If you want to avoid the crowds in cities like Rome, the perfect city for your Italian vacation may very well be Milan. So let’s take a look at the 20 best things to do in Milan, Italy in 2021 to make your trip perfect.
After you’ve narrowed down your destination to Milan, the more difficult part of deciding how to spend your days begins. When traveling to such a big city, there is seemingly always something else you could be doing, so it can be stressful to plan the perfect itinerary.
But don’t worry, we’ve done the research for you and have come up with a list of all the best things you must do while you’re in Milan.
San Siro Stadium
For anyone that goes to Milan — especially if you’re a sports fan — visiting the San Siro Stadium is an absolute must. The San Siro is one of the most famous soccer stadiums in Europe and even the world. It’s the stadium where Milan’s two premier teams, Inter Milan and AC Milan, both play their home games. This makes it an extremely busy stadium, as both teams will typically have at least one home game per week that it needs to be ready for.
The stadium itself is something to marvel at with its incredible design and mesmerizing architecture, but attending a match at these famous grounds is a truly once in a lifetime experience that you won’t want to miss. If you’re really wanting to get into the thick of Italian soccer, attend the rival game between Inter Milan and AC Milan. Watching the city’s two teams clash live in person will be the highlight of any trip to Italy!
Like many of the other big cities in Italy, Milan has a major cathedral as one of its centerpiece landmarks. The Milan Cathedral — or the Milan Duomo — is the most famous church in the city and is situated right in the heart of Milan’s social center. Taking hundreds of years to complete construction, the Milan Cathedral showcases some of the amazing Gothic design that you’ll see all over the country.
Seeing the cathedral from the outside is reason enough to add it to your itinerary, but going inside is an even better experience. Once inside, you’ll see some of the incredible architecture and design that makes it so stunning. But you can also take it to the next level (literally) and go up to the top of the structure to get some of the most amazing views of Milan that you’ll find anywhere in the city.
The Last Supper
For any art, history, or religious buff out there, going to see The Last Supper is something you don’t want to miss out on while you’re in Milan. Not only one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works, but The Last Supper is also arguably one of the most famous pieces of art in the entire world, depicting the final meal that Jesus had with his followers before being put to death.
Although the painting has been produced thousands and thousands of times and most people have seen it online or in a history book somewhere, seeing the original painting from da Vinci himself is something you’ll never forget. So while you’re visiting Milan, take some time to travel to the Santa Maria delle Grazie to see the famous masterpiece.
After you finish taking in the beauty of the Milan Cathedral, you will want to spend some time checking out the Castello Sforzesco nearby. Once one of the largest castles in all of Europe, the Castello Sforzesco was built in the 1400s by Duke Francesco Sforza.
The massive castle is full of museums that house amazing works of art of historical relics from European history, so it’s perfect for anyone who loves art or history. After you’re finished looking at the beautiful artwork all around you, spend some time exploring the courtyard and just taking in the premises as a whole. It’s truly a wondrous location that you won’t soon forget after your Milan adventures are over.
Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology
One of the most famous scientists, engineers, and inventors of all time is Leonardo da Vinci. Although also one of the most well-known artists in history, da Vinci’s work in science and technology are some of the most intriguing aspects of history you’ll see. And much of this work is open to the public to explore at the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology.
While the museum’s mainstays are undoubtedly the inventions by da Vinci himself, there are many other displays with the museum that you’ll want to check out. Using his drawings and blueprints, many of the devices he envisioned and created in his lifetime have been recreated over the years and put on display, giving you a true sense of just how much of an innovator da Vinci truly was.
Piazza del Duomo
Falling in line with some of the other major cities in Italy, the hub of social life and public space in Milan is the main cathedral square. In the case of Milan, this is Piazza del Duomo. Situated at the base of the Milan Cathedral, Piazza del Duomo is the city center and the place where you will likely choose to start your exploration of Milan.
In the Piazza del Duomo, you’ll find all sorts of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, and more to spend a day (or night) having a great time and taking in the culture of Milan. Outside of that, you’ll find many of the other locations and attractions on this list that all lead back to this main central square. While in Milan, if you’re ever in doubt, just head to the Piazza del Duomo. From there, the city is your oyster to do as you please.
