The best things to do in Milan

Advice

Although renowned for its high-end shopping and cutting-edge design, Milan offers many more things to do: its museums harbour some of the country’s finest works of art, and there’s no shortage of churches adorned with wonderful frescoes, a number from the school of Leonardo Da Vinci. Steps away from the Gothic-style Duomo is La Scala, the country’s most-famous opera house where Bellini, Rossini and Verdi premiered their works. A big plus for tourists is that Milan’s relatively compact size means the centre can easily be explored on foot. Wander unplanned in the city’s narrow cobbled streets and you’ll discover a vibrant cosmopolitan city with plenty of charm and character.

For more Milan inspiration, see our guides for the best hotelsrestaurants and bars.


Find things to do by area


Duomo

Walk the rooftops of the Duomo

With its spindly spires, flying buttresses and countless statues, the Gothic Duomo Di Milano is striking from any vantage point, although probably even more so from the rooftops. Catch the lift or climb the 251 steps to the top of the cathedral where you can observe countless statues, intricate gargoyles and elaborate spires up close while soaking in panoramic views of the city and the snowy Alps beyond.

Insider tip: Amongst the intricate statues depicting saints and martyrs are several hidden faces and details. Look out for Toscanini, Dante and even Abraham Lincoln, and see if you can spot the tennis rackets, boxing gloves and mountaineering equipment concealed among the Gothic reliefs.

Contact: duomomilano.it
Nearest metro: Duomo
Price: ££



Duomo Di Milano, Milan


The Gothic Duomo Di Milano is striking from any vantage point


Credit: ©2015 Simone Simone/Simone Simone

Admire 20th-century works of art alongside panoramic views

The collection of the wonderful Museo del Novecento begins with avant-garde works, with pieces by Kandinsky, Picasso and Modigliani, before moving on to Futurism, the Novecento Movement and Abstraction. The top floor displays works by Lucio Fontana, while a glass bridge connects to the Palazzo Reale, housing art from the Sixties, Seventies and the Italian Arte Povera movement.

Insider tip: Sala Fontana’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer sublime views of the Duomo – it’s a striking setting, with regular music performances held here periodically too. Check the website for details.

Contact: museodelnovecento.org
Nearest metro: Duomo
Price: ££

Immerse yourself in the Renaissance

In the early 17th century Cardinal Federico Borromeo created the Ambrosiana, one of the largest libraries in Europe with an impressive collection of books and ancient manuscripts, including the Codex Atlanticus, the world’s largest set of drawings and writings by Da Vinci. As well as a library and reading room, the Ambrosiana houses an art gallery with works by Botticelli, Raphael and Caravaggio.

Insider tip: Don’t miss Raphael’s preparatory charcoal cartoon for his Vatican fresco ‘The School of Athens’. It is the largest Renaissance drawing that has survived to this day.

Contact: ambrosiana.it
Nearest metro: Duomo
Price: £££



Ambrosiana, Milan


The Ambrosiana is an early 17th-century library with an impressive collection of books and ancient manuscripts

Soak up the atmosphere of a sumptuous former bank

Housed in three adjoining 18th and 20th century palazzos, the Gallerie d’Italia exhibits 19th and 20th century works that belong to the vast Intesa Sanpaolo collection. It’s worth visiting for the building alone – take a look at the cashier desks that have been wonderfully integrated into the current exhibition, and don’t miss the leafy garden that once belonged to Alessandro Manzoni who lived next door.

Insider tip: For a unique insight into the bank’s collections, visit the vault, which safeguards about 500 paintings (open the third Thursday of the month only).

Contact: gallerieditalia.com
Nearest metro: Duomo or Montenapoleone
Price: ££



Gallerie d’Italia, Milan


The Gallerie d’Italia exhibits 19th- and 20th-century works that belong to the vast Intesa Sanpaolo collection

Watch a performance at the world-famous opera house

Soak up the atmosphere of La Scala Opera House as you enjoy a performance in this sumptuous neo-classical building. For a special treat, splash out on tickets for the opening evening, always on December 7, to experience one of the city’s most exclusive events that is steeped in history and tradition.

Insider tip: For an insight into what happens behind the scenes, book a tour of the Ansaldo Workshops, where you can see set designers, scenography technicians and blacksmiths at work, along with thousands of costumes from 1911 to the present day.

