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
From history, culture, and food, here are some of the best things to do in Milan when visiting this Northern Italian city.
Most Popular Thing to Do In Milan
Wander Around The Milan Duomo Cathedral And Admire Its Beauty
The Milan Cathedral is the main church of Milan and one of the largest churches in the world. It is the largest church in Italy (considering St. Peter’s Basilica is in the Vatican City) and took nearly six centuries to complete.
The cathedral is truly a magnificent piece of Gothic architecture with its intricate details and many statues. If you are visiting Milan, this is a must-see.
The best time to visit the cathedral is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it is less crowded. However, it is best to get the tickets in advance to save a bunch of time from queueing.
The cathedral entrance and rooftop terrace access can be bought separately (you can choose to do one and not the other) but most people go for both, to admire the cathedral interior and soak in the breathtaking views from above.
You can also get a guided tour to really understand the meaning and significance of not just the cathedral, but also the masterpieces and decorations in the cathedral.
Popular Things To Do In Milan
See The Last Supper Painting By Leonardo da Vinci
One of the most famous paintings in the world, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is a must-see if you are in Milan. The painting is located in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The Last Supper is a mural painting on the wall that depicts the final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion. The painting is huge, measuring 15 by 29 feet. It is one of the most significant paintings in history regardless if you are an art lover.
Do note that you need to book your tickets in advance as there is a limited number of visitors allowed each day. If you cannot get an entry ticket, another option is to book a guided tour that includes a ticket to see The Last Supper.
Explore Milan’s Castello Sforzesco
This 15th-century castle was once the home of the Visconti and Sforza families. The castle complex includes museums, art galleries, an archaeological site, and beautiful gardens.
You can easily spend a half-day here exploring all that the castle has to offer. Visiting the castle grounds is free but you will need a ticket that gives you access to all the museums in the complex.
Some of the things that you can see here include the Museum of Ancient Art, the Museum of Antique Furniture and Sculpture, and the Applied Arts Collection. If you are visiting with kids, you can pique their curiosity at the Egyptian Museum and Museum of Musical Instruments.
To learn more about the history of the castle, there are also guided tours that dive deep into the secrets of this historic building and the famous artworks.
The castle is in a large park called Parco Sempione. This is a great place to relax after exploring the castle. You can also find some food vendors here if you get hungry.
Enjoy Views At Torre Branca
Torre Branca is a steel tower that was built in 1933 for the Trienniale Exhibition by Gio Ponti. The tower is 108 meters (354 feet) tall and has an observation deck at the top. From here, you can get some of the best 360 degrees views of Milan.
There is an elevator in the tower so you don’t have to climb it physically. Some of the main sites you will see include the Duomo and Torre del Filarete. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Alps. The tower is located in the Parco Sempione which is also home to the Sforza Castle.
You can get your ticket online for entrance to the Branca Tower.
Local Things To Do In Milan
Take A Break At The Thermal Baths
If you’re looking to relax and rejuvenate, then look no further than the thermal baths in Milan. The city has a long history of using thermal baths for their health benefits.
There are several Thermal Baths to choose from, each with its own unique features. QC Terme Milano is the largest and most popular, offering a variety of pools, treatments, and saunas.
If you’re looking for something more luxurious, then the Shiseido Spa at Excelsior Hotel Gallia Spa is worth checking out. This five-star hotel has a pool, hammams, and a wide range of treatments. Armani hotel spa also offers a rooftop relaxation area with an impressive city view.
Whether you want to relax or get active, the Thermal Baths are a great way to spend a day in Milan.
Get Trendy In The Brera District
The Brera district is one of the most picturesque and romantic areas in Milan. It is also the city’s trendiest neighborhood. The Bohemian vibe of the district is perfect for a leisure stroll.
There are many things to see and do in the Brera district. The district is filled with art galleries, trendy bars, and restaurants. It is the perfect place to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere of Milan. If you are wondering what to do in Milan, go check out the district and you will probably find something interesting spontaneously.
Follow Legends At San Siro Stadium
Milan is home to two of the most successful football clubs in the world – AC Milan and Inter Milan. They are no doubt the pride of the city. The San Siro Stadium is where these two teams play their home games.
The stadium is one of the largest in Europe with a capacity of over 80,000 spectators. If you are a football fan, certainly see if you can catch a live match.
Even if you are not a big fan, the stadium tour is still a great highlight. You get to visit places like the changing room, the players’ tunnel, and the press room. You will also get to see the trophies won by AC Milan and Inter Milan. Trace the footsteps of champions and legends by going behind the scenes.
Book a ticket online to check out the San Siro stadium and museum.