When you’re done at the Castello Sforzesco above, you can simply walk out the back gate and enter into one of the best parks in all of Milan, Parco Sempione. The nearly 100-acre park was originally opened in the late 19th century and one of the most popular public spaces in the city where residents and tourists alike can spend their time relaxing and taking in the area’s beauty.
The Parco Sempione is full of well-manicured landscapes and plenty of walking trails for you to spend as much time as you want in this peaceful setting. As you explore the area, you’ll also find many sculptures and fountains along the way. One of the Parco Sempione centerpieces is the amazing Torre Branca tower, which you’ll hear more about later on!
Milan Archaeology Museum
For the true history buffs out there and anyone else who wants to know more about the city’s history while visiting Milan, one of the best places to do so is the Milan Archaeology Museum. Within this incredible museum, you’ll find displays and information about different times through Milan’s history, including even the Middle Ages and the Ancient Romans and Greeks.
The Milan Archaeology Museum comprises two main parts; one that focuses on detailing the area’s history and another that encompasses many sculptures and famous artwork. So anyone who loves history or art would be right in their happy place by visiting this museum. It’s also another way to avoid some of the big crowds in Milan, so it’s a win-win!
The Golden Triangle of Milan is named so because of the three areas that make up the region — Via Montenapoleone, Via Sant’Andrea, and Via della Spiga. In these regions, visitors who enjoy looking at, or even buying, some of the world’s top brands of clothing will be in heaven. If clothes, shoes, wallets, or handbags are your thing, there is no better place to visit while in Milan than the Golden Triangle.
With top-tier brands such as Versace, Gucci, Armani, Prada, and more in this high-end area, you can find all the clothes, handbags, and shoes that your heart desires. If you’re planning on buying anything from any of these brands, be prepared for your wallet to take a hit! Nothing in the Golden Triangle is cheap, but even without buying anything, the area is worth checking out just to get a look at these famous brands.
Although Venice is the Italian city that is most famous for its canals and romantic gondola rides through the city, Milan has its fair share of waterways from the olden days as well. In the Navigli district, you’ll be able to see some of these old canals from back in the day. This system of canals through Milan had inspiration from da Vinci during their construction, so anyone interested in the famous inventor’s work might want to check them out.
While in the Navigli District, named after the aforementioned canals, you’ll have several restaurants, shops, and bars to keep you entertained through the day and night. You can also take a page out of the Venice handbook and take a boat ride through the area to get a once in a lifetime experience and to see the city from a whole new vantage point.
Referred to as Cimitero Monumentale di Milano within the city, the Monumental Cemetery is one of the most architecturally appealing cemeteries that you’ll ever see. Although spending time on your Milan vacation visiting a cemetery might not be what you expected to be doing, seeing the incredible structures is well worth taking some time to visit.
The cemetery is full of life-like sculptures all around, with Greek temples and massive stone obelisks everywhere that you look. The cemetery is situated to the north of the center of the city, easily accessible by metro or a short bike ride. Don’t worry that you’ll be seen as strange for visiting a cemetery, it’s an extremely popular attraction that brings in visitors every day of the week.
Piazza Dei Mercanti
Situated nearby the Piazza del Duomo is another popular square that’s open to the public, the Piazza dei Mercanti. Although Piazza del Duomo is the center of Milan these days, Piazza dei Mercanti held that title back in the olden days. This square got its name from all the traders and merchants that used to operate here when it was the city center.
Other than looking into the history of all the merchants that used to utilize the area, the Piazza dei Mercanti has all sorts of buildings and shops around it that you can spend some time exploring. There are also many historical statues, monuments, and sculptures of historical figures to add to the experience.
Teatro Alla Scala
For the opera and theatrical fans out there, checking out the Teatro Alla Scala is an ideal way to spend some of your time for an incredible night out while you’re visiting Milan. Going to an authentic Italian opera in one of the country’s most famous opera houses is an unforgettable experience that you’ll be talking about for years to come.
Even if you don’t want to truly experience the opera — though you should — checking out the Teatro Alla Scala just as an architectural feat is well worth your time. The gorgeous exterior design is complemented with a regal interior that just makes you feel like you’re at a famous opera house.
