Milan is Italy’s commanding northern city, located in the Lombardy region of the country. The cityscape of Milan testifies to centuries of art influenced culture, prominent in its rich mix of imposing architecture, dazzling cathedrals, and grand statues. Remnants of Milan’s old-world charm are sprinkled throughout the city and blend in well with the city’s more modern elements!
Today, there are many things to do in Milan and the city is known as a global capital of fashion and design! Prominent designers and style icons have all put down roots in Milan and the city overflows with an abundance of high-end designer brands and posh boutiques. Milan also offers many world-class museums, art galleries, and scenic parks.
As you can tell, this sprawling metropolis offers many alluring factors, which is why we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Milan! Of course, our guide contains all of the popular Milan attractions, but we’ve also included many unique things to do in the city and lots of insider information!
Table of Contents
- Top Things to Do in Milan
- Unusual Things to Do in Milan
- Things to do in Milan at Night
- Where to stay in Milan
- Romantic Things to Do in Milan
- Best Free Things to Do in Milan
- Milan Packing List
- Things to Do with Kids in Milan
- Other Things to Do in Milan
- Day Trips From Milan
- 3-Day Itinerary in Milan
- Final thoughts on things to do in Milan
Top Things to Do in Milan
Milan is an Italian hub of entertainment, fun attractions, and iconic sites. Here are the top 10 things to do in Milan that should be high on every traveler’s bucket list!
The Duomo is one of the world’s largest and most historic cathedrals. The construction of the church started in 1386 and took nearly six centuries to complete! As you can imagine, this long timeline has left the church with a fascinating history and centuries worth of varying architectural styles, important relics, and other notable features.
Inside the church, there are religious paintings, elaborate statues, and magnificent stained glass windows. The Duomo also contains a roof-top area that adds to its impressive nature! The roof consists of a network of terraces, connected by walkways and stairs.
The Duomo is the iconic symbol of Milan, and we highly recommend exploring every feature of this impressive and grand cathedral!
Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper is perhaps the most famous painting in the western world! The mural was painted from 1495 – 1498, and with every passing year, the value and significance of the painting seem to rise.
It represents a symbolic moment for Christianity – before Jesus would make what Christians consider to be the ultimate sacrifice!
The painting has survived for over 500 years and even managed to withstand the intense bombings in Milan during World War II. Not only is the history of the painting impressive, but so is the size, measuring at 15 feet by 29 feet!
The mural is housed directly next to the Santa Maria Delle Grazie church, in the Cenacolo Vinciano building.
- See the Duomo di Milano, one of the grandest Gothic cathedrals in all of Europe
- Head up to the roof of the Duomo and enjoy panoramic views of the city
- Visit Poldi Pezzoli Museum and see one of the world’s richest collections of private art
For more Places to Stay, check out our full Milan Neighborhood Guide
Sforzesco Castle in Milan houses many of the city’s impressive art collections and relics. There is an eclectic offering of museums, perfect for all interests and age groups. From the Museum of Ancient Art to the Egyptian Museum, to the Antique Furniture and Wooden Sculpture Museum, there is something for everyone!
With such a wide range of attractions, you could easily spend all day here! Make sure to plan your time accordingly to guarantee you’re able to see all the areas that interest you.
Sforzesco Castle is the perfect place to learn about Milan’s rich history, which makes visiting the complex one of the top things to do in Milan, Italy!
The Teatro Alla Scala theater in Milan is one of the finest opera houses in Europe! This world-class venue has hosted many musical legends since it first opened its doors in 1778.
The architecture of the venue is just as astonishing as the talent it hosts! From the romantic red and gold drapes to the large commanding stage to the enchanting crystal chandelier, everything about La Scala screams elegance!
We’d highly recommend a night out at this grand auditorium, it’s truly an experience like no other! Experience Milan’s renowned performing arts culture, from opera to theater to ballet to orchestra!
5. Explore the Gorgeous Interior of a Former Palace
The Royal Palace of Milan is an 18th-century palace that was the official seat of the Milan government for centuries. Today, the palace is used to house changing expositions and exhibitions, with more than 1,500 pieces of art on display in the palace annually!
