Do you want to visit Milan? In this article, you will find the main tourist attractions in Milan and the most beautiful places to visit in this beautiful European city. Milan is a beautiful metropolis located in the Lombardy region of Italy. It is the global capital of fashion and also a major financial center, with plenty of luxury shops and fine dining restaurants. At the same time, Milan is a tourist destination with many attractions and beautiful places to visit. Let’s see the most important tourist attractions in Milan that I recommend you to visit.
Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square):
What to visit in Milan first? The Cathedral Square is the historic heart of the city and one of the most iconic places. Here you will find most of Milan’s tourist attractions, such as the Royal Palace, a magnificent 18th-century building. Piazza del Duomo is huge, measuring approximately 40,200 square meters, making it one of the largest squares in Italy. In the square, besides admiring Milan Cathedral, you can shop, dine in numerous restaurants and terraces, or admire the monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II, erected in 1896. The adjacent streets leading to this square are worth exploring as well. They have majestic street lighting, delicious restaurants, and typical Italian cafes.
After admiring the statue of Victor Emmanuel in Cathedral Square, you can reach Milan Cathedral, one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan. Visiting Milan without seeing its Cathedral is like visiting Paris without going to the Eiffel Tower. You will surely be impressed by its detailed architecture and grandeur. Milan Cathedral is the third-largest Catholic church in the world, after St. Peter’s in the Vatican and Seville Cathedral. Like in the Vatican, you can climb to the rooftop terrace to enjoy the most beautiful view of Cathedral Square. Its construction began in 1368 and lasted about 500 years. It was completed under the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted to be crowned king of Italy there. From the outside, you can admire its intricately detailed and perfectly finished façade. It features 2,000 white marble statues and 136 spires. Its interior has five sumptuous naves, 52 columns, each representing the weeks of the year, sarcophagi and tombs of several archbishops, and one of its most precious treasures, a crucifix made by the master Leonardo da Vinci.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II:
Right in front of the cathedral in Cathedral Square is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It is a very aesthetic and bright place with neo-classical and baroque architecture, a glass and iron dome, and luxury boutiques with unparalleled products. Its name is given to honor King Victor Emmanuel II, one of the main actors in Italian independence, who laid the first stone of the building. In the center of the gallery, you will find a bull-shaped mosaic on the floor, representing the city of Milan.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is celebrated for its breathtaking 19th-century architecture. It boasts a glass-vaulted ceiling, intricate mosaics, and ornate facades, making it one of the world’s most splendid shopping galleries.
This arcade is a high-end shopping haven. It houses a plethora of luxury boutiques, including prestigious Italian brands such as Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton, making it a paradise for fashion aficionados.
Cultural and Culinary Delights:
Alongside the upscale shops, you’ll also discover cafes, restaurants, and even bookstores within Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s a place where you can engage in people-watching while savoring a cup of coffee or a delectable Italian meal.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. It isn’t just a shopping arcade but also a symbol of Milan’s historical and cultural heritage.
Bull Mosaic Tradition:
In the center of the Galleria, there is a famous mosaic featuring a bull on the floor. According to local tradition, spinning your heel on the bull’s genitals will bring you good luck. This has made the mosaic a popular spot for tourists who want to ensure their return to Milan.
Events and Festivals:
The Galleria is known for hosting various events, exhibitions, and celebrations throughout the year. It’s a lively hub of activity in the heart of Milan.
The Last Supper at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie:
If you want to visit the beautiful tourist attractions in Milan, you must stop by the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Very close to Milan Cathedral, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is famous worldwide for housing one of the most fantastic works on the planet. It is the renowned Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, representing the last supper of Christ with the 12 apostles on Maundy Thursday. The church and the famous fresco The Last Supper were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco):
Another tourist attraction in Milan that is worth visiting is Sforza Castle, located near Milan Cathedral. It is one of the largest castles in Europe and one of the main symbols of Milan and its history. Inside, you will find several museums. But if you don’t want to visit them, you should know that the place is ideal for leisurely strolls. Its courtyard serves as a local park where you can see artifacts from the castle and architectural details. The museum also houses Michelangelo’s last unfinished work. The castle also hosts the Museum of Ancient Art, a collection of musical instruments, Egyptian and prehistoric sections of the Archaeological Museum.
La Scala (Teatro alla Scala):
Leaving the Cathedral Square, just a few minutes’ walk away, you will reach La Scala in Milan. It is the building where the Milan Opera is located. In fact, it consists of three opera houses, the most prestigious in the country. Here, you can watch the greatest theatrical masterpieces of Italian opera, making it a place of the utmost cultural importance. While its exterior may be somewhat austere, the interior is extremely sumptuous. On its left side, there is a museum with a collection of secular instruments, opera costumes, and numerous other treasures of Italian heritage.
Leonardo da Vinci Science and Technology Museum:
Leonardo da Vinci is undeniably very present here. In fact, an entire museum is dedicated to him. This museum is located in a 16th-century monastery and features about 30 models that showcase the genius of the Italian polymath. The museum also has numerous other collections, not necessarily related to the great master.
Historic Center Streets:
From the gates of the Cathedral to Sforza Castle, this district is where Milanese boutiques have gradually settled. Always in harmony with this refined elegance, tempered by the historical grandeur, the Historic Center reveals the city’s past through its buildings, cobbled streets, charming statues, and fountains.
