Effortlessly stylish and sophisticated, Milan is one of those places that you’ve simply got to visit in your lifetime. From towering churches almost too stunning to be real to extravagant fashion events that are broadcast across the planet, Milan is big, bold, and beautiful!
The city is bursting with captivating museums and art galleries that house iconic pieces you’ve definitely heard of. You can easily spend hours working your way through them and popping into gorgeous fashion boutiques in between.
Sip cappuccinos to keep you energized during the day before embracing Milan’s quintessential aperitivo culture and relaxing with an Aperol spritz as the evening sets in. No matter how long you stay in the city, you’ll never be at a loss for cool things to do in Milan!
The fashionable Italian city was founded in 600 BCE – more than 2,500 years ago. Because it’s so old, Milan is home to a vast number of treasures, from the largest collection of da Vinci inventions on the planet to the original Last Supper painting and one of the largest churches in Europe.
With so many cool things to see and do, you might have no idea where to begin. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Milan. Add these activities and attractions to your Milan bucket list, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time exploring one of the most glamorous cities in the world!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things to do in Milan, Italy
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Milan
1. Be awestruck by the Duomo di Milano
The city’s famous cathedral should be right at the top of your list of things to see in Milan. This incredible monument is the third-largest church in Europe and took more than 600 years to complete. Its sublime architecture is unlike anything else you’ll find in the world!
The Duomo di Milano stands proudly in the middle of the Piazza del Duomo. Work on it began in 1386, but it wasn’t until 1965 that construction was finally completed. The cathedral’s façade is astounding and features an exquisite Italian Gothic design.
It’s decorated with a huge number of pointed towers and more than 3,400 statues, including 96 unique gargoyles. If you’re feeling generous, you can adopt one of the gargoyles by making a donation toward the church’s upkeep!
Step inside, and you’ll find the church’s interior is just as exceptional as the outside. There are charming stained glass windows, incredibly intricate statues, and plenty of gorgeous artwork to admire.
2. Relish risotto alla Milanese
Milan is home to some of the finest food in Italy, and risotto alla Milanese is a real treat. Much more than a simple risotto, this dish is the most luxurious and indulgent risotto you’ll ever have in your life!
It’s incredibly creamy thanks to the addition of butter and magnificently rich because of the added beef stock. The saffron gives it a subtle exotic aroma while giving the rice a beautiful golden hue.
You can try this drool-worthy dish in almost every restaurant in Milan, almost all of which add their own unique twist. You’ll find it in the appetizer section, although it’s sometimes served as an entrée, too.
We found Ratanà to dish up the very best risotto alla Milanese. It’s wonderfully creamy and made with riso Carnaroli rice (medium-grain rice from northern Italy) which gives it an incredible texture. We had it as an entrée, and it came with rich bone marrow and zesty gremolata (a fragrant green sauce made of chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest).
3. Explore Castello Sforzesco
Castello Sforzesco is one of the best Milan attractions because there’s just so much to do there. The 14th-century castle is in the center of Milan and houses a staggering number of small museums and libraries that dive into all sorts of topics.
There are so many museums that it’s almost impossible to see them all. If you’re short on time, we recommend the Museum of Ancient Art. This is where you’ll find the Sforza family’s frescoes and sculptures. It also contains the last unfinished work of Michelangelo.
The Museum of Musical Instruments houses unusual instruments from all over the world and is also worth a look.
The castle itself was constructed in 1370, and even though the original design has been dramatically changed due to modifications and additions throughout the years, it still looks elegant and regal. The front is particularly impressive, and its brick wall features several battlements and guard towers.
4. Wander around Navigli
One of the most fun things to do in Milan is to explore Navigli. With its sparkling canal, romantic restaurants, and cobblestone paths, you’ll swear you’re in Venice and not Milan!
Navigli is one of the trendiest parts of the city. During the day, it’s got a slow-paced, laid-back vibe. But as night falls, it takes on a cooler, more sophisticated atmosphere as locals head out for the night and fill the streets.
You can spend hours just wandering the compact network of streets here. You’ll stumble across countless cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as independent boutiques and art galleries. If your legs get tired, take it easy and enjoy a relaxing boat ride down the canal.
If you visit on a Sunday, you’ll have the chance to browse the antique market. With more than 400 stalls to check out, you’re guaranteed to find a gem if you look hard enough!
5. Stay ahead of the trends with Milan Fashion Week
A must for anyone who keeps up with the latest trends, Milan Fashion Week takes place at the start of each year in Milan. It’s usually held at the end of February, but it’s a good idea to check the website first to make sure.
