It is impossible to pass through Milan without visiting the iconic Duomo, an architectural work of art in the form of a Gothic cathedral.
This cathedral is a masterpiece to admire from the outside, but a ticket to visit it inside will also give you access to its roof, as well as the archaeological area, for a whole new perspective on Milan. Buy your tickets online here to avoid the crowds.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
On the other side of Piazza Duomo is the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a luxurious 19th century shopping mall. You will find high-end restaurants and luxury designer boutiques such as Prada, Dior and Gucci.
With its glass ceilings and opulent facades, the architecture of this gallery is a wonder to behold; even the floors were worth taking pictures of.
Milan is a dream place for shopping. If you like luxury items, you will be spoilt for choice (whether you want to buy or just look). Stroll through the“Quadrilatero della moda” or Fashion district, including Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga for some luxury window shopping: Prada, Hermes, Cartier, Gucci, Armani, Dolce & Gabanna, all the major designer brands are here.
Corso Buenos Aires and Via Torino streets will offer you all the big European and international clothing stores like H&M, Zara, Pull and Bear, and others. There’s plenty of choice; good luck if you’re traveling only with a carry-on luggage!
Art lovers will find much to enjoy in Milan; the city is overflowing with museums displaying the works of some of the most famous artists of their time.
Just as you go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, in Milan you go to the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie to admire the famous masterpiece The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance, tickets sell out days in advance.
Here are some other museums to add to your list:
- Pinacoteca di Brera
- Pinacoteca Ambrosiana
- Fondazione Prada
- Museo del Novecento
- Leonardo Museum3
- Science Museum of Milan (Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia ‘Leonardo da Vinci’)
Since my time in Milan was limited, I chose to visit the Pinacoteca di Brera museum, which features the works of famous Italian artists through different eras. I am not an expert or particularly passionate about art, but I did love my experience at this museum.
In addition to admiring the works, the process of restoring works was on display, which I found fascinating. At the end of the tour, you can enjoy an espresso in the luxurious cafe that is as beautiful as the museum itself.
In Milan and in Italy in general, strolling through the streets without a specific destination, marveling at the different neighborhoods and architecture is an activity in itself. Milan becomes an open-air museum when you explore it; you can easily enjoy it without having to buy tickets for every place of interest.
If you visit the Pinacoteca di Brera, take the opportunity to stroll through the Brera district, and more specifically along Via Fiori Chiari. You’ll find little gems along the way, from local clothing and interior design stores to cozy restaurants with a charming atmosphere.
Facing the Duomo Cathedral and opposite the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the Palazzo Reale, the royal palace of Milan. Inside you will find a museum about the history of the building, the Duomo and other temporary exhibitions of contemporary art displaying works by famous artists.
Fans of the medieval era will appreciate the Castello Sforzesco. You can admire it for free from the outside, or visit its current exhibitions inside.
Those who prefer the Roman era should stop to see the ruins of the Roman era Colonne di San Lorenzo, located in front of the basilica of San Lorenzo.
A little hidden treasure that I advise you to visit: the church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore which, from the outside does not particularly attract the eye, but it is quite the opposite when you visit the interior. You will find beautiful frescoes by 16th century painters. Plus, access is free!
There are of course other attractions to see in Milan, so let yourself be guided according to your tastes and the artistic and cultural period that fascinates you the most.
Canals of Navigli
Walking through the city and visiting museums can quickly become exhausting. Head to the Navigli district for an aperitivo, the local tradition of having a cocktail served with some food. Sit along the canals and observe Milanese life.
It’s a great area to explore at sunset and in the evening, with its local food restaurants, art galleries and nightlife.
Milan Opera House
Inaugurated in 1778, La Scala in Milan is one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world and has given many major musical performances. A performance at La Scala is the crowning achievement of an opera singer’s career. You can also attend classical ballet performances, such as The Nutcracker in December.
Excursions in the area
From Milan, you can take a day trip to the famous and romantic Lake Como, which you can book with Viator.
Milan will also give you direct access by train to Cinque Terre by taking a train to La Spezia. Since the trip takes about 3 hours, it is best to plan more than one day to visit these five idyllic villages. You can book your train trip online on the Trenitalia website.
Getting to Milan with the points
Air Canada offers direct flights from Montreal to Milan. To give you an idea, a round-trip flight in April 2023 starts at 65,000 Aeroplan points in Economy class.
It’s also easy to find very affordable flights to Milan from major European cities, as I did on EasyJet for only $82 CAD from Berlin with one carry-on.
I used this card to pay for most of my expenses, and to avoid paying the foreign currency conversion fee, which is usually 2.5%.
Accommodation in Milan
As in any major European city, hotel prices in Milan are not cheap. However, cardholders of the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card will find a wide selection of hotels; if you like luxury, this might be a good place to try a high-end hotel.
During my time in Milan, I had a very pleasant stay at the AC Hotel Milan Sesto, easily accessible by metro. Discover it here:
Useful information about Milan
Here is some useful information for your visit to Milan:
- Milan has an excellent public transportation system and a large train station, making it easy to get around.
- You can also travel by BikeMi, the city’s bicycles.
- Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but it is always advisable to carry some change.
- Although Italian food reigns in Milan, you will find all kinds of alternatives to eat there such as Asian, vegetarian, gluten-free restaurants, etc. This is the advantage of being in a big city.
In general, Milan is not the first choice of destination for those who wish to discover Italy. However, it can be the start or end of a great trip, and it is a city worth visiting, if only to do a little shopping or to marvel at the Duomo cathedral.
Whether you’re there for an afternoon or a few days, take the time to explore it if you find yourself there.