Milan is recognised worldwide for being one of the design and fashion capitals of the world, but it has a lot to see beyond just fashion. Top sights include the beautiful Duomo, Sforzesco Castle and Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper.
I recently visited Milan for a weekend. I left after work on a Friday and was back home for Sunday dinner. I flew with Ryanair to Bergamo (mostly because the price was great) it’s a 2.5 hour flight direct from Edinburgh. I caught the bus outside Bergamo airport (I booked online in advance and it was around £5) it takes around an hour direct to Central Station where I caught a taxi ($12) to central Milan. Milan has 3 airports, the other two are Linate and Malpensa. Linate is closest to Milan (8km from the centre) and Malpensa is the biggest of the 3 (50km+ from centre).
I stayed in 2 very central Milan hotels:
- STRAF – a wonderfully located design hotel just steps from the Duomo. Great minimalistic hotel with robes and water provided free of charge. STRAF also has a great bar next door to the hotel, with live music and an outside seating area.
- Hotel Milano Castello – slightly further from the Duomo but not far (less than a 10 minute walk). Great modern room, average breakfast.
It was around 9pm when I arrived and I went straight to the Duomo to get some night shots. Well worth it as it looks totally different at night.
Top things to do in Milan
Saturday I was up and about early. The area surrounding the Duomo is very busy at all times of the day and there are the usual people trying to sell you stuff. Everyone just wants lots of pictures taken of them with the iconic cathedral in the background.
The Duomo di Milano is a huge cathedral. It is 515 ft (157 metres) long and 302 ft (92 m) wide. It can house up to 40.000 people, it’s one of the largest churches in the world and took five centuries to complete. On the highest spire of the temple is the Madonnina, a gilded bronze statue, which has become the symbol of Milan.
I had booked a skip the line tour of the Duomo and the roof terraces by lift with Get My Guide. I was very glad to have booked when I saw the huge queues of people waiting to get in. The tour was supposed to be 1.5 hours long but it was more like 2 hours. Very interesting to hear about the background of the cathedral in more detail, for me it was a bit too much detail and I would have preferred a shorter tour with just the highlights but that’s simply a personal opinion.
Gelleria Vitoria Emanuele II
I went to Galleria Vitoria Emanuele II which is right next to the Duomo – I have never seen such a magnificent shopping centre. You will find all the big fashion names here, but I think most people again come for the photos. with a stunning mosaic floor, and wonderful glass roof and cupola it is a very cool building.
On the floor in the middle of the gallery you need to find Turin’s coat of arms. The Milanese tradition says that you need to rub your right heel on the bull’s balls to ward off evil. I’m not sure how much truth there is in this, but would you take the risk? 🙂
Really great pizza. A slice (very generous size) and a beer will cost you around £8! A big queue at all times but moves quickly and worth the wait.
The best Italian invention, and in Milan it works perfectly. Every day around 5 or 6 pm bars and cafes serve the traditional aperitivo. Usually, you pay 9 to 15 Euros for a drink and then you can eat as much as you can from a food buffet. Usually more than basic snacks – real Italian delicious food.
Arco della Pace
About a 25 min walk from the Duomo, situated in Parco Sempione is Napoleon’s 25m-high triumphal arch. It looks similar to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe and marks the start of Corso Sempione, the main road that connects Milan to Paris.
Via Monte Napoleon
About a 20 min walk from the Duomo, this is the most famous shopping street in Milan. Again all the big names have large stores here. Worth a look if you have time, but underwhelming for me.
A surprising monument sheltering several specialized museums and traces of the city’s past. Castello Sforzesco was originally a fortress and later home to the Sforzas, the rulers of Milan, who transformed it into a palace thought to have been decorated by several of the greatest artists of the times including Leonardo da Vinci.
Once the hubs of the city’s commercial life (the canals), after years of abandonment, these “quintessentially Milanese” places are currently the location where many night spots are open until late with a mix of ancient shops and cafes, and funky bars and fashion boutiques.
I didn’t manage to find any of these which are dotted about the city. But a very cool spot for a picture opportunity!
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper
If you want to visit Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, displayed in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church you will need to get your tickets well in advance. You’ll only have 15 minutes to view the painting, but it’s a great experience if this is your thing.
One of the top opera houses in the world, the season runs from December-June, and you should buy tickets as far in advance as you can.
San Siro Stadium
Famous stadium of Milan, home to AC Milan and Internazionale, two of the most famous and successful football(soccer) clubs in Italy.
A weekend was perfect in Milan. I’m not sure its a place I would want to spend any more than a couple of days in and I think it might be a one time trip for me. It was a great experience but I saw everything I wanted to see and don’t feel the need to visit again. I read before I went that Milan has a reputation for being a bit grey and rainy and buildings in the outskirts look a bit run down, I found this to be accurate (but I did visit in November!). I didn’t find the city captivating like a lot of other Italian cities. Milan didn’t thrill me but I still had a great time and was in awe of the Duomo.