Milano is usually not included in the top 3 cities people think of when they think of the Grand Tour in Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice are the most famous tourist destinations. Italy’s financial, fashion, design and business hub does have lots of history and architecture to explore, however. Here are the top spots every tourist should check out when visiting!
Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Milan’s most famous monument is undoubtedly its white marble Gothic cathedral, known as the Duomo. It’s often the first destination for curious tourists and a good place to snap a few pictures. Be careful of peddlers and pick pockets, though, and the masses of pigeons looking for a bite to eat and flying directly at tourists!
The Duomo is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and the largest in Italy (St. Peter’s Basilica is technically not in Italy but rather the Vatican). It took so long to complete that there’s a saying in Milan, essere la fabbrica del duomo, to refer to any large enterprise that may never get completed. Go inside to admire the immense nave and gorgeous decorations. You can also walk up to the roof to get a great view of the city and see some of the statues up close. Tickets cost €7 to take the stairs or €12 to take the elevator.
Right next to the Duomo is the beautiful – and just as monumental – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was built in 1877 and is basically a covered shopping center with a glass dome in the center. Today it’s home to several very expensive cafes and restaurants, upscale shops, a few touristy shops and some luxury hotels. Its mosaics include a famous bull that tourists traditionally spin around for good luck: this is a must for newcomers to the city!
While you’re in Piazza del Duomo, you’ll also notice one of the city’s newest museums, the Museo del Novecento. Get more info on our museums page.
Walk through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II from Piazza del Duomo and on the other side you’ll pass by a statue of Leonardo da Vinci. In this piazza, Palazzo Marino, Milan’s city hall, will be on your right as you walk towards La Scala. The world-famous theater hosts first-class opera and ballet performances throughout the year. The inaugural performance each year is held on Milan’s Saint’s Day, Sant’Ambrogio, 7 December. Tickets can be hard to come by for high-profile events, but there are special deals for students and anyone under 30 years old. There’s also a very cool museum with musical instruments, comedia dell’arte items and memorabilia focusing on people like Giuseppe Verdi, Puccini, Toscanini and Maria Callas. For more info and how to get tickets, check out the Teatro alla Scala website.
Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione
From either La Scala or the Duomo, walk towards Cordusio and then along Via Dante. In the background you’ll see the city’s castle getting closer. Originally built by the Sforza family in the 15th century and decorated by Leonardo da Vinci, Castello Sforzesco was renovated more recently so the building itself shows little wear and tear. You can walk around the castle grounds, admire the large courtyard and any modern art installations that may be on display. If you don’t have much time and/or don’t want to pay the entrance fee, you can simply check out the architecture, including the large clock tower. But minutes and euros allowing, you should go inside and take a spin around the museums. Tickets are only €3 for students and €5 for everyone else and it’s worth every penny. Not only will you be able to see most of the interior of the castle, but you can also browse over 200 paintings, Egyptian art and artifacts, ancient and prehistoric art and artifacts, musical instruments and a room, the Sala delle Asse, with frescoes by Leonardo.
After you finish exploring the castle, take a stroll through one of the city’s nicest parks. Cool places to check out include the Mermaid bridge, the Triennale Design Museum and, at the far end, the Arco della Pace.