Milan is Italy’s leading alpha global city and second-largest city, home to the country’s famous fashion brands. It is the capital of Lombardy, the region in Italy dubbed the land of lakes.
In the previous decade, Milan reached nearly 9 million tourists a year. This makes Milan the 15th most visited city in the world!
There’s no doubt that Milan is always seen by millions. That is most especially when the world’s most important art collections are found in this city. Not to mention the Michelin star restaurants you can visit here.
The numbers seem reasonable to make anyone travel to Milan. But is Milan really worth it? Is this the city best for you to visit? What makes Milan special? Find it out in this post!
In this blog post, you will find the 10 most beautiful experiences (things to discover) in Milan – the reasons why you must visit Milan. At the end of this article, I give my opinion of whether Milan is worth it or not. All the facts and information can primarily be verified from the official website of Milan.
So without further ado, let’s see the 10 reasons why millions of visitors visit Milan:
10 Best Reasons to Visit Milan
Milan is a city with endless things to do. From sightseeing to dining, museums, and more – Milan almost has everything you might be looking for. Actually, it’s one of the reasons to visit Milan. But, to be specific, here is the summary:
- Duomo di Milano
- Other Impressive landmarks of Milan
- Milan’s Instagrammable architecture
- Shopping and more shopping in Milan
- Milan’s Michelin-star restaurant
- Leonardo da Vinci in Milan
- Museums of many kinds in Milan
- Street Art around Milan
- The famous opera house in Milan
- Milan is near the alps
Reason #1: Duomo di Milano
What’s the first thing that comes into my mind when I hear “Milan?” – It’s its elegant cathedral, Duomo di Milano. I believe most people do and think the same, don’t you agree? Because for every news we hear on the television about Milan, or whenever Milan is featured in an online publication, it is the image of Duomo di Milano that is always shown.
Duomo di Milano is just the icon of Milan, the primary landmark of the city. In many ways, we can consider Duomo di Milano as the main reason to visit Milan.
Visiting Milan and its cathedral is so worth it because Duomo di Milano is not only architecturally captivating, but most importantly, it’s historically and religiously significant. It’s a spectacular building, valuable to all humans, believers of Christ or not.
Another thing, why is Duomo di Milano a reason to visit Milan? It falls into the bucket list category destination. It is the world’s third-largest church, the second in Europe, and the first in Italy (since the independence of the Vatican City from Italy).
By setting foot in Duomo di Milano, you can already tell the world that you’ve been to one of humanity’s most incredible structures!
For Christians and Catholics, Duomo di Milano is even more compelling to visit because here, we find the precious Holy Nail of Jesus. It is believed it was the one that was actually used in the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. You can see it hanging above the altar, illuminated with a red light.
For everyone, the spectacular sculptures, beautiful spires, and pinnacles of the Duomo di Milano are things to see as well, that’s for sure! Not to mention Duomo di Milano’s meticulously adorned marble facade and impressive bas-relief in the portals and tympanum.
There is a lot to see inside, above, and underneath the cathedral. You can visit crypts, the cathedral’s terraces, baptistry, etc. You can check entry fees and opening hours from the official website of Milan Cathedral.
Reason #2: Other Impressive landmarks of Milan
Milan does not have as many historical landmarks as Rome. But, in this city, you can still find remarkable centuries-old structures reminiscent of its rich history. Aside from Duomo di Milano, Castello Sforzesco and Porta Sempione are the two which I think we can consider as a reason to visit Milan.
Castello Sforzesco and Porta Sempione are situated northwest of Duomo Piazza (Cathedral Square), approximately 1 kilometer away (0.6 miles). You shall reach Castello Sforzesco first if you’re from Cathedral Square.
Castello Sforzesco is a 15th-century fort characterized by red-colored bricks and three gigantic towers, Torrione di Santo Spirito, La Torre del Filarete, and Torre del Carmín forming its facade. The crenellations along the ramparts will remind you of medieval times and the battles that happened back in the day.
So what’s so special about Castello Sforzesco? Besides impressive architecture, Castello Sforzesco is home to numerous galleries of different musical instruments, furniture, and artworks, including the masterpieces of Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. There’s a lot to see and discover, and they are all in a single place.
