Things to do in Milan

Things to do in  Milan

The runway model of cities

Known as north Italy’s trend-setting city, Milan flaunts its fashion capital status in style. Fans of the cosmopolitan side of life will find plenty of cultural things to do in Milan, from browsing the luxe stores of Via Monte Napoleone and Negroni sipping in the Navigli bars to watching soccer at the San Siro Stadium. But history and nature also abound around this northern city, with Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper; Milan Duomo; and the lakes, mountains, and wineries of Piedmont and Lombardy all within easy reach.

Top 15 attractions in Milan

Milan Duomo

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Offering the most exuberant example of Northern Gothic architecture in Italy, the spiky spires and towers of Milan's Duomo (Duomo di Milano) dominate Piazza del Duomo, the city's beating heart. One of the highlights of a visit to the cathedral is the view from the roof, where you can scope out Milan from the highest terrace surrounded by statues. On a clear day, it’s possible to see the Italian Alps.More

Da Vinci's Last Supper (Il Cenacolo)

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Each day, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) draws hundreds of art-loving visitors to the unassuming refectory of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie for just 15 minutes with the painting. Arguably Milan's most famous 15th-century wall mural, the artwork can only be seen by booking entrance tickets in advance or signing up for a guided city tour.More

La Scala Opera House (Teatro alla Scala)

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La Scala Opera House (Teatro alla Scala), one of the world’s greatest opera houses, has hosted some of Italy’s most famous opera and other performances. Located in downtown Milan, this 18th-century theater and cultural landmark—magnificently restored in 2004—seats many of its 2,000 spectators in elegant boxes adorned with gold leaf and red velvet.More

Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco)

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Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) is a medieval fortress built by the Visconti dynasty that became home to Milan’s ruling Sforza family in 1450. Stark and domineering, the historic brick castle has massive round battlements, an imposing tower overlooking the central courtyard and surrounding Parco Sempione gardens, and defensive walls designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Today the castle houses a number of world-class museums and galleries.More

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

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In the fashion capital of Italy, the glass-domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade—one of the oldest in Europe—never goes out of style. Sandwiched by the Milan Duomo on one side and the Piazza di Marino on the other, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a bright and airy 4-story center full of restaurants and shops. Come for the neoclassical architecture; stay for the brands and fresh baked panzerotti.More

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie)

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Built by Duke Francesco I Sforza and later reworked by Bramante, the modest 15th-century Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie) is known for housing one of Italy’s most celebrated works of Renaissance art—Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which decorates the refectory wall of the adjoining Dominican convent.More

Brera

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Milan boasts a number of trendy neighborhoods thick with hip bars, restaurants, and clubs. Of these, the Brera district—a maze of narrow, cobblestone streets lined with boutiques and cafés near the Duomo in the city center—is perhaps the most beautiful thanks to its laid-back pace and old-world charm.More

San Siro Stadium (Stadio San Siro)

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Milan hosts two top-division soccer (football) teams at San Siro Stadium, the largest in Italy. Also known as Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, the stadium was built in 1925 for the AC Milan team, and in 1947, the rival FC Internazionale team, known as Inter, also moved in. Today, up to 80,000 fans of Milanese football fill the stadium to watch live games.More

Piazza Mercanti

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Centuries before Piazza del Duomo became Milan’s main square, medieval Piazza Mercanti was the heart of the city. Marking the center of Milan’s historic center, this charming space is lined by porticoed palaces dating from the Middle Ages and offers a picturesque counterpoint to the rest of the city’s stately majesty.More

Como-Brunate Funicular Railway (Funicolare Como–Brunate)

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This historic single-track funicular railway has been carrying passengers up and down the steep mountain slope between the lakeside city of Como and the village of Brunate since 1894. The 7-minute ride passes through a scenic stretch of countryside with sweeping views over Italy’s Lake Como as far as the Swiss Alps.More

Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore)

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Milan’s best-preserved 16th-century church, the Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore) features frescoes by Bernardino Luini as well as the oldest pipe organ in the city. It is also home to the Archaeological Museum of Milan (Museo Archeologico di Milano), which displays artifacts from the Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans.More

Sempione Park (Parco Sempione)

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Chic Milan is known for its contemporary elegance and relentless pace, so it may come as a surprise to learn that one of Italy’s loveliest city parks sits at its heart. Sempione Park (Parco Sempione) covers 116 acres (47 hectares) of central Milan, offering a welcome respite from the surrounding urban hustle and bustle.More

Brera Art Gallery (Pinacoteca di Brera)

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The Brera Art Gallery (Pinacoteca di Brera), one of Italy’s most important museums, is a highlight of Milan’s fashionable Brera neighborhood. This impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance paintings includes masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Piero della Francesca, and Andrea Mantegna.More

Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo (Sancarlone)

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The towering bronze figure of San Carlo Borromeo near the town of Arona on Lake Maggiore is impossible to miss. Second in size only to New York’s Statue of Liberty, the hollow statue has steep stairs and ladders inside leading up to its head, where visitors can peer out over the surrounding landscape.More

Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace)

