10 things to do and see in Milan

A complete and detailed guide about 10 things to do and see in Milan in 1, 2 or 3 days

10 things to do and see in Milan
10 things to do and see in Milan

Milan is commonly known as the economic capital. However this definition is not enough for a city that has a lot to offer from a cultural and entertaining point of view. People who don’t know Milan, may imagine it as serious and grey, but it has a lot to give to its visitors. You could start from green space of Sempione Park, which surrounds the Palazzo Sforzesco, symbol of the power of the past  Duke of Milan.

There are many monuments to visit: the famous Cathedral, masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the first examples of Art Nouveau in Italy. You can visit also the canals, that tickled the imagination of Leonardo da Vinci, who donated to this city one of his greatest masterpieces: The Last Supper, painted in refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The San Babila area with the beautiful church in the neo-Romanesque style, today the fulcrum of the fashion and luxury. There are a lot of things to do and see in this city. That is why we want to suggest you 10 things to do and see during a visit to Milan.

If you are looking for a hotel in Milan, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 2000 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The Cathedral of Milan

1

The Cathedral is the most representative monument of Milan. The church, dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, built by Gian Galeazzo Visconti,  is the symbol of the city.

The Cathedral of Milan
The Cathedral of Milan

In 1386 works started the construction of a magnificent monument, with wonderful glass wall  and beautiful sculpted decorations. This majestic structure is the most significant testimony of Gothic architecture, which leaves no room for any doubt: it’s the only that combine Nordic features and Lombard elements. The beauty of the cathedral is completed by the main spire where there is the famous Madonnina, a golden copper statue, 4 meters high. If you visit the church on a beautiful sunny day, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city and the Alps from the terraces. Inside you should not miss the entrance to the sanctuary, renewed in the second half of the ‘500. On the top of the apse vault there is the relic of the Holy Nail of the Cross. You  have to  know that: in the Cathedral there are 3,500 statues, including the 96 gargoyles giants, and that the structure is 157 meters long, 92 meters wide and that the spire is 108.50 meters high.

Where: Milan’s historic center
How to get there: Subway Line M1 and M3 stop Duomo – Walk in the city center
When – Hours:
Devoted: every day 7:00 am  to 7:00 pm
Visitors: every day 8:00 am to 9:00 pm . From 1 to 31 October: daily: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm

Terraces
When: from 1 August to 30 September every day: 9:00 am  to 9:00 pm ; 1 to 31 October every day: 9:00 am to 8:00 pm

Tickets:
Devoted: free entrance.
Visitors: € 2.00

Terraces:
Lift € 13.00; Reduced (children 6-12) € 7.00. Uphill walk € 8.00; Reduced (children 6-12) € 4.00. Free: children up to 6 years; disable people and their attendants, soldiers in uniform. NB: access for the disable people on the terraces is limited to Saturdays and Sundays for technical reasons

The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan

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The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci is jealously preserved  in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Leonardo painted this work of beauty on the north wall of the hall between 1494 and 1498, during the dominion of Ludovico il Moro.

The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan
The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan

The genius Leonardo made this masterpiece on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster, which is the fresco technique usually used for wall paintings. Unfortunately during the time, due to environmental conditions and  historical events, the work had heavy damages. There have been many works of restoration of the Last Supper, and the one in 1999 gave back  to painting its original colors and removed prior painting operations. To avoid that the painting can still be damaged, it is stored in special environmental conditions, determined by the treatment of the air, and can be visited only by groups of up to 25 visitors at a time, every 15 minutes.

Where: Santa Maria delle Grazie square
How to get there:
Subway  line 1  : Cadorna o Conciliazione stop
Subway  line 2 : Cadorna o Sant’Ambrogio stop
When – Hours:
Tue – Sun 8:15 am  to 7:15 pm . Last entry at 6:45 pm. Maximum 25 people every 15 minutes.
Never: Monday, January 1, May 1 and December 25
Tickets:
Reservations has to be made in advance (www.vivaticket.it): full price € 6, 50 (+ € 1,50 reservation fee); reduced (EU and EEA citizens between 18 and 25 years); € 3.25 (+ EUR 1.50 for the reservation fee); free (visitors under 18 years) € 0.00 (+ 1.50 Euro for the reservation fee)

The Art Gallery of Brera – Pinacoteca – in Milan

3

The Pinacoteca of Brera was born in 1776,  as a collection of important works, in order to train students of the Academy of Fine Arts.

The Art Gallery of Brera – Pinacoteca – in Milan
The Art Gallery of Brera – Pinacoteca – in Milan

When Milan was declared capital of the Kingdom of Italy by Napoleon, many  paintings expropriated to churches and aristocrats (those not brought in Paris) were brought in Brera. So the Pinacoteca of Brera is  different from other prestigious Italian museums because it’s not   from the private collections of the aristocracy and of the princes, but from the state. There is a rich collection of some of the most famous works in the world: the Supper in Emmaus by Caravaggio,  the Dead Christ by Mantegna, the Brera Altarpiece by Piero della Francesca and the Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael. There are also other less famous works , but they’re exceptional too. One of the symbols of Brera is the painting of Romanticism par excellence: the Kiss by Hayez. The collection goes back to ‘900 with works by Braque, Modigliani, Picasso, Morandi, De Chirico and many others.

