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We've found the 10 most beautiful buildings to see on your trip to Milan.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/LorenzoclickBosco Verticale

The 10 most beautiful buildings in Milan

Explore the most beautiful buildings in Milan, a unique mix of modern high-rises and centuries-old historical landmarks.

Written by
Emma Harper
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The function of architecture has changed over the years. Buildings are now judged as much on their aesthetics as their functionality, maybe even more so. The science of designing a structure has evolved from one of engineering to one of art. We aren’t complaining, of course, as who doesn’t love gazing up at a beautiful building with doe-eyed excitement? There are few more delightful experiences in travel.

Where does magnificent Milan fit into this? Known as Italy’s centre of industry, the city has a similar brick and mortar reputation with its architecture, although look a little closer and you’ll find some seriously stunning structures here. Milan is booming, and its skyline is fast joining its array of bars, restaurants, galleries and shops as a major reason to give it plenty of attention. Check out our pick of utterly beautiful buildings in Milan that demand your attention right now.

Most beautiful buildings in Milan

Bosco Verticale
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Lorenzoclick

1. Bosco Verticale

Created by Studio Boeri and led by star architect Stefano Boeri, the two plant- and tree-covered towers of the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) are pleasing to both the eyes and the lungs. In an act of environmentally responsible urban design, around 800 trees and 15,000 plants (in total equivalent to a 20,000-sqm forest) have been planted on the cantilevered balconies that are spread across the high-rises at uneven intervals. The variety in plant life means that the façade is not just striking, but also ever-changing.

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Despite being built over the course of six centuries, Milan’s transcendent cathedral stayed true to the Gothic style of architecture. The slender, spindly spires are almost too many to count and, when taken with the rows of flying buttresses, symbolise heavenly aspirations. Walk around the outside or on the roof and you’ll lose count of the gargoyles–it’s said that there are more than 3,500 exterior statues, which stand alongside large stained-glass windows. But the best view is still from the front, where the ornamented façade will leave you wonderstruck.

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Fondazione Prada
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Fred Romero

3. Fondazione Prada

Fondazione Prada, which occupies a former gin distillery in southern Milan, stands out for its unique mix of reimagined existing buildings and new structures–people visit the complex as much for the architecture as for the art on display. Most striking are Torre—a nine-storied white concrete tower with sharp angles and strategic cut-outs that house the permanent exhibition—and the ‘Haunted House,’ an existing building that was covered entirely in a dazzling 24-carat gold leaf, adding a bit of dazzle to the sleek and slightly muted exteriors.

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Connecting Piazza del Duomo with La Scala, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a high-end shopping arcade that has kept its lustre in spite of its old age–luxury brands with delightfully retro shop windows rub shoulders with classic white-tablecloth restaurants and a few splashy newcomers to the dining scene. The mosaic floors and the four mosaics representing Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas in the corners of the central octagon are certainly memorable, but the most impressive sight is more utilitarian in nature: the steel-and-glass canopy dating to 1867.

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Milan Central Station (Milano Centrale)
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/John Picken

5. Milan Central Station (Milano Centrale)

Milano Centrale is not your average train station: it's an imposing, grandiose structure adorned with bombastic sculptures of winged horses, lions, bulls and eagles adorning its roof. The station, which is one of Europe’s largest, was built slowly over the course of the early 20th century, which accounts for the fact that the building melds several architectural styles, including art deco, with an added dash of Fascist-era motifs (King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy laid the cornerstone of the station on 1906, but it was completed during Mussolini’s rule).

Villa Necchi Campiglio
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Palickap

6. Villa Necchi Campiglio

This rationalist-style mansion, built by the prominent architect Piero Portaluppi for the Necchi Campiglio family in the 1930s, is built on half an acre of land in Milan’s historic centre. The home was equipped with what was, at the time, cutting-edge technology: elevators, intercoms and the first private heated swimming pool in Milan. The family lived in the house until 2001, which makes touring the beautiful interiors–the high-ceilinged rooms, the mint green-tiled kitchen, the exquisite veranda–feel like visiting a (very wealthy) friend’s home.

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Casa-Museo Boschi di Stefano
Photograph: Courtesy Casa Museo Boschi Di Stefano

7. Casa-Museo Boschi di Stefano

What makes this 1930s art deco apartment block stand out is architect Piero Portaluppi’s unique design: the corners of the top three stories look as if they were sliced off. On each of these floors, he tacked on a rectangular shape that bears resemblance to a covered sunroom; on two floors, a curved balcony surrounds the protruding sunroom in a triangular shape. The building’s interior boasts a house museum featuring the impeccable modern Italian art collection of husband-and-wife art collectors Antonio Boschi and Marieda di Stefano, who used to live in the building.

Casa Galimberti
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Fred Romero

8. Casa Galimberti

While this flamboyant apartment building's architectural touches like the wrought-iron balconies and decorative stonework are charming, what really catches the eye are the painted ceramic tiles depicting floral displays and Art Nouveau beauties, some half-dressed and others in seductive poses, on a gilded backdrop. The building stands in what is known as Milan’s Liberty cluster, so it’s worth taking a stroll on the surrounding streets, although none of the other buildings is quite as impressive.

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Palazzo Castiglioni
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Geobia

9. Palazzo Castiglioni

Palazzo Castiglioni, completed in 1904, is a grand palace in the Liberty style. The rusticated blocks on the façade’s ground floor, which are meant to look like natural rock, and the stone sculptures of leaves and flowers that frame the windows is a dramatic contrast to the building’s smooth stone walls. It was remodelled as an office complex in the 1960s, meaning that most of the original interiors are gone, but it’s still possible to admire the alluring exterior.

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Striking from any vantage point, this 15th-century redbrick castle has served as a family residence, military citadel and now museum complex. Leonardo da Vinci himself designed the defences, and to this day the ramparts still give off an impregnable air, even if the only beings on guard are the feral cats that stalk the overgrown moat. The tower, completed in 1905, is the work of Luca Beltrami; he honoured the original tower (which collapsed centuries ago) while still adding his own touches, like the large clock whose radiant sun motif is a riff on the Sforza coat of arms.

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