Must Know Tips For Visiting Milan Italy

Here are my important tips for visiting Milan, an amazing destination in northern Italy.

Milan isn’t as quaint and charming as Florence or Venice. But it’s a vibrant and exciting modern city, the thriving finance and fashion capitol of Italy.

It’s a key piece of the Italian puzzle. And you can’t help but be dazzled by Milan’s art, architecture, historic sites, and culinary specialities.

Piazza del Duomo in Milan
Piazza del Duomo

These Milan tips will help you make the most of your Milan visit and help you plan your time in Milan.

I give you the good stuff — the lowdown on how to see the best things in Milan in the best way. Plus, I cover practical tips and information.

With these must know tips and some advance planning, you can have the best and most efficient visit to Milan. You can skip lines, avoid mistakes, and not waste precious time or miss something important.

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Tips For Visiting Milan

Here’s what you need to know before traveling to Milan:

1. Leonardo’s The Last Supper

One of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings is in Milan — The Last Supper. Yes, in Milan, not in the Louvre. And Leonardo’s fresco is Milan’s #1 attraction.

The Last Supper is one of the world’s most iconic paintings, found on the back wall of the refectory in Santa Maria delle Grazie. No Leonardo painting is so familiar, save for the Mona Lisa. The church is one of 51 UNESCO landmarks in Italy.

Leonardo da Vinci, detail of The Last Supper, 1495-98
Leonardo da Vinci, detail of The Last Supper, 1495-98

Painted by Leonardo, the billboard size painting is a Renaissance masterpiece. It shows the moment when Christ reveals that one of his apostles will betray him.

You’ve got to be organized and reserve in advance to see this quasi-restored, yet still beautiful, masterpiece. Advance reservations are mandatory.

I’ve written a complete guide to everything you need to know about seeing The Last Supper — what to expect, how to get tickets, and an analysis of the painting itself.

Click here for a ticket and guided tour of The Last Supper. You can also buy a combined ticket for The Last Supper and the Duomo.

the flamboyant Gothic Duomo in Milan

the flamboyant Gothic Duomo in Milan

2. Visiting the Duomo

The Duomo is the nickname for Milan Cathedral, a world renowned edifice. Built over 600 years beginning in 1368, the Duomo is Milan’s flamboyant Gothic masterpiece with 135 marble spires.

It’s the fourth largest church in the Europe, second in size in Italy only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

READ: Guide To the Most Beautiful Churches in Italy

Morning is the best time to visit the Duomo, before the masses arrive and the pigeons get antsy. Get there at 8:00 am.

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo

3. Duomo Tickets

When it comes to buying your Duomo tickets, you have a lot of options, depending on your interests and budget. You can buy individual tickets to each Duomo-related site or combined tickets with a fast track option.

The archaeological area and crypt of the Duomo are free to visit. You just need a Duomo ticket. There are many types of tickets — tickets to the duomo, the duomo museum, the rooftop, the duomo lift.

The rooftop is the most popular. I’ll discuss that below. Click here to check the prices on the official website.

You can also buy tickets from a reseller, which can be valuable if they sell out. Click here to pre-book a ticket for the cathedral and the rooftop. Click here to book a ticket + guided tour of the duomo.

If you don’t buy a ticket online, you’ll need to arrive early. Your shoulders and knees must be covered to enter the Duomo.

the Duomo rooftop terrace

the Duomo rooftop terrace

4. The Duomo Rooftop

The Duomo’s truly spectacular and unmissable feature is its rooftop terrace. It can be reached either via a staircase or an elevator, as I mentioned above.

But, even after the elevator, you’ve got to plod up some narrow steep steps. And the elevator is one way. You have to hoof it back down.

From the rooftop, you have an excellent view of the details of the intricate stonemasonry, especially the fanciful gargoyles that serve as drains. You can see the panorama of the entire city before you. It’s especially nice at sunset.

Click here to book a ticket for just the rooftop terrace. Click here to book a guided tour of the duomo with rooftop access.

gallery in the Brera Museum

gallery in the Brera Museum

5. Don’t Skip the Brera Museum

The Brera Art Gallery is Milan’s premiere museum, hone to some of the best art in Italy. For most Italy tourists, the Brera Museum is an off the beaten path rarely visited hidden gem in Milan, with no crowds.

