*Do not miss the new addition at the end of the post – The Best Free Things to see in Milan*
Lombardia | More Vistors than Lazio!
Welcome to the city of Milan, best known for it’s famous inhabitants and amazing Fashion Weeks, however, there is much more to Milan than simply fashion and ‘ridiculously good looking people” (in the words of Zoolander).
The city of Milan is found in the region of Lombardia, in Italy’s north, and is home to two international airports. From Milano Centrale, the city’s central station, you can reach all surrounding towns and regions, and the border with Switzerland is a stone throw away (well a nice big throw, by a giant).
How do you know Milan?
As you walk the clean and well kept streets of Milano, you will walk past the famous Piazza Duomo, the gorgeous family owned bakeries, huge billboards and if you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a celebrity (especially during fashion week).
Milano may have come across your radar in 2015, as it was home to Expo , however, the undisputed star attractions are the Duomo, a ‘little thing’ called “The Last Supper”, and AC Milan (which I am a huge fan of).
What you may not know is that Milan is home to the oldest shopping mall in world, found within the spectacular Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II or that Teatro alla Scala (more commonly known as La Scala), is regarded as one of the most important Opera houses in the world.
Milan is often looked as only a ‘stop over’ destination and as the financial hub of Italy, however, do not let stereotypes fool you because Milan is a vibrant city with a lot to see and do, gaining a lot of popularity in recent years.
I personally adore this city.
For starters, Milan is a great city to do on foot, by bike, and even public transportation. Unlike most parts of Italy, public transport works incredibly well (i.e. trams, metro lines and buses.
Secondly, there is always something going on in Milan, with a flurry of Events all year round!
Sometimes all you need is a local to show the true value of a city and in this post, I have had the pleasure to get some great information from two friends of Tourist by Chance, Giuseppe and Paola who have lived in Milan for over 5 years. Grazie ragazzi!
10 MUST see place in Milan?
A short list of things that most Milanese would recommend for your first or second time in beautiful Milan.
As a blog on things Italy, I rely heavily on local knowledge, and I could not leave out popular tourist sites because they are worth the visit.
1. Cenacolo Vinciano (link) & Santa Maria delle Grazie
Everyone must try to visit the Cenacolo Viniciano (tickets are tough to get by) known in English as The Last Supper.
Leonardo da Vinci painted the Last Supper in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie at the behest of Ludovico il Moro, in a span of time ranging from 1494 to 1497.
It is regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian art.
Interesting read: 10 things you didn’t know about The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci
Brera is located behind Teatro La Scala, the part of town where you are more likely to bump in to some famous football players (eye candy for the ladies) and top models (eye candy for the lads).
While I would not recommend to eat here if you are on a tight budget, I would say to try one of the many bars in the area.
Should you decide that one night you want to go all out, this is the part of Milan to do it.
Enjoy a relaxing walk the cobble streets and pick the right place for you. You will find high end restaurants through to your Osteria. You should expect to pay no less than 40.00EUR per person on an ‘antipasto’ and first/or main course.
While you are in Brera, do not miss the Brera Art Gallery (Pinoteca di Brera – link ). You will also love the history of the building itself and the beautiful interiors (besides the art). A whole world to discover.
Address: Via Brera, 28.
Opening: Mondays closed.
The direct translations of Navigli is ‘canals’ and these of Milan, are an interconnected system of navigable canals and represent the heart of Milanese ‘movida’.
Here you will find the ‘second hand’ stores, the antique shops, the small bars to watch football, some good restaurants, and worth the visit for an aperitivo if nothing else.
Looking for a night out with friends? Well you are in the right place with clubs, bars and even old sand transporter boats turned into bars! So if you are looking for a younger crowd, a glass of wine and even a bargain purchase at one of the second hand stores, then this is certainly the place for you.
Connected to the Navigli area is where you will find the Porta Romana area where you have a good choice of restaurants to pick from.
For all those visiting the Navigli, make sure to take a walk back in time visiting the Vicolo dei lavandai (link).
4. Sempione Park
Tired of shopping, going to the theatre or eating out lunch and dinner? Take a stroll through the beautiful ‘Central Park’ of Milan, for a pleasant walk (approximately 5kms). Use one of the many grassed areas for picnics with some fresh bread, wine, cheeses and salumi from one of the many historical Deli’s of the city.
Enjoy the Sforzesco Castle as your backdrop or go inside and check it out!
Address: Piazza Castello
Sforzesco Castle (link) is open daily 7.00 a.m-6.00 p.m. (in winter) and 7.00 a.m-7.00 p.m. (in summer).
The museums open from 9:30a.m-5:30p.m.
Price: Park – Freed admission / Sforzesco Castle – 5€.
5. Royal Palace of Milan
Located next to the Duomo of Milan, this is a great and inexpensive experience.
There are times that you can expect a bit of a line up but what is great is the fact that you can always expect at least two (2) exhibitions at a time.
In 2015 I got the chance to see the Bob Dylan and the Rodin exhibits, just two examples of the great variety of exhibitions you can find.
