Milan is known as one of Europe’s fashion capitals, but it’s also a thriving business and finance hub. While it’s easy to get caught up in the city’s reputation, Milan is a surprisingly interesting place for visitors to see.
A visit to the Duomo is a must, and it’s a sight you’ll always remember. But there are many other great things to do in Milan.
1. Castello Sforzesco
One of the best places to explore in Milan, Castello Sforzesco is a magnificent 15th-century castle. It is the former home of Milan’s powerful Visconti rulers and now houses some of the city’s most important cultural institutions.
The museum’s fine art collection includes works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as the Rondanini Pieta. It also has a very interesting collection of musical instruments.
The castle is divided into four levels and includes a wide range of museums and exhibitions. These include the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, Museum of Ancient Art, Egyptian Museum and Museo Musical Instruments.
2. Piazza Mercanti
Located between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Cordusio, medieval Piazza Mercanti was once Milan’s beating heart. Back then, this square was considerably larger than it is now.
As such, it was home to Milan’s city hall, law courts, prison and city market. There were six entry points, associated with each trade – from tailors to cobblers and blacksmiths to hat makers – so local residents spent a lot of time in this square.
While it’s no longer the centre of town, Piazza Mercanti is still an important historic hub. It’s a good place to step away from the crowds and admire historical buildings in a peaceful setting. Plus, a short walk from the square you’ll find Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and some of Milan’s other favourite landmarks.
3. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
A popular meeting place, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is home to many shops and restaurants. You’ll find luxury brands like Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton here as well as other local favorites.
Considered one of Milan’s main landmarks, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is topped by a glass dome and features an exquisite mosaic floor. It’s also one of the city’s biggest shopping malls, with shops and cafes spread across its extensive grounds.
The building is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy and was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. Its design was inspired by the classical commercial arcades in Paris and is considered one of Europe’s finest.
While Venice may be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Italy’s canals, Milan is also home to a number of waterways that are sure to attract any visitor. The Navigli are an intricate system of interconnected canals that have been used for a variety of purposes since the Middle Ages.
The earliest of the canals were agricultural in purpose and brought water from the Ticino and Adda rivers to irrigate farms and mills. However, they soon became an important mode of transport in their own right.
Today, the Navigli are a lively part of the city with a variety of bars and restaurants. The area is particularly popular after sunset, when the young crowds fill in the narrow streets looking for a spot to enjoy an aperitivo.
5. Duomo di Milano
The Duomo di Milano is one of the city’s top attractions. Located on Piazza del Duomo, it is regarded as the third-largest cathedral in the world, behind St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil.
The cathedral is home to an array of dazzling religious sculpture and a stunning spire. It is also renowned for its Madonnina, a four-metre gilded statue of the Virgin Mary.
Access to the cathedral is made via five large bronze doors from Piazza Duomo. Its awe-inspiring interior is rich with paintings, mosaic and graves. A visit to the roof is recommended, which offers an incredible view of Milan.