things to do in milan

Milan’s gems are many. Make sure to experience the city’s must do’s. (Photo: Alamy)

Tips + Trends

Milan Must-Do’s: Start With Opera, Shopping and Aperitivi

Compared to other cities in Italy, Milan isn’t as packed with endless historic sights and countless art museums. But this just means you can leisurely enjoy the many gems that dot Italy’s most cosmopolitan city.

Visit the Roof of the Duomo di Milano

Milan may not be as architecturally stunning as Florence or Rome, but it does have the Duomo di Milano. The marble-fronted Gothic cathedral anchors the city and offers limitless opportunities for discovery. As you traverse the fifth-largest Christian church in the world, take a moment to admire countless sculptural reliefs adorning the exterior and soaring stained-glass windows that span the centuries. Don’t miss a visit to the roof, where you can see the city spread out before you, framed by the cathedral’s ornate spires.

Get a Contemporary Art Fix at Fondazione Prada

Fashion may be the city’s calling card, but Milan has a vibrant and growing contemporary art scene. One of the coolest spots at which to soak up expertly curated exhibitions is Fondazione Prada, an OMA-designed oasis located in a former distillery on the southern edge of the city. Film buffs will want to visit Bar Luce, the museum’s deliciously retro café designed by director Wes Anderson.

Gaze in Awe at “The Last Supper”

Despite the fact that it has been reproduced to death, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece is utterly transcendent when viewed in person in the refectory adjoining the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The anguished looks of the disciples as Jesus predicts his betrayal are enthralling, even though the fresco has faded over time. Visiting the mural is a must, although tickets can sometimes be difficult to acquire — be sure to book in advance or sign up for a guided city tour.

Wander Through the Monumental Cemetery

This sprawling cemetery, built around the time Milan freed itself from Austrian control in the mid-19th century, doubles as an open-air art museum. It contains the mausoleums and graves of some of the city’s most famous families, which are often adorned by exquisite works of art.

Kick Back with a Pre-Dinner Aperitivo

Dinner is a late affair in Milan, so it’s best to ease into the evening with the time-honored tradition of aperitivi — pre-dinner drinks and nibbles. You can chat and sip, Campari spritz in hand, until your stomach grumbles for something more substantial or you fill up on bar snacks — whichever comes first.

Many bars in the Navigli neighborhood offer a full buffet, while more classic spots, like Bar Basso, bring around small plates with each drink.

Catch an Exhibit at the Triennale Museum

Housed in the Palazzo dell’Arte, with its grand halls and neat, simple lines, the Triennale Museum embodies the important dialogue that took place between society, the arts and industry in postwar Milan. The museum’s temporary exhibitions highlight the works of important 20th-century Italian artists and designers.

See a da Vinci Mural at Sforza Castle; Then stroll Sempione Park

The muddy-colored castle, originally built by Francesco Sforza in the 15th century, is now home to the city’s largest exhibition complex. After checking out the various museums, one of which contains a ceiling frescoed by Leonardo da Vinci, go for a stroll in Sempione Park, an expansive green space that abuts the back of the castle.

Rub Elbows with Opera Buffs at La Scala

Milan’s Teatro Alla Scala, known simply as La Scala, is one of the most venerated opera houses in Europe (and it looks the part, too, with its red velvet and gold-colored detailing).

A love for opera run deeps in Italy — it’s believed that the art form originated in the country — and performances at La Scala are well attended. If you can’t score tickets to one of the operas, you may have better luck attending one of the theater’s other offerings, like an individual opera recital or a symphony orchestra performance.


what to do in milan
Armani / Silos (Photo: Getty Images)

Milan’s fashion pedigree has long made it a popular destination for anyone interested in the latest styles. While there are plenty of designer shops and boutiques to satiate shoppers, perhaps the best place to appreciate the city’s fashion legacy is at Armani/Silos.

This fashion and art museum houses hundreds of Giorgio Armani’s unique and influential designs from the last 40 years and also hosts temporary art exhibitions.

Stretch Your Purse Strings at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Forget cavernous, boxy retail parks — Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, located steps from the Duomo, will have you rethinking your aversion to malls. The 19th-century iron-and-glass shopping arcade is an architectural wonder; the monumental central dome, a feat for its time, is particularly impressive. The shops that line the arcade are generally quite high-end, meaning that their beautiful window displays add to the spectacle.