Things to do in Milan

Milan's attractions extend far beyond its fame as a fashion capital. There are many museums, cathedrals and galleries to visit, as well as the Milan Aquarium and the Orto Botanico di Brera gardens.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade is a popular place to relax over coffee, while La Scala is a world-famous opera house worth visiting, with a great museum for those who can't get their hands on tickets. The 15th-century Sforzesco Castle's Museum of Historic Art is also a major Milan attraction, as are the Gallery of Modern Art and the Pinacoteca di Brera, exhibiting collections of medieval and Renaissance art, including the work of Napoleon.

The Santa Maria delle Grazie is home to Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting, The Last Supper, and the Leonardo da Vinci National Science & Technology Museum has a collection of his designs for war machines and architecture. Duomo, which is the world's largest Gothic cathedral, and the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, built in the 1st century, are landmark Milan attractions.

The Naviglio Grande is the oldest canal in Milan, built in the 12th century. It stretches between the Darsena of Porta Ticinese and the bridge of Via Valenza, itself particularly drenched in old world charm. Along the canal's banks in this section, about 400 vendors gather on the last Sunday of every month to set up stalls selling a fascinating selection of furniture, clocks and porcelain, coupled with silver, jewellery and numerous collector's items, from comics to walking sticks. On market day, the adjacent shops, bars and art studios all remain open, adding to the pleasure of browsing.

The best time for sightseeing in Milan is spring, early summer, or autumn, when the weather is warm and sunny.

Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) photo

Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)

One of the world's largest Gothic cathedrals, the Duomo presides over the Milanese Piazza bearing its name. Construction began in 1386 and continued sporadically until Napoleon ord…

Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)

One of the world's largest Gothic cathedrals, the Duomo presides over the Milanese Piazza bearing its name. Construction began in 1386 and continued sporadically until Napoleon ordered its completion in 1809. Its lengthy creation bestowed on it 3,400 statues, 135 spires and 96 gargoyles, as well as a colourful mosaic of stained glass windows. The 16th-century marble tomb of Giacomo de Medici lies in the southern transept, and lying buried at its heart is St Charles Borromeo, the cathedral's most important benefactor. Every year in May and September, a nail from the cross of Christ is displayed to worshippers, retrieved from its resting-place by the bishop who is hoisted to the nivola to reach it. Across the piazza is the Museo del Duomo, displaying the treasures from the cathedral, and the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, showcasing Italian Futurist art.

Address Piazza del Duomo 18

Website www.duomomilano.it/en/

Opens Open daily from 8am to 7pm.

Admission

There are a variety of ticket options available. Check the website for further details.

La Scala Opera photo

La Scala Opera

This world-famous opera house rests on the site of the Church of Santa Maria alla Scala. For opera fanatics. seeing a performance at La Scala is the experience of a lifetime. The L…

La Scala Opera

This world-famous opera house rests on the site of the Church of Santa Maria alla Scala. For opera fanatics. seeing a performance at La Scala is the experience of a lifetime. The La Scala Museum is also worth a visit, providing a wealth of mementos from the opera house dedicated to the nation's beloved composers and performers, such as Rossini, Puccini and Toscanini. Two halls are devoted to Verdi alone, containing memorabilia such as the spinet on which he learned to play, hand-written scores and the baton given to him after the momentous reception of his best-loved work, Aida. There are also exhibitions featuring some of the elaborate costumes worn in the theatre over the years, and mementoes from the plays and performances.

Address Largo Ghiringhelli 1, Piazza della Scala

Website www.teatroallascala.org/en/index.html

Opens The museum is open daily from 9am to 5.30pm (last entrance at 5pm).

Admission

Tickets to enter the museum cost €7.

Santa Maria delle Grazie photo

Santa Maria delle Grazie

The church and convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular attractions in Milan. Located in the refectory next to the church is …

Santa Maria delle Grazie

The church and convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular attractions in Milan. Located in the refectory next to the church is Leonardo's famous painting The Last Supper and although the church is an attraction in its own right, it's this iconic masterpiece that draws so many admirers. Controversy has erupted over the removal of layers of corrective over-painting completed in the 18th and 19th-centuries. The painting has endured more than hot debate, managing to escape the bombing during WWII that destroyed the roof of the refectory.