The world-famous fashion festival includes around 70 fashion shows and 90 presentations put together by well-known designers – all in the space of just one week. Catwalk shows and designer exhibitions happen on an almost non-stop basis, with events taking place in-person and virtually.
Huge brands such as Diesel, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli, Prada, Emporio Armani, and Gucci take to the stage and exhibition halls to show off their latest creations. Only a tiny window of time is allotted for each event, so don’t be late!
Physical events take place at three main locations, Spazio Cavallerizze in the Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum, Palazzo Reale’s Sala delle Cariatidi, and the Padiglione Visconti.
Even if you’re not particularly into fashion, Milan Fashion Week is still worth checking out. It’s fun to see what cool (and often bizarre!) outfits iconic designers come up with year after year.
6. Admire Leonardo da Vinci’s Original ‘Last Supper’
One of the most unique things to do in Milan and the rest of the world is to see da Vinci’s famous Last Supper painting. You’ve probably seen countless reproductions both online and on tourist merchandise. But nothing compares to seeing the real thing with your own eyes.
The Last Supper is kept safe inside the Museo Cenacolo Vinciano. It was painted between 1495 and 1498 and seems to rise in significance and value each year. This is despite Jesus’ feet going missing in 1652 after a mistake during renovations!
The remarkable painting has survived for more than 500 years and even endured the devastating bombings Milan was subject to during World War II. One of the most impressive things about the painting is its size. It measures a staggering 15 feet by 29 feet. You have to move your head to take in the whole thing.
Entry is limited, and spaces book up far in advance. To make sure you get to see it, we recommend making a reservation online well in advance.
7. Devour cotoletta alla milanese
When hunger strikes, one of the best things to do in Milan is to head for Trattoria del Nuovo Macello and order cotoletta alla milanese. This dish is super simple but tastes fantastic. Similar to the wiener schnitzel you get in Vienna, cotoletta alla milanese is a delicate piece of veal that’s covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried to crispy golden perfection.
The big differences are that in Milan, the bone is usually left in the veal and the chop is coated in breadcrumbs twice, making it extra crispy and delicious. It’s often served with thinly sliced potato rounds to make a filling and delightful entrée.
Trattoria del Nuovo Macello dishes up one of the best cotoletta alla milanese we’ve ever had! It’s incredibly thick, juicy, and is the perfect shade of rosy pink on the inside. Depending on what the restaurant’s local butcher had that day, it’s sometimes served on or off the bone.
8. Indulge yourself at QC Termemilano
When you need a break from all the Milan sightseeing, visit QC Termemilano and enjoy a few hours of pure relaxation. The wellness center is in the heart of Milan, and stepping through its doors is like walking into a tranquil oasis in the middle of the desert.
Protected by ancient Spanish walls, the spa features an elegant Art Nouveau design, blending fine architecture with state-of-the-art technology to help you relax and unwind. There’s a cute tea room with a great menu selection on the ground floor. But downstairs is where all the magic is!
Here you’ll find a labyrinth of stone rooms with everything from saunas, warm pools, and cold plunge baths to geyser pools, sensation showers, and even a Jacuzzi waterfall. Head outside, and you’ll discover manicured gardens and three more heated pools.
Finish off your time with a light and healthy lunch at the on-site restaurant. If you’re in the mood for something a little stronger, visit Aperiterme, where you can sip sparkling wine and savor Milanese delicacies.
9. Say cheers with aperitivo milanese
One of the must-do things in Milan is to embrace the local way of life and enjoy “aperitivo.” This beloved Italian tradition takes place a few hours before dinner and involves meeting up with friends for a couple of drinks, some small snacks, and a chat.
What you drink is totally up to you. But if you want to blend in, order a glass of prosecco or an Aperol spritz. When you order a drink during aperitivo time (6-8 pm), you’ll usually be given a tapa-like snack. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be invited to the aperitivo buffet, where you can dig into as many savory delights as you wish.
Classic aperitivo buffets include pizza slices, salads, olives, and mini sandwiches. Sometimes, there’s so much food you can easily fill up here and skip dinner!
Spritz in Navigli is one of the best places in Milan for aperitivo. For a small price, you get to choose from a great range of beers, wines, and fruity cocktails, as well as a huge buffet that includes salads, pastas, meats, and desserts.
10. Explore the National Museum of Science & Technology
The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology is one of the most fascinating museums in the world! Even if you don’t think of yourself as a museum person, you’ll have an incredible time here.