Sempione Park in Milan:
Another place to visit in Milan is Sempione Park, a huge park covering approximately 386,000 square meters. It is highly appreciated by tourists as well as Milanese who love to come here. You’ll find several buildings in the park, such as the Arch of Peace, which closely resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Navigli District in Milan:
This is an area with a network of canals, largely designed by Leonardo da Vinci, which used to extend throughout Milan. Nowadays, there are only two longer canals – Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese. They have a very bohemian style and are lined with cafes, vintage shops, and pop-up galleries. While they are far from the canals of Venice or Amsterdam, they are worth discovering. This area is also the most beautiful place to watch the sunset. The houses in the district are reflected in the water, creating a beautiful landscape. The canals add a touch of romance to the place, and in a picturesque and bohemian setting, many restaurants are located near nightclubs and small seaside boutiques.
Museo del Novecento:
Located right next to Milan Cathedral, Pallazzo dell’Arengario hosts one of the youngest museums in the city, Museo del Novecento. In this renovated building, artworks interact with the city, connecting to the past and looking to the future. Inside, there is a futuristic spiral ramp that leads to galleries featuring over 400 masterpieces of 20th-century Italian and international art.
Piazza dei Mercanti:
It is one of the rare testimonies to what Milan could be in the 13th century. It is a very picturesque, medieval square located a stone’s throw from the Cathedral Square, which, in ancient times, was the city’s commercial and governmental center. The buildings that surround this square have retained all their charm. These include the Pallazzo della Ragione, which used to be an administrative building and a judicial seat, where the city’s market was organized every day under its imposing red brick arcades. Then there’s the Loggia degli Ossi, where notaries’ and judges’ offices were housed. From the balcony called Parlera, judges proclaimed public ordinances or marriages. Casa dei Panigarola was the notaries’ headquarters where administrative documents were stored. Nowadays, you’ll find a restaurant here. Pallazzo delle Scuole Palatine was in the Middle Ages the most prestigious school. Numerous notable people of the time attended it.
Quadrilatero d’Oro (Fashion Quadrangle):
Milan is the global fashion capital, and the Quadrilatero d’Oro is the heart of this elegant and dynamic city. The district gets its name from the geometric shape formed by its four main streets: Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga, and Corso Venezia. Every inch of these streets, especially Via Monte Napoleone, is occupied by the best of Italian haute couture: Armani, Prada, Versace, Valentino, Versace, or Vuitton.
Brera Botanical Garden:
At the end of Via Privata Fratelli Gabba, there is a small gate that will help you enter one of the city’s rare and hidden corners, the botanical garden. This small garden, spanning 5,000 square meters, was created in 1774 when Maria Theresa of Austria decided that the former Jesuit garden should become an educational and scientific institution for pharmacy and medicine students.
Milan’s Chinatown is the oldest and largest Chinese district in Italy. It stretches from Via Paolo Sarpi, considered its main street, to Aleardi and Niccolini, forming a true city. This dynamic area is a stone’s throw from Milan’s important sites, such as the picturesque Brera district, the city center, and the futuristic buildings of the Porta Nuova district.
There is also a famous place where women used to come to wash clothes until the 1950s. It’s a richly historical place, perfect for a leisurely stroll.
True architectural gems, these skyscrapers boast futuristic architecture that contrasts with the more traditional allure of the historic center.
Colonne di San Lorenzo (Columns of San Lorenzo):
Located on a street corner in the middle of the city, surrounded by shops, these columns are where young Milanese gather.
Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio:
One of Milan’s oldest churches, dating back to the 11th century, built on the site of a 4th-century church. Sant’Ambrogio is the city’s patron saint. You can see his crypt here, along with two other martyrs from the 13th century.
Bohemian Brera District:
One of the most dynamic neighborhoods in Milan, Brera is entirely pedestrian, making it perfect for a leisurely walk.
Porta Nuova with its Modern Architecture:
Located near Milan’s train station and fairly close to the Brera district, Porta Nuova is the city’s business district. It symbolizes the city’s rebirth and is the ideal place to discover the new soul of Milan.
Isola – The Street Art District:
In Italian, „isola” means island. A name that suits this neighborhood very well, as it was long separated from the rest of the city by a railway. Today, this 19th-century district is slowly transforming into a dynamic and bourgeois enclave. It boasts the most beautiful collection of eclectic street art created by local artists, offering the most surreal, vibrant, and imaginative works.
Chic Porta Romana District:
It is said that all roads lead to Rome. And with the architecture of the buildings in the area, this connection seems evident. It features the most sumptuous 19th-century buildings, restaurants, and spas and has always been a very trendy area.
Cascina Cuccana is a vast 18th-century farmhouse that allows you to enjoy a rural lifestyle in the city. It features a restaurant, a garden, a market, and many other attractions.
Monumental Cemetery of Milan:
It’s more than just a cemetery; it’s an enormous open-air museum with numerous artistic tombs. At the main entrance, you’ll find the most important figures. You can admire a pyramid, a white tower, or a white marble canopy-shaped tomb. The wealthiest families of Milan seemed to compete in originality and inventiveness to create the most interesting tombs with angels and statues.
Pinacoteca di Brera:
It is one of the most important art collections in Italy, located in Palazzo Brera. Originally, the place was made into an important cultural center by monks, with a school, an astronomical observatory, and a library. Since then, its collection has only grown.
San Siro Stadium in Milan:
If you’re a sports enthusiast, you must see AC Milan play at home. The atmosphere at the stadium is exceptional.
Milan is a large city situated in a privileged natural setting. An hour’s drive away, you’ll find Lake Como, offering a magnificent day trip for families or friends.
More than just the fashion capital of Italy, Milan is a tourist destination with many attractions and activities, cultural highlights, historical monuments, and beautiful squares waiting to be discovered.