Address Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie 2, Corso Magenta

Website www.cenacolovinciano.org

Opens Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8.15am to 7.30pm. Reservations are essential, and visitors must arrive 15 minutes before their allocated time of visit

Museum of Historic Art of the Sforzesco Castle photo

Museum of Historic Art of the Sforzesco Castle

The gargantuan 15th-century Sforzesco Castle is one of Milan's foremost monuments, conveniently located in the centre of the city. It contains three museums, the most notable of wh…

Museum of Historic Art of the Sforzesco Castle

The gargantuan 15th-century Sforzesco Castle is one of Milan's foremost monuments, conveniently located in the centre of the city. It contains three museums, the most notable of which is the Museum of Historic Art. Within its collection is the famous Pieta Rondanini, Michelangelo's final sculpture, as well as paintings by Mantegna, Bellini, da Vinci and Fra Filippo Lippi. The two other museums within the Castle's ramparts are the Museum of Applied Arts and the Archaeological Museum, offering unusual exhibitions showcasing musical instruments, Egyptian art and other unexpected things. The castle grounds are big and lovely to stroll, with no entry fee meaning it's a great place to come for some fresh air.

Address Piazza Castello

Website www.milanocastello.it

Opens Castle: Open daily from 7am to 6pm (winter), closing at 7pm in summer. Museums: Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 5.30pm.

Admission

Castle: Free. Museums: €5, with concessions available.

Leonardo da Vinci National Science & Technology
Museum photo

Leonardo da Vinci National Science & Technology Museum

This remarkable museum is a popular tourist attraction and a fitting tribute to one of history's greatest minds. Within the Leonardo Gallery of the museum is a collection of da Vin…

Leonardo da Vinci National Science & Technology Museum

This remarkable museum is a popular tourist attraction and a fitting tribute to one of history's greatest minds. Within the Leonardo Gallery of the museum is a collection of da Vinci's ingenious designs, detailing everything from plans for war machines to architectural visions. Applied physics is the focus of another room, in keeping with the museum's tribute to the history of science, and there are also departments for energy, communication and transport. There are loads of interactive exhibits and scientific experiments to actively participate in.

Address Via San Vittore 21

Website www.museoscienza.org

Opens Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm. Open on holidays and weekends from 9.30am to 6.30pm

Admission

€10 (adults), €7.50 (concessions)

Portofino photo

Portofino

Nestled in a sheltered inlet within the stretch of the Italian Mediterranean is the coastal resort village of Portofino, famous for its picturesque harbour. It has long been the pl…

Portofino

Nestled in a sheltered inlet within the stretch of the Italian Mediterranean is the coastal resort village of Portofino, famous for its picturesque harbour. It has long been the playground for the rich and famous, attracting the likes of Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly. The scenic surrounds can be explored from the outlying nature reserve, graced with cypress and olive slopes. Set off from here on a 90-minute trek to San Fruttuoso, or a two-and-a-half hour hike to Santa Margherita. Other sights around Portofino include its castle and the lighthouse, with its breathtaking view of the coastline. The most famous beach in the area is the beautiful Paraggi Beach, with others nearby including Camogli, Chiavari, Lavagna, and Sestri Levante.

Cinque Terre photo

Cinque Terre

Strung along just over 11 miles (18km) of rugged cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia, the five fishing villages of the UNESCO-listed Cinque Terre nestle precariously on the cliffs…

Cinque Terre

Strung along just over 11 miles (18km) of rugged cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia, the five fishing villages of the UNESCO-listed Cinque Terre nestle precariously on the cliffs. Overlooking the azure ocean of the Italian Riviera, it's a picture-perfect dream of sparkling clear waters and dramatic vistas, contained within the tranquil embrace of the villages that are connected to one another by a scenic pathway that curves through the hillside among olive groves and vineyards. Monterosso is the largest and recognisable through the huge statues carved into the shore's rocks. The village of Riomaggiore is identified through the myriad fishing boats festooning its shores, linked by the 'lovers lane' to the charming town of Manarola. Corniglia perches precariously on the mountainside and is accessed through a steep climb, while Vernazza's promenade and piazza have beautiful sea vistas.

