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10 Best things to do in Milan
Updated 2021. Find here the 10 best things to do and to see in Milan, as well as things that should not be missed when visiting the city.
MILAN ESSENTIAL TRAVEL GUIDE
Milan is located in northern Italy and is seeing a constant increase of tourism and visitors from all over the world, thanks to her perfect mix between modernity and the past, as well as for the proximity with very well know locations, like Como lake, the Alps and Maggiore lake, just to mention few.
Best season to go to Milan: the best time of year to visit Milan is from mid April to late June or mid September to late October, when temperature is more pleasant and suitable for long walks outside. July and August may be too hot (with many stores closed in August for season holidays), while winter may be a little rainy.
How to get to Milan: Milan is served by three airports, Milan Malpensa airport (located to the west) receiving most long haul flights, Milan Linate airport (located very close to the city) receiving only national and European flights, Milan Bergamo Orio al Serio (located to the east) receiving mainly low cost flights. No matter if Milan is the main destination of your trip or just an extension to a longer trip to the lakes or to the Alps, after landing in Milan Malpensa airport, Milan Linate airport or Milan Bergamo airport, you will need to get to the city as fast as possible. Milan Airport Transfers offers fully inclusive transfers by private cars, minibus and bus, at prices much lower than taxis and even then public transport.
How to move around in Milan: Milan has the best network of metro, sub-urban trains, trams and buses that you can find in Italy. ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi) is the main operator and we recommend to download their app on your phone, where you can easily calculate itineraries, get transit time and buy tickets by credit cards or Paypal. Just search for ATM Milano on the app store (they have an orange icon). We advise against car rental and driving, due to traffic, lot of obscure rules and misleading road signs.
But now, let's see what are the 10 best things to see in Milan that shouldn't be missed when visiting the city.
1. MILAN CATHEDRAL (DUOMO)
The Duomo di Milano, or Milan Cathedral, is probably the most important attraction in Milan, a place that should not be really missed regardless of how long you will stay in the city. The construction of Milan Cathedral began in 1386 and took over 500 years to complete: currently is the largest Gothic style structure in Italy. The external facade is decorated with countless architectural details and thousands of carved statues depicting religious figures taken from the Bible. No visit to Milan Duomo is complete without getting to its roof from where visitors can admire hundreds of pinnacles finely carved, while enjoying a spectacular view onto the huge square below. The interior is instead decorated with hundreds of statues as well, stained glass windows, enormous paintings and huge marble columns. If you have only little free time in Milan, this is certainly the attraction to be chosen.
How to get to Milan Duomo: by M1, M3 metro and most trams and buses, Duomo stop. Allow: 2 hours (minimum).
2. GALLERIA VITTORIO EMANUELE II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the most important landmarks in Milan and one of the oldest shopping mall in Italy. Beside the spectacular architecture, with an imposing glass dome connecting four-storey buildings, the Galleria houses restaurants, hotels and luxury shops selling jewelry, books, paintings and world-famous brands like Prada, Gucci or Armani. The whole structure was designed in 1861 by architect Giuseppe Mengoni and was built in a very short time just a few years later. The dome is particularly beautiful during Christmas and New Year holidays, as it displays figures made with thousands of lights.
How to get to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: the Galleria is located a few steps from Milan Duomo Allow: 1 hour.
3. CASTELLO SFORZESCO
Il Castello Sforzesco, or Sforza Castle in English, is one of the main symbols of Milan and was built during the 15th century by Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, on top of the remains of an older fortress. Subsequently restored and modified, now houses several museums, although the main attraction is the building itself, an imposing structure among the largest citadels in Europe. Originally the castle was part of the outer city's wall, separating the buildings from the countryside, but now this immense structure is located right in the downtown.
How to get to Sforza Castle: by M1 metro, Cairoli/Castello station. By tram 1, 4, Cairoli stop. By bus 50, 61, Caroli stop. Allow: 1-2 hours.
4. THE LAST SUPPER
Il Cenacolo, known in English as The Last Supper, is a mural dating back to the 15th century, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci and measuring 460 cm × 880 cm (180 in × 350 in). It is housed in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie ("Holy Mary of Grace"), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Last Supper by Leonardo is one of the most dreamed things to see in Milan, however, visitors should be aware that the available slots are limited and having a reservation made as early as possible is of utmost importance, as last-minute tickets are practically impossible to be found.
How to get to The Last Supper: the church is located in Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, within a short walk from Milan Cathedral, served by: M1 or M3 metro, Duomo station. Tram 2, 12, 14, 16, 19, Duomo stop. Schedule: visit must be booked well ahead. Allow: 1 hour.
