Here are the top things to do and top tourist attractions in Milan, Italy. You'll find most of these places located on our Milan Transportation Map showing the three Metropolitan lines and major stops of interest to the tourist.
Visit the Duomo
Milan's Duomo, or cathedral, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Construction began in 1386, but it took nearly 500 years to complete. More than 130 spires and over 3,000 statues adorn the Duomo's roof; take an elevator (or climb the stairs) to the rooftop for a close-up view. You'll also catch some magnificent views of the city below. Below, Milan's Piazza del Duomo, the square where the cathedral sits, is the hub of the city's historic center. The square is also home to a statue of Vittorio Emanuele and the Palazzo Reale housing the Duomo Museum and Contemporary Art Museum.
The 15th-century Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie houses Leonardo Da Vinci's famous fresco, The Last Supper. Although the building was bombed in 1943, the fresco survived. To see the iconic mural, you must book in advance, sometimes more than two months ahead of time.
Milan's castle, Castello Sforzesco, is near the city center and, unlike many castles, you don't have to climb a hill to get to it. The castle is home to several different museums, displaying paintings, furniture, and other cultural and historic artifacts, including works by da Vinci and Michelangelo, including the latter's final sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà. But even if you don't want to visit a museum, the castle is an excellent place to wander around—its courtyard serves as a local park. You can see castle artifacts and architecture details. There's also a collection of musical instruments and the Egyptian and Prehistoric sections of the Archeology Museum.
Teatro alla Scala, or La Scala, is one of Italy's top historic opera houses. Renovated in 2004, La Scala first opened in 1778 and has been the opening venue for many famous operas. Attending an opera in La Scala is a top experience for opera fans, but you'll need to book in advance. If you can't make it for a performance, La Scala's museum has a collection of musical instruments and portraits and busts of musicians. You can even view the auditorium from boxes and the backstage area.
Select Italy's Discovering Milan's Masterpieces is a three-hour tour that includes seeing the Last Supper, the Sforzesco Castle and Sculpture Museum with Michelangelo's Pieta, the Cathedral (and rooftop when Last Supper tickets are not available), and La Scala Opera House.
Admire the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1867, is a huge glass-roofed shopping arcade lined with elegant shops, bars, and restaurants. Inside are mosaics with the symbols of the cities forming the newly united Italy. Some people consider it good luck to stand on the testicles of the bull of Turin. The galleria is built in a cross-shape and links the squares of the Duomo and La Scala.
Basilica Sant' Ambrogio, one of Milan's oldest churches, is an 11th-century church built on the site of a fourth-century church. Sant' Ambrogio is Milan's patron saint, and you can see him in a crypt along with second-century martyrs. The church is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture and inside are many interesting relics, carvings, and mosaics. Be sure to see the gold altar.
Go Shopping (And Window Shopping!)
Milan is known as Italy's top fashion city, and it's an excellent place to shop for designer clothes, shoes, and accessories. Good shopping streets include Via Dante between the Duomo and Castle, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II near Piazza Della Scala, and via Monte Napoleone near the Duomo. For exclusive fashions, head to the area around via Della Spiga called the Quadrilatero d'Oro or Golden Quadrangle that also includes Via Montenapoleone, Via Andrea, Via Gesù, Via Borgospesso, and Corso Venezia. Corso Buenos Aires has less expensive shops and chain stores, many of them even open on Sundays. Of course, if you don't want to spend lots of money, window shopping is entertaining too.
Pinacoteca di Brera is Milan's top art museum, housing a collection of more than 600 works from the 14th through the 20th centuries, including works by top artists such as Raphael, Piero Della Francesca, and Bellini. The gallery was started in the 19th century and is housed in a 13th-century convent.
Take a Walk in the Parco Sempione
When you get tired of museums, crowds, and shopping head to one of Milan's parks. One of the best is Parco Sempione, between the castle and Porta Sempione, which spans 116 acres and is home to an aquarium, a sports stadium, and a medieval castle. Many of the city's best attractions, like the Palazzo dell’Arte, are located in Parco Sempione.
Milan is central to many fascinating smaller cities and towns as well as to the lakes of Northern Italy and makes an excellent base for visiting them by train. The breath-taking Lake Como is just 30 miles north of the city; you can take a train or drive. The tiny town of Bellagio is well worth a visit: Here you can walk along the lake's shorelines, visit ancient churches, and dine at mom-and-pop restaurants.
Watch a Soccer Game at San Siro Stadium
Like much of Europe, football (aka soccer to Americans) is tremendously popular in Milan. The city is home to San Siro Stadium, one of the largest in Europe. It's where A.C. and Inter, Milan's two teams, both play and well worth a visit. The stadium can host more than 80,000 people.
Have an Espresso at Wes Anderson's Café
Fans of the eclectic filmmaker shouldn't miss Bar Luce, a café designed by the director for Fondazione Prada. While the café channels the 1950s and 1960s, popular Italian aesthetics inspire the retro furniture and color palette, and you'll see some resemblance's to Anderson's film sets. Don't forget to take an Instagram next to the vintage pinball machine!
Visit the Cimitero Monumentale
This isn't your typical cemetery. Even if you're the type who doesn't care for visiting a graveyard, you owe it to yourself to check out Milan's "Monumental Cemetery." This substantial open-air museum houses hundreds of tombs, including many belonging to some of the country's most important citizens. The designs vary: You'll see everything from four-poster beds to marble pyramids, as families have competed over the years for the most elaborate mausoleum.
See the Royal Palace of Milan
Milan's Royal Palace served as the seat of the city's government for decades and is now an essential cultural center in the town. The palace spans more than 75,000 square feet and hosts a number of various exhibitions each year, showcasing fashion, art, design, and more. It's also home to valuable painting, many on loan from other international institutions. During your visit, see the museum of the palace, which is divided into four different parts of Milanese history: Neoclassical, Napoleonic, Restoration, and Italy's unification.
Walk Around the Navigli District
This canal-crossed district is irresistibly gritty but is also home to some of Milan's coolest bars, galleries, and restaurants. Visit the Miradoli Arte Contemporanea for a showcase of Italy's best young artists, before having an outdoor aperitivo at Ugo. If you visit the neighborhood on the last Sunday of the month, don't miss the Mercatone dell’Antiquariato (flea market), held along the Navigli Grande.
Visit Sant Ambrogio
Among the oldest buildings in Milan, this church was built in 379 A.D. by St. Ambrose. Today, it's still beautiful, with two large towers flanking the front façade and a series of ornate arches surrounding the central courtyard. Be sure to go inside, where you'll see original mosaics and frescoes.
Learn About Leonardo da Vinci's Incredible Achievements
Many know that da Vinci was a legendary genius, but few places underscore that more than the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. The museum features incredible models of cars and flying machines created from his drawings, as well as a robust archive of his blueprints and sketches.
Head to the Top of the Torre Branca
When you visit the Parco Sempione, you'd be remiss to skip the Torre Branca, an observation tower that stretches more than 350 feet tall. Famed architect Gio Ponti designed the tower, which was built in 1933. Now, you can take an elevator to the top where, on a clear day, you'll not only see the city beneath you, but also the Alps and Apennines.