With scores of masterpieces, the Brera Museum may be Europe’s most underrated museum. It’s definitely one of the world’s best small museums.

The Brera museum mesmerizes art lovers, art historians, and art critics. It boasts top shelf Renaissance and Baroque art by the likes of Caravaggio, Raphael, Bellini, Rubens, Piero della Francesca, Tintoretto, and Andrea Mantegna.

But the Brera isn’t just Renaissance art works. It also has an impressive collection of modern art by the likes of Picasso, Modiglianai, Braque, de Chirico, and Morandi.

Here’s my complete guide to visiting the Brera Museum. Click here to purchase a ticket to the Brera. Click here to book a 2 hour guided tour of the beautiful Brera neighborhood and the museum.

Leonardo's Horse, a sculpture based on Leonard's sketches
Leonardo’s Horse, a sculpture based on Leonardo’s sketches

6. Leonardo da Vinci Trail

Are you fascinated with Leonardo Da Vinci? Leonardo lived in Milan for almost 20 years and is considered a beloved adopted son. In Milan, Leonardo produced some of his greatest works and enriched the city with his versatile genius.

If you’re wondering where to find the art of Leonardo in Milan, here’s my guide to the Leonardo trail on Milan.

It takes you back in time to discover works created by Leonardo or places dedicated to him — from the transcendent The Last Supper to the technical musings of the Codex Atlanticus.

READ: Top Masterpieices To See in Milan

Michelangelo's Rondanini Pieta in Castle Sforza

Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pieta in Castle Sforza

7. Michelangelo in Milan

Milan is also home to one of Michelangelo’s most famous sculptures, the Rondonini Pieta. It’s Michelangelo’s last and unfinished work.

Michelangelo likely intended it for his tomb, which is located in Florence’s Basilica of Santa Croce. He shows the dead Christ as an emblem of suffering. The sculpture was discovered in Michelangelo’s studio after his death at 89.

The pieta is housed in Sforza Castle, one of Milan’s most historic landmarks. The castle is a splendid example of Renaissance architecture, the product of mercenary-turned-politician Francesco Sforza. It was the former seat of the Dukes of Milan.

The Castle courtyards are free. Entry to the museums is € 5. You can also book a tour of Castle Sforza and the Pieta for the full scoop.

Castle Sforza

Castle Sforza

8. What To Do in Milan

Milan is a true “choose your own adventure” kind of city. There’s possibilities for every interest type — whether you’re a foodie, culture vulture, sport lover, or fashion fiend.

I’m a culture vulture. If you are too, here’s my guide to the must see sites and attractions in Milan.

9. Visting La Scala

Opened in 1778 and last renovated in 2002, La Scala is one of Italy’s finest opera houses. It can fit 2,000 people at once. Many of the world’s most famous singers have appeared on its stage. La Scala hosts operas, ballet, and concerts.

If you want to take in a performance, click here for the opera website to see what’s currently playing and/or buy tickets. You can buy tickets at the La Scala box office, online, or at another box office nearby in the Piazza del Duomo Metro station.

the theater in La Scala

the theater in La Scala

Tickets don’t come cheap. But you can get cheaper tickets (25% discount) one hour before the show (if it’s not sold out).

Or, there’s a “gallery” section above the luxury boxes called the “loggione.” You’ll find cheaper seats there.

If you want to tour La Scala, you can also book a guided tour or DIY a visit. Keep in mind that there are times when the theater is in us, so you won’t be able to see the theater on your museum visit.

Check at the ticket window before you buy your ticket to make sure you can see the theater itself. There’s usually a sign up outside the museum entrance indicating whether the theater is in use.

Click here to book a ticket for La Scala online.

fair Verona, a great day trip from Milan
fair Verona, a great day trip from Milan

10. Milan As A Base For Day Trips

Milan makes a great base for day tripping in Italy’s northern Lombardy region. You can head to the Italian Lake District — Lake Como, Lake Garda, and Lake Maggiore. You can visit the towns of Turin, Bergamo, Brescia, Sirmione, and Mantua.