The Royal Palace is located in the heart of Milan and plays an important role in Milanese art! The works of art you’ll find here are prestigious which perfectly complements the imposing nature of the building and lavishly furnished interior.
Milan is famous for its blend of architectural and artistic design that strings throughout the city, and the Monumental Cemetery is no exception! This large burial ground is noted for its artistic tombs and beautifully designed monuments.
Although most people wouldn’t think to include visiting a cemetery on their list of things to see in Milan, we promise it’s worth a visit! This cemetery is more like an open-air museum. Everything about the cemetery, from the design to the scenic outdoor location, is simply intriguing!
It’s the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing reprieve from the busy city center, the atmosphere is very relaxing and peaceful.
The beauty of Milan isn’t just evident in its artistic architecture and grand cathedrals, it can also be found in quiet street corners and less traversed areas of the city!
Explore a softer side of Milan by wandering off the beaten path and away from the tourist crowds. Let your curiosity guide you as you discover the local character of Milan and the hidden gems of the city! These areas of Milan offer a deeper and more personal glimpse into the city’s history, culture, and local life.
Italy is famous for many things, and food is undoubtedly one of them! Explore the food culture of the city and enjoy the classic dishes of Milano, Italy! The city is filled with a large selection of eateries serving traditional meals, from recipes that have been passed down for centuries!
The historic district of Brera is a foodie favorite in Milan! You’ll find restaurants in this area serving many signature dishes, such as eggplant parmigiana, Milanese-style meatballs, cannoli and of course, gelato!
Let your nose lead the way as you discover why Italy is one of the major food capitals of the world! Experiencing the best of Milan’s cuisine is a must for all travelers!
Learn about the history of Milan in a unique way, as you pedal past the city’s most iconic sites! With the aid of a bike, you’ll cover more ground than you would by walking.
While in Milan, enjoy the fresh open air and a bit of exercise as you see the city from a different perspective! Milan is a bicycle-friendly city, and there are many parks and bike paths to ride through. Moreover, the fact that there are barely any hills in the city makes it an activity all ages and fitness levels can partake in!
Milan’s famous San Siro Stadium is the largest stadium in Italy, and home to A.C. Milan and Inter Milan. It’s one of the largest stadiums in Europe, making it one of the top attractions in Milan for sports lovers! This large soccer stadium is located in the San Siro district and can easily be reached with public transportation.
Experience the European sports culture and discover the passion behind the county’s most beloved sports teams! There is also a stadium shop where you can pick up some official sports souvenirs!
Unusual Things to Do in Milan
When looking for places to visit in Milan that are off-the-beaten-path and a little less touristy, make sure to check out these unusual spots in the city!
Milan is a historic city with an ancient past. For fans of the macabre looking for unusual things to see in Milan, Italy, add a stop at the San Bernardino alle Ossa to your list!
This small church in Milan is mainly known for its ossuary, a side chapel decorated with numerous human skulls and bones! Discover an attraction not usually included on popular Milan to-do lists, and explore the origins of the ossuary that dates back to the 13th- century!
The crypt is located just a few meters below ground level, under the busy streets of Milan. It is in close proximity to the Duomo Cathedral and is free to visit, although donations are encouraged!
12. Learn About Superheroes and Comic Design
The WOW Spazio Fumetto Museum in Milan offers something a little different. It’s a modern attraction in the city offering exhibits, events, and classes related to comic books, animation, and illustration!
The museum highlights the artistic creation of sequential art and presents many pieces made by creators from various countries through historical periods. It also covers all things superhero-related and is fun for both children and adults!
The museum opened in April of 2011 and is a haven for comic book fans! The building also contains a public library, a coffee shop, and a specialized bookshop. If you’re a comic book fan, or someone wanting to explore more modern attractions of the city, make sure to add this museum to your list of Milan things to do!
The “Italian autobahn” is the fastest highway in all of Italy! It links Milan to the Swiss Alps and is one of the most scenic roads in the country. Zoom through a 3-mile tunnel and hear the roar of your engine buzzing around you!
Enjoy the powerful feeling of being behind the wheel of a car with the breathtaking scenery of the Swiss Alps in front of you! This amazing superhighway will make you feel like you own the road. If you’re a car enthusiast, or feel the need for speed, add this stop to your Milan sightseeing itinerary!