Where: Via Brera, 28
How to get there: Subway line 2, Lanza stop. Line 3 Montenapoleone stop. Tram: 1-4-8-12-14-27. Bus: 61, 97
When – Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 8.30  am – 7.15 pm (the ticket office close 45 minutes before)
Never: Monday, 1 January, 1 May, 25 December
Ticket: € 10, reduced € 7,50

The canals of Milan

4

People don’t think about Milan as a city of water, but, yes it is. The system of canals was created with the ambitious project to link Milan to Como Lake , Adda, Maggiore Lake and the Po, arriving in northern Europe and then to the sea.

The canals of Milan
The canals of Milan

The history of canals begins in the second half of the XII century, with the construction of the first navigable spot. The first channel, the Ticinello, was inaugurated in 1179, and with its 50 km of length, it started the building of the great canal. In 1457 Francesco Sforza gave to  Bertola da Novate the construction of the Naviglio della Martesana – Martesana Canal – but the real turning point was with Ludovico il Moro

And which genius could complete a so complex hydraulic work?  With an ingenious system of sluices, Leonardo da Vinci was able to connect Milan to Como Lake. It lacked only the connection to the sea via Po but  Napoleon fixed it in 1805.  He completed the construction of the Naviglio Pavese – Pavese Canal . The canals have experienced contrasting eras: they brought wealth but then suffered neglect and pollution, so a large portion of them was buried. Despite everything, people of Milan  have always loved them, going for a walk or going to public places close to them. Today they are the focus of several redevelopment projects: the first accomplished is the new dock in Naviglio Grande – Big Canal, which took place with the Expo 2015. You can find: cycle paths, boats, relaxation areas, traditional taverns, boutiques and shops of the artists.

The Castello Sforzesco in Milan

5

The castle is 750 year old and it was the decisive place for Milan on many occasions. The first building was made by Galeazzo II but it was Francesco Sforza (from whom derives the name) who finished it.

The Castello Sforzesco in Milan
The Castello Sforzesco in Milan

The Castle had mostly the role of military citadel and is still today one of the largest castles in Europe. Always linked to the war, dominations and grief, so loved and hated by people of  Milan, in the XX century the castle changed his face.  It took the cozy look of a cultural place, used to protect the testimonies of Lombard art. Currently the Castello Sforzesco is rich in museums: the ground floor of the Ducal Court is the Museum of Ancient Art, the first floor has the collection of furnitures and the Art Gallery. On the first and second floor of the stronghold there are the applied art collections and the Museum of Musical Instruments, in the basement of the Ducal Court there are the Museum of Prehistory and Early History and the Egyptian Museum. The Castle contains some masterpieces of Italian art: the Rondanini Pietà  by Michelangelo, Leonardo’s frescoes in the VIII  room of the Ancient Art Museum, the Virgin in Glory with Saints John the Baptist, Gregory the Great, Benedict and Jerome Mantegna in the Art Gallery and the extraordinary tapestries depicting the twelve months of Bramantino, in the Sala della Balla.

Where: Piazza Castello
How to get there: Subway : MM1 , Cadorna and Cairoli stop. MM2 Cadorna and Lanza stop. Bus. 43,50,57,58,61,70,94. Tram 1,3,4,12,14,20,27
When – Hours: Winter: Monday- Sunday 7 am – 6 pm
Summer: 7 am – 7 pm
Castle’s museum: Tuesday – Sunday 9 am – 5.30 pm
Never: Monday, 25 December, 1 January, 1 May

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan

6

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the so-called living room of Milan,  was built in the first half of the XIX century . At that time the city looked with envy at the urban evolution of the great European capitals and wanted to compete with them.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan

In 1859 an international competition was organized in order to evaluate the proposals of different architects. The idea was to build a covered passage that linked Piazza Duomo and Piazza della Scala.  176 architects proposed their ideas and among all stood out  the one of Giuseppe Mengoni, who thought of a long tunnel crossed by an arm with a large octagonal room at the crossing center. In 1865 works began with the arrangement of the first stone directly by King Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy, and two years later the gallery was opened though still incomplete and without the presence of the king. The construction of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II had a tragic end: its creator, Giuseppe Mengoni, died just during an inspection of his “baby.” Many people thought it was a suicide due to many criticisms of his work and disappointment caused by the absence of the king at the opening: no one could imagine that the king was in very poor health and that he would die a few days later. The Gallery is the elegance in Milan, where people arrange meetings there in order be seen, to buy (at high cost), or just have a coffee.

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore Church

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After 30 years of restoration, the magnificent Renaissance church San Maurizio has returned to shine. It was built in the early ‘500 above the ruins of an ancient place of worship.  The church was annexed to the order of the Benedictine Major Monastery (demolished in 1799), of which today remains the entrance cloister, an integral part of the Archaeological Museum.