Indeed, there are a plethora of museums to see in Castello Sforzesco. But the Protohistoric Museum, Egyptian Museum, and the Armory must not be missed! Here in Castello Sforzesco, you can also find Michelangelo’s Pietà Rondanini located west of Castello Sforzesco’s Ducal Court.
Behind Castello Sforzesco is Sempione Park, a vast park where you can rest after exploring Castello Sforzesco. Visit the cafes and enjoy some relaxing nature views. A pond is located in the middle, where you can find an Instagrammable bridge called Bridge of the Little Mermaids.
Also in Sempione Park is a 108-meter (354-feet) high tower called Torre Branca. For 6 EUR, you can climb Torre Branca and see panoramic views of Milan. The view from the top of Torre Branca reaches the Alps on a clear sunny day.
The opening hours of the tower vary. I suggest that you check Torre Branca’s official website for an updated schedule and announcements.
Opposite Castello Sforzesco across Sempione Park is the Porta Sempione. It is a 19th-century city gate and a triumphal arch, the scene of several prominent events in the Milanese history of the 19th-century. The name “Porta Sempione” is used interchangeably with Arco Della Pace (“Arch of Peace”).
Arco Della Pace is a massive 25-meter-high (82 feet) and 24-meter-wide (78 feet) work of art designed in neoclassical style. It is decorated with corinthian columns, statues on top, and bas-reliefs depicting important events in history.
Some of the historical events portrayed in Arco Della Pace are The Foundation of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia by Pompeo Marchesi and Institution of the Iron Crown by Giovanni Battista Perabò, Congress of Prague, Battle of Leipzig, and more.
Reason #3: Milan’s Instagrammable architecture
Another reason to visit Milan is the architectural wonders created in different ages you can find in the city. You can choose whatever architectural style you want to see and photograph. The list of beautiful buildings in Milan starts with Castello Sforzesco, Duomo di Milano, and Arco Della Pace.
Below are some of the beautiful buildings in Milan aside from the aforementioned landmarks, which I think can be your reason to visit Milan:
- Casa della Memoria
- Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
- Torre Velasca
- Bosco Verticale
- Generali Tower
- Palazzo Lombardia
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Casa della Memoria
Casa Della Memoria is a unique building in Milan whose facades are a mosaic of red polychrome bricks. The mosaics depict images of freedom and democracy, values that the Casa Della Memoria and its organization stand for.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio is one of Milan’s oldest churches and the best example of Lombard Romanesque architecture. Its Apex facade is definitely picturesque, thanks to its symmetric design.
Saint Ambrose built Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio in the year 386. Today, you can still find the 4th-century Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator inside the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio and the remains of Saint Ambrose.
Torre Velasca is one of the first skyscrapers that was built in Milan. It has a height of 100 meters (328 feet), and it has gained a modern interpretation of a typical Italian medieval castle. In 2011, the Italian government placed it under protection to serve as one of the city’s historic buildings.
Bosco Verticale is a pair of residential towers in Milan featuring plants and trees covering the exterior of the building. It is the first model of urban densification of nature in a city which you can see when you visit Milan’s Porta Nuova district. Together they contain 900 trees, giving a unique view of Milan’s skyline.
Generali Tower or Torre Hadid is perhaps the most elegant modern building in Milan. It was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. The building warped “twisting” shape is sensational and truly commendable.
Palazzo Lombardia is a skyscraper in Milan’s Central Business District that is 161 meters (528 feet) tall. It is also a complex of buildings having both private and public offices. In 2012, Palazzo Lombardia won the International Architecture Award for the best new global design.
It looks like just an ordinary building when seen from Milan’s skyline. However, a part of it, the Città di Lombardia square, has absolutely picturesque architecture. Leading lines and symmetrical proportions of its square give it an awe-inspiring look.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery. It is prominent and one of the most photographed landmarks of Milan. The construction and design of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II started as early as 1861.
The iron-and-glass dome roof of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is perhaps the second-most shared photo of Milan on social media, after Duomo di Milano. It has an impressive size too. The internal diameter is around 37.5 meters (123 feet), and the height is 17.10 meters (56.1 feet).
Reason #4: Shopping and more shopping in Milan
Being one of the world’s fashion capital, Milan is a city that won’t disappoint your shopping expectations. Whether you’re really into buying things or just window shopping, the glamor and the extravagance of Milan’s shopping districts will more than just impress you.
