Sforza Castle and Museums | Castello Sforzesco | Milan
Sforza Castle and Museums is an oasis of art and culture. This iconic destination is one of the landmarks in Milan. A favourite for visitors, it is home to some of the best museums that tells the stories of the city’s past. Surrounded by splendid grounds of lush green and tranquility, within minutes of Milan Cathedral, is a destination not to miss when visiting the fashion capital of Europe.
Why and When was Sforza Castle built
You will find Sforza Castle in Milan at:
45.4705° N, 9.1793° E
This iconic red brick fortress was built in the 14th century by the Visconti family who made it into a splendid palace. It was almost destroyed during the Golden Ambrosian Republic. Later, in the 15th century, it became the home of the Sforza family, who were powerful rulers of Milan. Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan built on the remnants of the 14th fortification. The castle was reconstructed with the involvement of several of the greatest artists of the times such as Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci. It was one of the most magnificent residences in Italy as a result. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Sforza Castle was renovated and enlarged to be one of the largest castles in Europe.
During the next four centuries, the castle was dominated by foreign powers, French, Spanish, Austrian. The function changed as well, from a residence to a military complex. It was later used as barracks by the Italian army.
In 1905 the castle was completely restored to the way it was under the Sforza family by architect Luca Beltrami. The parade grounds at the rear of the castle was turned into a park.
During World War II, the castle was severely damaged. At the end of the twentieth century the Castle square was built with a fountain in the centre. In 2005, the restoration of the Cortile della Ghirlanda and the halls of the castle were completed.
Sforza Castle Milan
The Sforza Castle is of a square plan, with three inner courtyards dominated by four imposing towers on each corner. There are two round towers facing the city and two square towers at the other end. The round towers are known as the Torre di Santi Spirito and the Torre del Carmine. At the rear are two more towers, the Torre Castellana and Torre Falconiera.
The main entrance to the Sforzesco Castle is via the castle’s tallest tower, Torre del Filarete. It leads to an expansive inner courtyard. Exploring the castle grounds will bring you to the Torre di Bona di Savoia. Beyond this tower lies two smaller courtyards, the Cortile della Rocchetta to the left and the Corte Ducale to the right.
The Rocchetta was the castle’s stronghold and the last refuge in case of a siege.
Corte Ducale Sforza Castle Milan
The Corte Ducale (Ducal Courtyard) is elegantly designed in Renaissance style with a beautiful loggia, Loggetta di Galeazzo Maria. Some of the rooms around the Corte Ducale are decorated with magnificent frescoes from the fifteenth century, designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Sforza Castle today | An oasis of art & culture
The building alone is well worth a visit but within the walls of Sforza Castle is home to some treasure trove of Milan history.
The Museums at Sforza Castle
The Castle houses several distinct museums bringing together art, paintings, sculptors and musical instruments that tells the stories upon stories of Milan’s cultural and civic history. Watch the virtual tours through the links below, courtesy of Google Arts & Culture, and you will discover, as I, just how fascinating these museums are.
The highlights of the Museums are:
1 | Rondanini Pietà Museum
This museum features Michelangelo’s final and unfinished work, the Rondanini Pietà, now housed in the frescoed hall of the castle’s Ospedale Spagnolo (Spanish Hospital).
Michelangelo continued to work on this sculpture up until the last days before his death in Rome in 1564. It was just a few weeks before what would have been his 89th birthday.
Carved from a single block of marble, the sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Christ stands to a height of 74 inches.
The Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) hosts Lombard, Venetian and Flemish works. Made up of over 1500 works of art between the 13th and 18th century, it includes famous names such as Canaletto, Mantegna, Bronzino, Lorenzo Lotto, and Titian.
This part of the the museum is frescoed by Leonardo da Vinci,
8 | Egyptian Museum
Houses several objects from Egypt including statues, and mummies.
9 | The Archaeological Museum of Milan
This museum is home to objects from the main cultures that lived in Lombardy from the Neolithic period.
There are couple more exhibitions such as the Medal & Numistica Collection, and the engraving collection, “Achille Bertarelli”.
Practical information for visiting Sforza Castle, Milan
Hours and Admission
Castle Monday-Sunday 7.00-19.30
Museums Tuesday-Sunday 9.00-17.30 Last admission 17.00 (only for ticket holders)
Closed on Mondays, December 25th, January 1st, May 1st
Free entry to Sforza Castle
The Castle’s central courtyard is free at all times. It is Free entry to the museums on every first and third Tuesday of the month from 14.00
How to get to Sforza Castle
Location: Sforzesco Castle, Piazza Castello, 20121 Milan
On public transport
M1 and M2 (red and green lines) Cadorna FN M1 (red line) Cairoli M2 (green line) Lanza
For a comprehensive guide to using the public transport in Milan, read > Getting around Milan – A Complete Guide to Public Transport. This article has all the information you need to get around Milan with confidence like a local. Includes type of transit tickets you may require, costs and links to the official ATM websites.
Recommended Resources to Use to Plan ahead your visit to Milan
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My favourite website for booking hotels is booking.com – I love their flexible cancellation policy which means I’m covered till the last minute. I also like that the totals show up for the whole stay so it helps me budget better. Other favourites of mine areMillennium & Copthorne Group of Hotels and Resorts for their consistent high quality accommodations and service. You could also take a look at the Radisson Hotels chain that caters for all budget. For accommodations in UK that has a personal touch and affordable luxury, stay at Hotel du Vin.
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My thoughts on Sforza Castle
Sforzesco Castle, is not only a castle full of art but is also huge and beautifully landscaped with central courtyards that beckons a visit when you are in Milan. If you do not have time for the museums, visit this castle courtyards as it is open to the public and it is free. Moreover, ParcoSempione, Milan’s largest public green space is located at the rear of this magnificent landmark, so a visit through the courtyard is highly recommended if you are visiting Sempione Park.