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore Church
San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore Church

The old use of the structure is testified by the division of the interior space into two parts: one open to the devoted, and the other reserved to the nuns of the monastery.The simple and linear façade of the building don’t let you imagine the surprising interior full of marvelous frescoes, from walls to the vault, which is why the church has been called the Sistine Chapel of Milan. The frescoes decorations brightly colored are 4 thousand square meters, and they are made by  some of the greatest masters of the Lombard painting of the XVI century: Bernardino Luini, who made, among others, the “Stories of St. Catherine”, the “Stories of the life of Christ”; Simone Peterzano, master of Caravaggio, author of “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and “Christ send away the merchants from the temple” that decorate the interior façade of the church; Antonio Campi who made the     ”Adoration of the Magi ” on the high altar; Bergognone (chorus); Lomazzo; Boltraffio, a pupil of Leonardo. Great value has the monastic choir, the organ built by Gian Giacomo Antegnani (1557) originally intended for liturgical concerts, and today used during concert events taking place in town.

Where: Corso Magenta
How to get there: Subway line 2 Cadorna stop, Line 1 Cordusio stop. Tram 19-20-24; bus 19- 50- 59
When – Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9.30 am – 7.30 pm (until 31/10 evening entry up to 10.30 pm )
Ticket: free of charge

Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio in Milan

8

The church dedicated to the saint of the city is considered the second most important church after the Cathedral. Founded in the IV century thanks to  Ambrose, bishop of Milan (buried here in 397), the church was rebuilt between 1088 and 1099 according to the canons of Romanesque architecture.

Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio in Milan
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio in Milan

Although it’s considered the most important example of Lombard Romanesque architecture, the Basilica’s  appearance is the consequence of some building operations made during the following centuries. The basilica, preceded by a four-side atrium, has an hut-shaped façade and two orders of loggias. On the sides it has two towers: on the right the one of friars, dating back to IX century, and on the left  the one of the Canons, built in the XII century. The interior is divided into three naves, each of them ends with an apse covered with cross vaults. The Christian sarcophagus has a great value and it’s known as “Stilicone” dating back the IV century. Very interesting also, the Roman column on which is based a unique bronze sculpture, the so-called “Snake of Moses”: according to legend, the end of the world will be announced by the animal’s going down from the column.

 

The underground crypt contains the remains of saints Ambrose, Gervase and Protase. Inside the basilica you can admire the small chapel of San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro built in the IV century to host the remains of the martyr Victor. This chapel is famous for the early Christian era mosaics on the walls and in the dome depicting some saints, including St. Ambrose.

Close to the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio there is  a Roman column on which there are two holes made, according to legend, by Satan. The legend tells that the devil failed to seduce Ambrose and tried to stab him, but he struck the column. Then he used those holes to return to the underworld. So don’t worry if you hear some strange noises from those holes and there’s sulfur smell….

Where: Piazza Sant’Ambrogio
How to get there: Subway line 2 S. Abrogio stop
When – Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 -12 am , 2.30  – 6.00 pm; Sunday 3 – 5 pm
Tickets: free of charge

Things to eat in Milan

9

Milan, like all Italian cities,  has a  great culinary tradition. The true king of its cuisine is the butter, used in most dishes, from risotto, the veal cutlet until panettone.

Things to eat in Milan
Things to eat in Milan

To start with the traditional dishes, the best known is certainly the risotto alla Milanese, made with saffron. The traditional one includes the use of beef marrow, but  currently not many people use to cook it in this way. Another first course typical of Milan is the “tripe” (hence the nickname “busecconi”), made with cooked tripe. Among the second courses, the best known and appreciated is the veal cutlet, which traditionally is made with veal,  high as a finger, and fried in butter, but nowadays people prefer the healthier and less fat olive or seeds oil . Do not forget the Ossobuco (òsbus a la Milanesa): slice of veal shank or beef stew. The “cassoeula” instead is a very rich dish, made with cabbage and “poor” parts of the pig as the rind, head, ribs and legs. Moving on to desserts, in Milan have their origin the  panettone and the colomba. Dairy products are among the local products: soft cheese, mascarpone, grana of Lodi and of course the gorgonzola.

Where to sleep in Milan

10

No longer just a destination for managers and business man, Milan,  even before the Expo Milano 2015,  is the city of  cultural tourism: the revival of canals, the proliferation of exhibitions and the opening of new museums, have attracted a large number of new visitors in the city.

Where to sleep in Milan
Where to sleep in Milan

Today more than ever, it’s ready to welcome tourists in  many hotels, B&Bs and apartments throughout the city. Alongside the large and luxurious hotel chains, you’ll also find more modest hotel, cozy, comfortable guest houses, B&Bs and even extravagant Art Nouveau houses from the early ‘900. It’s not easy to find a cheap price, especially in the center and at international events. Prices start from 80 € per night in 3 star hotel. The advice is to book early. All accommodation facilities are perfectly connected to the center of Milan, thanks to an efficient and functional transport system, so if you want to save a little you can choose to sleep in the suburbs.

If you are looking for a hotel in Milan, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 2000 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com