Planning a trip to Italy?
If you’re wondering whether to put the second-largest city on your itinerary, get this:
Milan is worth visiting for its abundance of historical, cultural, and architectural landmarks. Music fans will love the famous theater La Scala; architecture buffs – the imposing Duomo Cathedral; art lovers – the fantastic Pinacoteca Brera; and luxury shoppers – the glamorous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
In this article, you’ll find the top 33 reasons to visit Milan. By the end, you’ll know without a doubt the answer to the question, is Milan worth visiting.
Ready to explore?
Note: This article contains affiliate links. In case you purchase something through one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost for you. Thank you for helping us keep creating the free content on this website!
Visit Milan for the Staggering Landmarks
In the following section, you’ll discover Milan’s top attractions. From majestic churches to Roman ruins, let’s find out which landmarks make Milan worth visiting.
- The marvelous Il Duomo. The Milan Cathedral is one of the largest and most magnificent Gothic structures in the world. The marble edifice rises 354 ft. (108 m) high on Piazza Duomo and can accommodate 40,000 people. 135 spires adorn its roof, which you can also explore. Dedicated to the Nativity of Saint Mary, the groundbreaking for the cathedral happened in 1386. However, the enormous building wasn’t finished until 1965. Nowadays, the Duomo is Milan’s most popular attraction. For this reason, we recommend coming early in the morning and purchasing tickets in advance.
- The splendid Sforzesco Castle. The Duke of Milan built the gigantic medieval fortress in the 15th century. Today, it’s one of the top attractions in the city. The best part? There’s no entrance fee to explore its breathtaking exterior and courtyard. Inside, the colossal structure houses over 10 museums. You’ll have the chance to admire masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. We recommend getting your tickets online to avoid queueing.
- The massive Colonne di San Lorenzo. Exploring the Columns of St. Lawrence is one of the best free things to do in Milan. The tall, marble columns are incredibly well preserved and incorporated in modern-day Milan. Dating back to when the city was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, this archeological site is near the remains of an amphitheater and a bathhouse. Nearby, you’ll also find two other important landmarks, Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore and Porta Ticinese Medievale.
- The spooky Cimitero Monumentale. One of the most unusual attractions of Milan is its Monumental Cemetery. The park houses magnificent funerary sculptures in various architectural styles. They adorn the tombs and graves of prominent artists, architects, and wealthy citizens. If you decide to include the chilling landmark on your itinerary, please be respectful of the dead.
- The monumental gateways. Milan’s defensive walls underwent several transformations. Throughout the centuries, three different systems protected the city. Romans built the oldest walls. Then, during the Middle Ages, the defense was updated to accommodate the growing city. Finally, in the 16th century, the Spanish invaded Milan and erected new walls. Nowadays, you can explore several of the remaining gateways. The ones you shouldn’t miss are Porta Venezia, Porta Garibaldi, and Porta Ticinese Medievale. Each represents different architectural style and is magnificent in its own way.
- The Renaissance Santa Maria delle Grazie. The Holy Mary of Grace church and Dominican convent is a massive, 15th-century edifice. It features intricate terracotta walls and elaborate Gothic interior. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous fresco, The Last Supper. You can see the mural at the refectory of the convent. Note that you need a ticket to enter. Booking in advance is required.
- The ancient Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. Built in the 4th century, this Romanesque church is one of the oldest in Milan. During its existance, the basilica changed its appearance several times. Its current style dates back to the 12th century. The structure features brickwork of different origins and colors. Explore the elegant courtyard before paying respect to the Saints Ambrose, Gervasius, and Protasius. Their remains rest in the crypt at the back of the church.
- The gigantic Sempione Park. The massive historic garden is the most famous in Milan. On one end, you’ll find the gorgeous Sforzesco Castle. On the opposite, the striking Arco della Pace awaits to charm you. Roam the park’s alleys and discover the man-made pond, the tower, and the aquarium. Or marvel at the countless manicured meadows and historic monuments.
- The world-famous Teatro alla Scala. The 18th-century opera and ballet theater is one of the best on the planet. Every famous Italian opera singer, as well as many of the greatest performers from around the world, have charmed the audience at La Scala. If you won’t be attending the opera at night, tour the elegant building during the day. And if you wish to discover more about the world-renowned opera house, visit the adjoining museum. Museo Teatrale alla Scala displays costumes and portraits of prominent singers, as well as musical scores and instruments.
Visit Milan for the Timeless Art
Milan is worth visiting for the precious art collections and incredible museum displays. Elegant townhouses and former monasteries keep priceless treasures. Let’s see which ones will attract you the most.
- The innovative Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci. Housed in a former monastery, the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia will blow your mind with its extensive collection. Foucault’s pendulum, wooden battle ships, and WWII aircrafts fill the enormous halls of the museum. Scale models of da Vinci’s robots, submarines, and flying machines will leave you speechless by the inventor’s genius. Tip: If you’re a fan of Leonardo da Vinci’s creations, visit also Leonardo 3. The interactive display features models built from his drawings.