You may also like to take advantage of the following superb tours while in Milan:
Your turn 🙂
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I love Milan! I don’t know how else to say it! I love the vibe, the flair, the pace, the rhythm, the monuments, the history, the colourful designer bags, the picturesque cobbled streets, and historic trams with wooden benches! My short visit to Milan turned out to be one of the best last-minute travel plans I ever did and ticked off a few experiences on my Milan bucket list.
Milan is a lively metropolitan hub often compared as just another city like London, Paris or New York but I think Not! The City of Milan is unique. Milan has Piazzas!! Milan has gelato! The city has Milanese Ossobuco! The city has all of the 19attractions listed in this Milan bucket list ideas which makes it incomparable to other metropolises. I am working through the list as I shall be returning to Milan on many future occasions and I share them here with you.
About Milan bucket list ideas
I have included a Google MyMap towards the end of the post so, you too can use it to design your visit to Milan. Along with this map, there are some suggested tours which you can book to maximise your experiences. To have an authentic experience like a Milanese, get around Milan on their public transport! Everything you need for your Milan bucket list experience is right here, in this post. Scroll all the way down to see all related posts. So, grab yourself a cuppa or an aperitivo – here is the ultimate 19 ideas on Milan bucket list for exploring the best the city has to offer.
1 | Milan Cathedral | An absolute Milan bucket list experience
Milan Cathedral, famously also known as simply the Duomo (DuomodiMilano), is a monumental structure and is one of the most visited sites in Milan. It’s sublime architecture took almost 600 years to complete. Construction began in 1386 and was officially completed in the 1960s but with the continuous presence of scaffolding, one may think construction is still very much present!
A combination of Gothic and Romanesque style, this pink and white facade is made of special marble from Val D’Ossola. The front facade is magnificent and is decorated with countless statues, spires and numerous carvings. A symbol of international effort by the many architects, sculptors and artists, this monument is top on Milan bucket list ideas.
Ways to experience the Milan Cathedral
Beyond its outward experience, a fast-track ticket for a guided tour via a separate entrance for internal viewing of the Duomo was money well spent for a memorable visit. A step inside the Cathedral and you will come to experience specially designed marble floors that rules the Cathedral, tall columns, stained glass windows and beautiful paintings placed all around the walls. In short, it is architecture worth exploring. With a tour guide who knows all the stories, this is one attraction you wouldn’t want to miss.
Then, to top off your experience at Milan Cathedral, with the same skip-the line ticket, go up to the terraces, either via lift or stairs at just before sundown to catch the golden hues turning into the velvety night sky.
2 | Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II | Milan bucket list
Sitting just steps away from Milan Cathedral is the opulent and grandest of shopping mall! Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was designed by GuiseppeMengoni and completed in 1877. With over 160 years of history, the Galleria Vittorio is one of the oldest shopping mall in the world.
The cross shaped mall covered via four glass panelled arms allows the sunlight in perfectly. So bright and airy! The walls and shop fronts are decorated with ornate panelling and beautiful stucco artwork. The Galleria exudes an air of luxury. There are a string of high-end designer names such as Prada, Versace and Louis Vuitton that line the mall.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Piazza del Duomo | Accessible at all hours | Shops are typically open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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3 | La Scala Opera | Milan bucket list
Also known as “Temple of Opera”, the La Scala dates back to 1778. This historical opera theatre is one of its kind to have hosted as many great artists and composers in her time and continue to do so. One of the finest inthe world, La Scala is renowned for its acoustic qualities, opulence and grandeur of the seating.
Experiencing a show, seating in one of the 6-tiers of seats or individual boxes that frame the stage in a semi-circle amidst full of red velvet drapes and gold furnishings is surely a memorable occasion. This makes one of Milan bucket list ideas for many, me included. To experience the show, get your tickets from the official La Scala website here.
La Scala is located in the small town square of Piazza della Scala, north of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, accessible from Piazza del Duomo.
Via Filodrammatici, 2, 20121 Milano MI, Italy | Guided tours available at specific times.
This 14th century building is one of the most famous landmarks in Milan. It looks very much like a castle and is set in extensive grounds and gardens. The original design had been modified over the years but still retains its elegance and status of power. It was home to the Dukes of Milan, the Sforza family.
These days, the castle is home to a number of small museums and collections containing a myriad of interesting artefacts and historical information about the castle and Milan.
There are a number of guided tours available where you can learn more of medieval Milan and the Dukes who once ruled this city. The 2-hour guided tour of Sforza Castle and the museum comes with skip-the-line priority giving you access to the grounds and all of the museums. The tours are timed for 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Ensure that you pre-book to secure your tour as soon as you work out your itinerary for Milan.
Castello Sforzesco | Piazza Castello, 3, 20121 Milan Italy | Opening times: Castle grounds free entry – 7.00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ; Museums – 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through to Sunday.
Parco Sempione is a large public space that sits behind Sforzesco Castle. This beautifully landscaped park covers about 38 hectares (95 acres) and offers a myriad of footpaths, bike trails, shaded areas, sculptures and ornate fountains. Flora and fauna abound here.
Walk through the park to see the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace). There is also a little museum and Torre Branca, a huge watch tower that offers panoramic views of the city.
Parco Sempione is a perfect place to rest your feet if you have been on a walking-tour of the city or simply just to relax.
Address: Address: Piazza Sempione, 20154 Milano MI, Italy
The Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace) is one of the symbols of Milan and marks one of the city’s historical gates. This 18th century Neoclassical triumphal monument is a 23 metre marble structure at one end of the Simplon Road, Parco Sempione. This was the strategic route through the Alps taken by Napolean when he invaded northern Italy in 1800. Napolean later commissioned the arch to commemorate his victories.
Construction began in 1806 but was not completed until 1838, years after Napoleon’s death.