If you are a fan of AC Milan specifically, you can visit their museum at Casa Milan.
Indoor Things To Do In Milan
Discover Genius At Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology
This museum is dedicated to the great Italian inventor and polymath, Leonardo da Vinci. The museum has one of the largest permanent collections of his drawings, models, and inventions.
You can also see exhibits showcasing some of his famous paintings like the Last Supper and the Vitruvian Man. In addition to being an artist, Leonardo da Vinci was also an architect, musician, and scientist. This museum is a great way to learn about his many contributions to the world.
The museum is located in a beautiful building that used to be a Renaissance monastery. Book a skip-the-line ticket in advance to avoid the queues. It is located in the center of Milan and is easily accessible by public transportation.
Get Curious At Leonardo3 The World of Leonardo Museum
If you are intrigued by the works of Da Vinci, Milan has another interactive exhibition that showcases more of his works. The Leonardo3 is in the luxury Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You can see over 200 exhibits both digital and physical, including 3D machines and functioning models of his work. This is a popular attraction for kids and families, as they can fiddle with things and learn more about different mechanics.
Book a ticket online and you also have the option to get an audio guide to enhance the experience.
Travel Back In Time At Milan Archaeology Museum
If you are a sucker for all things ancient like me, then this is the place to go. The Milan Archaeology Museum has some of the most extensive and well-kept collections of pre-historic and Etruscan artifacts.
The museum is located in the cloister of an ancient church – Maggiore di San Maurizio. It is a historic architectural masterpiece that is worth checking out as well.
Despite its size, the museum is not overwhelming and can be visited within a few hours. I recommend getting the audio guide as it makes the visit more enriching. Do note that the museum is closed on Mondays.
Explore The Gorgeous Royal Palace Of Milan
The Royal Palace of Milan was once the seat of power for the ruling government of Milan for centuries. Today, the grand palace is open to the public and serves more like a cultural center that hosts various art exhibitions throughout the year.
The palace complex is right next to the Duomo, which is the cathedral of Milan. It has held events and exhibitions showcasing works from famous artists like Picasso, Monet, and Kandinsky. Definitely stop by and see what’s is going on during your period of visit.
Regardless, the interior of the palace is worth checking out. Although much of it was destroyed throughout the years, it has been restored to its former glory.
Shop At Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This is one of the oldest and most iconic shopping malls in the world. The mall is located in a glass-vaulted atrium and has a beautiful mosaic floor.
The mall is home to high-end stores like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc. Certainly a contribution towards Milan’s reputation as the fashion capital. If you are looking to do some luxury shopping, this is one place to go. Read on to find out about the main fashion paradise in Milan.
However, you don’t have to buy anything to enjoy a trip to this mall. Just the architectural beauty and window shopping make it worth visiting. Be sure to look up when you are inside and admire the stunning glass ceiling. You will probably find yourself looking in all directions because there is something catchy all around you.
The mall is located in the center of Milan and is within walking distance to many of the city’s attractions.
Window Shop At The Golden Triangle
When in Milan, the shopping fest doesn’t just end at Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The Golden Triangle is the most famous shopping district in Milan. It is often considered the mecca for fashion. The area encompasses Via Monte Napoleon, Via Sant’Andrea, and Via della Spiga.
The area is filled with high-end designer stores, as well as more affordable retailers. It is another place to go if you are looking for some luxury shopping. Regardless if you are looking for International or Italian brands, you can find lots of top brands on offer. From Versace and Armani to Chanel and Dolce e Gabbana, retail therapy awaits the shopaholics.
If this is not where you want to spend your budget, it is still a fun place to window shop and people-watch.
Appreciate Art At Pinacoteca di Brera
Pinacoteca di Brera is one of the best and most important art galleries in Italy. It is housed in a beautiful building that used to be a Jesuit college.
The art gallery has an extensive collection of paintings that span from the 13th to the 20th century. You can find works by artists like Raphael, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt. There is also a section dedicated to Italian artists from the 20th century. This includes works by Futurist and Metaphysical painters.
The Pinacoteca di Brera is a paradise for any art lovers visiting Milan. However, if you are not particularly well versed in art, the masterpieces are not difficult to simply admire for the regular visitor. You can always join a guided tour to get a deeper appreciation of the exhibits and surrounding district.
Pinacoteca di Brera is located in the Brera district which is one of the most charming neighborhoods in Milan. Be sure to explore the area after visiting the gallery.
Get your tickets to visit the premier gallery in Milan.
Outdoor Things To Do In Milan
Relax At Parco Sempione/Sempione Park
Parco Sempione is a large park located in the city center spanning over 47 hectares. The park is home to several highlights, including the Baranca Tower and Sforzesco Castle which houses many museums.
