I’ve heard so many stories about Milan. This city has been so praised. So one day, I bought a ticket and enthusiastically took the plane to Milan, in order to find out what is all the fuss about it.
Honestly speaking, this is definitely not my kind of city. Of course it all depends on your personal expectations and taste, but to me personally, Milan seemed gray and spiritless even when the weather was sunny.
Without trying to impose my own opinion, I will still point out the places that are worth seeing if you have chosen Milan as a destination for your next trip, along with some interesting facts and useful information such as working time, prices and locations.
1. The Duomo or the Cathedral in Milan
What could be more emblematic for Milan than the Duomo itself? The cathedral dedicated to the birth of Christ, built by Gan Galeazzo Visconti, is the symbol of the city and one of the first sights to see when you visit Milan.
The cathedral’s construction project began back in 1386 resulting as a unique monument with stunning stained glass windows and gorgeous sculptured decorations.
This majestic cathedral is certainly the most significant work of the Gothic architecture: the only one that combines Scandinavian and Lombard elements. The golden statue of Virgin Mary at the top complements the picture.
How to reach the Duomo?
The Duomo is located in the historic center of Milan and can easily be reached by metro: line M1 and line M3, the stop just cannot be mistaken: „il Duomo“. They often do restoration works, so do not be surprised if you see some construction in progress around the cathedral.
You can climb onto the terrace, which offers breath-taking panoramic views of the city and the Alps.
Admission fees and working hours:
Price: € 2,00
- Entry fee – business hours are from 8 AM till 7 PM
- The crypt of St. Charles – 11 AM till 5.30PM.
Museum, St. Gotardo – 10 AM till 6 PM
The Terrace of the Milan Cathedral
Working time: 9 AM until 7 PM
Prices for the terrace:
lift € 13.00; (reduced for children on an age from 6 to 12 – € 7,00) *.
To get on the top by foot the price is € 9.00; Reduced (Children 6-12) € 4.50 *.
Archaeological Museum – the maximum number of visitors is no more than 50 people at once Price € 6, reduced € 3 *; From 9 am to 9 pm
2. Victor Emmanuel’s Gallery
Victor Emmanuel’s Gallery is situated just a few minutes by walking from the Duomo, back in the historic center.
NOTE: Do not forget to step and turn clockwise three times (or at least once) onto your heel on the worn-out spot of the bull, as it is believed it will bring you luck. Not sure where it is? Do not worry, there are always at least a couple of tourists spinning around on their heels there at any time. 🙂
The bull is actually one of the four coats of arms depicted under the dome of the octagonal square where the Gallery was built. The architect wanted to turn it into a symbol of the unity of Italy, which is why three of the four coats of arms belong to the three capitals of Italy: Rome (the wolf), Turin (the bull) and Florence (the lily) + Milan (a white flag with a red cross).
The Curious story about building the gallery
The Victorian Emmanuel Gallery, the so-called Milan salon, was initially built because in the first half of the 19th century the city was envious of the industrial evolution of the major European capitals and wanted to be at least at their height.
In 1859, the idea of a connecting passage between the Duomo Square and the La Scala Square became clearer so an international competition was launched to see the suggestions of various architects. A total of 176 architects proposed their ideas, and among them all the most notable one was that of the Italian Giuseppe Mengoni, who gave the idea of a long, slender gallery with a wide hall in the middle of the crossroads.
In 1865, the building process began; the first stone was personally laid by King Victor Emmanuel of Savoy. Two years later the gallery was officially opened, though not completely finished and without the presence of the King himself. Unfortunately, the construction of the Gallery had a tragic outcome: its creator, Giuseppe Mengoni, died exactly during the „inspection“ of his work, falling from the roof, or at least so claimed the official version. Many people did not believe in this story, but they suspected that it was a suicide caused by the numerous criticisms of the Gallery and by the deep disappointment of the King’s absence during the opening ceremony. No one could have guessed that the reason for that absence was hidden in the critical health of the king who would die a few days later.
Today, the Gallery is the place in Milan where local people go to meet up, shop (at high prices), or just have a cup of espresso.
3. Sforzesco Castle or Sforza Castle
The Sforzesco Castle is about 750 years old and was an essential part of the Milan’s history.
The construction was ordered by Galeazzo II Visconti but was then destroyed. Francesco Scorza is the one who gave an order to rebuild in its current shape, so the Castle bears his name.
During the centuries, the castle had a role as a military citadel; today it remains one of the largest castles in Europe. This place has always been associated with war, power, and sorrow on the dead, and therefore simultaneously loved and hated by the citizens of Milan.
In the early 19th century, when the Sforza Castle became municipal property, there was a movement to destroy it, but thanks to the architect Luka Beltrami’s intercession, the castle was restored and changed its appearance, turning into a much more comfortable cultural place that keeps works of the Lombard.
Currently, the castle hosts a range of museums and is open for visits.
