Milan is Italy’s commanding northern city, in the Lombardy region.
The cityscape of Milan testifies to centuries of art influenced culture. It’s famous for a prominent, 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 with the city’s 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. That’s why I’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Milan! Of course, this guide contains all of the popular Milan attractions, but you’ll also find many unique things to do in the city and lots of insider information!
Visit the Magnificent Duomo Cathedral
The centre of the city! The magnificent cathedral started construction in1386 and took nearly six centuries to complete! Head to the roof for amazing views!
Visit an Underground Crypt
This small church in Milan is mainly known for its ossuary, a side chapel decorated with numerous human skulls and bones!
Enjoy a Night Out in the Naviglio District
Take a romantic stroll by the canals, enjoy a leisurely boat ride through the waterways, or sit down for a drink and people watch!
Indulge in the Local Cuisine
Everyone loves Italian food, so you’ve got to indulge!! Explore Brera for some of the best!
Stroll Through the Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
It’s a stunning shopping mall dating back to 1877 where you won’t be able to afford a thing!
Top Things to Do in Milan
Within Europe, a trip to Milan is one of those dream bucket list things – and for good reason. It 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 traveller’s bucket list!
There is simply too much to see in Milan. A walking tour is a great way to see the best of Milan especially if it includes skip-the-line privileges. The tour is limited to 14 people and you’ll have an excellent guide to show you the Brera neighbourhood, Sforza Castle, La Scala Theatre and Duomo; 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. That’s saying a lot as far as visiting Italy goes. Centuries’ worth of varying architectural styles, important relics, and other notable features lie here in this iconic symbol of Milan.
As part of this tour, you’ll also get to skip the line to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, but we’ll explain that one in #2.
Insider Tip: Whist you’re here, see if you can spot the mysterious dinosaur carving! Nope – I won’t give you any more clues than that. Go take the Easter egg hunt! 😉
If you’d rather see Duomo separately to spend more time there, then there are options to just skip the line at just The Last Supper too. The mural was painted from 1495 to 1498. With every passing year, the value and significance of the painting rose.
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 15 feet by 29 feet!
The mural is housed directly next to the Santa Maria Delle Grazie church, in the Cenacolo Vinciano building.
Located in the very heart of Milan is Centro Storico. Here you will find Milan’s most famous historical and cultural attractions, including the Duomo di Milano, La Scala Opera House, and the city’s main piazza.
- 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
3. Explore the Museums of The Sforzesco Castle Complex
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!
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The Teatro Alla Scala theatre 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 theatre 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 and perfectly complement 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 centre, the atmosphere is very relaxing and peaceful.
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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.
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!
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 favourite 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 travellers!
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 of all ages and fitness levels can partake in!
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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!
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!
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13. Take a Drive Down the “Italian Autobahn”
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!
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 centuries. 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 organised 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!
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 restaurants 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 specialities 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 centred around quality ingredients and focus on regional specialities. 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!
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 jewellery 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!
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 is 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!
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22. Visit a Child-Friendly Park
The Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli Park is a public park in the centre of Milan. When travelling 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 for long hours every day and is free to visit!
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 specialities.
Even if you’re not normally a fan of wine, you might change your mind once you sample it straight from the source!
24. 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 which is filled with ancient architecture, the Porta Nuova District is a modern development. Contemporary skyscrapers, shops, and restaurants surround this modern neighbourhood 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 travellers wanting to explore the contemporary aspects of the city, this area of Milan is perfect for you!
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 bath 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 speciality crafted food menu centred 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!
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Some Additional Tips for Visiting Milan
Here are some extra things to know before visiting Milan!
- Get a Milan City Pass: They are available for 1day, 2days or 3days and are valid for unlimited access on all means of public transport (metro, trams, buses) within the Milan urban area. They also include some free and discounted attractions and restaurants. The Airport Bus is included too!
- Invest in travel insurance! You never know what may happen on the road.
- Book a place with breakfast and a kitchen: If you do go the hostel route, try to find one that has free breakfast. Even if it’s just instant coffee, cereal, and bread, it’ll fill you up for a few hours. Likewise, if your hostel has a communal kitchen you can save a lot by cooking a few meals yourself.
- Although Italy is safe to visit, do some research on top safety tips for Italy.
- Eat epic local food: Italy is famous for its incredible food so you’ve just got to indulge! With it being the local cuisine, it’s also pretty affordable!
- Bring a good water bottle with you and avoid buying single-use plastic ones!
- Find cheap flights. Every once in a while, a killer deal pops up.
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. Ideally located in the city centre, you’re just a short walk from all the city’s main historic attractions!
You get a free welcoming drink upon arrival. Plus complimentary breakfast and dinner every day too! This is easily one of the best hostels in Milan.
Best Hotel in Milan – Hotel Aurelia
Hotel Aurelia is a great option for budget travellers. All rooms have air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom with free toiletries.
This hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of the metro station, which will take you anywhere you want to go in the city!
Best Airbnb in Milan – Charming Milanese Apartment
Centrally located in Milano, this recently renovated historic building is from the early 20th century.
Perfect for 1 or 2 guests, the apartment has one bedroom and bathroom with a rain shower. This top Airbnb in Milan allows pets and offers every amenity you could need for your stay.
FAQs on Things to Do in Milan
Here are some quick answers to common questions about what to do and see in Milan.
Don’t forget your travel insurance for Milan
Travelling without insurance is always risky. Planning ahead with good travel insurance is really a massive weight lifted off your shoulders if things don’t go exactly to plan.
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
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Concluding the Top Things to Do in Milan
We hope you enjoyed this 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! You’ve now got the names 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!
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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