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The Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace), located at the entrance to Parco Sempione in Milan, is a neoclassical arch begun by Napoleon during the early 19th century to honor his military victories. Made of marble from the Swiss Alps, the triumphal arch marks the beginning of the road that connects Milan and Paris.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Milan

Historic Milan Tour with Skip-the-Line Last Supper Ticket
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Milan Super Saver: Skip-the-Line Duomo and Rooftop Guided Tour
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Milan Super Saver: Skip-the-Line Duomo and Rooftop Guided Tour

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Best of Milan Experience Including Da Vinci's The Last Supper and Milan Duomo
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Venice - Day Trip from Milan

Venice - Day Trip from Milan

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Milan Duomo & The Last Supper Skip the Line Guided Tour
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Swiss Alps Bernina Red train and St.Moritz tour from Milan
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Milan Bernina Scenic Train ride on the Swiss Alps. Small-Group
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Milan Half-Day Tour Including da Vinci's 'Last Supper', Duomo & La Scala Theatre
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Milan-The secrets to learn fresh pasta and tiramisù
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All about Milan

When to visit

Skip the car: Milan’s traffic requires nerves of steel to navigate as a newcomer. Milan’s top attractions are walkable, so sightseeing on foot is a good way to go. If you want a break, both the Milan Metro and tramway network are well-suited to visitors and offer multiple ticket options. You can use many contactless cards to tap in and out of the metro and most trams, or you may download the ATM Milano app to buy tickets and plan journeys on the hop.

Getting around

The city turns into a catwalk for the semi-annual Milan Fashion Week, held at the end of both summer and winter, and this is a popular time to be in Milan. Other big events include the Ambrosian Carnival (Carnevale Ambrosiano) in February and the Milan Design Week (Salone del Mobile) in mid-April. In sweltering August, the Milanese take their summer vacations to the sea or lakes, so many restaurants are closed. The opera season kicks off in December.

Traveler tips

The aperitivo tradition of a pre-dinner drink and snack is a Northern Italy thing, and the Milanese do it well. Experience it as the locals do in a Navigli district bar on a sunny evening, sipping a classic Italian drink as you chat. Crodino or chinotto (pronounced with a “k”) are both good soft drink options, or you can opt for a signature cocktail like an Aperol or Campari spritz (or a Negroni if you’re feeling dangerous). Drinks arrive first, followed by a tray of nibbles. You pay when you leave.

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A local’s pocket guide to Milan

Alessia Sinesi

Alessia was born in Milan's historic Navigli district. She’s a food lover and has sampled most of the city's best restaurants over the years.

The first thing you should do in Milan is...

take the tram to Navigli, which sits alongside the Milanese canals. Once there, take a walk, order a Spritz, and enjoy the Italian happy hour.

A perfect Saturday in Milan...

involves exploring the historic center. Stop by the Duomo, Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, Quadrilatero della Moda, Brera District, and Sforzesco Castle, then relax in Sempione Park. Don't forget to try the panzerotti at Luini’s either.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

visiting the National Science and Technology Museum, where you can discover the magnificent permanent exhibition dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci.

To discover the "real" Milan...

tour the skyscrapers in the Porta Garibaldi area, walk through Piazza Gae Aulenti at the foot of the Garibaldi Towers, or visit the Library of Trees.

For the best view of the city...

head to the Duomo rooftop terrace and enjoy the atmosphere among the spires and gold Madonnina statue. On a clear day, you can see the Alps on the horizon.

One thing people get wrong...

There's more to Milan's shopping than fashion. Fiera di Sinigaglia is the city’s oldest flea market—find everything from second-hand clothing and records to vintage books and coin collections.

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People Also Ask

What is Milan best known for?

Italy’s capital of contemporary fashion and design is most famous for a masterpiece dating from more than 500 years ago: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, housed in Milan’s Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The city’s majestic gothic cathedral (Duomo) is also a star attraction.

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How long do you need in Milan?

You’ll need at least a full day to visit The Last Supper and stroll from the Duomo through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to visit La Scala opera house. Stay overnight to dip into the city’s evening aperitivo scene and spend the following day browsing fashion boutiques and Brera Art Gallery.

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What are three must-see sites in Milan?

Two of Milan’s top three sites are less than a five-minute walk apart: the Cathedral (Duomo) and La Scala opera house, separated by the ornate Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The city’s third headliner, Leonardo’s The Last Supper, is in Santa Maria delle Grazie about a 20-minute walk from the Duomo.

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How do I spend a day in Milan?

Book your afternoon tickets (or tour) to The Last Supper in advance and plan your itinerary around the entrance time. Begin in Milan’s center with a visit to the Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and La Scala before heading to Santa Maria delle Grazie to admire Leonardo’s famous painting.

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What should you not miss in Milan?

This cosmopolitan city is famous for its buzzy aperitvo cocktail hour in the trendy Navigli and Brera neighborhoods come evening. Joining the chic locals as they sip their iced spritzes and negronis is a great way to get a true feel for the city.

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What can you do for free in Milan?

A number of Milan’s architectural treasures are most impressive from the outside, including the soaring Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and Sforza Castle located in the grand (and public) Sempione Park. You can also stroll through the picturesque Brera Botanical Garden and along the Navigli canal without spending a penny.

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