18 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Milan
As one of Italy's most influential cities, Milan has more than its fair share of famous sites and monuments to explore. Some are artistic treasures like the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio and the Quadrato di Treviso; others are historic destinations like the Palazzo Reale.
When it comes to sights and attractions to put on your list, Milan has a bounty for visitors of all interests and tastes. Whether you're interested in baroque churches, quintessential Italian food, or opulent art and culture, you'll find plenty to explore here.
Traveling to Milan is easy. You can fly to Milan Malpensa airport and take a train, or it's an hour by car or taxi ride from central Milan.
Explore the best of Milan with our list of the top attractions in Milan, Italy.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
One of Milan's most outstanding architectural achievements, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is also Italy's first covered shopping mall. Started in 1923 as a covered link between Milan's two main railway stations, Galleria was soon renamed after the king who became the country's first King Victor Emanuel II. The original design combined neo-classicism, orientalist decoration, and luxurious modernism with a central atrium lined with galleries. Originally five, the Galleria now comprises five main levels, plus the underground level known as the subway station. Following a renovation completed in 2004, the Galleria is open to the public from 10 am to 9:30 pm on Sundays and holidays. Outside these hours the food and coffee shops on the ground floor remain open while the basement is shut.
The Sforza Castle was built by the rulers of Milan between 1451 and 1484 to protect the northern frontiers of the city and its lagoon. The huge three-story, octagonal fortification on the southern slopes of the Malcontenta hill encloses the wide-open Palazzo Reale, with a landscaped garden along the west side and the Porta Nuova or Porta Alla Croce gate at the foot of the sloping, red-tiled Torre dello Sforza (Sforza Tower). The Sforza Castle also serves as a museum housing numerous artifacts including the armor, furniture, uniforms, and weapons of the dukes of Milan. The Castello d'Oro, one of the world's most extensive collection of gold objects, and the collections of porcelain, enamel and ivory are worth a look.
Via Manzoni (Manzoni Street) is one of Milan's most famous streets and one of the city's most notable sights. It is the last link in the monumental ring road that surrounds the city and is a good place for people-watching and window-shopping. You will find nearly 50 designer shops, high-end boutiques and many touristy shops selling T-shirts and souvenirs that ring Milan's main shopping district, Corso Venezia. There are interesting handicraft shops where you can watch expert craftsmen making jewelry, wood, and glass art. You can also visit Milan's main art museum, the Castello Sforzesco, where you can view Michelangelo's David and other artworks in the impressive museums located there.
Piazza del Duomo
Palazzo Ducale, the immense and magnificent royal palace of Milan, was built by the Visconti family between 1445 and 1510. It has always played a pivotal role in the politics of the city, functioning as a residence of the prince-bishop of Milan from 1447 to 1815 and the royal residence from 1815 to today. Although the palace was a center of power, Milan's other monuments of the Renaissance include the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, the San Siro Stadium, and the Duomo, which houses Milan's cathedral and has been Italy's tallest building since 1893. The Palazzo is part of the huge and spectacular Cathedral Complex, which includes the Cathedral, the Palazzo del Bambin Gesu (Bambin Guesu, or the House of the Wounded Christ), the Museo della Famiglia Reale (Royal Family Museum) and the Reggia (Royal Palace). Each of the buildings has a rich history in its own right and is important in the history of Milan. Milan is the capital of Lombardy, the region of northern Italy, and also one of the major cities of Italy.
Galleria d'Arte Moderna
The grandest museum in all of Milan, Galleria d'Arte Moderna houses one of the world's foremost collections of 19th- and 20th-century art in one of Italy's best examples of art nouveau architecture, with 12 rooms and 800 paintings, including works by van Gogh, Modigliani, Degas, Matisse, Gauguin, Sisley, Cézanne, Pissarro, Cézanne and Monet, among others. Galleria d'Arte Moderna has been open since 1875 and has had several buildings since. The most prominent is the early 20th-century museum designed by Achille Castiglioni, creator of the Capricci (Capriccios) staircase in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The museum also houses a collection of over 20,000 drawings, including 150 Italian Renaissance drawings by Fra Filippo Lippi, Gentile da Fabriano and Bartolomeo dei Lannati. At the time of construction the galleries were also noted for their first installation of electricity, with lights powered by windmills.