Safety in Milan
Overall, Milan is a safe city to visit. However, just like any other big city, it is always recommended that tourists take certain precautions. The risk of violent crime in Milan is extremely low, and most crime is related to petty theft.
Keep vigilant in crowded areas and on public transportation, as pickpockets tend to target areas where large crowds like the congregate.
There is a risk of scammers and con-artists targeting tourists. However, this can easily be avoided by choosing not to engage with people that approach you trying to sell you things. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it is. Keep your wits about when you visit Milan and you will be just fine!
Things to do in Milan at Night
Milan is a city that comes alive with a newfound excitement after the sun sets! When trying to decide what to see in Milan, Italy at night, here are some great options for you to consider when going out!
The Naviglio District of Milan is famous for its picturesque canals and nightlife scene. It’s a popular area of the city where you’ll find an overflow of bars, restaurants, and cafes that hum with activity at night!
Take a romantic stroll by the canals, enjoy a leisurely boat ride through the waterways, or sit down for a drink and people watch!
You’ll find many people relishing their night in the Naviglio District. No matter your nighttime vibe, you’ll find plenty of options. Whether you fancy having a cocktail near the canals or a bit of dancing at one of Milan’s hottest nightclubs, you’ll find it all in the Naviglio District!
15. Mingle with the Locals Under the Colonne di San Lorenzo
The Colonne di San Lorenzo is a group of ancient Roman ruins from the 4th-century. The ruins are represented by 16-columns that serve as a meeting point for locals and tourists alike. This is an area of the city where you go to socialize and get your night started.
Mingle with friends as the sun sets and enjoy a casual night outside between the crumbling columns with a few drinks. Or, carry on your night at the surrounding bars, restaurants, and nightlife venues!
Milan is home to some of the world’s most famous works of art! These pieces are conserved in art galleries where visitors can immerse themselves in the visual displays of brilliance!
The Pinacoteca di Brera is a famous art gallery in Milan that houses masterpieces of art from around the world. The collection spans the 13th to 20th century. It’s considered the main public gallery for paintings in Milan and contains the city’s leading collections of Italian paintings!
The design of the building is well organized and the paintings are thoughtfully laid out. If you’re a fan of art and trying to decide what to see in Milan, this is the perfect stop for you!
Where to stay in Milan
Best Hostel in Milan – Ostello Bello
Ostello Bello has all the components to make your stay in Milan as enjoyable as possible. From a free welcoming drink upon arrival to complimentary breakfast and dinner every day, this hostel has a lot of perks!
Ideally located in the city center, you’re just a short walk from all the city’s main historic attractions!Check on HostelWorld
Best Hotel in Milan – Hotel Aurelia
Hotel Aurelia is a great option for budget travelers. All rooms have air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom with free toiletries.
This hotel is conveniently located within walking distance to the metro station, which will take you anywhere you want to go in the city!Check on Booking.com
Best Airbnb in Milan – Charming Milanese Apartment
Centrally located in Milano, this recently renovated historic Milan style banister building is from the early 20th century.
Perfect for 1 or 2 guests, the apartment has one bedroom and bathroom with a rain shower. The host allows pets and offers every amenity you might need for your stay.Check on Airbnb
For more Airbnb options, check out our Best Airbnbs in Milan guide!
Romantic Things to Do in Milan
IWhen traveling to Milan with your significant other and looking for things to do, these activities are perfect to do with a partner!
A visit to Milan would not be complete without partaking in the Italian ritual of Aperitivo hour! Aperitivo is the Italian tradition of having a drink and a small snack in the early hours of the evening, prior to dinner.
In most European countries, dinner time is between 8 PM and 10 PM. The Aperitivo tradition actually originated in Milan, and the Milanese are proud participants in this early evening custom!
Join the locals as they flock to the bars and restaurant in search of the best Aperitivo hour specials! This is also a great idea for a fun date! Find a restaurant with dim lighting and Italian music and the mood will set itself!
An Italian cooking class has got to be one of the most romantic things to do in Milan. Discover the true essence of Italian home cooking and participate in a romantic and intimate culinary adventure.