The museum is home to the biggest collection of da Vinci inventions in existence. You can also check out the sketches, blueprints, and drawings he created to help him come up with his ingenious inventions. Other exhibits include model cars that were created from da Vinci’s drawings and reconstructions of the flying machines he designed.
As well as da Vinci’s incredible inventions, the museum also features several displays on groundbreaking scientific inventions and remarkable innovative technology that literally changed the world.
If you want to get involved, book some time at the I.Labs. These interactive laboratories allow you to test out some scientific theories for yourself and have a go at recreating simple versions of the inventions in the museum.
11. Check out the street art in Isola
For some of the best sights in Milan, spend a few hours in Isola. This cool neighborhood is just north of the city center and has a buzzing offbeat vibe.
With loads of chic boutiques and specialty stores, it’s a great place to go shopping. But our favorite thing to do is to admire all the street art!
Via Strabone is one of the top places to see creative artistic graffiti. Just take a stroll along the street, and you’ll be surrounded by urban works of art created by incredibly talented local artists. Wonderfully imaginative and intensely vibrant pieces are all over the place, with a handful of surreal works that will really make you think.
The underground tunnel that connects Isola with the Garibaldi station is also an excellent place to find stellar street art. The paintings you see here were commissioned by a local art school and look stunning.
12. Avoid the crowds at Parco Sempione
Milan can feel pretty crowded most of the time. When you need a little space, spend an afternoon at Parco Sempione. One of the top green spaces in the city, Parco Sempione is hidden away behind Sforzesco Castle and provides a peaceful haven in a bustling metropolis.
The park was completed in 1888 and covers 95 acres of lush green grass, shimmering bodies of water, and thick, towering trees. It’s also home to the Arch of Peace, which was commissioned by Napoleon in honor of his victories.
There are plenty of benches and grassy spots where you can relax and let the world pass you by. If you’d rather be a little more active, you can explore the network of footpaths and cycle trails that lead you all over the park.
While you’re there, it’s worth climbing to the top of Torre Branca. This imposing tower stands high above the city and rewards you with excellent views.
13. Get into the spirit of winter with the Saint Ambrose Festival
One of the best things to do in Milan in December is to join in with the Saint Ambrose (Sant’Ambrogio) festivities. Saint Ambrose is the protector of Milan and each year, on December 7, locals from all across the city come together to celebrate him.
The Sant’Ambrogio Basilica and surrounding areas are where all the action takes place. The highlight of the event is a fair called “O bej O bej.” This means “Oh beautiful, Oh beautiful” in Italian. Here you’ll find a huge number of market stalls selling all kinds of homemade arts and crafts, as well as antique furniture.
We definitely recommend you go hungry because you’ll also find a great selection of food trucks, too. In the winter, you can dig into all kinds of seasonal delights, like hot roasted chestnuts!
Make sure you try some vin brulé, too. It’s a type of local spiced wine similar to mulled wine. It’s the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold winter’s day.
14. Window-shop at the Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
If you’re looking for things to do in Milan that will really blow you away, pay a visit to the Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This monumental gallery was built in 1877, making it one of the oldest shopping malls in the world!
It was designed by Guiseppe Mengoni and is a work of art inside and out. When you stand in front of the entrance, you’ll think you’re looking at an opera house or royal palace.
The opulent gallery is laid out in the shape of a cross and features four glass-paneled arms, which bathe shoppers in delicate sunlight. All the storefronts are sophisticatedly decorated with stucco art and ornate paneling. It’s like walking through an art gallery, not a shopping mall!
Unless you’ve got a generous budget to work with, you’ll be stuck window shopping here. Iconic fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Prada own most of the stores. And although their treasures are stunning, they cost a small fortune.
15. Sip negroni sbagliato
After a day full of intense Milan activities, the best way to relax is with a negroni sbagliato. This one-of-a-kind drink is made of equal parts gin, Campari, and red vermouth mixed with prosecco. It was created when barman Mirko Stocchetto accidentally mixed the first three ingredients with prosecco instead of the standard gin used to make a classic negroni.
The mistake happened more than 40 years ago, and today the negroni sbagliato is just as popular as the standard negroni! For an authentic negroni sbagliato, visit the old-school Bar Basso. This is where the drink was originally made all those years ago.
It’s also the cocktail lounge that made the aperitif custom accessible to everyone. Before that, you could only buy cocktails from fancy bars in expensive hotels.
At Bar Bosso, bartenders serve negroni sbagliato in a huge stenographic glass with oversized ice cubes that have been cut by hand. It’s the perfect thing to help you relax after a long day and get ready for the evening!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Milan. What’s your favorite thing to do in Milan?
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