See also: Where to Stay in Milan
Milan is situated in the Lombardy region of Italy and is famously known as the fashion and design capital of the world. Legendary artist, Leonardo da Vinci is a famous Milanese and his footprints are all over this striking metropolis in the form of his paintings, sculptures and buildings. When you come to Milan, you too will feel like a Renaissance man/woman as the city awakens your creative spirit while keeping intact the traditional values. Here are 30 things you can do while you’re in Milan:
Admire the Last Supper at Santa Maria Delle Grazie
The Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie is a world heritage site best known for housing the famous painting called ‘the last supper’ by legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is done on the wall of the church’s dining room and depicts in all its glory the final dinner of Jesus Christ with his disciples. In order to visit the room, you need to book the tickets in advance through the convent’s official website. The church itself is a stunning reminder of 15th century Renaissance Catholic art as well as Italy’s rich cultural history.
Travel Back to the 13th Century at the Milan Cathedral
The Milan Duomo is a cathedral situated in the city which is 600 years old and is the fifth largest Christian Church in the world. The construction of this solid yet serene structure began in 1386 and went on until the early 19th century which gives it the most detailed architecture of any cathedral in the world. Here, there are 3,400 statues, 700 figures and 135 gargoyles that can be admired by tourists as well as a sundial on the floor which was placed by Astronomers in the year 1768.
Live Like a Royal at the Sforzesco Castle
The Sforzesco castle is an oasis of Milan’s culture and history as well as the former home of the mighty rulers of this city, the Sforza’s. It had previously been used as a military complex and only in the 19th century was it transformed as the headquarters of the Milan’s Civic Museums. The castle is breathtaking in itself but is made even more valuable due to the prized ancient and modern art displayed in the museum such as Michelangelo’s Pieta Rondanini and a few libraries.
Cruise Around the Navigli Lombardi
The Navigli Lombardi is the largest canal of Milan and was the busiest thoroughfares in the 13th century and was perfected by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century. Here, you not only get to relax while gliding on the waterway but at the same time, witness some of the most historic and striking architecture on both sides of the canal. You can either book yourself a modern cruise or live your romantic dreams by sitting in a Venetian Gondola.
Be a Guest at Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vineyard
The Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci left behind a gorgeous vineyard tucked away in his quaint private residence called La Vigna di Leonardo. It was heavily bombed and dismantled during the Second World War and was revived in 2015 during the Expo Milan. A visitor can also book a room at the Atellani apartments situated inside the vineyard which has six boutique rooms accompanied by a lush green private Garden. The building fulfils the painter’s famous saying ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Visit an Urban Jungle at Isola
Isola in Italian translates to an ‘island’ and while, this place is not an island in the traditional sense but is cut off from the other part of the city by rail roads. This neighborhood is arguably the urban soul of Milan and this is clearly evidenced by its many architectural marvels such as the Porta Nuova skyscrapers and the Bosco Verticale residential apartment building with an urban jungle at every corner. It is wrought with street art, fusion restaurants and hipster bars.
Watch a Live Performance at the Teatro Alla Scala
The Teatro Alla Scala is one of the most revered opera houses in the world and is arguably, the premier institution of performing arts in Milan. The theatre was inaugurated on 3rd August of 1778 and since then has witnessed the most glorious performances of the previous centuries. There is also a museum where you can see the costumes, drafts and memorabilia of La Scala theatre as well as a cheaper prized theatre called Loggione.
Read a Book at Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense
The Braidense national library is a public library built in 1770 and was made open to the civilians in the year 1880. The library building was constructed by Jesuits and inside its vicinity it contains the Brera art gallery, the Brera Astronomical observatory and the botanical gardens. The library contains a research room with 35,000 books as well as a collection of 3,000 Greek and Latin works. If you’re a romantic, then you must look at the illuminating work of writer Alessandro Manzoni.
Visit the Basilica San Simpliciano
The Basilica of San Simpliciano was set up by Saint Ambrose and is one of the oldest churches of Italy. The architecture was heavily renovated and modified from the 12th and 13th centuries to the 19th century. The upper part of the basilica has vertical mullioned windows with striking decorative arches and the side chapels are from different eras such as Renaissance and Neoclassical. The painting of the Coronation of Mary is also housed here.
Have a Spa Day at Albergo Diurno Venezia
Under the surface of Piazza Oberdan lies a lesser known tourist spot called the Albergo Diurno Venezia which was built in 1925 and is used as an unconventional spa with 30 bathrooms ranging from average to luxury as well as shaves, manicures and pedicures. Though, there is more to the place including a post office, a barber shop, flower shops, phone booths, newsstands and a bank.
This is a quirky and unique spot for every tourist to visit in order to get under the skin of Milan.