Learn the secret techniques behind cooking Italian specialties like fresh pasta, gnocchi, pizza, and risotto. Let’s not forget about Italian desserts like tiramisu, panna cotta, and decadent chocolate cake.
Italian cooking classes in Milan are centered around quality ingredients and focus on the regional specialties. The best part of the whole experience is that at the end of the class, you get to sit down and enjoy everything you have prepared!
Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Best Free Things to Do in Milan
When traveling to Milan on a budget, here are some popular Milan points of interest that are completely free!
19. Have a Stroll Through the Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an extremely luxurious and ornate indoor shopping area. It opened in 1877 and stands as one of the oldest shopping malls in the world! This four-story complex specializes in high-end retail. You’ll find everything from luxury bags to jewelry shops and even haute couture!
Considering Milan is a global fashion capital, this is one site you don’t want to miss! Although the price tags attached to the items sold in the shopping mall are high, it’s free to walk around and admire the Renaissance Revival architecture and discover Milan’s famous fashion boutiques!
Apart from shops, it houses many restaurants, cafes, and bars. Whether you feel like fine-dining in an opulent restaurant, or having a casual cappuccino whilst people-watching, this famous shopping mall is a Milan must-see!
20. See the Sistine Chapel of Milan
The San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is known as Milan’s Sistine Chapel! This nickname was given to the church due to its beautiful frescoes that adorn the walls and ceiling inside the church.
Many of these frescos were created by painters under the guidance of Leonardo da Vince. The church was built in Renaissance and Baroque style architecture in the 16th-century and is a jewel of design and creativity!
One of the most unique and notable features in the church is the fresco of Noah’s Arc, which depicts unicorns making their way onto the ship! The church is free to visit and located just a 10-15-minute walk from the Duomo Cathedral.
21. Bask in the Outdoors at Sempione Park
Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city is a great way to recharge and enjoy a new view of the city. Milan’s landscape contains just as much enchantment as the architecture of the city, and Sempione Park testifies to this! The well-manicured park has many outdoor activities for people of all ages.
You’ll find walking paths, lakes, bridges and even some wildlife! This park is adjacent to the gardens of the Sforzesco Castle and offers wonderful views of the castle complex. The park is free to visit and is open every day from early morning to late evening!
Milan Packing List
1. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
2. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
3. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
4. Camera or Cell Phone Camera Accessories: One thing’s for sure – Milan is one of the most picturesque destinations out there! Get the perfect shots from your phone using clip-on-lenses with wide-angle, close-up and optical zoom. With the ability to turn travel pictures from basic to professional, this universal lens sits neatly over any phone camera and comes with a durable, travel-friendly case.
5. International Adapter: Milan outlets accommodate typical European standards of 220V to 230V, with a frequency of 50Hz. Milan uses power outlets and plugs of types C, F & L, with both two and three-pronged plugs, if your plugs are of a different variety, you’ll need an adapter. Save yourself the hassle of trying to track down an adapter at your destination and paying twice as much than planning ahead by buying one online.
More must-haves: Take look through the complete Italy packing list for more items you’ll want while you’re there!
Books to Read on Milan
Check out this Milan reading list to learn more about the city! Each novel takes place in and around Milan.
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Numero Zero – The final novel from one of Italy’s most respected modern philosophers. A washed-up journalist joins a new firm in Milan and becomes exposed to all sorts of conspiracies.
The Betrothed – One of the most important Italian historical novels, ever. Takes place in 17th-Century Lombardia when the Spanish were in control. Tells the tale of two lovers and their arduous quest to be reunited after being cruelly separated by malicious forces. Written by the Italian hero Alessandro Manzoni.
Traitors to All – A hallmark Noir-crime novel written by the master, Giorgio Scerbanenco. Concerns a string of deaths in a canal outside of Milan, and the players involved in the “accidents.”
Things to Do with Kids in Milan
When trying to decide what to do in Milan with children, here are a couple of attractions designed specifically with kids in mind!
22. Visit a Child-Friendly Park
The Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli Park is a public park in the center of Milan. When traveling with kids, this is the perfect place to take them to burn off some energy! There are three playgrounds for kids to enjoy with many swings, slides, climbing structures, and a miniature train to ride on!
There is also plenty of grassy space where kids can run around, and there are lots of shaded areas to protect them from the sun! The paths around the park are wide and flat which makes it easy to push a stroller.
