Your travel guide to cosmopolitan Milan

Duomo Milan

Zoe MacFarlane

Posted June 04, 2023

Milan is world-famous for its fashion, design, and cuisine, but there’s so much more to this cosmopolitan hub that’s Italy’s second most populous city after Rome.

Filled with historical landmarks, cultural attractions, and hidden gems, Milan is an open-air museum where impressive sights are as commonplace as well-dressed locals and on-trend stores.

Founded by the Celts in the 6th century, Milan has long been a city holding great influence around the world, be it as a strategic trading centre or as the powerhouse for fashion, design, and innovation you know today. One of the joys of exploring Milan is the contrast between old and new, traditional, and modern.

Here is your guide to the best of Milan’s attractions and culture.


Tranquil seat in Milan

The picturesque city of Milan is a melting pot of food, fashion, architecture and natural beauty. Image: Shutterstock.

Explore historical Milan

Touring Milan’s most significant landmarks offers the fastest route to discover its history and cultural milestones.

The Duomo di Milano is the city’s most recognisable landmark, and, as it took six centuries to complete, one that has the most stories to impart about Milan. Its breathtaking Gothic architecture and stunning views from the top of the cathedral leave a lasting impression.

Castello Sforzesco, or Sforza Castle, is another significant Milan landmark. Built in the 15th century by the Duke of Milan, the castle is now home to several museums, including the Museum of Ancient Art and the fascinating Museum of Musical Instruments.

Perhaps a surprising stop on your Milan itinerary, but Cimitero Monumentale is also a worthwhile inclusion. The Monumental Cemetery, north of the city centre, features opulent tombs that are works of art amid the ground’s stunning sculptures and architecture.

Tap into Milan’s vibrant art and culture scene

Did you know Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Last Supper is in Milan? Witnessing this iconic mural up close in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church and convent is a highlight for visiting art lovers. Book your tickets well in advance to this attraction to avoid disappointment.

Another hot spot for art aficionados is the Brera Art Gallery. Discover one of Italy’s most extensive Renaissance art collections in a former 17th-century Jesuit college. Stand in awe of masterpieces by iconic Italian artists like Raphael, Caravaggio, and Titian.

The ‘world-famous’ experiences don’t stop there. Teatro alla Scala, or La Scala, is perhaps the most famous opera house on the planet, located in the heart of Milan. Since it opened its doors in 1778, La Scala has been the place to premiere performances and opera singers. Today, experience La Scala’s impressive acoustics by catching a performance or taking a tour.

For contemporary art lovers, make the trip to Milan's southern outskirts to visit Fondazione Prada. Freethinkers like Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, and Jeff Koons adorn the Fondazione Prada’s walls, while car lovers might want to visit the Museo Alfa Romeo, which is dedicated to all things historic about the renowned Milanese brand.


San Siro Stadium in Milan is one of the world's most famous football stadiums. Image: Shutterstock.
The Milan tram network has been operating since the 1800s. Image: Shutterstock.

Enjoy fashionable, stylish Milan

No trip to Milan is complete without a spot of shopping. While Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world, filling your suitcase with stylish outfits doesn’t have to break the bank.

To experience the luxe end of Milan’s shopping scene, head to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. As much a work of art as the fashion that fills it, this historic shopping arcade is next to the Duomo, in the heart of the city. Browse luxurious Italian brands like Prada and Gucci and grab a café for great people-watching opportunities.

Via Montenapoleone is another top spot for high-end fashion and window shopping – it's perhaps the most famous shopping strip in all of Europe.

For independent designers, explore the hip Brera District. Chic boutiques offer in-vogue fashion, plus an array of handmade and artisanal goods. The concept stores and trendy boutiques on Corso Como also lead the way for fashion you won’t find at home.

For a glimpse into the past, wander the Venice-like canals and narrow streets of the Navigli District, a short walk or tram ride from Milan’s city centre. The antique shops here hold some impressive treasures, while Navigli is also home to an array of restaurants, bars and nightlife.

Sample Milan’s culinary treats

It’s no surprise that Milan has delectable dishes and treats to sample; the city is over 600 years old, after all! Here are just a few of Milan’s must-try meals.

The rich and creamy flavours of risotto alla Milanese leave you wanting more. Often served with osso buco (veal shank and vegetable broth), the saffron in the risotto represents the stained-glass windows at the Duomo. It’s like eating a bowl of history!

Another classic Milan dish is cotoletta alla Milanese. Enjoy this golden, crispy, breaded veal cutlet at many establishments around the city centre. Osteria con Vista, on the roof of the Triennale Museum, is a wonderful place to try it.

For a traditional Milanese dessert, sample panettone. While this candied, fluffy cake is a traditional Christmas dessert, it is available year-round in bakeries across the city.

Of course, you’ll also want to have gelato while in Italy. The innovative nature of Milan locals means there are some weird-yet-delectable flavours to enjoy, including Gelateria da Bepi’s basil, basmati rice, and gorgonzola flavours!

To wash it all down, order a Negroni Sbagiliato. This iconic Milanese cocktail has a twist on a traditional Negroni, using sparkling wine instead of gin. It’s refreshingly good after a long day of touring.


Teatro alla Scala in Milan is one of the world's most famous opera houses. Image: Shutterstock.
Milan is a city filled with cultural discoveries. Image: Shutterstock.

Discover Milan’s hidden gems

Complement some of Milan’s must-see iconic attractions with some of the city’s lesser-visited sites like Orto Botanico di Brera, an 18th-century botanical garden with over 4,000 plants. Enjoy a soothing stroll around the grounds; the rare and exotic species make the perfect complement to Brera’s other attractions.

The grounds of the Art Nouveau Villa Necchi Campiglio are also under-explored, yet worth a peek.

Head to Via Lincoln in Milan’s Rainbow District, where the brightly coloured terraced buildings and pretty gardens reveal another side to Milan. It makes for an enjoyable contrast to the city centre.

Not a hidden gem as such, but a chance to glimpse local life and the city’s passion for soccer, grab tickets to a match at San Siro Stadium - one of the world’s most famous stadiums - if your dates align. If they don’t, take a stadium tour of San Siro where you’ll get the rare opportunity to walk onto the pitch where AC Milan and Inter Milan so often set the city’s hearts alight. 


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