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10 best things to do in Milan: a local’s guide

Milan is a well known capital of all things catwalk but there are more amazing things to do in Milan than its (admittedly great) shopping. Here are our insider tips on places to visit while you're in town, from glorious art and architecture to delicious local restaurants.

1. The Duomo (Milan Cathedral)

Emerging from the steamy subway station at the Piazza del Duomo, look up and you can’t help but be blown away by the enormous white marble façade of Milan’s cathedral. The Duomo is the most famous of Milan’s tourist attractions, and rightly so. It took centuries to build and after the latest restoration it looks as impressive as ever. Walk around it to appreciate its size, or if you want to see inside, make sure you are dressed appropriately, covering arms and legs, otherwise you won’t be allowed in! Taking the audio guide tour of the interior is a treat and it’s the best way to get the most out of your visit – be sure to check out the magnificent enormous stained-glass windows behind the choir. Don’t miss a visit to the roof: take the elevator or stairs and enjoy the panoramic view of the city. The large square in front of the cathedral hosts concerts and other festivities.

What to see and do in Milan: The Duomo

2. [Museo del Novecento](http://Museo del Novecento)

To the right of the Duomo, facing the cathedral, are the beautifully restored twin Arengario buildings, one of which houses the new Novecento art museum. The outside of the building is worth a gander, before stepping inside to explore its treasures. The museum houses many of the masterpieces of Italian twentieth century Modern art, like the impressive Quarto Stato painting of Pellizza di Volpeda (striking workers at the turn of the century – you’ll probably recognise it when you see it) and the famous Unique Forms of Continuity in Space statue by Boccioni (imagine a bronze Transformer). This piece is also displayed on the reverse side of the Italian 20 cents Euro coin. Top tip: if you enter one or two hours before closing, your visit is free, otherwise admission is €5. Head straight for the top floor of the building: it’s one of the best places in Milan to take in a magnificent view of the Duomo and square, especially after sunset.

What to see and do in Milan: Museo del Novecento

3. Eat with the locals

One of the main reasons to visit Milan, or Italy in general is to enjoy its magnificent culinary culture. So if you are in Milan, forget about fast food and avoid the touristy restaurants. You can still find some authentic and good value eats, close to the main Milan attractions: Al Cantinone (a bit hidden but really good, on Via Agnello 19), Acqua di Mare (fish specialties, on Via Terraggio 11), Al Mercante(lovely outside terrace, right next to Piazza del Duomo at Piazza Mercanti 17), Boccondivino (excellent tasting menu with wine pairings, Via Carducci 17), Cucina del Toro (a hidden gem right in the centre, mains from €12, Via Camperio 15), Trattoria Milanese (for traditional Milanese food, Via Santa Marta 11) and La Dolce Vita (quiet and romantic, Via Bergamini 11). If you want to take a more unusual Milan sightseeing tour, try the ATMosfera restaurant tram: dining in a classical tram while riding through the city. Book at the ATM website.

4. Sforzesco Castle

Within walking distance from the Duomo, along the car-free shopping avenue of the Via Dante, lies the impressive castle of the Renaissance Sforzesco family who once ruled Milan. It now hosts a collection of civic museums and offers access to the large Sempione park so combines not one but two of the best places to visit in Milan. Meandering through the courtyards, you can admire the architecture and pop into different museums that exhibit, among others, Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà, Mantenga’s _Trivulzio Madonna _and boast ceilings painted according to designs by Leonardo da Vinci.

What to see and do in Milan: Sforzesco Castle

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5. Leonardo’s Last Supper and Santa Maria delle Grazie

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, Il Cenacolo, is the ultimate attraction to see in Milan. This iconic fresco is located in the refectory of the monastery next to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, not far from city centre. But unless you have booked a ticket in advance, save yourself the trouble of going, as tickets always sell out and cannot be bought on the day. The best way to get in is to book one of the available city tours or guided visits, as these have pre-arranged tickets. Be aware that visitors are only allowed in for 15 minutes, in small groups. Afterwards (or before) don’t miss the church itself for its beautiful Renaissance architecture, frescoes and paintings.