The park also hosts the Museum of Natural History and a Planetarium. The park is open long hours every day and is free to visit!
23. Explore a Museum Designed Just for Kids
The Muba Children’s Museum in Milan promotes learning and creativity by utilizing activities and hands-on exhibitions that allow children to learn while having fun at the same time!
The museum works a little differently than normal museums in that there are no permanent exhibitions available. Rather, there are organized activities scheduled in different time slots. These activities are scheduled on a day by day basis, and according to age!
Check out their online calendar beforehand to see the activity list for the day you are visiting. All activities last for 75-minutes. Parents will also love this museum, as they can enjoy a bit of a break! The children will be occupied with activities, which are given under the friendly instruction of the museum staff!
Other Things to Do in Milan
When looking for even more things to do in Milan, here are some great attractions that are definitely worth checking out!
Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine and is famed for its large variety and exceptional quality!
A trip to Milan is the perfect time to indulge in Italy’s most celebrated beverage. Sample red and white wines and soak in the atmosphere of a traditional Italian winery! Many wineries include food pairings where you’ll be able to accompany your tasting with regional specialties.
Even if you’re not normally a fan of wine, you might change your mind once you sample it straight from the source!
25. Visit One of the Oldest Churches in Milan
The Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio is a Romanesque-style church that also contains a courtyard and underground crypt. It was built between 379 and 386 and is one of the oldest churches in the city! It was built by St Ambrose, who is the patron saint of Milan. His remains, as well as the remains of two other saints, are located in the crypt below the church.
This basilica is not as extravagant as the other churches you’ll find in Milan, but it holds a fascinating history and is less touristy than the other churches. Even better, the entrance to the church and crypt are free!
When looking to discover Milan’s modern side, visit the Porta Nuova District! Unlike the rest of Milan that is filled with ancient architecture, the Porta Nuova District is a modern development. Contemporary skyscrapers, shops, and restaurants surround this modern neighborhood and offer plenty of attractions.
The Piazza Gae Aulenti is located within this district and is considered the heart of modern Milan. It contains Italy’s highest skyscraper, the Unicredit Tower. At 750-feet tall, it’s quite impressive to see up close! For travelers wanting to explore the contemporary aspects of the city, this area of Milan is perfect for you!
27. Soak up the Sun at Milan’s Waterpark
Enjoy some fun in the sun at Acquatica Park in Milan! This water park is located just outside the city center making it easy to get to.
The main attractions include massive water slides, pools, volleyball courts, and splash zones. There is also an extensive green area perfect for relaxing and sunbathing. There are sheltered picnic areas, shops, restaurants, and bars too! This water park has attractions to offer all ages and is perfect for thrill-seekers and leisure-lovers alike!
28. See a Window to Marine Life at the Civic Aquarium of Milan
The Civic Aquarium of Milan is the 3rd oldest aquarium in Europe. It contains over 100 different types of underwater life from the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, as well as tropical and freshwater fish. Of particular interest are the native Italian fish, both freshwater and saltwater.
The building the aquarium is housed in is a fascinating masterpiece in its own right! It was constructed in 1906 and the facade includes decorations of aquatic themes, including a large Neptune statue. A special note: when planning a visit the aquarium with kids, children 18 years and younger can visit the aquarium for free every Tuesday after 2:00 pm!
The World of Leonardo exhibition in Milan is dedicated to the great Renaissance thinker, Leonardo Da Vinci!
Da Vinci was a polymath, meaning he was a person with wide-ranging knowledge. His interest ranged from invention to architecture to science to literature! He was a man of many talents and his genius is brilliantly showcased at the Leonardo Museum in Milan.
Discover the digital restorations of his most famous inventions with more than 200 interactive 3D machines showcasing the works of Leonardo Da Vinci!
For fantastic panoramic views of Milan, visit the Branca Tower! This impressive iron tower is located in Parco Sempione, the main city park in Milan. Take a 1-minute elevator ride to the top and you’ll be greeted with fabulous 360 degrees views of the city, from 360-feet up!