The Home of the Dead, Cimitero Monumentale
The Cimitero Monumentale is one of the oldest graveyards in the city and has the most architecturally marvelous tombs in the entire country. This was opened in 1866 and besides the tombs, there are many Greek temples situated here. There is a memorial for the Milanese population that died in concentration camps during World War II as well as a separate section for Jews. Some of the most famous people buried here include Albert Einstein’s father, the football player Giuseppe Meazza and painter Emilio Longoni.
Thank the Jesuits for Pinacoteca Di Brera
The Pinacoteca di Brera is also known as the Brera art gallery and the building was constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th century in the neoclassical style. The museum displays its astonishing works of art chronologically beginning from the 14th century all the way to the 20th century. Among the 400 works housed here, the most famous include The Kiss by Francesco Hayez, Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael, Virgin and Saints by Piero Della Francesca and supper at Emmaus.
Admire the Architecture at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The awe-inspiring Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was designed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni and surprisingly it was finished in two years but a few days before the inauguration, Mengoni’s lifeless body was found beneath the scaffolding. The most famous structure to see here is Taurus the bull and you can also talk a walk on the highline walkway or shop at one of the high-end stores such as Prada and Gucci. A visitor can also eat at Savini or have a drink at bar camparino.
Feel Your Adrenaline Rush at the San Siro Stadium
The San Siro stadium is named in the honor of two time World Cup winner, Giuseppe Meazza and has hosted the FIFA world cup twice, once in 1934 and the second time in 1990. This stadium is where the opening ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics will be held. Besides football, you can also watch boxing and rugby matches as well as attend concerts. In the past, the stadium has hosted concerts by Beyonce, Rihanna, Bob Marley and Coldplay.
Empty Your Wallet at Quadrilatero D’oro
It is no surprise that Milan is the fashion capital of the world and this is evidenced by one of most expensive and chicest shopping streets in the world called Quadrilatero D’oro which is also known as the Golden rectangle. Every corner is bustling with the biggest names in Fashion such as Fendi, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Ferragamo, Prada, Versace and Cartier, to name a few. You can also dine and drink at the famous Nobu restaurant.
Visit Medieval Italy at the Piazza Dei Mercanti
The Piazza dei Mercanti is a well-known area of Milan and it has continued to maintain the charm of the medieval ages and holds a number of striking and important buildings within its vicinity. Some of these buildings include the Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine which used to be a reputed school for many Milanese legends and a restaurant built in the Gothic style, Casa dei Panigarola. The Palazzo della Ragione is an astounding red-brick building which was previously used as the court of justice and right beneath it used to be the crowded city market.
So Much to Do at 10 Corso Como
Back in the 1990s, this used to be an apartment building but with the help of Carla Sozzani it was converted into a modern art gallery and recreational building called 10 Corso Como. Once you enter the complex, you will be left baffled by the variety such as a restaurant, a bar, an art gallery and a bookshop. There is also an exclusive boutique hotel with only three suites. At every nook and corner, you will be amused by the quirky urban architecture and distinct artistic fervor.
Eat at Da Martino
Da Martino is a well-known restaurant in Milan which serves traditional and local food. The seating in the restaurant is not meant for more than 20 people hence, booking in advance would be highly recommended. The warm hospitality coupled with the intoxicating smell of the dishes will keep your hunger pangs running. The most famous dishes served here are the Milanese Cotoletta, linguine, Veal Milanese and an Italian wine to go with it.
Feel Fancy at the Palazzo Morando
The Palazzo Morando has only recently become more democratized because in the earlier days, it was used as the palace for countless aristocratic families starting from the sixteenth century. The important families which lived here included the Villa, Casati and De Cristofori. There is an art gallery inside the palazzo which houses paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries depicting daily civilian life in the respective eras. It also has a costume museum where a visitor gets to survey beautiful vintage clothes.
Street of the Artists, the Brera District
The artistic area of Milan is known as the Brera district and a visitor will be enthralled by the variety and beauty of this place. The district has many historical fixtures which include Palazzo Brera which houses an art academy, the Brera botanical garden, the Astronomical museum and a bronze sculpture of Napoleon. Here, you can also spend some time at the serene church of Santa Maria del Carmine as well as dine at an Irish pub called O’Connell or Jamaica. The Brera district is the main location for the Milano design week.
Take a Day Off at Lake Como
Lake Como is a preferred and popular destination among the most famous including but not limited to, George Clooney and I can see why. The quaint lake is situated at the foot of the Alps and many picturesque Italian towns surround it such as Bellagio, Varenna, Tremezzina and Como. Lake Como is a few hours away from the city and is perfect for a day of relaxing on the beach. You can also visit some historic villas such as Villa Melzi in Bellagio and Villa Monastero in Varenna. You have the exciting option of a boat trip on Lake Como in order to visit these towns.