Museo del Novecento
This restored building, once part of the Palazzo Chiericati, was built in the early 20th century and became a renowned art academy. Its art collection has long been popular as much for its value and quality as for its contemporary provenance. Today, it is considered to be one of the most important art galleries in Italy, hosting exhibitions from the leading contemporary artists of the country. Notable artists featured have included Lucio Fontana, Giovanni Carandente, Ettore Colla and Mario Sironi.
Piazza della Repubblica
The square, designed by Francesco De Sanctis in the early 1800s, is bounded on three sides by imposing buildings: the Palazzo della Ragione, the Palazzo dell'Università, and the Palazzo dell'Industria. The eastern side has the Piazza della Pace, an open square dominated by the Palazzo delle Assicurazioni; on its west side is the Palazzo dei Pescatori. At the center of the square is the Il Pavoncello, a half-size model of Milan's cathedral, the Duomo. To the left of the Duomo is the entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. In its center is a copy of the Fontana del Nettuno, a fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. On its left is the three-level Museo del Novecento, with changing exhibitions of 20th-century art. There is also the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. To the right of the Duomo is the entrance to the Galleria dell'Architettura, which was built in 1926 to house the Palazzo della Borsa and the Banca d'Italia. To the right of the Galleria are the Via XXV Aprile 1820 public gardens, laid out in the early 1820s as a memorial to the anniversary of the Unification of Italy.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
Santa Maria delle Grazie is one of Milan's most pleasant churches. Built in the 15th century, its architecture is harmonious and simple. The Sant'Ambrogio aisle, on the left of the apse, is adorned with the wooden crucifixion of Michelangelo, the Renaissance master from Florence. Like a postcard, Santa Maria delle Grazie has a Renaissance façade, covered with warm colors. This, together with the picturesque surroundings, is the most obvious reason why it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989. Not far from Santa Maria delle Grazie, there are many pleasant places to see. Among them, the Duomo di Milano and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are arguably the city's most visited attractions.
Home to the Ambrosiana Library since 1624, the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is perhaps the most fascinating of all Italy's collection of museums. Displayed on more than two floors are a stunning collection of Renaissance and Baroque art. Its greatest treasure, however, is Leonardo da Vinci's "Annunciation," a painting that has been considered by many to be the greatest work in the history of Western art. The museum is located in Milan's Palazzo del Quirinale, which was originally the city's parliament. It was designed by the architect Luca Beltrami in the late 19th century. The large and impressive structure is split into a number of separate buildings that contain galleries for art from the Renaissance through to 19th century.
Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace)
Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) is a richly decorated 19th-century building in Milan. Once the residence of the royal family and now home to the official collections of the University of Milan, the palace includes a lovely rooftop garden. The three storeys of the palace feature several lavish rooms including the Ballroom (Ballarò), which was the setting for the wedding of Princess Stephanie in 1978, and the Music Room (Rinuccio), which has a rare collection of musical instruments. At its entrance, a coat of arms depicting the 'Gates of Paradise' is suspended. These features a cross inside a square frame within a lozenge, the symbol of Milan and of the ducal family.
Villa Reale (Royal Villa)
Built by Ferdinando I in 1732, Villa Reale is a splendid example of Baroque architecture and the perfect setting for your wedding. It was designed by Carlo Borromeo, a famous architect of the period. The building originally featured a large palace and apartments, a series of terraces and beautiful gardens with fountains and gardens. In the 19th century, the garden was redesigned by Giuseppe Vallebona, who created the great central pergola that we see today.
The iconic cathedral in Milan, Italy's second-largest city, is the Duomo, dedicated to St. Ambrose. It was begun in the 13th century, only to be taken apart and moved to its present location in the late 13th century. Although the tower is an original part of the church, most of the cathedral's walls and much of the facade were built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The main attraction is the 13th-century masterpiece of mosaic decoration in the Cappella di Sant'Ambrogio. Along with Florence's Santa Maria Novella and the Trevi Fountain in Rome, this is one of the world's great examples of Renaissance art. It's also one of the city's best views, the bell tower rising above the Milanese rooftops.
