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7 must-see attractions in Milan

Fashion-obsessed and packed with culture, the best things to do in Milan are all style and substance combined

Written by
Emma Harper
Contributor
Charlie Allenby
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Fashion-obsessed and packed with culture, Milan is a city that shows the power of being brave enough to combine style and substance in equal measure. The best attractions in Milan showcase what this place is all about, from forward-thinking galleries to grand old buildings of importance. Milan is a true cultural Mecca, packed with museums, restaurants and shopping. Milan is, in a word, marvellous.

There is plenty to see and do here if you scratch below the surface, but ticking off the bucket list sites should be the first thing on the to-do list. These seven are where you should start.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites

The Duomo is one of Milan's most famous landmarks and tells a story of faith and art spanning over six centuries. The 14th-century cathedral is home to airy marble interiors and exquisite stained-glass windows and is 600 years in the making, reflecting the city's creativity and ambition. If you want to skip the long lines at the ticket office, buy your tickets online beforehand.

  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries

This mid-19th century 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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  • Shopping
  • Designer

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II epitomises the Italian flair for retail commerce. This glass-vaulted shopping arcade, 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 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.

  • 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 its meaning, there's no denying it is quite a sight to behold.

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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 city's northern edge. 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 showcase the best Italian and international design.

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  • Museums
  • Fashion and costume

The Armani Silos, Giorgio Armani's museum, is the perfect addition to a fashion-obsessed city. Here, you'll find around 600 of his fashion designs from over the last 40 years. Their permanent exhibition celebrates over 40 years of timeless elegance and style, with Armani's creations divided into different themes. 

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