Milan Cathedral (Duomo Milan) and Royal Palace of Milan
The most identifiable landmark of Milan is Milan Cathedral. It’s known as the Duomo and to take a photo in front of it is one of the most popular things to do in Milan. Construction of the Duomo began in 1386 and took 6 centuries to complete. It’s the largest church in Italy in addition to being the third largest in the world. The architecture is Gothic making the Milan Duomo the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Maybe it’s the best looking church in the world too? To enter the church you must first buy a ticket. Additionally, you may buy an extra ticket and ascend to the top for a unique view of its spires. The lines to enter the cathedral can be long so I recommend the Milan City Pass to skip the line and save time.
Located alongside the Duomo is the Royal Palace of Milan (above right). The Royal Palace of Milan would house Dukes as well as Duchesses before Milan became a part of Italy. Milan used to be part of a country called the Duchy of Milan from 1395 to 1797.
Whilst admiring the Duomo of Milan don’t forget to look to the top. Standing on top of the highest spire is the Madonnina. It’s a golden statue of the Virgin Mary and stands at 108 meters in height. When it was placed here in the late 18th century, the Madonnina was the highest point in Milan. In respect to the Madonnina, no taller buildings were built in Milan. Due to Milan being a growing city a few taller buildings have been built recently. These new taller buildings each have a Madonnina atop of them. In addition, when AC Milan play Inter Milan at the San Siro, this game is nicknamed the Madonnina. This is in respect of the Virgin Mary standing atop the Duomo.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
When people talk about things to do in Milan, shopping, or at least a photo in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is high on the list. It’s in fact the oldest shopping mall in Italy as well as being the most majestic, selling top end brands. Additionally, there’s one of Italy’s most exclusive hotels in the shopping mall, TownHouse Galleria. You will probably find Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II full of tourists taking selfies. It’s one of the top Instagram locations in Milan. The gallery is named after the first king of Italy who was born in Turin.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Domed Roof
Whilst exploring the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, make sure you look up. The glass and iron domed roof is something Gustave Eiffel would be proud of. The roof was designed by Italian, Giuseppe Mengoni. One of the exits leads to the Duomo and another to the Teatro Alla Scala, as a result the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is in a prime Milan location.
Painting of ‘The Last Supper’ (UNESCO site)
‘The Last Supper’ painting is located in the Santa Maria delle Grazie. It’s the only UNESCO site in the city, consequently making it one of the top things to do in Milan. It’s a church and Dominican convent built in the 15th century. The architectural style is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance and ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci is located inside. The church was seriously damaged during World War II but fortunately they heavily sandbagged where the mural was kept ensuring its survival. Today the biggest danger to the painting is people taking photos of it and for preservation reasons it’s forbidden to take photos. You can visit the exact location where ‘The Last Supper’ took place in Jerusalem.
For skip the line tickets to top Milan attractions including ‘The Last Supper’, I recommend the Milan City Pass. In addition this pass will gain you entry to Sforza Castle and the Milan Opera House.
Sforza Castle is named after Francisco Sforza, a former Duke of the Duchy of Milan. The tower in the center is called Filarete Tower and is named after an architect who designed it for Sforza. The Duchy of Milan was controlled by many countries over the years. The French, Swiss, Austrians, Spanish as well as the Venetians have all controlled the Sforza Castle. It used to be one of the largest fortresses in Europe. When you think of things to do in Milan, a huge fortress is the last thing that comes to mind. Today it houses museums and art galleries.
Teatro alla Scala (Milan Opera House)
Milan Opera House may not look anything special from the outside. On the inside it’s one of the grandest opera houses you will ever see. The best of Italian opera and ballet acts perform here and there are regular live performances. Schedule and prices are displayed on the Milan Opera House website. Italian legends including Andrea Bocelli as well as Luciano Pavarotti have performed at the Milan Opera House. The fact that these 2 legends have performed in this theater makes a visit here one of the top things to do in Milan!
Ancient Roman Ruins of Milan
Ancient Milan was called Mediolanum and scattered around Milan are several Roman ruins. The best kept ruins are those of Colonne di San Lorenzo (above). Additionally, several columns are located outside of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. As the colorful trams regularly pass by the columns you can take some beautiful photos. Around central Milan you’ll also find remains of a Roman wall, an imperial palace as well as an amphitheater. Unfortunately not much remains of the Roman amphitheater, nearby Verona is where to go to view a well maintained one, or you could go to Rome to see the most famous amphitheater in the world.
Milan Canal District (Navigli)
One of the lesser known things to do in Milan is visit the canal district. Milan has its own canal district called the Navigli which consists of 5 canals. These canals were used to carry commercial goods and in fact carried the marble required to build the Duomo. Leonardo Da Vinci is famous for ‘The Last Supper’ painting in Milan. In addition, he also designed the canals of Milan. Today, the canals are redundant but offer some wonderful reflection photography opportunities to challenge Venice. You can make good Instagram shots on any of the bridges that cross the canal. The canals are also lined with bars and restaurants making Navigli one of the best nightlife locations in Milan. Additionally, during the summer months you can take a sightseeing canal tour on a boat.
Vertical Forest (Bosco Verticale)
The vertical forest (Bosco Verticale) are 2 residential towers with the largest tower rising 111 meters tall. There are over 900 trees on the towers which is why they are named, vertical forest. They are designed to reduce smog and increase oxygen in the city. As you can imagine with all the weight of the trees, the balconies had to be made of reinforced steel. In 2015, the vertical forest won an award for the best tall building in the world. Bosco Verticale are definitely picturesque in addition to being Instagram worthy buildings in Milan. They are conveniently located next to a modern shopping mall.
Visit the San Siro Stadium
A short metro ride from the center of Milan is the famous San Siro stadium. It’s the largest football stadium in Italy. The San Siro is the home stadium for AC Milan as well as Inter Milan. This increases the chances of being able to watch a live football game whilst in Milan. The stadium is open daily for a self guided stadium tour. In addition you can visit the club shop which sells merchandise for both Milan teams, a must for any football fan.
How to get from Milan to Brescia by train
There are regular trains from Milan Centrale to Brescia, the journey takes around 40 minutes and costs less than €9. With such a short journey time you should consider staying in Brescia and visit Milan on a day trip. For the price of a regular hotel in Milan you can stay in a palace in Brescia.