Local Tip: Before you go out for an aperitivo in Brera, make sure to visit the Royal Palace of Milan.
Address: Piazza del Duomo, 12
Opening: Monday: 2:30pm-7:30pm. Tuesday to Sunday: 9:30am-7:30pm Thursday and Saturday: 9:30am-10:30pm.
Ticket Price: 9€
6. Quadrilatero della moda
The fact that this district has its own website, you can gather that it is a big deal. But what does the name mean? ‘Quadrilateral of fashion’ in the Via Montenapoleone fashion district. Wallets beware!
If you love shopping, major fashion houses, boutiques and all that relates to the world of high-class shopping, then this is the part of town you will want to visit and splurge some Euros.
Industry experts (i.e. Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire etc) and fashion guru’s regard Via Montenapoleone as the most important fashion district in the world! The quadrilateral is formed by via Montenapoleone, via della Spiga, via S. Andrea and via S. Spirito.
Needless to say, if you take anybody that goes crazy for shopping, you will remain in their good books for a long long time 😉
Useful Link: Store Directory
7. Corso Como 10
Unlike Quadrilatero della moda, 10 Corso Como, is a mall of sorts (but much more romantic) offering a variety of shopping experiences and it is not reserved only to clothing. Immerse yourself in art, books, music, and design.
If you like design and concept stores, then this is the perfect place. It is also the mecca of fashion and luxury brands.
After all, Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so shopping is part of the experience.
Website: 10 Corso Como
8. Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
When I first walked into the San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore the first word that came out of my mouth was a slow and whispered – woooooowwww.
Construction began in 1503 and the monastery was finished 15 years later by Cristoforo Solari. The building was designed by Gian Giacomo Dolcebuono in collaboration with Giovanni Antonio Amadeo and it was divided into two distinct parts: one open for the congregation and on the rear, a part for the nuns. Until 1794 the part reserved to the nuns, was forbidden to cross.
While the cycle of frescoes from the 16th century, covering the walls, are considered the most important artworks of the church, the valuable pipe organ of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, was the ‘shining star’ of my visit.
Built in 1554 by Gian Giacomo Antegnati, the pipe organ is found in the choir loft above the choir stalls. The present organ is a partial reconstruction of the original instrument built by Gian Giacomo Antegnati. The console, which was partially re-built, is composed of a 50-note keyboard and the pedalboard has 18 parallel pedals, constantly linked to the keyboard.
The monastery is now home to Milan’s Archaeological Museum.
The hall of the nuns and to the right the organ by Gian Giacomo Antegnati
Regarded as the Sistine Chapel of Milan, the church was renovated in 2015 and has since reopened to the public.
Address: Corso Magenta, 15 – 20123 Milano
Opening Hours: 09:30 to 19:30 (Tue – Sun)
Ticket: Free entrance
9. Cooking Class with La Cucina Italiana
I was signed up to the ‘Cooking with Couples’ course, when this website was known as Tourists by Chance, by an ex-girlfriend. Our chef for the night was Davide Neri, and we were shown how to cook the meals we were going to prepare for our dinner. The whole evening took 3 hours and wine and beer were provided.
The experience was fantastic!
We really enjoyed the night (Davide Neri was very entertaining) and it really is a unique way to spend an evening with your partner or friends.
Did I mention that this cooking school is the most renowned one in Milan with many celebrity Chefs also providing courses? A must try for anybody visiting Milan – after all it is an experience you will bring back home with you and you even learn a couple of dishes to shock your friends with!
Website: La Cucina Italiana
Address: Entrance Via San Nicole, 7
English courses available: Yes.
10. Porta Nuova
Welcome to the ‘new part’ of Milan, where the tallest building in Italy, the Unicredit Tower, stands at 231 meters high, built around the Garibaldi train station.
Known as the Porta Nuova District, this part of Milano is trending with the locals as new restaurants, bars, apartments, a new park and a number of metro stops all coming together in this newly ‘refurbished’ area, highly sought after due to its proximity to the city center.
A must visit as it is Italy’s skyscraper and on special events, the building is illuminated with different colours depending on the occasion (for example the Italian flag on our National Day, 2 June).
See Also: The best free things to see in Milano
I thought it complimented nicely with my post on Milan and I highly recommend you guys note his recommendations as well, when planning your next trip!
Like me Luca is Italian, however, he covers Italy and other cities around the world, so you will want to make sure to follow him and do not miss out on his (mis)adventure to Perù or his awkward yet funny experience in Japan, just to name a few.
Getting Around Milan
Getting around Milan is easy and one of the best cities for public transport, with many means available, including bike hire (BikeMi). Check out the Metro ticket prices and info and the always useful metro network map.
About.com (link) provides a great page on Getting Around Milan.
Share with Tourist by Chance
Have you been to Milan? What were your thoughts and experiences during your visit? Make sure to tell us your story and what you discovered on your trip, via email or via the comments section below.
Authors Note: This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.