Things to do in Milan that is not the Duomo

Many cities in the world are easily recognisable by their iconic landmarks. Paris has the Eiffel tower, New York has the Statue of Liberty, Sydney has the opera house and to a lesser extent Milan has its Duomo.

For some the Duomo is the only place a tourist might visit before catching the next train out of the city. The Duomo rightfully so should be the number one attraction of the city with its pure white marbled facade and Gothic architecture taking over 600 years to complete. The extravagant spires and sculptures that line the rooftop of the third largest cathedral in the world would be a highlight in any city.

There are other attractions that are worth your time in Milan.

1. Art Lovers

For the art lovers there is the unique opportunity of viewing Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper in the monastery of the Santa Maria Grazie’s church. You will have 15 minutes to view the painting with 25 others, giving you a chance to appreciate the work and ask any questions you have to the guide. It is expensive but well worth it. You need to book at least a month in advance as tickets sell quickly. You can’t buy tickets at the church but some day tours do include the Last Supper on their itinerary.

 - Santa Marie Grazie's church which holds the Last Supper

Santa Maria Grazie’s church

 - Sforza's castle

Sforzesco Castle

The Castello Sforzesco, an immense red castle formerly a Visconti fortress before becoming the home of the Sforza dynasty who ruled Renaissance Milan. The castles defenses were designed by Da Vinci. It is free to walk around the grounds but the castle now holds two museums containing art and another one for musical instruments.

The other gallery worth a look if you still haven’t had your fix is the Pinacoteca di Brea which houses Milan’s most impressive collection of masters. These museums may not measure up to the museums of Florence and Rome, they are however world class museums in their own rights.

2 Football

Milan is the home of two teams AC Milan and Inter Milan. The two teams are amongst the most popular teams in the world. They share the same stadium San Siro.The season starts in August and ends in late May. Games are played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and if you are in Milan during the off season or not over the weekend, you can still take tours of the stadium that includes entrance to the team club rooms.

3. Opera

Milan is notorious with opera and there is probably no better place in the world to see it than at Teatro Alla Scala. Seasons usually run from October to April, with other performances held outdoors in the Summer. Dress appropriately and enjoy the cultural experience amongst the Milanese people or if you don’t want to splash out on expensive tickets you could always purchase tickets for standing room only.

4. Fashion/ Shopping

What is probably more well known to Milan than the Duomo and even the opera may just be the high end fashion boutiques of the countries leading designers. Places to see the high end fashion strips are the arcade of the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II to the high fashion alleys of the Quadrilaterio D Oro. Fashion weeks are held in January and February as well as June and September.

5. Food

When on holiday you have to eat and in Milan there are many great dining experiences . Two places not to be missed are the restaurants and bars that line the canal area of Navigli for as little as 9 euro you can enjoy happy hour from 6-9 pm which will get you a drink and all the food you can eat from the counter of anti pasti, bruschetta, cured meats, salads and even seafood, pasta and Milanese cutlets.

The second place and not to be missed is the Peck Emporium which originally opened its doors as a deli in 1883. It has now expanded to a food hall stocked with variations of cheese and cured meats for starters. Other treats include an inquisite array of chocolates, pastries, freshly made gelato, seafood, pate, fruit and vegetables, truffle products, olive oil and balsamic oil.

Most cities usually offer more than their iconic landmarks if given a chance, so before racing through the Duomo and darting to the train station to catch the train. Why not stop for awhile and see what the city has to offer. You might be pleasantly surprised

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4 thoughts on “Things to do in Milan that is not the Duomo

  1. Milan is not one of my favorite Italian cities either. Some good suggestions here and I appreciate your effort to promote the city in this way with alternative things to try. I wouldn’t recommend #4 in peak tourist summer season though as it’s absolutely a cattle drive through the shopping districts and you can hardly move let alone enjoy it – well, that was my experience anyway. I’ll give Milan another try one day given the opportunity, but in Italian ways it’s a Big and Busy city lacking in Italian charm from what I saw of it. I wouldn’t single out Milan and feel Naples is like that too, although it does have some old world feel to it, dirty and noisy though it is.

    • We were in Milan in the Winter so I could imagine the city having a different feel to it than in the middle of Summer. We have not been to Naples but I think it would offer a different experience with seeing people go about their day hanging washing on their balconies. I really enjoy watching people while I’m travelling, learning and experiencing things through them.

      I’d be interested to hear what you think of Milan if you go back again.

    • Milan wasn’t my favorite city in Italy but it kind of caught me by surprise. I think too many people write the city off as only having the Duomo but it does offer more to tourists than just that.

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