There’s something gold and glittering in almost any direction you look. That’s really the case when you visit the most expensive street in Milan, Via Montenapoleone.
Milan has numerous shopping streets. But the two most famous which people commonly visit are the Instagrammable Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Quadrilatero Della Moda, where Via Montenapoleone is.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
If you are coming from Piazza Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the first you can quickly visit. It’s where you can find the most famous Louis Vuitton and other high-end brands such as Swarovski, Prada, and Gucci.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has restaurants too. They range from McDonald’s to Milan’s bests. Here you can find one of Milan’s oldest restaurants, Cafe Biffi. But I do not recommend eating there – the food is overpriced, and many people have experienced bad service.
Quadrilatero Della Moda
Northeast of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, just a few steps away, you can find Milan’s “fashion square” (Quadrilatero Della Moda). It’s a luxury shopping paradise where we see the world’s most expensive brands like Prada, Gucci, Versace, Bulgari, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Valentino, etc.
Within Quadrilatero Della Moda lies Montenapoleone street (Via Monte Napoleone), Milan’s and Europe’s expensive street. Caffe Cova, one of the city’s oldest cafes and confectioners, founded in 1817, was relocated to Via Monte Napoleone in 1950. The food in Caffe Cova is fantastic, but expect an overpriced menu!
I just would like to share that northern Italy is a place like no other. It has a diverse range of exciting experiences and beautiful destinations worthy of your time and money. Read my article about northern Italy to know why. Here’s the summary (click to open in a new tab and read now/later):
- Cinque Terre – The Charming coastline towns of Northern Italy
- Bergamo – The scenic and medieval city of northern Italy
- Lake Como – One of the world’s most beautiful lakes
- Verona – The romantic town, home of Romeo and Juliet
- Venice – Another romantic city where three architectural styles meet and mix
- Trento – The city to introduce you to the Dolomites (visit mountains, lakes, and castles)
- Bolzano – Home of Otzi, the gateway to the Dolomites
- Cortina d’Ampezzo – The town in the heart of the Dolomites
- Florence – It’s where you can find the best Renaissance artworks
- Rome – The beautiful eternal city where you can start or end your trip to Northern Italy
These links to guides, a list of reasons to visit, things to do, and articles to help you discover different places in northern Italy. Read the full article about the reasons to visit Northern Italy.
Reason #5: The Michelin Star Restaurants in Milan
Do you know that Milan is one of the cities that receives the most Michelin stars every year in Italy? As of 2021, there are 15 Michelin-star restaurants in Milan.
I believe that this is a really compelling reason to visit Milan. It is definitely hard to skip Milan when visiting Northern Italy, especially if you travel for food.
So what’s with the Michelin star? What is it all about? Basically, it is a rating system used by the red Michelin Guide to tell the quality of the restaurants.
According to the guide, if a restaurant receives one star, it means it is “a very good restaurant.” For two stars, “excellent cooking that is worth a detour.” Ultimately, if a restaurant gets three stars, it means it has “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.”
Yet, most of the time, the more Michelin stars a restaurant has, the more expensive the dining experience is.
Among the 15 restaurants in Milan with Michelin stars, one has earned three! This restaurant is called Enrico Bartolini al Mudec. Here’s what Michelin Guide found in Enrico Bartolini al Mudec was awarded why it earned Michelin three stars:
This elegant, contemporary – style restaurant on the third floor of the Museo delle Culture offers an original location and attentive, solicitous service. The apparent simplicity of the menu sets the tone for a concert of dishes which feature extraordinary soloists backed by choirs of ingredients and variations on the same theme, all arranged across several courses which are striking for their imaginative quality. The conductor of this culinary orchestra is young Bartolini, poised and composed on the outside yet full of passion and energy within.Michelin Guide
Here is the link to Michelin Guide to see all the Michelin star restaurants in Milan.
Reason #6: Leonardo da Vinci in Milan
The original works of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan make everyone’s visit to Milan unique. Leonardo and his works set Milan apart from any city in Italy, and one of the bests reasons Milan should be visited.
What’s the big deal about Leonardo da Vinci? Well, he is just a genius who changed the world. We all know him for painting the “Monalisa” and “Last Supper,” the world’s most frequently referenced, speculated, and reproduced paintings – but he is more than just an artist.
Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived. He is a painter, sculptor, writer, musician, engineer, inventor, and surprisingly, he is an anatomist too! Seeing his works in person is so fascinating and sometimes intriguing.
For 17 years, Milan was Leonardo da Vinci’s home. In that period, Leonardo made notable works that we can still find in Milan even now. For me, the three unmissable things in Milan about Leonardo da Vinci are:
- The painting of Last Supper in Castello Sforzesco
- Atlanticus Codex (and more) in Pinacoteca Ambrosiana
- Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum
The Last Supper
I believe most of us have seen the painting of the Last Supper somewhere else. It could be in a church somewhere, or a dining room of a Christian family, or on the internet. But, what do you think of seeing the actual painting?
It’s a privilege, I think – to see an artwork in person which the entire world treasures are crazy exciting!
The painting of the Last Supper presents more details about a part of Jesus’ passion in the gospels from the bible. It portrays not only the last moment Jesus and his apostles were all together but also the emotions all of them had when Judas’ betrayal was revealed.
Look closely, and you’ll see how Leonardo da Vinci has magnificently described, through art, the apostles’ feelings and actions in his painting. The sheer talent and imagination Leonardo da Vinci manifested in this artwork is absolutely praiseworthy.
What makes the painting of the Last Supper even more impressive is its size, 9 meters (29 feet) wide and 2.5 meters (15 feet) tall. It’s a mural painting you can find in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in Milan.
The site is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. According to the official website of Milan tourism, advance booking is mandatory. If you want to see the Last Supper, you can use this GetYourGuide link to book your visit.
Being an engineer who struggled to graduate with an engineering degree, I always admire intelligent people, especially those who are really good at mathematics and science. This is why Leonardo da Vinci is so intriguing to me. I want to know how his mind works.
Without Leonardo da Vinci, the world is absolutely a different place – that’s a fact in so many ways! He designed and invented so many things like parachutes, portable bridges, diving suits, and scissors – can you even imagine a world without scissors? Cutting stuff would be more laborious and less convenient if it wasn’t for Leonardo da Vinci.
Are you curious like me to learn more about Leonardo da Vinci? Then you must visit Milan and go straight to Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a lovely library and gallery in Milan home to classic Renaissance artworks. Biblioteca Ambrosiana, founded in 1618, has also kept most of Leonardo’s work, and they let anyone visit and see them!
Bibliotheca Ambrosiana is one of the most beautiful libraries in Italy. In Bibliotheca Ambrosiana’s three-tiered reading room, the famous Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus is exhibited. Codex Atlanticus is a 12-volume collection of drawings and written notes by Leonardo da Vinci, the largest collection of his works.
Codex Atlanticus contains Leonardo’s works, ranging from his “grotesque” doodles to designs of military devices. You will find architectural designs, hydraulic projects, and even human and animal anatomy drawings.
Two rare disputed Leonardos are found in Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, as well. Portrait of Isabella d’Este, the wife of the Duke of Milan, and Portrait of a Musician.
Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum
Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum is Italy’s largest science and technology museum dedicated to the country’s genius, Leonardo. It’s another place to learn more about the country’s genius.
Though the museum is focused on technology, it is, however, situated in the ancient monastery of San Vittore al Corpo in Milan. There should be a mixed vibe feeling when visiting the museum, though.
Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum houses a wide range of exhibitions. You can find stuff about transportation, communication, energy, and more! Yet, of course, it has a section for Leonardo da Vinci.
In the section dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci, more drawings, projects, and illustrations made by Leonardo await. Leonardo’s designs (some) were translated into real objects – thanks to the experts. The exhibit ranges from a simple hydraulic saw to flying machines, even cars and submarines.
Reason #7: Museums of many kinds in Milan
There are more than 55 museums in Milan. Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum and Pinacoteca Ambrosiana are the two best museums in Milan. But, there are more, and they are also a reason to visit Milan.
Most of the museums in Milan are dedicated to promoting and preserving the city’s culture, arts, design, and fashion. However, they are not limited to these four. Some museums exhibit archeological artifacts, scientific inventions, and even sports! Here’s the list of all museums in Milan.
But among the museums in Milan, aside from the two aforementioned, the three which are so compelling to visit are Museo del Novecento, Pinacoteca di Brera, and MUDEC – The Museum of Cultures. These are the most visited and the highest-rated on Google Maps.