Stand on the observation deck and enjoy Milan’s beautiful skyline. On this viewing platform, you’ll be able to see many Milan sites, such as the Torre del Filarete and the golden Madonnina on top of the Duomo! If heights don’t bother you, the Branca Tower is a great place for sightseeing in Milan!
Escape the busy streets of Milan and enjoy a relaxing retreat at the QC Termemilano. This is Milan’s only thermal baths and offers a quiet place to unwind. Enjoy spa facilities, including whirlpools, saunas, relaxation rooms, and steam baths. Book a massage, or a facial and treatment!
They also offer a specialty crafted food menu centered around wellness and nutrition, and of course, Aperitivo hour! The thermal baths of Milan offer a peaceful sanctuary where you can pamper yourself and set the vacation mood!
Day Trips From Milan
Depending on how many days in Milan you have to spend, a day trip to another area of Italy can be a fun way to see more of this gorgeous country. These trips are a great addition to your Milan itinerary, and there are lots of options to choose from!
On this 10.5-hour tour, you’ll travel by luxury coach to 3 beautiful areas of northern Italy. Start off with a trip to Lake Como, famous for its dramatic scenery, set against the foothills of the Swiss Alps!
Enjoy a walking tour of the city center of Como before hopping on a private boat for a relaxing cruise around the lake. Soak up the serenity of the quiet lake before visiting the charming villages of Bellagio and Varenna. Walk around the cobblestoned streets and enjoy these quaint and colorful towns!
On this 12.5 hour tour, you’ll travel from Milan to the luxury ski resort town of St. Moritz! Take a ride on the Bernina, one of the most scenic railway routes in Switzerland. This railway is also the steepest railway journey in the world, climbing 6,000-feet!
The rail portion of your journey begins in Tirano, Italy, a picturesque Mediterranean town in a stunning mountain setting. From there, you’ll travel up the Bernina rail to the Swiss mountain resort town of St. Moritz. You’ll have time to explore this picturesque Swiss mountain town before heading back to Milan!
On this 12-hour tour, you’ll visit the city that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet! Walk around the romantic Italian city of Verona, and visit this city’s sights on foot as you follow your guide to Verona’s top attractions. You’ll see the famous balcony where Juliet was wooed by Romeo!
Next, you’ll make your way to Lake Garda for a relaxing boat cruise. Sail past the charming village of Sirmione and marvel at the medieval castle overlooking the lake. Hop-off the boat for a walk around the town of Desenzano and stretch your legs before making your way back to Milan! Shakespeare lovers will especially love this addition to their itinerary for Milan!
3-Day Itinerary in Milan
The following is a sample 3-day itinerary for visiting Milan. Most of Milan’s top destinations are covered in this section. For more information regarding certain neighborhoods, please refer to our article about Where to Stay in Milan.
Day 1: The Top Attractions in Milan
On day 1 of our travel guide for Milan, we’re going to visit the most popular and busiest places in the city.
Today, we’ll be hanging around the Centro Storico district and seeing most of Milan’s must see landmarks like the Duomo, Teatro alla Scala, and Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio.
We’ll start our day in the San Vittore neighborhood on the edge of Centro, where there are a number of very famous churches, including the gorgeous Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio and Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The latter is most famous for hosting Da Vinci’s Last Supper and tickets to see it are usually limited and very expensive, so plan ahead. Be sure to drop by La Vigna di Leonardo – located across from Santa Maria – to see Da Vinci’s old home.
Moving east, roughly around Via Meravigli, we’re going to pass by the San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, which has some impressive frescoes.
More importantly, we’re going to arrive at one of my favorite art installations, the Middle Finger of Piazza Affari. This statue is located right in front of the Milan Stock Exchange and is literally flipping it off. Well done statue, well done.
No more than 10 minutes away is the Duomo. The Duomo is hard to miss because a) it’s huge and b) the crowds are also huge.
Upon arriving you’ll be shocked at how ornate it is and soon realize why it’s one of the most well-known buildings in Europe. Enter the Duomo and walk along the elegant terraces for awesome views. The Duomo also hosts a Christmas market and shopping area, which is one of the best things to do in Milan in the winter.
Very close to the Duomo are the rest of central Milan’s best places. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is literally next to the cathedral and the Teatro alla Scala is less than 5 minutes away.
