Three words often spring to mind when people think about Milan: fashion, business and finance. Unfortunately, these words are not usually the ones which have travellers jumping online to book a flat in the city. Let our guide to Milan showcase the city for what it really is. Milan is a beautiful city with a deep sense of history shown in stunning buildings and fascinating museums.
View the city from above at Milan Cathedral
Gothic Milan Cathedral is the city’s most famous building. It’s certainly the main attraction which visitors to Milan flock to see. The last details of the cathedral were only added in the 20th century. This means the time spent building this stunning church equals around six centuries. Upon walking into the cathedral, the amount of carefully crafted work which went into its building is evident. From its high Gothic vaults to white marble sculptures and beautiful altars it is bound to impress. Visitors should take the elevator or climb the 150 steps, to the roof to enjoy a great view of Milan.
Spend 15 minutes with a Da Vinci masterpiece
Once you’ve completed a tour of Milan Cathedral, you should make your way to Santa Maria delle Grazie. This is a church and Dominican convent famous as the home of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. Tickets to see di Vinci’s treasure are hard to acquire. Those wishing to view the painting should book tickets online in advance as entries at the door are not allowed. Although visitors can only spend 15 minutes with the painting, a trip to the church is not a wasted journey. The UNESCO World Heritage Site also boasts beautiful Renaissance architecture, frescoes and paintings.
Splurge at the world’s first Prada store
The link between fashion and Milan is strong. Therefore the city is considered one of the best places in the world to go shopping. To expand your cultural experience a bit beyond fashion, you can combine retail therapy with history. Make your way to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and you’ll see what we mean. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world’s oldest shopping centres. It’s a stunning building featuring iron and glass covered walkways. It includes an octagonal central piazza placed under a huge glass dome, and a monumental triumphal arch. As well as offering shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, it is home to the world’s first Prada store.
Enjoy an evening at the opera
Visitors who insist on planning their trip ahead should certainly pencil in a show at the world-renowned Teatro alla Scala. The appearance of operatic artists and world class singers may give it the air of an exclusive club. However, it is possible to get tickets to opera and ballet shows. The program for each year usually begins on 7 December and can be found on the official website. Before the show, visitors can stop by the Museo Teatrale alla Scala Museum. It contains paintings, drafts, statues, costumes, and other documents outlining the history of the theatre and opera history in general.
Take a stroll around Milan’s most beautiful squares
Piazza del Duomo is Milan’s main square and is home to its most famous attraction, Milan Cathedral. Apart from the cathedral, it also prides itself on being home to some other beautiful buildings. These include the arcade of the Palazzo Settentrionale and the Palazzo Meridionale.
The centre of the square holds the 19th-century Statue of Victor Emmanuel II. Nowadays, Piazza del Duomo is always bustling with tourists and is the main meeting point for locals. Piazza Mercanti is another beautiful square in Milan, which used to be the main square in the Middle Ages. Close to Piazza del Duomo and the cathedral, it is worth taking a stroll here to enjoy an intimate pedestrianised square with stunning historic architecture. One of its main attractions is the 13th century Palazzo della Ragione. It is also suggested that visitors take the time to explore Piazza Mercato Abbiategrasso where one of the most interesting markets in Milan opens every other Sunday of the month.
Experience a bit of history at Sforza Castle
Along with Milan Cathedral, Renaissance Sforza Castle is one of Milan’s most important attractions. Over anything else, the 15th-century building is worth a visit just to see Michelangelo’s final, unfinished sculpture, Pietà Rondanini. The sculpture revisits the theme of the Virgin Mary mourning over the body of the dead Christ and can be found in the Museum of Ancient Art. Several other museums are spread out over the grounds of Sforza Castle. The museum, which houses prehistoric and Egyptian artefacts can be found in the basement floors around the Ducal Courtyard. The ground floor holds a wide-ranging collection of ancient art, while the 1st floor offers the furniture collection and art gallery. The Museum of Musical Instruments and a collection of applied arts are placed on the 1st and 2nd floor of the Rocchetta House.
Enjoy works of art at the Pinacoteca di Brera
Pinacoteca di Brera is the main public gallery in Milan for paintings. Although the building was completed in 1773, the museum which we know today was founded by Napoleon in 1809. A bronze statue of Napoleon stands in the middle of the courtyard, among statues of artists, scientists and patrons of the arts. Pinacoteca di Brera also houses several cultural centres including a library, observatory, science and art academies and art gallery. These, in turn, are home to some of the gallery’s most popular pieces, “Dead Christ” by Mantegna and “Supper At Emmaus” by Caravaggio.
Relax in peace in Parco Sempione
Beautifully landscaped Parco Sempione was established in 1888 and is situated right in the heart of the historic centre of Milan. After soaking up the knowledge which lays within the grounds of Sforza Castle which sits right behind the park, visitors can relax among large meadows, playgrounds, ponds and cafes. It is also home to the Branca Tower, the Triennale Design Museum, the Arena Civica Sports Complex and The Acquario Civico Aquarium. Those visiting Milan during the summer will find that Parco Sempione hosts many outdoor concerts and exhibitions during this time.
Is there anything you would add to this list as a ‘must-do’ for visitors to Milan?
(Header by jvanattenhoven, via FlickrCC)