If you are looking for a place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city, this is the perfect spot. The park has plenty of green space and is a great place to take a walk or have a picnic.
In the summer, the park hosts several events and concerts. This is a great place to enjoy some of Milan’s nightlife.
The park also has lush greenery with ponds and sculptures. It is also home to the Arch of Peace, which was built in the 19th century. The neoclassical arch is an impressive sight, decorated with bas-reliefs and columns featuring historical events. Be sure to check it out and grab a photo!
See Street Art At Isola District
The Isola district is a former industrial area that has been transformed into an artsy neighborhood. The streets are lined with colorful murals and graffiti art by local artists. This is one of the best places to see street art in Milan.
There are also trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants in the district. So it’s a great place to take a break and relax. The Isola district is easily accessible by metro and just a short walk from the city center.
Stroll Through Cimitero Monumentale
Cimitero Monumentale is one of the largest cemeteries in Milan and is certainly worth a visit if you are looking for something off the beaten path. The cemetery is full of beautiful sculptures and monuments. Many of Milan’s famous citizens are buried here including Alessandro Manzoni, the famous Italian writer.
The cemetery is huge spanning over 25 hectares. You can easily spend an hour or so here exploring the grounds. Many of the tombstones feature beautiful designs like a masterpiece. It is a nice place for a relaxing stroll to enjoy the outdoors and artistic pieces. The cemetery is located in the north of Milan.
Cheap And Free Things To Do In Milan
Visit The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a beautiful church that is best known for being the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
The painting is located in the refectory (dining hall) of the church and can only be viewed by reservation. You will need to book your tickets well in advance as they are very limited.
If you are unable to get tickets to see The Last Supper, you can still visit the church and admire its beautiful interior. The church is located in a peaceful courtyard which makes for a nice break from the busy streets of Milan, and it is free to enter.
Even if you are not religious, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a place to visit for its cultural and historical significance.
Admire The Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
The Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio is one of the oldest churches in Milan. It is a beautiful Romanesque church that was built in the 4th century by the patron saint of Milan, St. Ambrose.
The basilica has undergone many renovations over the years, and the oldest part of the current structure dates back to around the 10th-century. It might look a bit plain from the exterior but the basilica houses many works of art. When you visit, be sure to look around and take note of the gold altarpiece and mosaics on the high altar. The dome also features golden mosaics which stand out from the darker surrounding.
The church is free to enter and you can also check out the crypt which has the remains of three saints. There is a small fee to visit the museum.
Explore Modern Milan At Porta Nuova District
The Porta Nuova district is the newest and most modern area in Milan. It was completely redeveloped a few years ago and is now home to many of the city’s tallest skyscrapers.
This includes the Unicredit Tower, which is one of Italy’s tallest skyscrapers at 750 feet. The district is filled with high-end shops, restaurants, and cafes. You can find some of the best views of Milan from here.
The district is a great place to spend an afternoon exploring a different side of Milan. Be sure to visit the Bosco Verticale, an urban vertical forest that is one of the most unique landmarks in Milan.
Things To Do At Night In Milan
Take An Evening Walk In Naviglio District
The Naviglio district is a great place to experience the nightlife in Milan. The area is filled with restaurants, quirky bars, clubs, and cafes. There are also many vintage shops and boutiques if you are looking to do some shopping.
The district is located along the Naviglio Grande, which is a canal that runs through Milan. It is also a great spot for a slow evening walk.
The Naviglio Grande is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. During the evening, the district comes to life with people out and about enjoying the restaurants and cafes. This is a great place to relax and soak up the atmosphere of Milan.
Watch A Performance At La Scala Opera House
La Scala is one of the most famous opera houses in the world. It is also one of the largest with a capacity of over 2,000 spectators. The theatre is known for its excellent acoustics and stunning architecture.
Seeing a performance at La Scala is one of the most cultural and entertaining things to do in Milan. Even if you are not a big opera fan, the experience is still worth it. The grandeur of the theatre and the quality of the performance will surely impress you.
To learn more about La Scala and its history, you can get an entrance ticket that allows you to see places like the stage, the dressing room with intricate details both inside and out, and the museum. Most like to do it as a guided tour to learn more about the history and details for the whole theatre.
Pamper Your Tastebuds On A Food Tour
Milan is known for its delicious food. So why not indulge your tastebuds on a food tour? You will get to try a variety of traditional dishes and learn about the local food culture. The tour will take you to some of the best restaurants in Milan.
Depending on the tour, you will also get to visit a local market and see how the food is prepared. This is a great way to get an authentic taste of Milan.
