Milan is easily one of the more famous and lovely Italian cities to visit! It’s packed full of promenade-style streets, castles and, of course, the Duomo, too; to name a few. This all means that there’s a heap of the best things to do in Milan once you arrive and you’ll be totally spoilt for choice on places to see when you visit.
Now, after visiting Milan quite a few times, we’ve been able to scout out some of the most historic and gorgeous spots that you really can’t miss when in the city. You see, it’s much bigger than some Italian cities like Orvieto, for instance. So, you really do need a rough plan on which areas you’re going to explore and when.
Oh, also, unlike the stunning places in the south of Italy, make sure to pack an umbrella! Trust me, the weather can be pretty unpredictable in Milan and we were caught out in the rain on a few occasions.
Regardless, Milan is an epic city to explore and well worth visiting for a few days.
Take a look, below, at some of the best things to do in Milan. Have the best trip.
1.) Duomo of Milan
No visit to Milan is complete without a visit to the iconic Duomo. Seeing it, and heading inside, is easily one of the best things to do in Milan that you kinda can’t miss. This is even more true if it’s your first trip.
Taking hundreds of years to complete, it’s totally beautiful and the largest church in all of Italy (and the fourth largest in the whole world).
Once inside, make sure to look just left of the altar, for one of the most famous art pieces in Milan. It’s Saint Bartholomew Flayed that was created in the 16th Century by Marco d’Agrate.
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the tiny red light in the dome itself. It’s right above the apse and is to show where a nail, said to be from the crucifixion of Christ, was used.
Afterwards, pop up (in the lift or stairs) to the top of the Duomo itself. You’ll get a totally different perspective of the Duomo and a gorgeous view over this area of Milan.
2.) Sforzesco Castle
Built around 500 years ago, Sforzesco Castle was once the biggest citadel in all of Europe and commanded a great deal of power.
Nowadays, you can still pop into the main court area and see this magnificent castle that’s pretty easy to walk to from the Duomo (about 15-minute walk).
Once here, pop inside and see some of the exhibitions and artefacts, too. It’s well worth a gander, especially if you get one of those rainy days I mentioned.
Afterwards, stroll through Sempione Park and take a wander. It’s totally vast and a gorgeous respite from the city streets.
3.) Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Another one of Milan’s most iconic sights to see, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is right next to the Duomo and a must-visit (even for 15-minutes) when exploring Milan.
Being the oldest (and some would say the grandest) mall in all of Milan, it’s a totally stunning place to visit that’s so impressive.
Inside, you’ll find lots of luxury shops and some pretty high-end eateries, too.
Have the best time.
4.) Royal Palace of Milan
About 2-minutes from the Galleria and Duomo, it used to be Milan’s governing building for hundreds of years. Nowadays, you can pop inside and take in the temporary exhibitions and the Hall of Caryatids.
Typically, there are around quite a few different exhibitions going on at once, so you’ll love it if you’re into your art. That being said, if you’re not an art lover, you might wanna give some of the exhibitions a miss.
5.) Santa Maria Delle Grazie
One of Milan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, going inside Santa Maria Delle Grazie is one of the best things to do in Milan for one big reason. You see, inside is the mural of the Last Supper (by Leonardo da Vinci) which you can see.
It’s perched within the refectory of the convent and well worth booking in advance as tickets and usually sold out.
6.) Branca Tower
Nestled in Sempione Park, the Branca Tower is really easy to visit when you’re already exploring Sforzesco Castle.
Now, don’t expect some medieval tower, it’s actually a huge iron tower that was built almost 100 years ago and still stands proudly overlooking Milan.
Tickets are usually around six Euro (or so) and, it’s easily one of the best things to do in Milan if you want some gorgeous views. You see, on a crisp and clear day, you can see all the way to the Alps in the far distance.
Afterwards, pop over to Sapori Solari, which is one of Milan’s best salami spots. They have a range of different cured meats and salami from all over Italy and it’s so delicious.
7.) Piazza Mercanti
Just off Piazza Del Duomo, Piazza Mercanti is a historic medieval square that’s been around for centuries in Milan. Here, you’ll find statues like Augustine of Hippo (on the front of Scuole Palatine) and a few others dotted around the square, too.
Although you can’t go in all of the medieval buildings, it’s still worth seeing the historic ones like; Loggia degli Osi and Palazzo dei Notai, too.
It’s likely, you’ll only spend around 15-minutes wandering the square and really easy to partner onto the Duomo (as the main attraction, nearby).
8.) La Scala Opera
Built centuries ago, seeing a show at La Scala is one of the best things to do in Milan if you love the opera. Not only that, the theatre is totally stunning and also has a gorgeous museum to explore some of the histories of this special place.
Now, if you want tickets to the opera or ballet for that matter, then book tickets well in advance. You can be lucky and find tickets at the last minute but this can be unusual. After all, it’s a world-renowned venue and demand is high!
9.) Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
The Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio has a history that goes back almost 2,000 years! It’s said, the site was chosen as many religious martyrs were paced after they were killed by the Romans). This led the church to make it a holy site for Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio.
Nowadays, you can head inside and see the gorgeous ceilings of the oratory.
Oh yeah, and be sure to spot the two marble columns as you enter Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. You’ll likely notice two holes which were apparently caused by the devil himself.
It’s said that he was so angry that he couldn’t tempt Saint Ambrogio that he rammed the wall with his horns! Believe it or not, it’s well worth seeing.
10.) Pinacoteca di Brera
Exploring Pinacoteca di Brera has to be one of the best things to do in Milan if you love art! You see, inside, they house some of the most important paintings and art from all over Italy. It’s totally stunning.
Once inside, be sure to spot the 17th Century Supper at Emmaus (Caravaggio), find the 15th Century Holy Conversation (Piero della Francesca) and see the rest of Brera’s Masterpieces, too.
For some tasty and authentic Italian food, pop over to Pomet (by Pasquale Pometto) which is so tasty. Hidden away on a side street, It’s a totally chilled and pretty cool spot in Milan and really is a great spot for Milan’s best pizza and homemade tiramisu.
11.) Basilica of San Simpliciano
The Romanesque church of San Simpliciano might not look at grand as the Duomo but that shouldn’t stop you visiting. You see, inside you’ll get to see some of Ambrogio da Fossano’s famous works, a wide Incoronation of Mary.
You can’t miss it.
12.) Naviglio Grande (Darsena)
If you fancy a little slice of Venice, then the Darsena Canal is well worth going for a stroll. These waterways were created centuries ago and it’s one of the best things to do in Milan if you fancy a break from the historical sites (or to see something a little different).
After arriving, go for a stroll around the banks and stop off at the little cafes, bars and restaurants that line the route. Use this Google Maps link to find the best spots with all the little cafes. It’s a really cool area in Milan.
13.) Cimitero Monumentale
Now, this might sound a little Macabre and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but hear me out. Seeing the Monumental Cemetery is one of the best things to do in Milan if you want to see some historic tombs and artistic mausoleums. Some of these are huge.
Here, you’ll find the tombs of the most important families of the region, like; Campari family tomb, the Morgagni family monument and Mausoleum of Antonio Bernocchi (which is stunning).