Contact: teatroallascala.org
Nearest metro: Duomo or Montenapoleone
Price: £££



La Scala Opera House, Milan


Take in a performance at the world-famous La Scala Opera House


Credit: Brescia/Amisano © Teatro alla Scala

Shop until you drop

With its design showrooms, quirky concept stores and snazzy boutiques, Milan oozes style, fashion and cutting-edge design. Head to the upmarket Quadrilatero della Moda for designer labels, while if you’re after independent boutiques stroll the artsy Brera district. High-street shops line Corso Buenos Aires and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, while Porta Genova and the lively Navigli are dotted with quirky stores.

Insider tip: If you’re after some wacky designer creations head to the Fornasetti Store, which displays all manner of whimsical pieces, from furniture to home accessories.



Fornasetti Store, Milan


Milan offers fantastic shopping – head to the Fornasetti Store for quirky homewares

Brera

Stroll the artistic quarter

With its narrow cobbled streets and sophisticated buildings, the artsy district of Brera is one of Milan’s most attractive neighbourhoods. Antique shops, vintage stores and artisan workshops dot its largely pedestrianised streets, while tucked away are fashionable cafés, restaurants and bars that are popular with a stylish crowd.

Insider tip: For a quiet corner and to escape the crowds, admire the botanical collections of the Orto Botanico di Brera, founded in 1774 by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to teach botany and pharmaceutical sciences to students.

Nearest metro: Montenapoleone



Brera, Milan


The artsy district of Brera is one of Milan’s most attractive neighbourhoods


Credit: Silvia Zecchin

Discover some of Italy’s most impressive works of art

It was Napoleon who opened the city’s most prestigious art gallery in the early 19th century, where he displayed looted works from French-occupied Italy. The collection of the Pinacoteca di Brera is impressive, with more than 500 works of Renaissance art including Giovanni Bellini’s Pietà, Andrea Mantegna’s The Dead Christ, and Raphael’s The Marriage of the Virgin.

Insider tip: Watch conservators at work as they restore masterpieces in the Laboratorio Trasparente, a glass-panelled studio in Room XVIII.

Contact: pinacotecabrera.org
Nearest metro: Montenapoleone or Lanza
Price: ££



Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan


The collection of the Pinacoteca di Brera is impressive, with more than 500 works of Renaissance art


Credit: Pinacoteca di Brera/Cesare Maiocchi – 2018

San Babila

Gain an insight into the privileged lives of the 1930s Milanese bourgeoisie

Built in the 1930s, Villa Necchi Campiglio breathes Art Deco down to the very smallest details. The interiors of this city mansion have been wonderfully preserved, with original details and furnishings including walnut floors, a marble staircase and a rosewood bookcase in the library. Important artworks by de Chirico, Modigliani and Picasso, among others, complete the picture. Visits are by guided tour only – book ahead via the website.

Insider tip: As you tour the house, look out for the dumbwaiter, lifts and intercoms, modern features that were a luxury in the 1930s, exuding comfort, style and elegance – not to speak of the outdoor heated swimming pool and tennis court immersed in the leafy garden.

Contact: fondoambiente.it
Nearest metro: San Babila or Palestro
Price: ££



Villa Necchi Campiglio, Milan


The chic Villa Necchi Campiglio breathes Art Deco down to the very smallest details

Porta Venezia

Admire Etruscan masterpieces alongside contemporary works

The Fondazione Luigi Rovati beautifully brings together archaeology and modern art. Exhibits in the vaulted basement floor – a striking sight, made with thousands of stone blocks – shed light on the daily life of the Etruscans, with jewels, vases, cinerary urns and votive bronzes displayed in glass cabinets. The exhibition continues on the first floor, with contemporary works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Lucio Fontana serving as gentle nods to the Etruscan civilisation.

Insider Tip: The Children’s Room hosts regular Saturday workshops – ask for the sliding curtain to be pulled up to reveal the incredible feat of engineering that lies at the heart of the museum space, with metal ribs holding together 24.000 blocks of Florentine stone.

Contact: fondazioneluigirovati.org
Nearest Metro: Porta Venezia
Price: £££

Magenta & around

Marvel at frescoes from the school of Leonardo

Da Vinci’s The Last Supper inevitably draws the crowds, but if you’re after frescoes then look no further than the Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, one of Milan’s most beautiful churches. An austere grey façade conceals wonderful interiors embellished with cycles of 16th-century frescoes, including intricate depictions of cherubs, martyrs and saints by Bernardino Luini and the Lombard School.