5. BIBLIOTECA AND PINACOTECA AMBROSIANA
The Ambrosiana is one of the most important and comprehensive museum in Milan, with an impressive variety of collections and beautiful rooms. Renaissance masterpieces belonged to Cardinal Borromeo, gallery with sculptures by Bambaia, stained glass windows inspired to Dante and paintings from the Flemish school, are just few samples of what await visitors in this museum. Not to mention mosaics and marble decorations from the most famous Italian artists lived from the 15th to the 20th century, including of course Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. If you like arts and history, the Ambrosiana is something that should not be missed during your visit to Milan.
How to get to Ambrosiana: the museum is located in Piazza Pio XI, served by: M1 or M3 metro, Duomo station. Tram 12, 14, 16, Orefici stop or tram 2, 3, Duomo stop. Schedule: from 10am to 6pm, open every day except Monday. Allow: 1:30 hours.
6. DARSENA AND NAVIGLI
The district of Navigli, not far from old city center, is the best place in Milan to taste authentic Milanese cuisine in one of the countless restaurants located alongside Naviglio Grande canal. The area itself is very picturesque and excellent to have a stroll among traditional houses and water canals, were visitors may also opt for a boat tour. Naviglio Grande is the oldest canal in Milan, built during the 12th century to transport goods to the city, including the huge and heavy blocks of marble used to build the Milan Cathedral (Duomo). Until one century ago, there were lot of water canals crossing the whole city, but they were lately closed, dried and buried, but now there are proposals and projects from the municipality to open them again.
How to get to Milan navigli: by M2 metro or sub-urban trains (S), Porta Genova station. By tram 2, 3, 9, 10, 14. Allow: 2 hours.
Milan CityLife is a modern business and residential district not far from Milan city center and old Milan city fair, featuring a large park, shops, three towers and luxury condominiums, all designed by famous architects Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind. CityLife is the largest pedestrian area in Milan and one of the largest in Europe, where visitors can relax walking among beautiful gardens with labeled shrubs and trees, under imposing oddly-shaped towers (Tre Torri): Il Dritto (The Straight One) or Allianz Tower (50 floors), Lo Storto (The Twisted One) or Generali Tower (44 floors) and Il Curvo (The Curved One) or PwC Tower (31 floors). Inside Lo Storto tower, visitors will find a mall with fashion shops from the most famous brands, while further stores are located on the street.
How to get to Milan CityLife: by M5 metro, Tre Torri station. By M1 red line, Amendola stop (and a short walk). Allow: 1-2 hours.
8. BIBLIOTECA DEGLI ALBERI
The Biblioteca degli Alberi (or Library of the Trees in English) is a new park in Milan located in the heart of the business district, among some of the tallest skyscrapers of Italy. This green area has a collection of different trees, all labeled, composing circular forests particularly beautiful during spring (April / May) and autumn (October / November). As a backdrop to the park, visitors will enjoy a beautiful view onto the Bosco Verticale towers (Milan Vertical Forest), two buildings with an height of 111 and 76 meters, containing more than 900 trees onto 8,900 square meters of terraces, along the whole facade. Not far from the park, under the tallest tower in Milan, there are shops, pubs and small restaurants.
How to get to Biblioteca degli Alberi: the park is located within a short walking distance from Porta Garibaldi train station, served by local and long distance trains, sub-urban trains (S), metro (M2, M5) and surface lines (tram number 10 and 33). Allow: 1-2 hours.
9. MONUMENTAL CEMETERY
The Cimitero Monumentale (or Milan Monumental Cemetery in English) is known for its tombs of people who have had special merits, like Ferdinando Bocconi, Giovanni Treccani, or Alessandro Manzoni (the famous Italian poet), just to mention few. The graves are so beautifully and extravagantly decorated, that the Monumental Cemetery is considered an open-air museum displaying real works of art from the past two centuries to present day. Visitors will find sculptures of all sizes and shapes, impressive obelisks, miniature Greek temples, as well as a section housing tombs from non-Catholic people and Jewish families.
How to get to Monumental Cemetery: by M5 metro, Monumentale station. By tram 10, 12 stopping right in the front or by tram 2, 4, 14 stopping along a side street. Schedule: from 8am to 4pm, open every day except Monday. Allow: 1-2 hours.
10. SAN MAURIZIO AL MONASTERO MAGGIORE
Quite unknown to mass tourism, you will hardly find this stunning church on Milan guides. The building, quite austere from the outside, reveals interiors decorated with impressive mural paintings from artists of Leonardo da Vinci's school, dating back to the XVI century. Walls and roofs are so stunning, with an extraordinary number of masterpieces, that the church is often referred as the "Sistine Chapel of Milan".
How to get to San Maurizio Monastery: the entrance is located on Corso Magenta 15, a short walk from Cairoli metro stop, served by line M1 and M2. Tram 16, 19 stops a few steps from the church. Schedule: from 10am to 5:30pm, open every day except Monday. Allow: 1 hour.
So, as you can see, Milan is not only the most important business and financial center of Italy, but is also a vibrant city offering lot of attractions, from very "old things" unique in the world, to modern districts showing jewels of architecture. Welcome in Milan!
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