Website www.cinqueterre.com

Pinacoteca di Brera photo

Pinacoteca di Brera

Housing one of Italy's finest collections of medieval and Renaissance art, the 17th-century Pinacoteca di Brera is by far the best collection of northern Italian paintings. Many of…

Pinacoteca di Brera

Housing one of Italy's finest collections of medieval and Renaissance art, the 17th-century Pinacoteca di Brera is by far the best collection of northern Italian paintings. Many of the masterpieces here were secured by Napoleon, who used the Palazzo as a storeroom for all the art he confiscated from public and private holdings. Three of Italy's great masterpieces are found here, namely Andrea Mantegna's Dead Christ, Raphael's Betrothal of the Virgin and Piero della Francesca's Madonna with Saints. The collection also includes notable works by Caravaggio. One of Milan's most popular tourist attractions, the Pinacoteca di Brera houses mostly religious art and will impress even the uninitiated with its vast collection and the stunning building.

Address Via Brera 28

Website www.brera.beniculturali.it

Opens Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8.30am to 7.15pm. Closed Mondays, New Years Day, 1 May and Christmas Day.

Admission

Adults: €10, Concessions: €7

Orto Botanico di Brera photo

Orto Botanico di Brera

The Orto Botanico di Brera is a botanical garden located behind the Pinacoteca di Brera in the centre of Milan. The garden has greenhouses from the 19th century that are now used b…

Orto Botanico di Brera

The Orto Botanico di Brera is a botanical garden located behind the Pinacoteca di Brera in the centre of Milan. The garden has greenhouses from the 19th century that are now used by the Academy of Fine Arts, as well as flower beds and elliptical ponds from the 18th century. Orto Botanico di Brera is home to one of the oldest ginkgo biloba trees in Europe, and various other mature botanical specimens can be found within the grounds. The Orto Botanico di Brera is small by botanical garden standards but is well worth visiting for its historical charm and the originality of the mixture of art and nature that often results from the influence of the Academy of Fine Arts.

Address Brera Palace, Via Brera

Website www.brera.unimi.it/eng/museo/orto/index.html

Opens Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 12pm, and 3pm to 5pm, and on Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

Admission

Free

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio photo

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio

The Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio is one of the oldest churches in Milan, built by Bishop Ambrose between 379 and 386 AD. Located in an area where numerous martyrs of the Roman persecu…

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio

The Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio is one of the oldest churches in Milan, built by Bishop Ambrose between 379 and 386 AD. Located in an area where numerous martyrs of the Roman persecutions were buried, it was originally called Basilica Martyrum. In 1099, the church was rebuilt in the Romanesque architectural style but the basilica plan of the original edifice was maintained, including a portico with elegant arches in the front entrance. Of the two bell towers, the left and higher tower dates back to 1144 AD. Inside there is an apse mosaic from the early 13th century portraying the Christ Pantokrator, an inspirational religious and artistic artefact. As well as the tomb of Emperor Louis II, there are also mummified bishops in its chapels.

Address Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, 15

Website www.basilicasantambrogio.it

Opens The Basilica is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to noon, and again from 2.30pm to 6pm. Sundays from 3pm to 5pm.

Admission

Free

Dolomite Mountains photo

Dolomite Mountains

A popular excursion from Milan is exploring the beautiful Dolomite Mountains and Renon Plateau, with quaint mountain villages like Bolzano and Collalbo completing the package. The …

Dolomite Mountains

A popular excursion from Milan is exploring the beautiful Dolomite Mountains and Renon Plateau, with quaint mountain villages like Bolzano and Collalbo completing the package. The Dolomite mountains are famously picturesque and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while interesting and unusual rock formations dot the Renon Plateau. Hiking is naturally a popular activity in the region and photographers will be in their element. Stunning panoramic views of the Dolomite landscape await those taking the Renon Cable Car up the mountain to Bolzano or hopping aboard the train to Collalbo. Bolzano is an interesting town with a distinctly German atmosphere and Collalbo is a charming village perched high on the plateau and surrounded by pristine countryside.

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