Biblioteca Ambrosiana, or the Ambrosiana Library (and Picture Gallery), is a collection of incredible artwork that was donated to the library roughly 300 years ago. What’s interesting about this collection of artwork is that it was nearly all given to the library by a single person — its founder, Federico Borromeo, who donated all of the amazing artwork for all the right reasons.
Borromeo is said to have donated his entire personal collection to his library so that the public would be able to visit to learn more about and gain a deeper appreciation for some of the most iconic artwork in history. You’ll find pieces of work from famous artists such as Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and more in the library. So anyone who is a fan of art or Italian history should check out Biblioteca Ambrosiana while in Milan.
Basilica di San Lorenzo
Constructed in the early 5th century — early as in 402 AD — the catholic church that is known as the Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the oldest buildings in all of Milan (you’ll read about an even older one shortly). Typical of ancient Italian architecture, you’ll find large stone columns and archways outside, as well as life-like sculptures among the peaceful open area of the courtyard.
Once you go inside the amazing building, you’ll find a much less lavish interior than many of the relatively newer cathedrals and churches in Milan. There are fewer colors and a lack of extravagant gold-leaf in-lays everywhere, but the present architecture and decorations are still incredible to look at. Visiting the Basilica of San Lorenzo is a must for anyone who loves the religious history of ancient architecture.
If you get tired of seeing some of the more lavish and extravagant buildings and structures throughout Milan on your visit, consider venturing outside the crowded city streets and heading to the countryside. The Cascina Cuccagna is an 18th-century farmhouse that’s open to the public for a relaxing break from the city.
This little farmhouse on the outskirts of Milan has been converted to house a quaint restaurant that gets its food and menu items from the local farms in the area. This restaurant is also combined with a gorgeous garden, a farmers’ market to provide you with fresh fruits and veggies, and even a bar. So if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Milan, check out the Cascina Cuccagna!
Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the most lavish galleries that you will ever see in your life. As the fancy name and extravagant appearance of the structure will likely tell you, nothing inside this gallery would ever be described as cheap or even affordable. This gallery is a trove of high-end designers such as Gucci, Prada, Armani, and more.
If that’s what you’re into and you have no problem spending the money for these top-tier designers, then the Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is definitely your place to be. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything inside the lavish gallery, it’s well worth the visit just to see the high-end place. It’s constructed with amazing architecture, incredible artwork within, and of course, lined with some of the most high-end clothes in the world, so it’s worth seeing no matter if you’re planning to spend big bucks or not.
One of Milan’s oldest buildings, Sant Ambrogio, was built over 1,600 years ago in 379 AD by its namesake St. Ambrose. As the building’s age will tell you, Sant Ambrogio is rich with history and offers you the ability to check out ancient Italian design and architecture that you just won’t find on newer structures in today’s world.
Some of the church’s many design features include massive stone archways and huge columns that accentuate the importance of the grandiose style prevalent in Italy during these days. Sant Ambrogio is one of Milan’s most historic buildings and is one that you won’t want to skip seeing while you’re visiting the Italian city.
As alluded to earlier, the Torre Branca is the centerpiece of the beautiful Parco Sempione and is worth visiting the incredible park just to visit. Reaching an astounding height of 350 feet, the Torre Branca offers you incomparable views of the entire city of Milan and all the surrounding areas. All you need to do is take the elevator to the top and peer out into the stunning beauty all around you.
Nearing its 90th birthday in the next couple of years, the Torre Branca has been open to the public for almost a century for residents and visitors alike to enjoy. It was designed by the famous Italian architect Gio Ponti, and its timeless beauty has attracted visitors from all over the world. The Torre Branca is something you definitely won’t want to skip as you explore the Parco Sempione!
If you’re the type of person that enjoys drinking and dancing after a long day of sightseeing and exploring, then visiting the Tunnel Club while you’re in Milan is a must. Taking over a building that once acted as a railway shed for the city’s Central Station, the Tunnel Club is unique in design and architecture and an incredible experience for the young — or old! — person in all of us that just wants to let go, get some drinks, and dance to the music.
This club is especially ideal for anyone interested in electronic dance music. That is the club’s staple and the typical music and dancing that you’ll find at this location. The Tunnel Club isn’t somewhere that you’ll go expecting to see celebrities or anything like that, but it’s perfect for anyone who just wants to let their hair down and have a great time.