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Things to Do in Milan: Top Tourist Attractions

What to See and Do in Milan, Italy

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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.

Plan your visit with our Milan Travel Guide.

Duomo or Cathedral of Milan

milan duomo picture, milan cathedral, italy, picture
© by James Martin, Europe Travel

Milan's Duomo, or Cathedral, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Construction started in 1386 but took nearly 500 years to complete. 135 spires and 3200 statues adorn the duomo roof and you can take an elevator (or climb the stairs) to the rooftop for a close-up view as well as magnificent views of the city below. (See photos by clicking on the link above.) Piazza del Duomo, the square where the cathedral sits, is the hub of Milan's historic center. Also on the square are a statue of Vittorio Emanuele and the Palazzo Reale housing the Duomo Museum and Contemporary Art Museum.

Santa Maria della Grazie and Da Vinci's Last Supper

Giovanni Dall'Orto/Wikimedia Commons

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 fresco, it's necessary to book in advance. Since tickets can be difficult to get, it's best to book about two months in advance. You can buy Last Supper tickets online in US dollars through Select Italy. Open Tuesday through Sunday.

Castello Sforzesco or Sforza Castle

milano castello, picture, milano castello picture
©2006 by James Martin, Europe Travel

Milan's castle, Castello Sforzesco, is near the center of Milan and unlike many castles you don't have to climb a hill to get to it. Inside the castle are several museums but even if you don't want to go into a museum, the castle is a good place to wander around and the courtyard serves as a local park. You can see castle artifacts and architecture details. The art museum houses Michelangelo's last sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà. There's also the Museum of Ancient Art, a collection of musical instruments, and the Egyptian and prehistoric sections of the Archeology Museum.

Find out more about Castello Sforzesco and other Milan museums in Top Milan Museums.

La Scala Opera House and Museum

la scala, milan, italy
©2006 by James Martin, Europe Travel

Teatro alla Scala, or La Scala, is one of Italy's top historic opera houses. La Scala first opened in 1778 and has been the opening venue for many famous operas. The theater was renovated in 2004. Attending an opera in La Scala is a top experience for opera fans but you'll need to book in advance. La Scala's museum has a collection of musical instruments and portraits and busts of musicians and you can view the auditorium from boxes and the backstage area. It's currently open daily except holidays, 9-12:30 and 1:30 to 5:30pm.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

milan galleria, galleria vittorio emanuele, picture
©2006 by James Martin, Europe Travel

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

Basilica Sant' Ambrogio, one of Milan's oldest churches, is an eleventh 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 two third 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. There's also a small museum associated with the church.

Shopping and Window Shopping

Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Milan is known as Italy's top fashion city and it's a good 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.

Brera Picture Gallery or Pinacoteca di Brera

Pinacoteca di Brera is Milan's top art museum, housing a collection of over 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. Closed Mondays and some holidays.

Take a Walk in the Park

Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

When you get tired of museums, crowds, and shopping head to one of Milan's parks. Milan has several large parks where you can relax or stroll peacefully. Two of the best are Parco Sempione, between the castle and Porta Sempione, and the Giardini Pubblici or public gardens, just outside the historic center off Corso Venezia where you'll also find the Natural History Museum.

Discovering Milan's Masterpieces Guided Tour

Discovering Milan's Masterpieces is a 3 hour tour that includes seeing the Last Supper (if tickets are available for your date), 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.

Enjoy a Day Outside the City

como, lake como, italy, picture
by Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Milan is central to many interesting smaller cities and towns as well as to the lakes of Northern Italy and makes a good base for visiting them by train. Here are the best places to go from Milan.

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