There is a beautiful fountain in front of the castle, where many hawkers are constantly circulating, offering cheap bracelets very violently. They are literally everywhere around Milan so try to be absolutely stone-faced and just pass through. However, there are also interesting characters, like the ones in the picture:
The admission in the Castle is FREE
Working hours: from 7 AM till 7 PM (every day during the week)
Museums on the territory of the castle:
Museums’ working time: from Tuesday to Sunday – 9 am to 5:30 pm (winter time), Monday closed
Museum ticket price: € 5,00 / € 3,00 * reduced
IMPORTANT: Entrance is absolutely free for museums every Tuesday from 2 pm, from Wednesday to Sunday from 4:30 pm and the first 3 days of every month
4. The Last Supper of Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper is jealously guarded in the dining room of the Dominican Monastery of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan.
Leonardo painted this striking work of art on the northern wall of the corridor between 1494 and 1498, during the domination of Ludovico Sforza, his patron.
Genius Leonardo makes this masterpiece using a „dry“ technique instead of using a wet plaster – the technique commonly used for frescoes. The fresco cannot be changed because Leonardo decides to wallow it, and then draw on it.
Unfortunately, over time, due to the weather, the techniques used by Leonardo and the historical events (World War II bombings), the work suffered a great damage and can only be seen partially.
The dining room is rebuilt and, in order to prevent the picture from being damaged further, it is stored under special conditions, controlled air humidity and can only be visited by groups of up to 25 visitors at a time for a limited time of 15 minutes.
Obligatory book tickets if you want to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (tickets are available for up to 3 months ahead). You can do it here.
EUR 10 (+ EUR 2 for the reservation)
EUR 5 (+ EUR 2 for the reservation) – for EU citizens between 18 and 25 years old
FREE – for persons under 18 years of age
Working hours: from 08:00 to 18:30
Santa Maria Delle Grazie Square
Metro line 1: Cadorna or Conciliazione
Metro line 2: Cadorna and Sant’Ambrogio
5. The “La Scala” Opera
Surely you’ve heard about the opera La Scala. You can not be in Milan and not see it at least from the outside!
The building is in neoclassical style and the hall is horseshoe-shaped.
Undoubtedly, the La Scala opera band is among the most elite in the world, largely because of the world’s luminaries in the opera. We cannot skip mentioning: many of the most famous Bulgarian opera singers such as Raina Kabaivanska, Boris Hristov, Julian Kostadinov and others appeared on the scene of the La Scala.
You can visit the museum in the theatre. I personally failed to do so, but it looks quite beautiful.
Standard ticket – 7 €
Reduced ticket – 5 € * – for groups, students and 65+
free of charge – for children under 12 years of age
How to get there:
Like MM1: stop Duomo
Line MM3: stop Montenapoleone
tram n ° 1, stop via Manzoni – piazza Della Scala (La Scala Square)
tram n ° 2, stop via Manzoni – piazza Della Scala
6. The Sempione Park
If you are like me and need some greenery to recharge especially while traveling around an industrial city, you can relax in the park of Sempione, the most famous park in Milan. Located in the immediate surrounding area of the Castle of Sforzes, you will easily find it.
7. Brera Gallery (Pinakoteka di Brera)
The Brera Gallery originated in 1776 as a collection of significant works designed to train students of the Academy of Fine Arts.
When Milan was proclaimed the capital of the Kingdom of Italy by Napoleon, pictures of churches and other institutions (those that were not carried in Paris) arrived in Brera.
The Brera Gallery differs from other prestigious Italian museums precisely because the works do not come from personal collections of aristocrats and princes but from the State and political collections. The gallery brags with an extremely rich collection, including some of the most famous works in the world. One of the symbols of the Brera is the painting of Romanticism: „The Kiss“ of Aytz.
8. The Sant’Ambrogio Basilica
The church, named after the patron saint of Milan, is the second most important place in the city after the Duomo. Founded in the 4th century at the request of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (buried here at 397) in the crypt of the Christian martyrs, the church was reconstructed according to the canons of Romanesque architecture between 1088 and 1099.
It is considered the most significant example of Roman Lombard architecture.
The Satan Legend
Near the Basilica of St. Ambrose what is interesting is to see a column from the Roman epoch, which shows two holes made by Satan himself, according to the legend. It is said that the devil, after his unsuccessful attempts to seduce Ambrose, tried to pierce him with his horns but did not hit and his horns stuck in the column. Fuming, in the form of sulfur vapor, the villain used the same holes to return to the underworld.
So do not be surprised if you feel a slight smell of sulfur or if you touch your ear against the wall, you hear strange sounds coming from nowhere…
9. The Columns of Saint Lorenzo
The columns of St. Lorenzo are another thing you can see in the center of Milan for free. If you’ve got some spare time you should take a look at these Roman ruins.
10. Have a walk on the Monte Napoleone Street, the street of Fashion.
If you like expensive boutiques, you’ll be fascinated by the luxury while you look at the shop windows and observe the elegance and extravagance of customers in these stores. It’s surely not a place for tourists on a tight budget.
If you are a fan of the shopping, you can also stroll along Buenos Aires Boulevard, where you will find many luxury shops. Still, it is not just a coincidence that Milan is known as the „fashion capital“ of the world, where the Fashion Week is held twice a year.
Sources include: personal experience and many sites for reference confirmation of details.
And now it’s time for Six places in Milan that the tour guide will not show you.
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