I’ve lost count of the number of times I visited Milan but I’d never say no to another weekend there. They say you either love Milan or hate it. I’m one of those who feel attracted to its hidden esoteric beauty, elegance, sophistication, and cosmopolitan vibe. I think that the longer you stay there the more you feel drawn to this fast-paced metropolis and the world’s capital of fashion. I listed below the top 10 places I would recommend if you go to Milan for the first time.
Duomo di Milano
Milan’s Cathedral (Duomo of Milan) is the signature of the city. It’s the largest Gothic church in the world, which construction lasted almost six centuries. It’s impressive with its monumental structure, hundreds of statues, gargoyles, and architectural details. It’s located in the main square of Milan (Piazza del Duomo) which is probably the biggest tourist attraction in the city (and a real pigeon paradise – beware!:). I would recommend visiting the square as early in the morning as you can to avoid the crowds or coming here late at night to see the cathedral beautifully illuminated.
If you have more time you should definitely visit the interior of the Cathedral and its magnificent Terraces. I did it during my last stay in Milan avoiding long ticket queues by booking a Milan Cathedral & Terraces by Elevator Fast-Track ticket on Get Your Guide. It was so convenient to access the Cathedral and the Rooftop through a separate entrance at the time that worked best for me and without any wait.
Walking on the Duomo rooftop is definitely an experience. It feels like being in a labyrinth of spires, decorations, statues, and carvings. The view of Piazza Del Duomo from above is absolutely breath-taking. It’s a unique chance to take some stunning images. I usually avoid guided tours so I can explore places at my own pace but you can choose a guided tour option through Get Your Guide. I was lucky to get to know a professor of architecture during my visit who guided me through all the architectural nuances of this amazing place.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
This stunning 19th-century shopping arcade was named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It’s also called “Il Salotto di Milano” (Milan’s Living Room) as it served as a meeting point for the Milanese bourgeoisie, artists, and musicians for many years. It’s definitely the most beautiful shopping mall I have ever seen.
Even if shopping in luxurious stores and boutiques is not in your plans, it’s a great idea just to go there for a walk and have a look at amazing stuccoes and mosaics.
Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle)
Castello Sforzesco is another place that makes you feel as if you were transported to another era. It was built as a fortress during the fourteenth century and today it houses several world-class museums and galleries. If you are not interested in visiting museums you can just explore the castle’s beautiful courtyards. I went there just for a short walk and a nice cappuccino break on my way to Parco Sempione.
This lovely and romantic park, which imitates a typical “English garden”, spreads out between Castello Sforzesco and Arco Della Pace (the Peace Arch). You can easily reach it following your visit of Sforza Castle to relax at its ornamental ponds, lie on the grass and enjoy the sun, or just walk along its paths on your way to the Peace Arch. It’s a real oasis in the middle of the busy city with many recreational areas and nice green spots used by locals for jogging, yoga, and meditation. Following the advice of the Milanese, I decided to visit Torre Branca, a panoramic tower and the city’s highest building, located in the park. It gives you a fantastic view of the city with its modern skyscrapers and fantastic landmarks. You need to take the elevator all the way up and you will have about 7 minutes to enjoy the skyline. It’s definitely enough time to take all the panoramic photos of Milan.
Arco Della Pace (The Peace Arch)
The Peace Arch, which was build at the beginning of the 19th century, is a real masterpiece of architecture. Initially, it was designed as a triumphal arch celebrating Napoleon’s victory over Italy. Today it commemorates the victory of the western powers in the aftermath of the Council of Vienna in 1815.
The 25-metre high monument sits in the centre of beautiful Sempione Square and features ornamental statues made of marble, bronze and stucco. It’s so nice just to sit on the steps around the Arc, and soak up the atmosphere of this prominent historic district of Milan.
Piazza Gae Aulenti and Vertical Forest
If you want to see the modern side of the city you should definitely visit Gae Aulenti Square. The square is surrounded by skyscrapers such as the tallest building in Italy – Unicredit Tower, and the famous Bosco Verticale. It’s also best known for evening entertainment so it’s a good idea to come here in the evening. You will have a nice choice of restaurants, trendy bars, cafes, and clubs if you want to enjoy the Italian nightlife or see a colourful fountain display in the centre of the Gae Aulenti Square.
Corso Como 10
This is one of the most fairy-tallish spots in Milan and it’s perfect for everyone who wants to relax in a magic world of art and away from the tourist frenzy. It’s one of Milan’s hidden gems located in a pretty courtyard at the centre of Corso Como. On the first floor, you can find a store selling trendy and unusual works of art and fashion, a beautifully decorated cafe (where you can stop for a cup of delicious cappuccino), and a restaurant. On the upper level, there is a bookshop and a gallery. You can also access the roof garden to relax surrounded by stunning works of contemporary sculptures and ceramics. I went there very early in the morning to photograph, and it felt like a real oasis of tranquillity.
I’m absolutely in love with this artsy district of Milan for its unique charm, chic vibe, and lively atmosphere. Just walking around its cobblestone streets, admiring the surrounding architecture, browsing in vintage and retro fashion little stores (or multi-brand boutiques), having a glass of wine and trying Italian tapas in one of the local wine bars are my greatest little joys during my stay in Milan. Once you are in Brera, try to visit il Cirmolo (via Fiori Chiari, 3, 20121 Milan) – a little store for collectors of unusual and rare antiques and funky vintage artefacts.
Basilica of St. Ambrogio
Basilica of St. Ambrogio is one of Milan’s oldest and most prominent churches. It was built in the 4th century and it’s really stunning in its simplicity. I really enjoyed wandering through the atrium, admiring the unique architecture, and spending some time inside the church. It’s an absolute must-see.