Torre Branca is a panoramic tower situated in Sempione Park. At 108.6 metres, Torre Branca is the 6th tallest structure in Milan after Unicredit Tower, Palazzo Lombardia, Pirellone or Pirelli Tower and the Breda Tower.
Constructed in 1933 and designed by Gio Ponti, the Torre Branca offers unparalleled views over the city of Milan. Ascend to the top by lift and step out to the top of the tower. If you are fortunate with the weather, you might see the snow-capped mountains in the distance. In any event, you will love the city’s skyline from here, which merits a spot on Milan bucket list ideas.
Address: Viale Luigi Camoens, 2, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
8 | Pinacoteca di Brera | Milan bucket list
The Pinacoteca di Brera, otherwise known as Breara Picture Gallery is housed in Palazzo di Brera, an 18th century Neoclassical structure. Pinacoteca is an art museum. Founded in 1809 by Napoleon I and is one of the most important of Italian museums. It is home to a large collection of Italian art.
The museum’s exhibits consist some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian paintings from the 15th century to the 20th century. It has especially rich collections of Venetian and Lombard paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. There are works such as the Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael, Pieta by Bellini, the Last Supper by Rubens and the Adoration of the Magi by Correggio. The works are displayed on the first floor of the building, where the Academy of Fine Arts is also located.
This amazing historical museum is conveniently located in close proximity to both the Sforzesco Castle and the Piazza del Duomo and warrants a spot on Milan bucket list ideas.
Brera is a charming and rather enchanting area of Milan that has many hidden gems to explore. A distinct Bohemian beauty and simple old-school charm, Brera often finds itself in the top of Milan bucket list ideas of many visitors.
The main attraction in Brera is the area itself. The district is full of art academies, galleries, a number of antique shops and well-to-do restaurants and bars. It is a good area to eat like a local, from traditional pasta to pizza and have your Italian beer along with your meal.
You can also go on a little high-end retail therapy, wander through its picturesque cobbled streets, explore the many hidden gems, perhaps stopping for a coffee or an aperitivo in one of its squares.
The vibe here is fantastic and is an experience that should not be missed.
Location: To the north of the Duomo di Milano, in-between Borgonuovo and Broletta. | 20121 Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy |
The Braidense National Library is in the same building as the Pinacoteca di Brera museum and the Brera Academy, making it a perfect stop for a visit. It is a public library, which was created in 1770 by Maria Theresa of Austria.The library was open in 1786. I included the Brera Library as one of Milan bucket list attraction because of its historical significance and contribution towards promoting the book as an object of art.
Furthermore, the Biblioteca Braidense is the third largest library in Milan. This Neo-classical library is home to a collection of 1,500,000 books, including 2,000 manuscripts, 350 of which date back to medieval times, and 25,000 sixteenth-century editions. The collection also includes catalogues, religious books housed in the reading room, a rare collection of letters and first editions by Alessandro Manzoni.
The reading rooms feature the library’s original wooden shelves and furnishings, crystal chandeliers, frescoed ceilings and a collection of antique paintings. A spot in Milan bucket list is highly merited, I think.
11 | Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie | Milan bucket list
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) is located in the heart of Milan. An outstanding architecture, with a certain charm and grace, is an emblem to the Catholic religion.
The Santa Maria delle Grazie was built between 1466 and 1490 to a design by architect Guiniforte Solari. The church features a Gothic style using red bricks and a large rear basilica.
Inside the church, more precisely the refectory, on the wall is one of the greatest artistic masterpieces in the world – The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. The mural depicts the scene of the Last Supper as described in the Bible. Throughout the years, this piece of artwork has been scrutinised and analysed for its hidden meanings and content. It only seems fitting that Santa Maria delle Grazie is included in Milan bucket list of ideas.
Address: Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, 20123 Milano MI,
Pro tip: This is a top rated attraction and tickets are sold out months ahead of time. Pre-book your tickets to secure your visit.
Secure your visit and pre-book one of the following 3 ways to visit to see this miraculous piece of art
Sant Ambrogio (Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio is a church in the centre of Milan. This ancient building is one of Milan’s most important churches. Named after the city’s patron saint, Saint Ambrosius (Ambrose) who consecrated the church in 386 AD during his tenure as bishop of Milan. The church was built in 379 AD and was a focal point for the people, as the city of Milan was built around it.
The architecture is of a simple Romanesque style. Two large towers frame the front facade. The central courtyard is pretty, decorated with a series of ornate arches. The interior of the church features beautiful mosaics and artwork including the ceiling of the Oratory and the delightful depiction of Christ on one of the domes.
A visit to this church is highly recommended, meriting a spot on Milan bucket list ideas as it will provide an insight into the history of Milan and its religious importance.
Address: Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, 15, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
13 | San Bernadino alle Ossa
San Bernardino alle Ossa is a church but a very different kind of church from the rest of the churches in Milan. The church walls are completely covered in bones and skulls! Even the door knobs! Therefore a visit to San Bernardino may not be suitable for everyone.
According to its history, in 1145, a hospital was built near the Santo Stefano Maggiore Church, Milan. The graveyard,became overfilled with bodies from the new hospital, so in 1210 a little chamber was built to collect the bones from the hospital. In 1269 a small church was added near the bone chamber.
Today, you will find San Bernardino alle Ossa located at the end of a short corridor to the the right of the church’s entrance. The vault is decorated with frescos from Sebastiano Ricci, dating from 1695.
If you are interested in visiting an unusual church, visit the San Bernardino. Entrance is free.
Location: Piazza Santo Stefano, Milan, 20122 Italy | Entrance is Free | Closed on Sundays
14 | Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology
Leonardo da Vinci was a legendary man of true genius and amongst the most influential artists in history. He left a significant legacy not only in the realm of art but in science as well, each discipline informing his mastery of the other.a painter, an architect, an engineer, a theatrical producer. Therefore, it stands to reason that a museum named after him contains many of his works and a huge collection of other important scientific and technological displays.