- The fantastic Pinacoteca di Brera. The largest gallery in Milan occupies an elegant palazzo. In Brera Gallery’s halls, you can marvel at masterpieces mainly from North-Italian artists. Enjoy the works of the world-famous Caravaggio, Tiepolo, and da Vinci. Behind the Pinacoteca, you’ll find Orto Botanico di Brera. The drop-dead gorgeous scenery of the historic botanical garden invites you to sit, relax, and contemplate the art you’ve just witnessed.
- The royal Palazzo Reale di Milano. The Neoclassical ducal palace was the seat of the Milanese government. Nowadays, contemporary fine-art exhibitions fill its regal halls. Masterpieces from international artists, such as Claude Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso, attract culture vultures. Shows dedicated to calligraphy, magical realism, female avant-garde artists, or sculptures of gorgeous women often take place at the Royal Palace.
- The grand Palazzo Marino. Adjacent to the historic arcade Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II, this 16th-century palace is Milan’s city hall. Sculptures of mythological creatures and frescoes with religious scenes decorate the building. In the courtyard, you can marvel at the staggering Labors of Hercules and the Metamorphoses. The ceiling of Salone dell’Alessi, the main hall, features the awe-inspiring Marriage of Cupid and Psyche and The Four Seasons.
- The contemporary Museo del Novecento. The Museum of the Twentieth Century hosts modern art inside an elegant palace. You can marvel at paintings from Kandinsky, Klee, Matisse, Mondrian, and Picasso. However, the focus of the gallery is the works of the Italian Futurists. A whole room displays Volpedo’s humongous canvas The Fourth Estate. Artwork by Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Fortunato Depero adorn the other halls.
- The priceless Ambrosian Library. Founded in 1609 and named after St. Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, the historic Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana is a true treasure trove. It keeps ancient manuscripts, such as da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, and paintings by Caravaggio, Botticelli, Raffaello, and Titian. Admire the legacy of the great Renaissance artists by ordering your ticket here.
- The gracious Poldi Pezzoli Museum. The elegant gallery started as Poldi Pezzoli and his family’s private collection. Nowadays, it hosts sculptures, paintings, furniture, and archaeological artefacts. The extensive collection contains chef-d-œuvres by Italian and Flemish masters, such as Botticelli, Canaletto, Tiepolo, and Cornelis de Wael.
- The splendid Natural History Museum. The lovely historic park Giardini Indro Montanelli is home to the fabulous Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano. The stunning 19th-century edifice combines Neo-Romanesque style with Gothic elements. In the museum, you can explore an incredible collection of rare fossils, valuable minerals, extinct species, and exciting dioramas of wild animals. The highlights include the world’s largest sulfur crystal, a Cro-Magnon skull, and Pygmy elephant skeletons.
Visit Milan for the Mouth-Watering Cuisine
The North-Italian city is the birthplace of several delectable dishes. If you’re a foodie, Milan is worth visiting for its traditional delicacies. Arm yourself with a napkin nearby and discover the most salivating ones.
- The diverse Minestrone alla Milanese. The staple soup is a fantastic starter all year round. Fresh seasonal vegetables join forces with pork rind and rice to warm you up in winter and cool you down in summer. Cabbage, beets, lettuce, celery, spinach, parsley, and fennel meet with potatoes, onions, and carrots in this colorful chowder.
- The comforting Risotto alla Milanese. The simple rice dish is a velvety fusion of butter, onion, bone marrow, beef broth, and Parmesan cheese. The creamy dish perfectly blends the starchy rice with the sweet taste of the marrow. The typical golden tone of the Milanese risotto comes from the vigorous saffron.
- The surprising Polenta. The cornmeal dish comes in several varieties. Polenta could be a hot porridge or a solid loaf. The latter is the result of allowing the porridge to cool and solidify. Then, you can bake, fry, or grill the loaf. The fulfilling meal takes a long time to cook and goes well with cheese, sausages, lentils, or sauces.
- The crunchy Costoletta alla Milanese. One of Milano’s oldest traditional dishes, the fried veal cutlet is similar to the legendary Viennese Schnitzel. The recipe for the costolettas follows strict rules. You can only use cutlets from a milk-fed veal. The reason? They’re neither too fat nor too lean. Additionally, a true Costoletta alla Milanese should include the bone. Last but not least, you should fry the breaded cutlet in butter.
- The heavenly Ossobuco. The name of this North-Italian meal literally means “bone with a hole”. It refers to the marrowbone at the center of the meat. The casserole dish goes well with risotto or polenta as a side dish. An essential ingredient is the gremolada. For a splash of color and taste, add the fine paste of garlic, lemon zest, and parsley at the end.
