Milan never ceases to thrill and captivate. Situated in the Lombardy region of Italy, this cosmopolitan Italian city draws throngs of tourists with shopping and dining opportunities at some of Italy’s most exquisite shops and restaurants.
There are a number of different venues worth exploring that are not on the typical tourist agenda. As a newcomer to the city, you will discover that Milan has much more to offer besides upscale shopping stores.
Discover the Navigli waterways
This trendy area is frequented on the last Sunday of the month by antique bargain-hunters, and during the week, by tourists and locals. The network of canals offers visitors a chance to see the city from another angle – a welcome alternative to the fashion-obsessed city centre. Partly designed by Leonardo da Vinci, the Navigli canals are lined by restaurants, pubs, cafes and vintage shops.
The Navigli area was part of the city’s port district until the 19th century and is now one of the trendiest and liveliest quarters in Milan. In the past, the canals allowed trade and commerce to prosper in the city. Barges arrived with imported goods and left with handmade Italian merchandise and textiles.
At night and during the festive season, lights adorn the Navigli canals. For 10-12 Euros you can hop on a tour boat that allows you to explore Milan by boat. A typical tour lasts 50 minutes allowing you to see ancient castles, mills and abbeys whilst exploring Milan’s rich historical heritage. There are several restaurants surrounding the canals where you can enjoy a typical Italian appetizer or enjoy a dinner overlooking the water.
Piazza del Duomo
No other area gets so much attention and buzz than Milan’s Piazza del Duomo, bustling with people from the crack of dawn this area is located in the heart of the city. Being one of the most popular hotspots in Milan, tourists and locals come here not only to explore the shopping stores but also to see Milan’s largest cathedral, the Duomo.
The cathedral is a marvel of design, with several Italian, German and French architects having worked on its construction. Once you get to the cathedral don’t miss the chance to view Milan from its rooftop terraces. The roof itself is admirable, its spires and bristles are one of the oldest in the world adorned by unique marble sculptures.
Dinner on a tram
Milan’s trams serve as an important means of transport, ferrying people around the city. Synonymous with the city’s unique history, the trams are some of the oldest in the world, dating back to the 1920s.
Apart from allowing you to explore the city’s alleys and side streets, you can hop on a tram and enjoy a luxurious dining experience onboard. Take an ATMosfera vintage tram operated by Milan’s transport authority, and enjoy dinner as you follow the city’s popular scenic routes.
Visit Sforza Castle
Built by the Duke of Milan, Sforza Castle encompasses a large part of Milan’s centre. The castle’s main entrance is distinguished by the significant Filarete tower. The castle itself has undergone several renovations, the latest of which was from 1893-1904.
Sforza Castle is home to several museums and art collections. Inside the castle, you get an opportunity to tour a number of civic museums and galleries showcasing art pieces and artefacts.
After you explore the castle, take in your surroundings at the nearby parks where you can see a number of historic buildings and monuments, the most important being the Arch of Peace, or Arco della Pace, which was specifically built to celebrate Napoleon’s victories. Covered in an array of marble and decorated with Corinthian columns and sculptures, the arch can be seen from a distance once you enter the gardens surrounding the castle.
Stroll down Montenapoleone
Renowned as the most elegant and spectacular part of the city, Via Montenapoleone is home to some of the world’s most well-known designer shops. As you explore the area, you will stumble upon brands like Armani, Valentino and Versace, and you can also see residences such as the Palazzo Meizi di Cusano, owned by one of Milan’s wealthiest families.
Built in 1830, this iconic building is a complete and accurate representation of neoclassical architecture. Despite it having sustained severe damage during World War II, it has maintained its original design. Via Montenapoleone is also lined with several other 16th and 17th century buildings that will surely impress any architectural admirer.
Admire Milan’s artistic heritage
What’s a trip to Milan without admiring one of the world’s most famous paintings, The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci? Located in one of Milan’s oldest convents, this iconic painting attracts many visitors to Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The painting hasn’t moved from this convent and remains an integral part of it; Da Vinci painted it directly on the walls of the dining hall of the convent. Although numerous art pieces mimic the painting on a small scale, the original painting is far larger than other Da Vinci works like the Mona Lisa.
With all it has to offer, Milan is certainly one of the most charming and vibrant Italian cities. Whether you are there to explore its rich historical legacy, its up-scale dining venues, or its cosmopolitan, high-end local shopping, Milan never ceases to fascinate!
When you go
Navigli Boat Tours
Departure from Piazza XXIV Maggio, Alzaia Naviglio Grande
Tel: +39 02 92273118 Visit: naviglilombardi.it
Piazza del Duomo
Tel: +39 02 7202 2656. Visit: duomomilano.it/en/
ATMosfera Tram Restaurant
Tel: +39 024 860 7607. Visit: atmosfera.atm.it
Piazza Castello, 20121 Milan
Tel: +39 02 8846 3700. Visit: milanocastello.it/en
Palazzo Melzi di Cusano
Via Monte Napoleone 18, 20121 Milan
Santa Maria delle Grazie
Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, 20123 Milan
Tel: +39 02 467 6111. Visit: legraziemilano.it