Consider dropping by the Casa del Manzoni – this small residence was once the home to one of Italy’s greatest writers and we mentioned him in our Milan reading list.
Day 2: Porta Nuova and Northern Milan
On day 2 of this Milan travel guide, we’re going to travel through the city’s past, present, and future, and see some of its most dynamic attractions.
Today’s highlights include touring the Sforzesco Castle, visiting the ultra-happening Brera district, and checking out the glittering Porta Nuova. We’re going to be covering a lot of distance today but, thankfully, the metro and trams are all very close to these attractions.
Let’s start off by visiting Sforzesco Castle. From the outside, the castle is already imposing but the inside is even more daunting and labyrinthian. The Sforzesco Castle hosts a series of very impressive museums and galleries, and visiting them (on certain days) are among the best free things to do in Milan.
At the rear of Sforzesco Castle is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Milan, Parco Sempione. In the summer, this park can get quite busy with pedestrians. At the end of the green space is the picturesque Arco della Pace.
As we leave to the park, we travel to new Milan. Beyond the Arco is Milan’s newest skyscraper, the Generali Tower. There’s not much to do at the tower beside admiring it from the outside, but it’s still a cool part of Milan worth seeing. Grab the metro and head to Porta Nuova when you’re ready.
Porta Nuova is where most of Milan, Italy’s most modern buildings are found. It’s a very elegant and eye-catching part of the city that has become a poster child of sorts for futuristic Italy. Like the Generali Tower, Porta Nuova is best viewed from the outside.
Nearby are the bustling Porta Garibaldi and Corso Como, both of which host some of Milan’s best nightlife. Further south is the Brera neighborhood, which is one of the trendiest areas in the city.
There are lots of chic cafes and bars here; visiting Brera is one of the best things to do in Milan at night.
Day 3: Navigli and Southern Milan
Today we’re going to explore a slightly more relaxed part of Milan where we don’t have to worry about showing off, like in Porta Nuova, Brera, or the Duomo.
The south of Milan is much more laidback than the rest of the city and also hosts some really interesting attractions. On the third day of this Milan travel guide, start the morning with a walk around the much-loved Navigli district that features museums along the way.
Start on the southern edge of the Centro Storico district at the Colonne di San Lorenzo. This central landmark is a popular hangout for all kinds of people both benevolent and malicious. Lots of tourists like to come here for photos but be wary at night – the area quickly becomes a theater for shady characters.
From the Colonne, walk directly south to Porto Tincese, which is where the canals and the Navigli district begin. Navigli is one of the hip and trendiest neighborhoods in Milan and sometimes resembles the Netherlands more than Italy.
Rustic cafes and eccentric bars are magnets for hipsters and, at night, these establishments are packed full of people, regardless of their social standing.
Navigli has two canals: Grande and Pavese. Naviglio Grande is the main waterway where most of the action happens. Pavese is the more laidback and residential canal. Both are equally gorgeous and contain some crystal-clear Alpine water.
Naviglio Grande hosts a couple of interesting museums committed to the arts and design. The MUDEC is one of the most important contemporary galleries in the city. Nearby is the Armani Silos, which is dedicated to Giorgio Armani and his work.
If you can manage the walk, try to visit the districts east of Navigli. The hyper-modern Fondazione Prada and Universita Bocconi are here. Though you may not be able to enter them, their exteriors are still cool to look at.
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Final thoughts on things to do in Milan
We hope you enjoyed our guide to the 31 absolute best things to do in Milan, and that you’re able to make a sizeable dent in this list the next time you visit! We’ve included all of the city’s most famous attractions, as well as hidden gems. Even when visiting Milan for the first time, you’ll be able to experience it with the knowledge of a local!
Milan is a vibrant city with a wonderful array of modern and old attractions, all blended together with a dash of Italian flair! Each individual Milan attraction will allow you to admire the city from a unique perspective and take in the magical atmosphere of this charming Italian city!
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Freeborn Aiden. Senior Editor, resident travel insurance expert and 2nd longest-serving member of team Broke Backpacker. Can’t resist a colourful shirt, ideally one with no buttons. Rampant Psytrance addict and seriel cat fancier. Aiden recently realised that his entire reality is little more than a badly written 90’s sitcom.