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Monika Prokůpková / © Culture Trip
Monika Prokůpková / © Culture Trip

The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Milan

Picture of Jonathan Stern
Updated: 18 October 2017

Known as the fashion capital of the world, Milan has it all – art, food, opera, sport, shopping, and adventure. There are a few must-see things in the capital of Lombardy, particularly its breathtaking cathedral and Leonardo da Vinci’s world-famous fresco, ‘The Last Supper’. Check out what else you should add to your itinerary.

Admire the Duomo

The Milan Cathedral is a spectacle to behold. Dedicated to Saint Mary, the gothic style church is the largest in Italy and took almost six centuries to complete. It is located in the center of Milan, with the city’s streets surrounding it. Marvel at the structure’s exterior, with its stunning white façade and beautifully sculpted statues and spires. The cathedral has more sculptures than any other building in the world – 3,159 in total. After taking in the outside, explore the interior and then head up to the roof for an up-close experience among the ornate spires.

Monika Prokůpková / © Culture Trip

See ‘The Last Supper’

Take some time to study one of the world’s most scrutinized paintings, ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci. Located in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the work was completed around 1499. In it, Leonardo portrays the reactions of the 12 apostles when Jesus says one of them would betray him. Perhaps no other work of art has caused as much speculation and theorizing about hidden messages or underlying hints left by the artist. See if you can spot one yourself.

Opera at La Scala

It may be worth getting a ticket to the opera or ballet in Milan just to see the extravagant interior of the city’s famed opera house. The show, however, will probably be just as good, as La Scala is one of the leading opera houses in the world and many of the best singers, ballet dancers and composers have performed here. A museum that houses paintings, statues, costumes and documents related to La Scala’s history is located inside.

Stroll through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is not your typical shopping mall – it’s one of the world’s oldest and consists of a four-story double arcade with a glass-vaulted roof. The Galleria’s history dates back to the years between 1860 and 1864. During this time, the city held a series of competitions to solicit architectural proposals in order to modernize Piazza del Duomo and connect it with Piazza della Scala. In the end, Giuseppe Mengoni’s project was approved. Today, the Galleria is often referred to as il salotto di Milano, or Milan’s living room, because it is a common meeting spot amongst residents of the city.

Monika Prokůpková / © Culture Trip

Visit Sforza Castle

For centuries the people of Milan considered Sforza Castle a symbol of tyranny and foreign domination. It was not until the unification of Italy in the 19th century that this huge fortress became a revered cultural center. The complex includes numerous museums and an impressive collection of art, from paintings by Andrea Mantegna, Titian and Tintoretto to Michelangelo’s last sculpture. And in 2012, historians discovered lost drawings and paintings by Caravaggio here.

Monika Prokůpková / © Culture Trip

Check out the Navigli District

With its system of canals, the Navigli district is one of Milan’s more charming neighborhoods. Construction of the waterways lasted seven centuries and connected lakes Maggiore and Como with the Ticino and Po rivers. An interesting feature of the Navigli canals is the system of dams that were invented by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. The area is a popular place to take a walk, do some shopping at a flea market, or grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants that line the canals.

Monika Prokůpková / © Culture Trip

Experience life in the dark

Visitors to the Milan Institution of the Blind have the opportunity to experience a life-changing exhibition called Dialogo nel Buio, meaning “dialogue in the dark”. The exhibition is one of the top-rated activities to do in Milan and you are sure to remember it for a long time. With the help of a visually impaired guide, visitors step into a world of complete darkness, making their way through a series of rooms. The unique experience allows sighted people to better understand things from a blind person’s perspective. There are also opportunities to dine at a restaurant or have a drink at a bar in the dark.

Visit Cimitero Monumentale

Cimitero Monumentale is arguably more like an open-air museum than a cemetery. This is where Milan’s leading figures and families are buried, including author Alessandro Manzoni, conductor Arturo Toscanini, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the poet and main founder of the futurist movement. Walk along the rows of tombstones adorned with beautiful sculptures and admire the variety of architectural styles used, from Egyptian and neo-Roman to Art Nouveau.

Go for an aperitivo

Aperitivo is the Italian version of a Happy Hour – only much better – and Milan is the aperitivo capital of Italy. The tradition started out as a pre-dinner drink that was served with a few simple snacks, such as a bowl of nuts or potato chips. These days, aperitivo at some of the more trendy bars in Milan includes an extravagant complimentary buffet spread, with things like pizza, bruschetta, local cheeses, olives, cured meats and even oysters. Just order a Negroni or a glass of wine and chow down!

Monika Prokůpková / © Culture Trip

Catch a football game at the San Siro

Everybody knows that Italians are passionate about football. So, why not take the opportunity to experience this important part of Italian culture in person. Milan’s San Siro stadium is home to two of the most storied franchises in the history of the sport – F.C. Internazionale Milano and A.C. Milan. With seating for more than 80,000 fanatic supporters, the atmosphere during a game is electric. Take a tour to see the locker rooms and walk out on the pitch.