If you like to get handy, take a cooking class and learn how to make local dishes like pasta and tiramisu. Some of them even take you on market tours to hunt for ingredients as well.
Things To Do Outside Milan
Take A Day Trip To Lake Como
Lake Como is one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy. It is located just a short drive from Milan. The lake is surrounded by mountains and is a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery.
There are several towns located on the lake, each with its own unique charm. Bellagio is one of the most popular towns and is known for its luxury hotels and shops.
Varenna is a quaint town with pretty gardens and a medieval castle. Menaggio is a lively town with a bustling market square. If you want to skip the planning, you can book a guided tour that takes you to the lake and a few of the surrounding towns.
There are many things to do in Lake Como, from hiking and swimming to simply taking in the breathtaking views. If you have the time, it is definitely worth a visit. There are also many beaches in Lake Como if you plan to spend time there.
Take A Scenic Train Ride On Bernina To St Moritz
If you want to visit another country on your trip, a popular trip from Milan is to St. Moritz in Switzerland. It will be a full-day trip, and good for those who are on a time-sensitive itinerary but want to see more.
This is one of the things to do in Milan if you love scenic train rides. The Bernina Express is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Switzerland.
This trip starts from Milan to Tirano to board the train. The train ride takes you to St Moritz but not before whizzing through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Swiss Alps. You will pass by glaciers, gorges, snow-capped mountains, and pristine lakes.
The train ride is about 2.5 hours long but it feels much shorter with all the things to see along the way. You can then spend some time wandering around St. Moritz before heading back to Milan.
Where To Stay In Milan
Hostels In Milan
Ostello Bello: Colorful hostel at an extremely convenient location. It is near major attractions and sights. The hostel might not have any fancy designs opting for a more rugged, homely blend; and it has all the facilities that you would need. Simple, comfortable, friendly service, and common areas to meet and hang out with other travelers.
YellowSquare Milan: Modern and clean hostel located in Porta Romana district, near the edge of the main city center. YellowSquare is a chain that has hostels around Europe and is known for providing a good environment for travelers who are also remote workers or digital nomads. They have both dorms and private rooms available as well as spacious common areas to work or hang out.
Mid-Range Accommodations In Milan
Room Mate Giulia: Boutique hotel with bright, modern, and clean design. Great location in the city center with easy access to major sites and transportation. The hotel is also well equipped with facilities like a gym, sauna, and meeting areas.
iQ Hotel Milano: Modern hotel located right opposite the central train station which makes it convenient to get in and out of the city. Contemporary design that is good for leisure and business travelers. It is also well equipped with different seating areas, spa, and a fitness center for a comfy stay.
Montenapoleone Suites: Aparthotel with contemporary suites near the city center, about a 10-minute walk to the Milan Duomo. This is good for travelers who like a bigger private space than the usual hotel room or traveling in small groups. The rooms are well designed, some with facilities like a private jacuzzi or sauna right within the apartment.
Luxury Accommodations In Milan
Château Monfort – Relais & Châteaux: If you want to experience luxury in classic royalty style, this 5-star boutique hotel in the historic center provides a good combination of exquisite design, antique furnishings, and modern facilities including an indoor pool, spa gym, bar, and restaurant. The hotel interior is classy and elegant, with artistic decor taking you back in time.
Armani Hotel Milano: Modern luxury at a convenient location. The hotel is in the trendy Quadrilatero della Moda district, with close access to amenities and the shopping district. It is also near a metro station. The hotel is tastefully designed and has a spa facility that is popular among visitors with services such as a sauna, Turkish bath, and fitness center.
Getting Around Attractions In Milan
The best way to get around Milan is by public transport. The city has an extensive network of buses, trams, and metro lines. You can buy tickets from the machines at the station or authorized retailers.
If you are staying in Milan for a longer period, it might be worth getting a travel card. The travel card allows you to use public transport for a certain number of days at a discounted price.
Milan Airport Transfer
If you are flying into or out of Milan, you will need to get between the airport and the city center. There are three airports in Milan – Malpensa Airport, Linate Airport, and Bergamo Airport.
Malpensa Airport is the largest and main airport, located about 40 kilometers from the city center. There are transfer buses serving between each Milan airport and the city center or the central station. For the most convenience, you can also get a private airport transfer to get between any Milan airport and the city.
Discovering Things to Do in Milan, Italy
These are just some of the things that Milan has to offer, in addition to being the mecca for fashion. The city provides a good blend of historic tales and modern luxury. Whether you want to explore the city’s history and culture or just relax and enjoy the food and scenery, there are many things to do in Milan that will add to a nice vacation experience.
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