As one of the most important museums in the world, one can expect to find collections of model cars created from da Vinci drawings, reconstructions of his flying machines, and a plethora of his drawings, blueprints and sketches.
Address: Via San Vittore, 21, 20123 Milan MI, Italy
The Archaeological Museum of Milan is housed in the former convent of the Monastero Maggiore and the Church of San Maurizio. Both buildings were founded in 8th and 9th century. Dedicated to the history of ancient Milan, the museum features archaeological finds from several periods. This includes the Middle Ages, influences from the Etruscan civilization and also the ancient Greeks.
Address: Corso Magenta, 15, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
16 | Naviglio Grande
Navigli is fast becoming one of Milan’s most popular neighbourhoods, but there’s more to do here than seeing the canals.
The Naviglio Grande is one of the two canals in Milan. It stretches from the Porta Ticinese to the Ticino river some 50km to the west. Constructed in 1177, the canal was worked on for many years and continued to expand into what it is today.
The canals are busy, especially during the summer months where tourists are ferried up and down the water. The boat tours depart every hour from Alzaia Naviglio Grande. For a bucket list experience, you can choose to cruise the canal on Milan’s first (and only) Venetian Gondola, owned by the Canottieri San Cristoforo – they even offer gondolier lessons. Or you can just grab an aperitivo and sit along the harbour banks and soak in the lively vibe.
The Navigli area is popular as well for good bars and restaurants.
Address: 21015 Milan Italy
17 | Piazza dei Mercanti
Piazza Mercanti (Merchants Square) was once the heart of the city in the Middle Ages, a hub for many merchant activities and trade markets.
It is one of the most picturesque squares in Milan that still preserves an authentic Medieval atmosphere. Notable buildings are Pallazo della Ragione, the Pallazo delle Scuole Palatine and the Loggia degli Osii. There are some important statues and monuments here, some of which have Roman origins.
Pro tip: The loggia dei mercanti, an open air space beneath Pallazo della Ragione is a whispering gallery, Speak softly to some of its columns, and its archways will whisk your whispers to a well-placed listener on the opposite side of the portico.
Piazza Mercanti is located between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Corduiso | Address: Piazza dei Mercanti, 20123 Milan MI, Italy
Visit this easily accessible square (just 3 minutes walk from Piazza del Duomo) to admire its ancient origins and beautiful architecture.
18 | Porta Nuova
Porta Nuova is the modern face of Milan, making it one of Milan’s most contemporary and trendiest places to visit. The area is characterised by flagship stores, boutiques, residential skyscrapers and landmarks such as Gae Aulenti Square, the towering UniCredit Tower and Bosco Verticale.
Porta Nuova literally means “new gate” and is one of the six main gates to the city of Milan. It was originally built between 1810 and 1813 during the Napoleon era. Today, the Porta Nuova district is a popular attraction for commercial investments, tourists and locals.
A vibrant, futuristic, “must-see” district that stand their own ground alongside to the more famous of the historical attractions like the Duomo or La Scala masterpieces.
Address: Piazzale Principessa Clotilde, 37, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
This is completely different from a modern tram! In Tram #1, wooden benches are placed along the sides, wooden steps to get onboard, folding doors and sash windows. How cool is that! What is really special about this tram is that it is a vehicle with over 100 years of history, which means that there were many generations of Milanese who rode this tram to and from from work, shop or everywhere else.
Discover Milan by tram – join a two-and-half hour tour that will take you through the city of Milan. Some of the highlights include:
1 | Learn the history of the Dukes of Milan at Sforza Castle;
2 | Enjoy panoramic views of Napoleon’s Arch of Peace;
Practical information for planning your Milan bucket list experience
Here are some practical information to support your planning and visit to Milan.
1 | Map as a guide
Firstly, using a map as a guide – from the map below, you will note that most of the attractions are all within a cluster of walkable distance. Experiencing all 19 attractions on Milan bucket list idea may take more than a day and/or more than one visit depending on how long your vacation is for. The information in this post along with the map will support you in designing your itinerary and how best to experience these attractions.
How to use googlemymaps above: Click on the arrow at the top left corner of the map. You will see the places next to numbered markers of 1-19. Click on the individual places to learn more through information provided by google. Enlarge the map by clicking on the + for better views and reduce it by clicking – when not needed.
2 | Culturally beautiful places to stay in Milan
Milan as a major European hub has a number of districts that cater for specific interests. There are 9 districts in Milan and these are sub-divided to neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood offer every visitor something special to experience, beautiful places to stay that caters for millennial lifestyle, families, backpackers and budget travellers. The accommodations in these neighbourhoods are conveniently located and easily accessible to attractions you might want to visit.
Below is a summary of suggested tours that you can participate in to learn more of the Milanese culture and the city’s history. Some has been mentioned above and also listed here for purposes of completion. Pre-book your tickets to secure your visit as some of these attractions are sold out months ahead of time. As bucket list attractions. you wouldn’t want to miss them! Stay flexible with easy cancellation up to 24 hours before the activity commences. Get your tickets downloaded to your phone for seamless skip-the-line visits.
To navigate around Milan, you may want to purchase the 48-Hour City Pass: Discover Milan With One Card, giving you free access to museums, transport options and discounts with affiliate restaurants. Just so you know, if you are selecting this 48-hour pass and wish to use the dining options, you need to plan ahead and pre-book your favourite restaurants. Milan is a tourist hotspot, and the best restaurants along with the best time slots are usually taken at least a month ahead of time.
For a detailed guide to Milan’s transport system and ticket options – a complete resource to everything you need to know about getting around Milan like a local – navigate to > Getting around Milan like a local.
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On a final note about Milan bucket list
Having a Milan bucket list is a good way to compile all the things you want to do and experience in this city. My bucket list comprises of 19 attractions and places to visit to learn more of Milan’s rich history and culture. My visits these days are not geared towards ticking off a list anymore. I spend more time in the moment and enjoy what I see and experience. By doing so, I have a more meaningful takeaway. I have left off food experiences in Milan as it warrants a whole post in itself. My sincere hope is that you have enjoyed reading this post and some of the attractions will find its way to your bucket list as well.
How about you 🙂
So, what do you think? Is this post valuable to you in planning your visit to accomplish your Milan bucket list ideas? Would you add a few more to the list? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you. Your suggestions may be added as ‘Reader recommendations’ so readers could be aware of greater choices.
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Have a splendid time exploring the beautiful city of Milan.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Why you should visit and what you need to Experience
“Milan’s drawing room” is no ordinary drawing room! A symbol of Milanese style and wealth, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II famously known as ” il salotto di Milano” is a sophisticated, architecturally stunning 19th century shopping gallery. This elegant galleria is home to some of the most luxurious names in the fashion world, international chains, and gourmet eateries. Even if you do not want to splash out on a thing or two here, the Galleria is a must see destination solely for its architectural marvel when visiting Milan.
About the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is more than just a “spot of shopping”. It is a landmark of the City of Milan, with 160 years of history and one of the oldest shopping gallery still standing. A visit here will not only have you look-up at the glass-dome but will also have you look-down exploring the beautifully crafted intricate mosaic floor.
1 | The design
The extraordinary Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a four-storey double arcade, shaped like a cross. It is dominated by a stunning neoclassical iron and glass dome at 50 metres high. The Galleria features an amazingly crafted mosaic floor and an archway.
The archway connects the two most historical piazzas in Milan – Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala.
The beautiful mosaic floor contains four distinct designs, representing the coat of arms of Rome, Florence, Turin and Milan. Rome is represented y a She-wolf together with Romulus and Remus. Florence is the Lily flower. Milan is Red Cross on a white background. As for Turin, it’s a Dancing Bull (pictured below). In the central dome of the Galleria is surmounted by stunning mosaics that represents Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
Legend of the Dancing Bull
The mosaic of the Dancing Bull of Turin attracts hundreds of visitors daily because of a legend associated with it. According to the legend, if you place your heel on a particular “spot” (between his two hind legs) and turn around three times, with eyes closed, it will bring you good fortune. Millions of visitors must have done this over the years because there is a hollow on the mosaic.
This architectural marvel was designed in 1861 by Guiseppe Mengoni. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built between 1865 and 1877 in honour of the first king of the realm, King Vittorio Emanuele II. However, sadly, Guiseppe Mengoni was never present for its grand opening. He was found dead under some scaffolding a few days prior. Some believed Mengoni died of a heart attack, while others say that he took his own life because he couldn’t face the criticism of his design. Mengoni did leave a tale of mystery and an architectural masterpiece!
From the time it was built, the Galleria became the city’s favourite. It was a meeting point, in particular with the Milanese bourgeoisie, academics and musicians such as Giuseppe Verdi, thus nicknamed “il salotto di Milano” (Milan’s drawing room) in the early 20th century. As a meeting point, it also became a place for student demonstrations, rallies and clashes with the police in the 1960s. Post this, the Galleria reinvented itself.
Today, it is more than a shopping arcade. It exudes an air of luxury boasting a string of high-end boutiques, and landmark eateries. It is a beautiful place to stroll, window-shop, people watch and dine. You’ll also see beautiful frescoes and arches throughout, which you can admire as you pass through.
An emblem of the city’s past and present, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is filled with some of the famous Italian brands. It is one of the best places to shop in the city. One of the very first Prada stores is present in the Galleria, which opened in 1913 when the business began. Despite being renovated in the year 2000, the store still contains most of its original furnishings.
Discover the top 5 brands in and around the Galleria – Giorgio Armani | Versace | Louis Vuitton | Prada | Gucci
Milan has been world-famous for its fashion since it became one of the leading textile producers of Europe in the 19th century. The City caught the eye of fashionistas across the globe and wealthy fashion houses decided to lay down their roots in the Quadrilatero where they established luxurious shops, a sensational palazzi and alluring courtyards. Nowadays, the city is a mecca for fashion lovers world-wide.
Not only is Milan the centre of fashion and design, the city is becoming increasingly popular for its gastronomical delights. There is a high number of Michelin stars , trendy and international restaurants to be found here. Going out for a meal at anytime of the day is the city’s lifestyle. Traditional cuisine of risotto and ossobuco, brioche, cocktails and trattorias are some of the favourite “must-try’s”.
Biffi has been at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II since 1852 and can be found in the south wing. This cafe is named after Paolo Biffi, a pastry chef of the Monarch in the 19th century. Cafe Biffi is the oldest cafe at the Galleria. Biffi’s main specialities are Ossobucco with Milanese risotto and the Milanese cutlet. Although there are many choices, the menu has remained largely unchanged for the last twenty-five years. To enjoy a meal at Cafe Biffi will require a booking well in advance.
Occupying a perfect spot in the Galleria overlooking the white facade of the Duomo, this bar keeps alive the ritual of the Italian aperitif (aperitivo). Back in 1897, Gaspare Campari set up his restaurant (along with his home and wine shop) in the gallery, adding his Campari location in 1915. In the 1980s, the bar’s name was changed to “Bar Camparino.” Stop in to sip an iconic Campari and soda or Negroni cocktail, while nibbling on accompanying snacks. Makes a perfect break in a long day of sightseeing.
This charming, historic bookshop has been at Galleria since 1930. The bookseller was also once the official printer of the House of Savoy and published such authors as Pellico, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Freud. One of the oldest bookstores of its kind that is still in operation.
Recommended activity: Experience the greatest sample of what Milan has to offer – taste food from only passionate and high-quality local producers, some of the best food venues that only locals know. Learn more and reserve your place >>
4 | Take a walk on the roof
The Galleria recently opened Highline Galleria – a walkway on the roof of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This exciting journey allow you, for the first time to admire the Duomo from a unique and fascinating perspective.
The walkway stretches 820 feet from Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala. Access is via two high-speed elevators that are located inside the courtyard at Via Silvio Pellico 2.
The rooftop walk is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00. Tickets costs €12.
Milan is a unique place with two souls – a very traditional northern Italian one alongside one that is bustling and innovative as you can find only in few European capitals. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II perfectly resembles both the traditional and the modern, bustling, innovative Milan.
It’s your turn 🙂
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Exploring Milan in One Day may seem impossible given its enormity and possibilities that it affords but it is certainly doable. I share with you my best experiences which I enjoyed during my visit to Milan in one day.
Some may wonder what to do in a metropolis such as Milan. Some may contemplate if it is worth visiting just for a day. There may be some of you, who like me, love to read about cities you are yet to visit and select the best of a city to add to your travel list. If you are amongst any of these categories, then you are in the right place – this article is for you. I share with you my best experiences which I enjoyed during my visit to Milan in one day so that you too, can design your visit for a fabulous day in Milan.
About this article on how to enjoy the best of Milan in one day
This article introduces Milan by way of a brief introduction to its geographical location and popularity as a City. Milan is one of the major hubs in Europe, and attracts hundreds of thousand of tourists each year. Given it’s enormity, it is impossible to experience everything the city offers in one day. Therefore, this article will take you through possibilities of shopping experiences, a little exploring and a little adventure. You will find a list of the best places to visit, how to maximise your time in this city, and how to obtain tickets for some popular sights where tickets are sold off months ahead – in essence this article is an ideal guide to how you can enjoy Milan in one day.
About the City of Milan, Italy
1 | Which part of Italy is Milan
The City of Milan, is located in the northern region of Italy, more precisely in the Lombardy region. The Lombardy region covers a vast landscape ranging from the Alps to the countryside, has many art cities to small hamlets rich in history. This region is home to about fifteen of Italy’s lakes and some of the best ski resorts. Milan will host the 2026 edition of the Winter Olympic Games. You will find Milan located at the following GPS code.
45.4641° N 9.1919° E
Location of Milan in relation to other cities in Italy
2 | Milan is a fashion hub
As a metropolis, the city ofMilano is the second largest city in Italy. It is one of the best known cities in the world and is arguably the global capital of fashion and design. As a fashion hub, the city is home to the most popular fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino and Missoni to name a few. Every year the city attracts countless visitors to its runways and design showrooms.
In economic terms, Milan is the third largest city in Europe, after London and Paris. Italy’s only Stock Exchange, Borsa Italiana is located here, and if you are a football fan, I’m sure you know, Milan is renowned for its own dedicated international football team, AC Milan.
4 | Milan is a history and cultural centre
Besides being a fashion and financial hub, Milan is packed with history, culture and centuries old architecture which will blow you away! It is home to many iconic buildings such as the infamous Gothic Duomo di Milano, Castello Sforzesco, Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent where you will find Leonardo da Vinci’s mural of The Last Supper, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are just some of the sights that will have you in awe – reasons which makes this City a tourist hot spot.
5 | Milan is a city where “I could become someone here”
When you visit Milan, if you haven’t already, you will know that Milan is a City that depicts wealth. Dotted all around you, you will find high fashion names, high-end restaurants, and bold architecture like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You will feel right at home as well because everyone is so friendly and welcoming here. It’s okay if you don’t speak or know Italian, everyone seems to speak English either well or little, with a twist of Italian rhythm. It reminded me of what Giorgio Armani once said about this lovable City:
Milan is a true metropolis: strong and fearless but welcoming, too. Little by little, I came to realize that I could become someone here.”
As a visitor to Milan, you will note that it is a City that is easy to get to, both by air and land (more on transportation below). Exploring Milan will undoubtedly require a few days, or multiple visits or just a weekend getaway but my planned visit to this City was a brief one – a little shopping, a little exploring and a little adventure.
My list of places to visit in Milan in one day were:
Duomo di Milano;
Parco Sempione, and the
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Although armed with a list, I realised it was an ambitious itinerary. If there was one thing I wanted to do in Milan, it was to visit the iconic landmark of the Duomo which took centuries to buildand to Walk on the Rooftop of the Duomo during sunset. I was happy to accomplish both and cross them off my Milan’s bucket list. However, I was disappointed at not being able to experience one other which had been on my bucket list.
While it was a short visit, I discovered that Milan has so many hidden treasures that ought to be explored besides the main touristy spots, and for this reason Milan remains firmly on my return list.
With so many impressive places to see, Milan in one day will be a long one but it is certainly doable. Luckily for me, the one day when I visited was a glorious day of sunshine in the cool month of November. My experiences were amazing and will surely stay with me forever.
A quick overview of my visit to Milan in one day
Typically, Piazza del Duomo, the main square in Milan should be the starting point of any itinerary. Most of the popular places are easily reachable from here either through a walking route or via metro.
My one day in Milan began upon my arrival at Milano Centrale Railway Station. I was completely taken by surprise at the sheer size of it and soon realised this was an attraction in its own right, requiring some time to explore. Afterwards, and following a quick and simple late breakfast at an on-site cafe, I caught a quick taxi-ride to Piazza del Duomo. Piazza del Duomo connects the rest of the places I intended to visit.
Arriving at Piazza del Duomo and coming into direct contact with the magnificent majestic Duomo in white and pink marble was an indescribable awe-inspiring moment. I took many photos of the Duomo from all angles, each being unique in the sunlight. The carvings on the exterior walls were of all kinds which ignited my curiosity.
After some exploring and an immersive experience (crowd and pigeons!) at Piazza del Duomo, I walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to the north to reach Piazza della Scala. While on the way, witnessing queues of tourists awaiting their turn on the dancing bull of Turin (more on this below). The Galleria Vittoria Emanuele shopping centre was exquisite, to say the least. I did not stop to shop at this point, although something did catch my eye.
I looped back to the Galleria later in the afternoon for a little shop, late snack, an aperitif and to rest my feet before visiting the Duomo di Milano. I do not wish to confuse you with the looping back and be repetitive, so I shall list all the experiences under its respective headings. Hence, giving you the flexibility to design your own one day itinerary without missing out on these valuable experiences.
Here is how you can enjoy the best of Milan in one day for memories that will last a lifetime
1 | Milano Centrale Railway Station
The Milano Centrale Railway Station is no ordinary railway station. It is huge! It is magnificent! It is the largest railway station in Europe by size and the main train station in Milan. The station’s imposing, grandiose architecture has sculptures of winged horses, lions, bulls and eagles adorning it’s roof!
The station depicts various architectural styles and art deco. The only thing you must not forget to do is to look up!
1.1 | Know before you go – practical information on Milan Centrale Station
Opening hours: Milano Centrale train station is open every day from 04:00 to 01:00.
Address: Piazza Duca d’Aosta, 1, 20124 Milano MI, Italy
The Piazza del Duomo is the one place you do not want to miss. This is the main square in the city centrewhere the locals and visitors love to meet. It is vibrant, large, rich in history and culture. One reason why this is a popular meeting point is because it gives access to the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral), the symbol of Milan and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The Museum of 900, an incredibly beautiful museum of modern art is located on the side of the Piazza. Nearby is also the RoyalPalace of Milan, home to Museo del Duomo, a cultural centre and home to international art exhibitions.
From Piazza del Duomo, you can admire the magnificent architecture of the Duomo and the incredible Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Unfortunately, the Piazza is always busy with people, as one can imagine. Therefore, there will not be a moment where you can quickly take a people free snap. Nor will you be able to take a shot without the people friendly pigeons! Unless perhaps at 5 in the morning!
3 | Statue of Victor Emanuele II
With everything that goes on at the Piazza del Duomo, one can easily miss (if you don’t look up!) the iconic monument in the centre of the Piazza. The monument was erected in honour of the first King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II in 1896.
The Statue of Victor Emanuele II is an equestrian statue set on a marble pedestal. It shows the king leading his troops to battle, flanked on either side by a large lion. On the sides of the pedestal, are soldiers ready for combat. The monument, which is set on a massive plinth, was created byErcole Rosa, an Italian sculptor.
The Piazza del Duomo gives you easy access to Milan Cathedral.
4 | Milan Cathedral | Duomo di Milano
No trip to Milan is complete without a visit to the Duomo di Milano – the symbol of Milan. For many, a trip to Milan is primarily a visit to this impressive Gothic and Romanesque architecture. It is the most visited site in Milan.
4.1 | View of the Duomo from the floors of the Piazza del Duomo
Mystical, magical, majestic or an awful failure – just some of the descriptions thrown at this old Cathedral that stands proudly in the centre of Piazza del Duomo. For me, the Duomo is a mesmerising beautiful masterpiece in pink and white marble facade. The walls are adorned with intricate carvings, when taken a closer look left me with more questions than answers. It is so beautifully crafted that each tells a story of exquisite craftmanship and tales. No doubt the Duomo has seen a lot of history pass her by in the 600 years or so that has taken to construct her. Some say there is work still continuing with the ever presence of the scaffolding on the roof of the Duomo. Nevertheless, she stands, in all her glory to be admired by the hundreds of thousands that flock the city each year.
Given that the Duomo was a bucket list destination for me, I could not resist snapping away. I tried taking photos from different angles of the Cathedral, the front, the side and every time I looked up, the spires seemed to lead to the clouds! However, later in the afternoon I came to experience the view that I was most comfortable in – the view from across. (picture below).
Whichever way one looks at it, I think we will all agree that it is huge!. Afterall, it is the fifth largest cathedral in the world. A visit to this iconic structure, either external or internal viewing including a visit to the Duomo Terraces does not disappoint.
The terraces of the Duomo was an incredible experience. I visited the terraces at sunset and I would encourage and highly recommend a sunset visit on the rooftop of the Duomo. The roof is covered in openwork slender pinnacles and spires crowned with almost 2000 sculptures that overlook the city. Apparently, this Gothic Cathedral has the most statues than any other building in the world! On the highest spire of the Cathedral, you will find the Madonnina, a gilded bronze statue of Mary, which was sculpted by Giuseppe Perego in 1774.
Exploring the rooftop via narrow interconnecting stairways and, sometimes standing on slippery rooftops trying to get the best views and “clicks” was indeed exciting and fun as I reflect on these moments.
To visit the internal and the rooftop, you may have to consider the time factor. You need to allocate at least an hour for the Cathedral and an hour for the rooftop, meaning two hours in total at the very least. If you are planning on the sunset at the rooftop, you may well need an hour and half. Then, there is the queuing time to purchase your tickets. For this reason and given that you only have a day, some may suggest that you forego the internal viewing altogether. However, I would disagree with this view. I suggest that it all depends on you and the question need asking is – “When you visit Milan, would you want to experience the Duomo in its entirety?
As a person who travels often, who juggles one too many things at a time, I like to visit a landmark or a building and explore it in its entirety. I do not like to return home and feel that I should have done it or I should have done better. Moreover, I love history and enjoy exploring monuments and historical architecture, therefore whenever there is an opportunity for me to experience a monument in its entirety, I grab that opportunity. For this reason, I spend some time planning my travels, deciding on the activities I want to do. For me, the Duomo was on my bucket list of things to do in Milan, therefore it was not going to be just half the experience.
4.3 | How to maximise your experience and to save time and money
If you want the whole experience of the Duomo, here is how you can save time and maximise your experience when visiting the Duomo:
To save time queuing for tickets, you can fast-track your visit and skip-the-line by purchasing your tickets before hand. You can do so prior to arriving in Milan or even as late as on the day, which is what I did. Purchasing the skip-the-line tickets are super easy through a link. then you download the ticket on your phone, show the mobile voucher at the door, and walk right through, hence allowing you to maximise your experience.
4.4 | Know before you go – practical information on Milan Cathedral
The Cathedral and the Rooftop is open Everyday.
Cathedral – 8 am to 7 pm | Rooftop – 9 am to 7pm | Last entry is at 6pm
For further details on their daily activities and prayer times, please check their official website here.
Described as a “a living place, a place to discover to learn the history of the monument,” the museum showcases all of its work on and about Milan Cathedral. A visit to Museo del Duomo helps one to appreciate the unfolding stories of it’s six hundred years of history. You can enjoy close-up of the sculptures, colours of the marble, details of its unique art and so much more!
5.1 | Know before you go – practical information on Museo del Duomo
The Museo del Duomo is located inside the Royal Palace, next to Milan Cathedral.
6 | Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II | Milan in one day
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an enchanting shopping mall and a must visit landmark to cross off your list in Milan. It is spacious, airy and pretty. This incredibly impressive four storey double arcade, glass-topped 19th century gallery is Italy’s oldest and one of the most exquisite shopping sites, alongside Via Montenapoleone and Viadella Spiga. If you want to delve deep into the fashion world, you can join a two-hour shopping tour and explore the luxury fashion district of Milan.
On the other hand, when a visit is limited to one day in Milan, you may want to explore and experience the Galleria at your own quick pace. As the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is home to luxury shopping, it hosts many exclusive and prestigious labels and brand shops to feed the desires of the Milanese elite. There are several cafes and restaurants here which have been visited by the rich and famous such as Verdi, Puccini and Frank Sinatra. There are several roof top bars giving you exclusive views across to the Duomo and over Milan. Some of these shops, cafes or restaurants have been here since 1867.
Sitting next door to the Duomo di Milano and a few steps away from the Piazza del Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II makes an ideal stop either before or after a visit to the Duomo. I stopped here briefly on my way to Piazza della Scala and looped back later in the afternoon for a longer experience.
What to experience at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II when visiting Milan in one day
Here are the highlights of my visit which you can experience at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan when on a quick visit.
6.1 | Cafe Biffi
Cafe Biffi is the oldest cafe at the Galleria. Biffi’s main specialities are Ossobucco with Milanese risotto and the Milanese cutlet. Although there are many choices, the menu has remained largely unchanged for the last twenty-five years. To enjoy a meal at Cafe Biffi will require a booking well in advance. More info below in Food & Drinks.
The oldest cafe was established here in 1867 by Paolo Biffi. Described as a “meeting place for artists, writers, and musicians frequented by Luigi Capuana, Emilio de Marchi, Giovanni Pozza” where the chatter of the evening concerts, the noise of the cutlery, and wordliness often raising the curiosities of passersby.
6.2 | Enjoy a direct view of the Duomo di Milano from the open terraces of the Galleria over a Campari
As I wanted to experience the sunset from the terraces of the Duomo, a little downtime on the fifth floor of the Galleria over an aperitif was a perfect intervention. We were able to get a table on the open terraces, of Terrazza Aperol, giving us a perfect view of the Duomo.
This dancing bull mosaic attracts hundreds of visitors daily, because of a legend associated with it. One only need see the queues of curious visitors and their giggles as they pose for an instagrammable shot on the spot!
Would you like to know what the legend is? Here goes…
6.4 | Legend of the Dancing Bull of Turin
Well, according to legend, apparently if you place your heel on a particular spot, between his two hind legs, and turn around three times, it will bring you good fortune. Millions of visitors must have done this over the years because there is a hollow on the spot.
Regardless of whether one believes in the legend of the dancing bull of Turin or not, it seemed a fun attraction to watch.
6.5 | The best views are above!
You need to look up! The incredibly beautiful iron and glass ceiling is a must see attraction – so you need to pause for a moment and look up! Easily missed when you are busy shopping, or looking at the window displays.
6.6 | Shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Photo credit to respective official websites
Last but not least is the shopping experience at the Galleria – here are some suggestions for you to consider. Even if you do not have time to do the usual browsing, unrushed shopping (because this is Milan in one day schedule), take a peek inside these shops and experience the grandeur of the top brands such as Giorgio Armani, Prada, Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton. I must admit, I did spoil myself with a little gift from LV.
6.7 | Know before you go – practical information on Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria itself is accessible all hours.
The shops are typically open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.
Restaurants & bars are open from 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. [Check individual restaurants and bars as some stay open longer]
Piazza del Duomo, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
Recommended read: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Why visit this remarkable destination in Milan
7 | Piazza della Scala
Piazza della Scala is a small town square. It is pedestrianised and quieter than Piazza del Duomo. The main attractions here are the statue of Leonardo da Vinci which is located in the centre of the square and La Scala Opera House, one of the world’s most popular opera houses.
8 | Teatro alla Scala – La Scala Opera in Milan
Teatro alla Scala also known as “Temple of Opera” is one of the most famous theatres in the world. It dates back to 1778 and has seen many composers who wrote and performed here including Rossini, Puccini, Verdi and Toscanini. The building itself has often been described as unimpressive from the outside, but I thought it was nice. Perhaps, it was being compared to the opulence of the interior (picture below).
I did not plan to watch a performance or do a full guided tour of the La Scala Opera House. I wanted a quick preview of the area because it is so close to Piazza del Duomo (about 6 minutes walk) and it would be a shame to miss it. In any case, tickets for performances were unavailable during my visit as these are sold out months ahead of time. I am saving the full experience for my next visit to Milan.
However, if La Scala is in your bucket list on Milan in one day, then you could join a one hour private tour to learn about its history or go a little further, explore the La Scala museum as well. If you intend to fit this experience on your visit to Milan in one day itinerary, you may want to book the tickets before hand, well in advance of your visit to ensure your place.