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We've found the top ten attractions in Milan to visit during your next trip.
Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mariano Mantel

7 must-see attractions in Milan

Famous with the fashion set for a reason, Milan is a city steeped in style and crammed with culture. Here's our guide to conquering it

Written by
Emma Harper
Contributor
Charlie Allenby
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Despite being a true cultural mecca – with plenty of museums, restaurantsthings to do and a booming fashion industry – Milan is a city that keeps its cards close to its chest. In fact, attractions in Milan don’t necessarily dazzle, aside from a few splashy signatures like the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco and the relatively recent spire-topped Unicredit skyscraper. But walk into the city’s stately palazzos (some of Milan's most beautiful buildings) and you’ll find treasure troves of Renaissance paintings. Or peek inside a former industrial warehouse and you’ll come across thoughtfully curated exhibitions of contemporary art and design.

Even Milan’s shiny new high-rises are emblematic of the city’s dynamism and forward-thinking approach to urban development. So yes, at first glance, it may not be the most conspicuous Italian city, but there’s plenty to discover if you scratch below the surface. Get a head start with our pick of the top seven must-see attractions in Milan.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites

Describing the exterior of Milan’s most famous landmark as awe-inspiring is an understatement. And the Duomo gets even better when setting foot inside. The 14th-century cathedral is home to airy marble interiors and exquisite stained-glass windows, which were wisely placed in a crypt for safekeeping during the Second World War. Top tip – purchase your ticket online to skip the lines at the ticket office.

  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries

Built in the mid-19th century, the cemetery is more akin to an open-air art museum than a ghoulish graveyard. It’s the final resting place of some of Milan’s most famous personalities, including politicians, the inventor of Campari, and a father and son – Antonio and Alberto Ascari – who were both race car drivers who, in separate incidences, met their fate dramatically and entirely too young.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design

The outskirts of Milan are where you can find the most interesting up-and-coming art areas. Hangar Bicocca is a great example. An immensely popular contemporary art space, the site was once a locomotive manufacturing plant on the northern edge of the city. While other buildings in this former factory district have been repurposed as shopping centres, this wide-open hangar has been transformed into an exhibition space.

  • Things to do
  • Cultural centres

Opened in 1933 as the headquarters of the Triennale di Arte Decorativa (Italy’s decorative arts, industrial design and architecture triennial), this classical monumental-style building now houses a design museum. The rich permanent collection showcases the history of Italian design – expect to see a Fiat 500 rubbing shoulders with iconic pieces from the Memphis Group – while its regularly updated exhibitions show off the best of Italian and international design.

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  • Museums
  • Fashion and costume

In a city obsessed with fashion, it’s only right that there are galleries dedicated to the craft of turning textiles into art. One such place is Armani Silos, Giorgio Armani’s own museum that opened in 2015. Around 600 of his fashion designs made over the last 40 years are on view. And, as can be expected, the gift shop is home to some select Armani creations.

  • Shopping
  • Designer

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II epitomises the Italian flair for retail commerce. This glass-vaulted shopping arcade, which was built between 1865 and 1877 to link the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza della Scala, is chockfull of luxury designer shops and white-tablecloth establishments. Can’t quite afford to splash the cash in Gucci or Tod’s? The arcade is worth visiting from an architectural standpoint, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of window shopping either.

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  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing

Proudly giving life the finger in Milan's financial district is this bold artwork, created by Italian satirical sculptor Maurizio Cattelan in 2010. Some say it's a push back at the bankers responsible for the economic crisis of 2008, which hit the country hard, while others see it carrying a weighty political message. Whatever the meaning behind it, there's no denying that it's quite a sight to behold.

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