Insider tip: Nip through the doorway to the left of the altar to reach the convent hall. Look out for the wonderful fresco of Noah’s Ark and see if you can spot the two unicorns among all the wild animals.

Contact: museoarcheologicomilano.it
Nearest metro: Cadorna
Price: Free



Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan


Step insider Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, one of Milan’s most beautiful churches


Credit: Samitdoc/Samitdoc

Eye up the best in Italian design

A must for design lovers, Triennale Milano has a collection of more than 1,600 design objects dating from 1923 to the present day. The ground floor Museo del Design Italiano exhibits about 200 300 items from the collection, including pieces by renowned designers such as Gio Ponti, Achille Castiglioni and Alessandro Mendini. There are regular exhibitions and events on design, architecture and the visual arts.

Insider tip: Try and visit in the afternoon so you can soak up the city views while enjoying an aperitivo at the second floor Terrazza Triennale, which has one of the city’s best terraces.

Contact: triennale.org
Nearest metro: Cadorna
Price: £££



Triennale Milano, Milan


Triennale Milano is a must for design lovers and has a collection of more than 1600 design objects

Navigli & Porta Genova

Enjoy an aperitivo along the Navigli

Milan’s Navigli, or canals, are lined with lively bars that come to life in the early evenings, when milanesi flock here to sip on cocktails and enjoy a few tasty nibbles. Designed to stimulate the appetite before an evening meal, aperitivo has become something of a ritual in Milan, and there’s no better way to get involved than here.

Insider tip: With all the nightlife venues lining the canals, it’s difficult to know where to start. See if you can bag a spot at Backdoor 43, what is allegedly the world’s smallest whisky bar, seating just four.

Nearest metro: Porta Genova
Price: ££



Navigli, Milan


Milan’s canals are lined with lively bars that come to life in the early evenings


Credit: Juergen Sack/Juergen Sack

Delve into the world of timeless Armani collections

Fashion lovers won’t want to miss the excellent Armani/Silos, a fashion/art space dedicated to renowned Italian designer Armani. The permanent collection showcases  Armani’s best creations from 1980 to the present day, with clothes and accessories stylishly laid out and divided by themes; there are regular temporary exhibitions, too.

Insider tip: The third-floor digital archive and screening room has interactive workstations and touchscreens offering access to sketches, photos and video clips that shed light on the creative processes behind Armani designs.

Contact: armanisilos.com
Nearest metro: Porta Genova
Price: ££



Armani/Silos, Milan


Armani/Silos is a superb fashion art space dedicated to renowned Italian designer, Giorgio Armani

Porta Romana & around

See contemporary art and visit a café designed by Wes Anderson

Head to contemporary arts complex Fondazione Prada and tour its nine-storey tower, which houses works by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Or visit the Haunted House to admire disturbing pieces by Robert Gober and Louise Bourgeois. Film buffs won’t want to miss Le Studio D’Orphée, which displays personal items, furniture, paintings and technical materials of French New Wave director Jean Luc Godard.

Insider tip: Pop into the Wes Anderson-designed Bar Luce and soak up its quirky vibe and fun design featuring pink terrazzo floors, patterned wallpaper and Formica furniture. If you’re visiting in the afternoon, head up to the sixth-floor bar Torre for an aperitivo.

Contact: fondazioneprada.org
Nearest metro: Lodi
Price: ££



Fondazione Prada Milan, Milan


Pop into the Wes Anderson-designed Bar Luce at Fondazione Prada Milan


How we choose

Every attraction and activity in this curated list has been tried and tested by our destination expert, to provide you with their insider perspective. We cover a range of budgets and styles, from world-class museums to family-friendly theme parks – to best suit every type of traveller. We update this list regularly to keep up with the latest openings and provide up to date recommendations.

Articles You May Like

CAVU Backed Gymkhana Fine Foods Raises $3 Million To Bring High-End Indian Recipes To Grocery
Eclipse flights swarm airports: ‘We had to close the runway to park planes’
Plan a Dream Vacation to Hawaii This Spring
Eva Longoria Joins Siete Foods To Build A Billion Dollar Brand
Fresh Take: As Spring Arrives, Here’s Some Inspiration For Your Garden

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *