In northern Italy, in the Lombardy region, Milan is one of the world’s fashion and design capitals. As the financial center of Italy and a cultural mecca known for its many monuments – such as the famous Duomo – Milan is a dynamic city.
What to do in Milan? What are the must-sees, the tips and the best places? Here is a complete travel guide to discover Milan in a few days!
Milan in short
How to get to Milan?
From major French cities, the plane is the fastest way to get there but it is also possible to go by train. This is the option I chose: it takes 7 hours by TGV from France (Paris) and it offers several advantages. The train allows you to leave from the center of Paris and arrive in the center of Milan, there are no security checks, no luggage check-in and no weight limitations. It is also more ecological and economical: a first class return ticket booked 3 weeks before the departure cost me only €100.
How long should I stay?
Two days is a minimum to have time to visit the must-see places in Milan, but three, four or five days will not be too much to explore the city.
How do I get around?
If you stay in the city center you can do a lot of things on foot. There is also a very good network of streetcars and subways that make it easy to get around. The old streetcars have a lot of charm and add a touch of change to the trip. Tickets can be bought directly from your cell phone on the “ATM Milano” application: 2 € for a ticket valid for 1h30 (18 € for a book of 10 tickets) and 7 € for a 24h ticket.
Who is it for?
Solo, as a couple or as a family: there are many activities to choose from and everyone can adapt the program of visits according to their tastes.
When to go?
The climate is temperate, which makes it a pleasant destination from spring to autumn, but it should be avoided if possible during the height of summer to avoid the crowds and the heat.
Communicating in Milan
Obviously, in Milan Italian is spoken but almost everyone also speaks English.
Italian lexicon: some essential words
Good evening: Buonasera
Goodbye: Arrivederci Arrivederci
Please: Per favore
Thank you: Grazie
Excuse me: Scusi
How are you doing?: Come sta ?
Visiting Milan: 12 must-see places
Milan is a city that does not lack charm with many colorful buildings and its typical streetcar that you can take just for the pleasure of discovering Milan through its windows!
Here are the 10 must-sees in Milan but I also recommend you to stroll in the different districts, to push the door of the churches (they are all free except the Duomo)… in short: take the time to get lost in the city to better feel the atmosphere.
Officially called “cattedrale metropolitana della Natività della Beata Vergine Maria” (Metropolitan Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary), the Duomo of Milan is the city’s cathedral. Its construction began in 1386 but was not completed until 1965.
This particularly imposing building is the third largest church in the world after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Cathedral of Seville. The Duomo is 108 meters high, 158 meters long and 93 meters wide. It is decorated with 135 spires and 3400 statues!
Unfortunately, the entrance to the Duomo is not free:
- €6 for the visit of the Duomo alone
- €10 for the Duomo + access to the archaeological part (in the basement)
- €15 for the Duomo + the archaeological part + the access to the terrace by the stairs
- €20 for the Duomo + the archaeological part + the access to the terrace by elevator
- €10 for the access to the terrace by stairs
- €15 for the access to the terrace by elevator
In short, it’s not cheap but it’s THE must-see monument in Milan and it would be a shame not to visit it. Despite these prices, the Duomo is crowded so don’t expect to visit it alone and think about booking your tickets in advance on the official website.
I highly recommend that you take the ticket to access the terrace to get a good look at the impressive spires and to enjoy a beautiful view of the city.
Piazza del Duomo
Tickets to be reserved in advance on the official website
Every day from 9am to 7pm
Attention: your shoulders must be covered to enter the Duomo
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This shopping gallery is one of the most beautiful covered passages in the world! Built in the 19th century in a neoclassical baroque style, it is surprisingly large: built in the shape of a cross, the longest part extends for almost 197 meters.
Overlooked by a large glass roof, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the most beautiful in good weather. It owes its name to King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy (1820-1878).
Located in the center of the city, a few steps from the Duomo, it is one of the most prestigious places in Milan. Inside you will find many luxury stores (Armandi, Borsalino, Prada…), bookstores and cafes.
Piazza del Duomo
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Museo teatrale alla Scala (Milan’s La Scala theater museum)
La Scala is one of the most famous Italian opera houses, with an international reputation. Inaugurated in 1778, it is a monumental hall that can accommodate about 2800 spectators every night.
It is hard to imagine it from the outside, but from the basement to the roof, La Scala is the same height as the Tower of Pisa, 56 meters.
Next to the hall, the La Scala Theatre Museum displays costumes, paintings and various objects related to the world of opera. Its old-fashioned presentation makes it a particularly charming place. The other interesting thing about this museum is that it allows you to enter a box from which you can contemplate the hall and discover its magnificent architecture without having to buy a ticket for the show.
Largo Antonio Ghiringhelli, 1
Prices: 8 € (reduced price); 12 € (full price)
Open every day from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
The “navigli” are the canals of Milan. They were built over 7 centuries, from the 12th to the 19th century. They were used to connect Milan to Europe but also to irrigate the land, to run the mills and to defend the city.
Nowadays, only two canals are still visible: Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese. The many bars and restaurants that line the canals make it a pleasant place to stroll or have a drink.
Tip: I recommend La Prosciutteria Milano Navigli where you can order a drink accompanied by cheese and cold cuts.
Alzaia Naviglio Grande
The Pinacoteca di Brera
The Pinacoteca di Brera is one of the most famous Italian museums, located in the heart of a baroque palace.
Inside its galleries, one goes from wonder to wonder. Works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Guido Reni, Canaletto, Hayez, Tintoretto and many others are to be discovered.
This museum owes its existence to Napoleon who confiscated many works from Italian churches and convents with the intention of making it a representative place of Italian art open to the public.
Via Brera, 28
Rates: 15 € / 2 € for 18-25 years old / free for under 18 years old
Open every day, except Monday, from 8:30 am to 7:15 pm
The church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
If the exterior of this church does not look like much, the interior is sumptuous and richly decorated, from floor to ceiling! This church was part of a Benedictine convent and was divided in two: one part for the nuns, the other for the faithful.
A marvel to discover!
Corso Magenta, 15
Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm
The modern district
Built around Piazza Gae Aulenti with its futuristic design, this brand new district attracts the eye with its sleek buildings and skyscrapers, some of which are over 200 meters high.
This neighborhood is located in front of the Milan Garibaldi train station, which you will arrive at if you come to Milan by TGV from France.
Piazza Gae Aulenti
Impossible to miss this castle whose high tower is visible far into the city. The Castello Sforzesco was built by the Viscontis in the 14th century before being destroyed and rebuilt in 1451 by the Sforzas.
The courtyard of the castle is freely accessible but it is also possible to visit the fortress. Behind the castle, don’t miss the Sempione Park and, at the end of the park, the impressive Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace) with its impressive statues.
Every day from 7 am to 7:30 pm
The work “L.O.V.E.” by Maurizio Cattelan
In front of the Stock Exchange Palace, stands an unusual statue by the artist Maurizio Cattelan. This hand with its outstretched middle finger, sculpted in marble, is called “L.O.V.E.” which means Liberta (freedom), Odio (hatred), Vendetta (revenge) and Eternita (eternity).
Installed in the heart of the financial center, it is of course a provocative sign against the violence of modern capitalism.
Piarra degli Affari
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper, the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci depicting Christ surrounded by the apostles, is a mural located in the refectory room of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie painted between 1495 and 1498.
Visits are very limited and are made in small groups of 18 people every 15 minutes. It is advisable to book at least one month in advance to have a chance of getting a place. Due to cancellations, it is sometimes possible to obtain a place the same day by going to the ticket office. Unfortunately, during my visit I did not manage to get the precious sesame!
Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, 2
Prices: 26 € / 13 € for 18-25 years old / free for under 18 years old
Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 7pm
Sunday from 9am to 1:45pm
The church of San Bernardino alle Ossa
At first glance, there’s nothing surprising about this pretty little domed church. But if you take a look at the small corridor on the right as you enter, you will discover a chapel decorated with an ossuary of skulls and human bones.
The history of this church is linked to a hospital built nearby in 1145. A few years later, the hospital’s cemetery was quickly filled, so in the 13th century a room was built to collect the bones of the deceased. The church was built in 1269, right next to this room.
Piazza Santo Stefano
Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm
Saturday from 9:30 am to 6 pm
Closed on Sunday
The central station
Even if you don’t take the train, be curious to discover this impressive but also a bit intimidating station. Built from 1906, the works were delayed by the first world war. After the war, Mussolini changed the plans to make it the symbol of the power of the fascist regime, hence the presence of many allegorical sculptures and imperial eagles.
If the hall is surmounted by impressive stone vaults, the 24 platforms are covered by a vast glass roof.
Piazza Duca d’Aosta, 1
Best places to stay in Milan
During my stay, I stayed at the Hotel Repubblica, located less than 10 minutes walk from the Central Station and about 20 minutes walk from the Duomo.
Recently renovated, it’s a simple but clean, comfortable and modern hotel.
Find all accommodation offers in Milan :
This is one of the most frequently mentioned pizza places in the guidebooks, and rightly so! You can enjoy delicious pizzas for very reasonable prices with, in addition, a glass of prosecco offered as an aperitif. Count 14 € for a pizza, a coffee and the aperitif.
This address is very popular and the restaurant is small, so it is not uncommon to queue. But if you go during the week, in the early afternoon (around 2:30 pm) after the lunch rush, you will find a place without any problem.
Coros di Porta Romana, 83
La Proscuitteria (on the naviglis)
Located along the naviglis, this restaurant is an ideal place to have a drink facing the canals. For about ten euros per person, you can order a board with cheese, cold cuts, grilled vegetables and toast. Ideal to eat at a lower cost.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 53
Attention: in Italy, bread and cutlery are added to the bill. On average, 2 to 4 € are charged per person. In addition, a bottle of water costs €2. The concept of a free carafe of water does not exist.
Ice cream shop
There is no shortage of good ice cream shops in Milan but of all the ones I tried, the one I preferred was Ciacco Gelato, located 5 minutes walk from the Duomo.
The ice creams are homemade, really tasty and cheap. I especially recommend the hazelnut one, a real favorite! Don’t be afraid if there is a queue outside, the service is fast. On the other hand, there are few places to sit inside.
Via Spadari, 13
To bring back local products
Right next to Ciacco Gelato you will find the Peck store where you can find many local products but also several caterers and a restaurant. It is the ideal place to buy pasta, sauces or wine.
Via Spadari, 9
Interactive map of Milan
Find all the addresses mentioned in this article on this map:
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Have a nice trip 😉