Piazza della Scala
Set between the Milanese to the east and the Venetian to the west, the piazza is the largest in the city and is surrounded by the Palazzo Reale, one of Milan's finest churches, and two palaces. The Palazzo della Carrozza (also known as the Palazzo degli Eremitani) houses the oldest hospital in Italy, and its Sforza Castle stands guard in the piazza's northeast corner. What to do in Piazza della Scala? The Duomo has the most interesting architecture with a Gothic façade and an amazing circular bell tower. The first design of its kind in Italy, it is also known as "the cathedral of pain," for it was designed to allow people to give alms to the poor and to ring the bells of the church from its center.
Milan's exclusive shopping street, the Via Montenapoleone is one of the best things to see in Italy. The elegant 19th-century street is lined with the chic and expensive boutiques of the city's wealthiest residents. Named after the noble Montenapoleone, or "city on the hill" of Milan, the street is home to some of the city's most prominent jewelry and fashion houses, including Bulgari, Cerruti, and Brega. Other names for the Via Montenapoleone are Via Pavarotti and Corso Venezia, reflecting the fame and influence of the famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti. The street was first opened in 1899 and is now lined with boutique-bijoux houses of marble and glass. Some of these landmark stores were opened by the city's wealthiest residents, including the Rothschilds, and are still very exclusive today.
San Babila is a Milan neighborhood best known for its high number of boutiques, trendy cafés and bars. Many of the stores are small boutiques and businesses with a few shops selling outdoor clothing and souvenirs. Several open-air bars and cafés are located here, and Milan's hippest neighborhood is only minutes away on foot. The Piazza del Duomo has plenty of restaurants and nightclubs, as well as the Opera, a symbol of Milan's reputation as the capital of contemporary fashion, design and architecture.
Museo Poldi Pezzoli
This marvelous art museum in Milan has a superb collection of 19th-century Italian paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. With more than 4,000 works, including more than 2,000 pieces by 19th-century masters such as Canova, Lombroso, and Wagner, the museum's superb displays of artistic innovation and creativity are housed in a building constructed in 1863 in the late 19th century by architect Francesco Sforza. In addition to the core collection of paintings, the museum also houses the greatest collection of Italian porcelain in Europe. A highlight of the museum is the world's largest collection of paintings and sculptures by the French sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye (1796-1875).
Pinacoteca di Brera
The Pinacoteca di Brera, or Pinacoteca, Milan's world-class art gallery, is part of the Brera Academy, which occupies the former home of Leonardo da Vinci. The current building was designed by Baroness Giulia Lorenzi and erected in 1854. The central courtyard and the richly decorated first-floor rooms and corridors have remained unchanged for the last century. Showcase of contemporary art from the likes of Degas, Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, and Matisse and some highly original work by well-known artists from the early 20th century like Umberto Boccioni and Filippo Marinetti, the gallery is especially popular with young people who can enjoy it without the worry of navigating a smog-filled city in a big car. A walk through the Pinacoteca di Brera also brings visitors to some of the city's other sights like the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, designed by architect Carlo Scarpa, and the Museo Barracco, a rather staid museum but of special interest for its Flemish and Dutch paintings from the 1500s and 16th century. A short walk from the Pinacoteca di Brera lies Leonardo da Vinci's last, unfinished work, the Last Supper. Only one part of the mural survives, painted by the artist himself, which can be viewed through a long glass window, which is also open for viewing to the public.
La Scala was once the most famous opera house in the world, although the remnants of its former glory are now overshadowed by the new Teatro alla Scala, a joint construction of architect Renzo Piano, designed to seat nearly 2,000 people. Although the exterior façade was originally designed by Giuseppe Piermarini in 1779, the real masterpiece inside is set under a dome by Luca Beltrano, with a theater that includes a wooden front curtain designed by Giuseppe Mengoni. There are plenty of other sights to see in Milan, including the city's main shopping area, Corso Venezia, and its world-renowned Quadrilatero della Moda. Its museums include the spectacular Pinacoteca Brera, which contains a collection of Old Master paintings, and the ornate Teatro Alla Scala, which contains the Ricordi Library, one of the world's largest collections of rare manuscripts and documents, such as Gutenberg's famous Bible. Some of Milan's best-known sights include the Corso Venezia, the city's main shopping street, and the Galleria, a huge art gallery housed in an art deco structure dating from 1926. For some outdoor activity, Milan's extensive parkland, Parco Sempione, has miles of paths for running, hiking and biking. Be sure to check out the Milanese miniature horses who live within the park.