Top 5 things to see in Milan!!
Do you have 24 hours in Milano? We did and we loved it, but trust me you don’t need any longer!
Milano is, and probably always will be known as one of the world’s most important fashion capitals of the world! It is the home to many designers including Donatella Versace, Gianni Versace, Miuccia Prada, Giorgio Armani and much, much more … but luckily for you, the fashion is not what drew us to the city, in all honesty, we only visited Milano as we were en-route to Lago di Como (Lake Como)!
Below is a quick summary of our day and the top 5 things you should explore when in Milan.
Milan Cathedral (Duomo) & the Duomo rooftop
Numero Uno! This would have to top the list of place to visit in Milan – many people actually say it is the only thing worth seeing! So, if you’re strapped for time this would be ‘the’ thing to see.
A few facts you might find interesting and help you understand the importance behind this church. The Duomo is a Gothic cathedral, dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity and the seat of the Archbishop of Milan. It is the 5th largest church in the world… yep, the world!! It also happens to be the second largest church in Italy, the largest being St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. But, the most amazing fact for me, is that it took nearly 6 centuries to complete with 78 architects and engineers working on the cathedral between 1387 and 1988!
You’re probably thinking to yourself, what’s all the fuss… it’s ABC (another bloody church) right? Well, wrong!! The Duomo is probably the most magnificent church I’ve come across. From the moment you stand out the front, you realise this is probably one of the most beautiful churches you’ve seen! To start with, it is massive, predominantly marble, and the detail in the design is simply incredible.
When you buy your tickets (which we did on the day, but if you’re planning on going in peak season, I would strongly suggest pre-booking tickets online to avoid the lines), you need to buy the entrance plus the rooftop terrace. You have two choices here, to buy the cheaper ticket and walk up the stairs, or the slightly more expensive ticket to go up in the lift. We chose the stairs (to help walk off the pizza and pasta we’ve been eating!).
We started with the rooftop walk. It is like nothing we’ve seen before! You see an entirely different perspective of the church and the square. Again, you enjoy walking around, marvelling in the detail that has gone into building this church.
When you’re finished on the top, you walk down the stairs on the other side and end up inside the church. It is quite breathtaking. From here, you do need to exit and re-enter the church from another entrance to validate the second ticket.
When you finally enter the church and have time to walk around you realise just how big and beautiful the inside of the church is. Pictures don’t really do it justice, it is something you must see.
This was actually our first stop in Milan, purely due to the location of our hotel. It is a pretty cool looking castle and you can spend some time here taking some pictures or looking at some of the museums inside or walking through the gardens.
As you approach the castle, there are a number of street vendors walking around trying to sell you bits and pieces, but just politely say no and keep walking!!
You can walk through the main entrance and enjoy a stroll through the courtyard or if you have more time you can visit some of the museums the castle has to offer. For us though, it was a quick visit to look at the castle before heading off to enjoy some more of Milan.
Piazza del Duomo
What can I say… this is THE square to visit in Milan. Not only is the Duomo (Milan Cathedral) located there, but it seems to be the place where everyone meets each other, enjoys some food or head down one of the streets off the Piazza to do some shopping.
There are plenty of shops if shopping is something you want and many of the streets that lead off the Piazza are filled with shops! However, if you’re interested in seeing a bit of history at the same time as snapping up a few bargains, then you should check out Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is located just off the square!!!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world!!! It is a 4 story arcade and happens to be named after the first King of the Kingdom of Italy!
Aside from the shopping, the building itself is absolutely stunning and worth taking a walk through just to get some pictures. However, a helpful tip – if you need to use the bathroom and you find yourself upstairs following the signs… you will need to have some change on you as they are not free, like many bathrooms in Europe!
When looking at things to do when in Milan, the Brera district popped up as a cool place to visit and grab a bite to eat. So, after we had seen all of the main sights in Milan, we ventured over to Brera to see what all the fuss is about!
It is a lovely part of the city, narrow walkways and lots of cafes and restaurants. We ended up having dinner in this area before heading back to the hotel. If you have some time, I would recommend just taking a walk around!
A bit extra…
On our way back to the metro, we happened to see this person jump across the road with a microphone in hand and start an impromptu concert… we had absolutely NO idea who this person was! The crowd very quickly built up and we had to ask a local who the person was performing… Turns out it was Skin from Skunk Anansie. She was brilliant and we stayed for a few songs! Below is a snippet of her singing, I hope you enjoy!!
Where to stay
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Villa Torretta Milano – MGallery Collection. The hotel is a beautifully restored residence from the seventeenth century, boasts 78 rooms which have all been furnished differently. We were recommended to opt for an attic room and it was spacious, plenty of exposed wooden beams and just the right amount of ‘old world’ charm.
The hotel has free undercover parking for our rental car, good metro connections and we knew we were going to walk around town, have a meal and a few drinks so the last thing we wanted to do was drive around in the city centre.
It is around 20 minutes into the city centre via the metro, so not too bad. There is a bar in the reception of the hotel, which is quite nice to sit and unwind after a day of walking (especially when you have complimentary welcome drinks as part of the Accor membership!). Together with the drinks, they served plenty of snacks, such as chips and crackers which were a nice touch.
The room was very spacious, so spacious we forgot about the safe in the cupboard at the entrance and left our passports there!!! Lucky for us, the staff were very helpful and kept it safe until we could return to collect them.
If you’re looking for a hotel that includes free secure parking then I would recommend staying here!
Where to eat
We had a quick snack for lunch at a little bakery called Van bol and Feste located just near the Sforza Castle. The place was filled with locals having their lunch meetings or something to snack on. The service was fast, and the options looked great. We picked up some pizza focaccias which were alright but given we were in Italy, I did have high expectations!!
We ate dinner in the Brera district at a restaurant called New Art Cafe. It was fairly quiet as we chose to have an early dinner before heading back to the hotel. The service was quick and the food came out really quickly. However, I must admit it wasn’t the nicest food we have had in Italy, but the price was reasonable and the food was still tasty.
If you are then looking for an incredible Italian island holiday, it might be worth looking into Sardnia! Click here to read more.
Do you have travel insurance?
Before travelling, make sure you get a travel insurance policy – you never know when you might need it! Click here for information on travel insurance, what company we recommend and a link to get an instant quote.
If you’re looking for alternative accommodation to either save some money or share with friends or family, click here for information on Air B&B ($50 discount on your first booking), hotel price comparison websites etc.
“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark