Italy is a country that is spoiled for choice when it comes to history, culture and of course amazing cuisine. Add to this a plethora of gorgeous cities and quaint villages scattered around the iconic landscape and you have a country that has to be on your radar of must-visit destinations. But this post is not just about why you should visit Italy, instead I want to share with you 5 awesome attractions in Milan that will not only encourage but perhaps convince you to book a trip to Italy sooner rather than later.
During our Eurail extravaganza earlier this year, we started our adventure in Italy and specifically where it all began – Rome. A couple of days exploring the infamous landmarks such as the Colosseum was in reality just an appetizer for the amazing experience we had when we arrived in Milan. Taking the high-speed Frecciarossa train, the journey took a little less than three hours, providing us with a teasing look at the gorgeous Italian countryside (just another reason to explore Italy).
Milan Central Train Station
As we arrived at the Milano Centrale train station, I immediately realized that this had to be included in a list of attractions worth exploring in Milan. Whether you are arriving in Milan by train or other method of transportation, be sure to take a trip over to Milano Centrale to check out the gorgeous architecture both inside and outside this station.
There are many iconic train stations around the world such as Grand Central in New York and St. Pancreas in London, but I encourage you to add Milano Centrale because you won’t be disappointed.
The hustle and bustle of passengers passing through the station is apparent just like in any other major station, but this truly is like a city within a city! From the myriad of shops available to a variety of services, Milano Centrale is one of the most active locations throughout Milan.
We were fortunate to be staying at the Hilton which is within walking distance of Milano Centrale so we took the opportunity to experience this landmark several times as a departure point to head downtown on the local subway line.
For us, this was the perfect introduction to Milan and we were ready to head out and explore more of what ‘The moral capital of Italy’ had to offer.
After heading on the subway downtown and alighting at the Piazza del Duomo, we headed up the first flight of stairs and immediately stood there in awe at the sight in front of us. We have seen a number of impressive cathedrals around the world but after seeing the Duomo di Milano this went right to the very top of our list.
The Milan Cathedral dates back to the 14th century when the construction of this Gothic inspired design broke ground. Although much of the architecture was complete, the façade was finished in the early 19th century though it was only in 1965 when the last gate was added and Milan could finally announce their infamous cathedral was completed.
One regret I have from our trip to Milan was not being able to go inside and explore the cathedral. After seeing pictures of the elaborate details of the interior, I am anxious to see this for myself but if our experience walking around the perimeter of the exterior is anything to go by, we will be left speechless.
The baroque style details on display throughout the cathedral alone make this an iconic landmark not only in Milan or Italy for that matter, but throughout Europe! I would put this alongside the likes of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and La Sagrada Familia as quintessential attractions.
You have to see it to believe it because words and pictures will never do the Duomo di Milano the justice it deserves.
San Carlo al Corso
Seen enough of the Milan Cathedral yet? Ok, so you can never get enough of this but as you begin strolling away from the Piazza del Duomo, you will likely experience enough other landmarks that will keep you occupied.
Stroll along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and you will be engulfed in a mass of high-class fashion brands. If you enjoy a little retail therapy, this part of Milan is the ultimate shopper’s paradise but more on this later.
Thoughts about heading on a shopping escapade may pass through your mind, but as you turn the corner and arrive at the Piazza San Carlo you will notice a gorgeous neo-classic church right in front of you.
San Carlo al Corso is yet another example of Italian architecture that leaves you speechless, the dome in particular leaving a memory that I will cherish from our time in Milan.
The exterior of the church reminds me of the Pantheon in Rome, with the large, granite columns providing a perfect foundation for the rest of the design.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
For the females out there reading this post, don’t worry I didn’t forget about the fine shopping districts available throughout Milan. If you are concentrating on exploring the area around the Piazza del Duomo, you are in luck because this is one of the shopping havens of Italy!
Milan is known as being home to many leading international fashion brands, of course given that many famous designers were born and nurtured in this very city.
The vast high-profile market for global fashion brands is on display on almost every street corner but if you are looking to getaway from the hustle and bustle of the Piazza, why not head inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. I should probably give a little disclaimer here that you may be getting away from the tourism outside but there are equally as many people inside exploring the vast array of shopping options available here.
This Galleria is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls dating back to when it originally opened in 1877. The likes of Versace, Valentino and Prada can all be found here so be sure to have your credit card handy! Even if shopping is not really your thing, exploring this four story arcade that has a similar look to that of a train station, is well worth your time.
A morning stroll around Milan, just like any other European city, would not feel quite right without exploring the local markets.
We were fortunate to be visiting Milan during the Christmas holidays so were able to explore the open markets on display outside the Milan Cathedral.
Lining the Piazza with a plethora of intriguing stalls, this market was definitely a great place to find some local gems that you would not find in the mainstream shops. From a myriad of Italian cheese selections to a tasty Limoncello, there is plenty of local produce to choose from.
One of the most intriguing stalls was the ‘Pasta di Mandorle’ (Almond Paste) with a wide selection of marzipan looking delicacies. Be sure to have a friendly encounter with the market stall owners because they are always willing to let you sample their fine product, of course in the hope you will purchase something for your enjoyment later!
I challenge you to explore a stereotypical market in Milan and walk away with nothing…highly unlikely when you see how mouthwatering everything looks.
Although the Milan Cathedral may be on most lists of top attractions in Milan, I wanted to share a couple of other ‘lesser’ known reasons why this city is such a cool place to explore. While we only spent a day in Milan, I saw enough to suggest a return trip will be sooner rather than later.
Whether you are a cognoscente of retail therapy or perhaps an art critic, Milan is ready to inspire you and likely provide everlasting memories of your time in this city. I’m anxious to return and I’m convinced that I will have many more reasons to add to why Milan is an Italian city not to be missed!
Indeed the Duomo is Milan’s most spectacular building! A lovely neighborhood of Milan that I also liked and recommend (especially with warmer weather) is the Navigli, which are canals with restaurants and bars. Just be careful of mosquitoes!!
Thanks for the tips on Navigli Anna, that sounds awesome! I wish we had spent a couple more days in Milan to explore further but I am so ready to go back. We are heading back to Europe on another Eurail adventure this Christmas so hopefully we will have time to explore more of what Milan has to offer when we head back to Italy.
I’ve never been to Italy, though my husband has (for work – rough life!)been to Milan and Turin several times. I know The Duomo is the ultimate place to visit in Milano but I would have to say that the Markets would be at the top of my list also. It all looks wonderful!
The markets were really cool but then again that is just quintessential Europe in my opinion. No where else does it quite like the Europeans when it comes to markets, especially at Christmas time!
Looks so beautiful – alas my partner went without me….:( The hazard of too many kids….
One of my most memorable moments ever is climbing the stairs onto the roof of Milan Cathedral. The view is magnificent, and you get to see all that baroque spire work up close.
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We were supposed to go to Milan but I had read nothing that convinced me that it was worth our while, so we went to Domodossola instead. However, I may have misjudged the city based on what you have shared here. Next time I will give it a try.
Milan is a shopper’s paradise and very famous in this region (Middle East) for being such. Whenever I tried to sell a tour or sightseeing activity to my clients (I was a travel agent) they ignore me most of the time as they only go there for shopping. :p
Thanks to this post, I am inspired to stop over in Milan while also visiting nearby Lakes of Como and Garda. I probably would not go to Milan as a one place destination (from the US), but I like to mix up nature and cities in my travels and that would be a perfect combination.
Milan was one place we had to leave out of our Italy trip itinerary, but I’m eager to return and check it out. Thanks for giving us some things to check out while we’re there! 🙂
I feel like Milan gets a bit of a bad rap, but I’d love to visit! The Christmas markets would be especially great to experience.
We have not yet been to Milan but we love visiting Cathedrals and can’t wait to experience this one some day. Your photos are breathtaking. Also the markets in Italy are the best and it looks like this one didn’t disappoint in delivering delicious, fresh foods! Great recap.
LOVE these pictures! I was so sad when we had to curtail our Italy itinerary to go no further north than Rome. Milan, Venice, and the Cinque Terra are calling my name!
Yum. I would definitely be up for trying some of that cheese or almond paste.
Thanks for this post, it is similar to our day wandering through Milan. If you visit Milan before Oct. 31 this year, the EXPO is also on. The them is food. What a great combination- a global food fair in Italy!
Brings back memories… I spend a weekend in Milan in december. The city got even more beautiful with christmas trees and the christmas market.
Thank you! These places are so magnificent! Glad to find this guide.