- The hearty Cassoeula. This meat casserole combines pork ribs, rind, or head, with Verzino sausage, onions, carrots, celery, and black pepper. After simmering for about 2:30 hours, cabbage joins the pot for another 30 minutes. Polenta and a strong red wine pair greatly with this calorie-rich winter dish.
- The juicy Arrostino annegato. Locally called rostin nega’a and literally meaning drowned roast, this traditional Milanese dish epitomizes boned veal loin and pancetta cured meat. Seasoned with sage and rosemary, the meat is stewed in white wine, brown stock, and lemon juice. You can consume the resulting scrumptiousness with risotto.
- The flavorful Mondeghili. These fried meatballs are an Arabic legacy. For the ultimate tenderness, chefs soak the meat in milk. Lemon zest, parsley, garlic, nutmeg, and grated Parmesan cheese add to the heavenly flavor of the mouth-watering snack. You can consume them as a starter or as a main dish. They’re typically served during the traditional aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink the Milanese love to enjoy after work.
- The quintessential Michetta. The staple Milanese bread originated during the Austrian rule of Northern Italy. It’s a variation of the Vienna roll, the Kaisersemmel. The pastry can be sweet or savory, with or without a filling. Due to its hollow interior and crunchy crust, the bread roll gets stale quickly. That’s why you should always devour Michettas freshly baked.
- The sweet Barbajada. The frothy drink incorporates equal parts of whipped cream, coffee, and chocolate. It was invented in the Caffé del Teatro near La Scala and was the favorite treat of the famous composer Gioacchino Rossini. At its peak in the 19th and early 20th century, the drink was so popular it made its inventor quite wealthy.
Visit Milan for the Endless Shopping Extravaganzas
After satiating your cultural and gastronomical cravings, it’s now time to explore the city’s countless shopping opportunities. Milan is worth visiting for the fashion boutiques, unbeatable outlets, and shiny antiquities. Let’s hunt for the most interesting deals!
- The posh Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. One of the oldest shopping arcades in the world dates back to the late 19th century. Luxury brands, upscale restaurants, high-end hotels, and intriguing museums occupy the glass-covered, four-story historic mall. Take your time to admire the intricate façades and the vibrant mosaics. The elaborate coats of arms of Milan, Turin, Florence, and Rome decorate the floors.
- The extravagant Fashion District. Milan is famous as one of the fashion capitals of the world, together with Paris, London, and New York. So, it’s no wonder that a whole neighborhood is dedicated to the creations of top designers. The upscale shopping area Quadrilatero della Moda, also known as Quad d’Oro, is concentrated around Via Monte Napoleone. Exclusive boutiques, antique shops, and trendy cafés will seduce you with vibrant colors, unique shapes, and funky interiors.
- The elegant Via Dante. The beautiful pedestrian street stretches from Piazza Duomo to Sforzesco Castle. Stunning townhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries line the street. Named after the great Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, the avenue houses trendy shops, posh restaurants, cozy cafés, and exquisite bars. In the stores, you’ll find anything from jewelry, clothing, and shoes to books, wine, and cosmetics.
- The energetic Corso Buenos Aires. The vibrant boulevard runs from Porta Venezia to Piazzale Loreto. On the mile-long street, you can explore from fashion boutiques through department stores to discount outlets. You can shop clothing for all ages, books for all tastes, and cosmetics for all skin-types, before relaxing in one of the numerous inviting cafés or restaurants.
- The funky Chinatown. The pedestrianized Via Paolo Sarpi dissects the multi-ethnic Quartiere Cinese. The district is home to Italy’s largest Chinese community. Red lanterns decorate the streets. Exotic food markets, health stores, hairdressing salons, and dim sum restaurants occupy the buildings. High-quality silk, cotton, and leather goods at affordable prices await you in the shops. Tip: Chinatown is also one of the best areas to stay in Milan.
- The Milanese antiques and flea markets. You can go on a treasure hunt at several great markets in Milan. In Navigli, the Viale Papiniano Flea Market and the monthly Mercatone dell’Antiquariato will seduce you with a wide selection of leather goods, hand-made jewelry, old-fashioned furniture, and other intriguing antiquities. In Isola, one of the coolest sights you can experience is the weekend market. From stalls and tables directly on the street, you can buy anything from vintage clothes to cheap attire, and from fresh vegies to aged cheeses.
Is Milan Worth Visiting? Now You Know the Answer
There you have it – the 33 top reasons to visit Milan.
The city seduces with its rich historical heritage, massive art collections, incredible shopping opportunities, and scrumptious traditional dishes.
On top of that, it’s the perfect starting point for exploring Italy. Just take one, two, or several of the awesome day trips from Milan we’ve gathered for you.
So, if you’ve been wondering whether it’s worth visiting the Italian city, we bet you found the answer already.
Now, we’re curious:
Have you been to Milan? Did you think it was worth exploring?
Let us know in the comments below.