Museo del Novecento
Museo del Novecento is a twentieth-century art museum located south of Duomo Piazza that overlooks the city square. Because of its location, travelers come here to take photos of the city center and the cathedral without photobombers.
The view in Museo del Novecento is beautiful, but so are the objects exhibited in this museum. They express various art movements such as Abstractionism, Post Impressionism, and Realism. About 400 artworks of modern artists, mostly Italians, can be found here.
Pinacoteca di Brera
Pinacoteca di Brera or Breta Art Gallery is the main public gallery for paintings in Milan. It contains awe-inspiring Italian artworks, primarily made from the Quattrocento period to the Rococo period. That’s three centuries-long, from 15th-century to 18th-century.
The paintings inside are really incredible. Some are huge and are still striking with colors despite their age. Though some have undergone restoration already. Works of Picasso, Caravaggio, Titian, and more await you here!
Beauty is relative, but the four artworks that will capture your attention in Pinacoteca di Brera are:
- Saint Mark Preaching in Alexandria by Giovanni Bellini
- Madonna of the Cherubim by Andrea Mantegna
- Finding of the body of St Mark by Tintoretto
- Madonna della Candeletta by Carlo Crivelli
MUDEC – The Museum of Cultures
As its name implies, the Museum of Cultures is a museum that features different cultures. Its mission is to create a place to dialogue on contemporary themes through the medium of visual, performing, sound art, design, and costume.
Though it has permanent exhibitions, I think what could be the most exciting part is its temporary exhibitions. In the past, MUDEC has featured various non-European cultures like those found in Polynesia, Japan, China, and New Zealand.
There were also exhibitions about modern technology and entertainment in Mudec. Not only Disney was featured here, but also Barbie! You can check the past, upcoming, and present exhibitions from MUDEC’s official website.
Reason #8: Street Art around Milan
Another reason why visit Milan? The street art. Milan has probably the “longest” street art and graffiti in Italy. It is impressive, bursting with color, and absolutely Instagrammable (if it is your type).
This new and unique art is free to visit and insightful to how ordinary people in Milan express their thoughts through art. Some have a meaningful message to say, and some give remembrance to remarkable people of recent times.
There are many street arts scattered in Milan. However, along Via Ortica and Via Camillo e Otto Cima you can find them together. These streets are located in the Ortica district, situated east of the city center.
Here are the street views of Via Camillo e Otto Cima and Via Ortica. Feel free to swipe/tap/click the 360-image to explore the area.
Via Camillo o Otto Cima
Reason #9: The famous opera house of Milan
I’m not a fan of operas, but it can be enough for a reason to visit Milan. In this city lies Teatro Alla Scala, more known as La Scala, Italy’s most famous opera house.
La Scala is also regarded as one of the world’s best opera houses. Many finest international singers and artists have performed at La Scala. If you want to know what it is like to have such kinds of experience, this is the sign that you must visit Milan!
If you are into architecture, the interiors of La Scala can be a reason to visit Milan. Though I think the La Fenice opera house in Venice is much better. There’s a museum inside La Scala too, by the way.
You can enter La Scala Museum from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a 1-hour lunch break starting at 12:30 p.m. If you want to watch a show, you can buy tickets from the theater, but I suggest you book online from the La Scala website instead.
Reason #10: Milan is near the Alps
Last reason why Milan should be on your itinerary in Italy? Its fantastic location near the Alps. The Alps is just one of the most beautiful places on earth, and if you choose to be in Milan, you will be closer than ever to this spectacular mountainous place.
Day trips to Lake Como, Bergamo, and some parts of Switzerland are already possible from Milan. GetYourGuide offers day trips to Lugano and even Interlaken! You can check the itinerary from the menu below.
The Swiss Alps is a place I consider heaven on earth! Really! You have to see Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt. Look at the list of beautiful places in the Swiss Alps I created and get a free 3, 7, 10, or 14-day Switzerland itinerary.
Is Milan worth visiting?
Honestly, Milan is worth a visit! There’s so much to do and to discover in Milan – you will just love your stay if you like shopping or are curious about Leonardo da Vinci. Milan is a preferable destination during winter and non-sunny days for the city’s numerous indoor activities (Michelin restaurants, museums, etc.).
Guides and tours for visiting Milan
If you need help visiting the places I mentioned above, you can check guides and tours from GetYourGuide. I picked the best offers for your convenience:
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