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Top Things to do in Milan, Italy

Updated: Apr 30

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Milan cathedral

When culture and beauty intersect, you end up with Milan. The wealthiest city in Italy, Milan is a global fashion hub with one of the most popular shopping streets in the world. Its high-end aesthetic is accented with a bit of history, from the site of da Vinci's "The Last Supper" to its Gothic-era cathedral. Because it's so different than anywhere else in the country, it was a perfect addition to our two weeks in Italy. Check out some of the things to do in Milan, Italy to see if it deserves a spot on your itinerary.

Milan Cathedral

Milan cathedral
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

The largest church in Italy, Milan Cathedral is a Gothic-era masterpiece complete with 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyle, and 700 marble figures. It's the site of Marco d'Agrate's "Saint Bartholomew Flayed," a sculpture that depicts the Biblical apostle carrying his skin over his shoulder. On the roof of the cathedral is Madonnnia, a polychrome statue of Virgin Mary. In addition, the church has 55 stain-glass windows and a 15,800-pipe musical organ.

Museum of the Milan Cathedral

Heads meant for Milan Cathedral
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

The Museum of the Milan Cathedral contains past works from the cathedral itself. It provides a closer look at the types of statues, figures, and stain-glass windows the cathedral is known for. It's also a great way to learn about the church and better understand its majesty.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Gallery in Milan
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

Right across from the cathedral is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a large and luxurious shopping center with the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Versace. The four-story building is fashionable in itself, with an iron and glass roof and four mosaics portraying Milan, Rome, Florence, and Turin. Some of Milan's oldest restaurants are under its roof, ranging from aperitivo stops to elite dining. One eatery, the Ristorante Galleria, is a popular destination for the best gourmet cuisines in Milan.

The Last Supper & Santa Maria delle Grazie

The Last Supper
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

It would be a shame to miss Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" while in Milan, but unfortunately, it happens often due to improper planning. Tickets to view the painting are extremely limited, with only 110 admissions allowed per day. Each group of people get 15 minutes with the painting, but only after spending an equal amount of time in a de-humidifying room. These rules are in place to preserve the integrity of "The Last Supper."

"The Last Supper" has faced extensive damage in the last 500-plus years due to the way it was created. Leonardo da Vinci didn't paint "The Last Supper" onto wet plaster like a fresco, causing it to flake very early on. Restoration projects have only added more layers of destruction, and environmental changes have taken an even bigger toll on the artwork. Because it's one of the top things to do in Milan, Italy, the only chance to see it is by booking in advance.

The painting is located in Santa Maria delle Grazie - a church that was completed in 1497. This church is a UNESCO World Heritage site showcasing Milan's Renaissance mastery.

Sforzesco Castle

Sforzesco Castle

This medieval castle has a magnificent history of both triumph and demise. Its original structure, built in 1358, served as a fortification until its destruction in 1447. The rebuilt fortress which you see today was used as the Sforzesco family residence before suffering significant damage at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, Sforzesco Castle is the site of six museums, covering ancient art, musical instruments, 13th-18th century works, Egyptian artifacts, applied arts, archeology, and furniture and wooden sculptures.

Monumental Cemetery

Monumental Cemetery is an artistic treasure with impressive sculptures and mausoleums. The entrance, dubbed The Hall of Fame, is particularly notable for its rose window and marble and stone exterior. The structure is the final resting place of writer Alessandro Manzoni, architect Luca Beltrami, and other key historical figures. The cemetery has a three-way split; one side houses Jewish individuals, one side is for non-Catholics, and the center is for Catholics.

Teatro alla Scala

La Scala opera house

La Scala theatre is a neoclassical opera house delivering operas, concerts, and ballets. Completed in 1778, it has seen performances by violinist Paganini, conductor Arturo Toscanini, and actress/ballerina Carla Fracci. The theatre, illuminated with 365 lights, has animals and flowers decorating its wall. Tours and show tickets can be purchased online.

Where to Stay

Your location in Milan depends on what you're trying to see while you're there. For a spot near the cathedral or the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one affordable option is London Hotel.

It's only a two-star accommodation, but it has decent online reviews. In central Milan, Hotel Canada is a modern choice near the metro station.

Milan is nothing like the ancient city of Rome, and far from the Renaissance-inspired Florence. Instead, it has its own splendor that makes it desirable for visitors. If you're looking for immense style, a bit of history, and a lot of magic, Milan is for you.

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