Eat a Pizza at Gino Sorbillio Lievito Madre
A trip to any city in Italy would be incomplete without visiting an authentic pizzeria and even though the birthplace of Pizza is in Naples, the Milanese pizzeria scene is just as delicious. This restaurant was opened by renowned chef, Gino Sorbillo and serves a total of 400 pies a day which is a soft-crust Neapolitan Pizza. This pizzeria has a welcoming environment and is always buzzing with tourists and Natives who come here in search for the best Pizza of their lives.
Survey Italian Art at the Museo Del Novecento
The Museo Del Novecento was opened in the year 2010 and is dedicated to preserving 20th century art especially movements such as Arte Povera, Abstract, post-impressionism, landscape and realism eras. Many international artists’ works have been displayed here such as Kandinsky, Picasso, Matisse, Andy Warhol and Frank Stella. It also houses works by Italian artists such as Lucio Fontana and Giorgio de Chirico. This museum also has a restaurant and bookshop within its premises.
A Building of Bones at San Bernardino Alle Ossa
The San Bernardino Alle Ossa is a former ossuary which is a place where you keep bones of dead people and is situated near the Santo Stefano Maggiore Church. This is no ordinary tourist spot as the walls of the building are covered by bones most probably taken from other ossuaries or a local ancient hospital called Ospedale del Brolo. This building not only preserves the pieces of people long gone but in its own unique and unusual way becomes a beacon of creative expression.
Take a Walk at Parco Sempione
The Parco Sempione is a large park situated in Northwest Milan and is perfect for a long walk or run while admiring its natural beauty but it is not any ordinary park as it contains numerous attractions for a visitor. The Castello Sforzesco is situated here as well as the arch of peace known as Arco Della Pace which is a tribute to the victories of Napoleon. The Torre Branca is one of Milan’s tallest buildings where you can take an elevator and reach the top to witness some of the most breathtaking and stunning views of the city.
Ice Cream at Its Purest, Ciacco
The ciacco gelato senz’altro is a gelato restaurant which serves only the most authentic ice cream devoid of any artificial preservatives and uses milk, sugar, proteins and vegetable fibers to enhance the flavor. Sworn loyalists of Ciacco recommend some of the best flavors here such as Mango, pumpkin, peach, fig and persimmon. These flavors change with the changing seasons and sometimes you will come across unusual items such as an Almond cheesecake or a Prince Beugre.
Visit a Rainbow Street at the Via Lincoln
The adorable neighborhood of Via Lincoln was conceived as a ‘garden city’ in the year 1889 by a group of friends and they set up an idyllic area for small affordable houses lined with fragrant fruit trees and stunning flowers. The result is a fairytale neighborhood where a visitor can spend a quiet evening strolling and admiring the colorful homes of local Italians. There are a few shops you can visit here such as Malafarina bookshop which has a collection of photography and cook books as well as a vintage fashion boutique called the shabby chic.
Time Stays Still at the Basilica of St. Ambrose
The Basilica of St. Ambrose was consecrated in 387 AD but was later rebuild in the 11th century but most of its original structures have dissipated. The large atrium has two towers which are of the same height as the church and the Monks towers which dates back to 10th century has a northern counterpart known as the Canon’s tower. On the northern side, there is a pulpit like structure called the ambo which was used for gospel readings in the 12th century and the tomb of a military official called Sacrophagus of Stilichone was built in the 4th century and is one of the few remaining original structures of the basilica.
The Old Meets the New at Six Gallery
The six project is a new-age, contemporary and urban design gallery situated in the city and every corner of it will remind you of how intricately it has been set up. The large door opens to a beautiful yard which is surrounded by various trees including palms, kentia, ferns and banyan. The most recognizable design features are the Leggere chairs by Gio Ponti. There is also a high quality restaurant within the building called the Sixieme Bistot which serves an apple studel where your drink will be flavored with cinnamon.
Visit the Temple of Italian Food at Peck
You may have visited a number of sacred places during your stay but this may be the holiest of them all. Peck is known as the temple of Gastronomy in Milan as it uses only the best raw ingredients to serve some of the most authentic and tasty dishes you have ever had in your lifetime. There is a wine cellar as well as an Italian bar which serves an espresso or a cappuccino and Peck has its own Deli which showcases the best local ingredients such as cuts of meat and vegetables. The Piccolo Peck which is a gourmet café serves the most delicious cheeses, meats and sandwiches.
A city with a population of 1.4 million people and the cultural center of the Romantic and Renaissance periods as well as the host of the Milan Fashion week making it the fashion capital of the world. This city takes its cultural heritage and weaves the most serene symphony which includes its love for architecture, wine, vintage clothes and most importantly, pizza.