What to see and do in Milan: Leonardo’s Last Supper

6. Cimitero Monumentale

A graveyard may not be everyone’s idea of a holiday hotspot, but this is definitely one to check out. The Cimitero Monumentale is a kind of open-air museum of Italian sculpture, in which some of the best works of all major Italian sculptors of the nineteenth and twentieth century can be admired, some of which are enormous, theatrical displays of grief. Many celebrated Italians (and foreigners) are buried at the cemetery, like the director and violinist Arturo Toscanini and writer Alessandro Manzoni. Many of the more famous graves are in the special Famedio or Pantheon. There is also a Jewish part, a section for non-believers and a cremation temple. Read more about the world’s most beautiful graveyards in our top 13 list.

7. Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and Pinacoteca di Brera

It’s not just Florence that has the famous Italian Renaissance paintings: Milan has two large collections as well. Near the Scala opera theatre you’ll find the Brera Pinacoteca offering a large collection of works by the likes of Mantegna, Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, Bellini, Canaletto, Tintoretto and many more. The gallery’s website is all in Italian but offers a virtual view of what there is on display, and there are multilingual audio guides available. For the Ambrosiana art gallery (also near the Duomo) it’s wise to book tickets in advance online. Here you’ll find works on display from Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Brueghel, Titian, Caravaggio and Raphael, plus an interesting library with the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo and a Virgilius manuscript.

What to see and do in Milan: Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

8. Parco Sempione and Giardini Pubblici

Visiting Sforza Castle? Don’t leave without scoping out the adjacent Parco Sempione, opened in 1888 and designed by architect Emilio Alemagna who wanted this gorgeous green space to frame panoramic views of the stately home. Aside from the outdoors sculpture gallery, there’s also an aquarium which is free to visit if you go on Tuesdays after 2pm and on the first Sunday of the month, otherwise it’s €5 (closed on Mondays). If you’re in the area, another of the most attractive things to see in Milan is the Giardini Pubgblici Indro Montanelli, in the Porta Venezia district, home to the city’s Planetarium. Its the oldest patch of green in the city, established in 1784, and the Planetarium hosts a series of family-friendly guided tours of the starry night sky, starting in June.

![What to see and do in Milan: Parco Sempione]( What to see and do in Milan: Parco Sempione)

9. Sant’Ambrogio Basilica

Milan’s fourth century father Saint Ambrose, the most famous Milanese archbishop, converted and baptised the influential Saint Augustine (in the Duomo). Ambrose is the city’s patron saint and has his own basilica which is another definite must-see in Milan, both for its very old and original architectural elements (façade, atrium, column capitals, bell towers), but also for the artwork inside: Volvinius altar, choir, sarcophagus of Stilichone and mosaics. There is also a museum and a treasury.

10. Day trip: Pavia and Oltrepò Pavese

If you’re looking for top notch places to eat in Milan on a Sunday night then you could be out of luck; most of the better restaurants are closed on Sundays. But instead of going to one of the very few that are open, or one of a lesser quality, turn that frown upside down and discover part of Milan’s hinterland. A real tradition in the Italian countryside is the Sunday lunch, or pranzo della domenica, during which whole families eat and chat together for hours in one of the many _agriturismo, _or farmhouse style brasserie. The Oltrepò Pavese wine region, just 50 km south of Milan, offers an excellent choice of such traditional restaurants – try the fabulous local wines while taking in magnificent vineyard vistas at the likes of Trattoria Quaglini in the village of Schizzola. You can reach the area in less than an hour from Milan and on the way visit one of Lombardy’s main treasures, the Certosa di Pavia monastery (free entry, closed over lunch time). On your way back from lunch, stop for a stroll around the laid-back historical city of Pavia.

Things to do near Milan: Oltrepò Pavese

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Read more about great things to see and do in Italy:

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*Published October 2016. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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