If you’re ambitious, you can even day trip to the Veneto region. There, you can visit Verona, Venice, Treviso, Padua, and Ravenna. But I’d advise spending more time in Venice.

READ: Guide To the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua

Here are some links to some of the most popular tours from Milan:

the Navigli area of Milan, where you'll find bars and cafes
the Navigli area of Milan, where you’ll find bars and cafes

11. What To Eat in Milan

Milan has literally thousands of cafes, eateries, restaurants, and pizzerias — from tony to casual, traditional to innovative. Avoid any restaurant that has photos of food.

Happy hours starts around 6:30. You’ll get snacks (olive, salami, bread, etc.) with your Negroni cocktail before dinner. A lot of great restaurants are clustered on Via Dente.

The traditional Milanese specialities are hearty fare — risotto, veal cutlets, osso buco, pappardelle pasta in mushroom sauce, deep fried meatballs, polenta, and meat filled ravioli. Piadinas, which resemble quesadillas, are also popular.

Tipping isn’t essential in Milan, but is appreciated. In cafes, you can just leave the spare change from your bill. Some restaurants will include a service tip in the bill. Here’s a guide to some of Milan’s best restaurants.

Milan is also a great place to take a food tour. This 3 hour guided food tour covers the Brera district. This 4 hour guided food tour lets you sample Milanese cuisine, cheeses, and wine. This 3 hour guided tour gives you a taste of Milanl’s street food.

panoramic view of Milan
panoramic view of Milan

12. When To Visit Milan

Like most cities in Europe, it’s best to visit Milan in shoulder season (spring and fall). The summers are hot, crowded, and more expensive. Plus, some of the shops and restaurants shut down in August.

Don’t assume Milan is sunny and warm year round. Because it’s in Northern Italy, the winters can be very cold and foggy. But there are plenty of indoor attractions to keep you busy when the weather is subpar.

Also try not to plan your visit on a Monday. Monday is a terrible sightseeing day in Milan. Many of the museums are closed.

13. How To Get Around Milan

Milan has a comprehensive system of public transportation in Milan. There are buses, trams, and even a subway.

Tickets are available at newsstands and metro stations. Validate your ticket before you get on board.

Brera district in Milan
Brera district in Milan

But Milan is easy to explore on foot. Milan has many pedestrian friendly zones. And the majority of Milan’s must see sites are clumped together in the centro historico, radiating from the Piazza del Duomo. But some aren’t.

If you have any mobility issues, the downside is that some sites are poorly connected and far from the stops. Therefore, walking distances in the summer can be hot and uncomfortable. And you will still have a fair bit of walking once you get off public transport.

You can also hail a taxi. They’re typically white or yellow. You can hail them on the street or at a taxi stand.

There are other fun ways to get around Milan too. You can take a 3 hour Segway tour, take a 3.5 hour bike tour, or ride the hop on hop off bus.

detail of the Leonardo Monument

detail of the Leonardo Monument

14. Milan Card

I’m not much of a fan of city cards and never buy them myself. Usually, they’re overpriced and only worth it if you are blitz-visiting attractions.

But the Milan Card gives you a big bonus — unlimited access to all means of public transport. You also get either free or discounted access to museums, tours, restaurants, tourist attractions, and the airport bus. Plus, you get skip the line access at Milan’s most popular attractions.

There are three versions of the Milan City Pass. One day costs 11 €, two days 17 €, and three days 19.50 €. Click here to purchase the Pass. Then download their app and activate it with the code that you receive via email.

15. How Long To Stay in Milan

I think 2 days is a fair amount of time to explore Milan. If you’re using Milan as a base for day tripping, you can definitely stay much longer.

If you’re not a lover of art and architecture, one day in Milan might be enough. See a few major sites and call it a day. To help you along, here’s my 1 day itinerary for Milan.

Leonardo statue in Piazza della Scala
Leonardo Monument in Piazza della Scala

16. Dress To Impress

In Milan, unlike other Italian cities, you may want to dress to impress. Milan is very fashion forward.

That’s not to say you need to don high heels and fancy cloths. But you should take the term “smart casual” seriously. Avoid sweatpants, flip flops, or leggings if possible.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips for visiting Milan. You may enjoy these other Italy travel guides:

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