Cultural things to do in Milan
The financial, fashion and industrial capital of Italy, Milan’s incredible artistic attractions often get overlooked. However, despite first impressions, this city has an array of cultural experiences to tempt visitors. With centuries-old religious monuments alongside innovative contemporary art institutions, exploring the Milanese cultural scene with this two-day itinerary is as fun as it is edifying.
Start the day on the roof terraces of the Duomo, 25 minutes’ walk or just 10 minutes on the M3 line from Repubblica to Duomo station.
Roof Terraces of the Duomo
Aside from the opportunity to soak up striking Gothic architecture up-close, venturing inside the Duomo will reward visitors to Milan’s iconic cathedral with unrivalled views. Exploring the Duomo’s rooftop terraces is well worth the effort for panoramic vistas of the city and mountains beyond.
Just a minute’s walk from the Duomo will take you to the Museo del Novecento.
Museo del Novecento
Standing in the shadow of the Duomo in Milan’s central plaza, the Museo del Novecento is home to the city’s collection of 20th century art, with an emphasis on the Italian masters. Showcased artworks range from lithographs to oil paintings, with rotating temporary exhibitions accompanying the impressive permanent display.
Afterwards, walk around the corner to visit the Palazzo Reale.
A 14th century palace mere steps from the Duomo, the Palazzo Reale’s history is inextricably intertwined with that of the city itself. Today, the grand building hosts art shows year-round, ranging in scope from a retrospective of Vivienne Westwood to shows focussing on great European artists, such as Rubens and Caravaggio.
A 20-minute walk or taxi ride will bring you to the next stop of the day, the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
Dating back to the 4th century, the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio is one of the most important religious monuments in Milan. The final resting place of Milan’s patron saint, Saint Ambrose, and home to everything from 5th century mosaics to frescoes by Tiepolo, the Basilica is a must for history buffs and culture vultures.
Next, take a 10-minute walk to the Basilica Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Basilica Santa Maria delle Grazie
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and featuring numerous well-preserved frescoes, as well as stunning architecture, a trip to the Basilica Santa Maria delle Grazie is unmissable for art lovers visiting the city. The church can be found next to the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”, making the prospect of a visit particularly tempting.
To get back to the hotel, walk for 35 minutes past the Castello Sforzesco and through the artistic neighbourhood of Brera, or take a 15-minute taxi ride.
The first stop of the day, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, is a 12-minute walk from the hotel.
Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea
Since its founding in 1979, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea Milano (PAC) has been one of the foremost Italian institutions exclusively dedicated to contemporary art. Artists such as Richard Long, Lucio Fontana, and Yayoi Kusama have been exhibited here over the years, with an exciting programme of events regularly taking place too.
From PAC, take a 20-minute taxi ride to Pirelli HangarBicocca.
Pirelli HangarBicocca has become a fixture on the Milanese contemporary arts scene since its founding in 2004. Exhibiting works from leading international and Italian artists as part of a year-round cultural calendar in the foundation’s newly renovated former industrial space, Pirelli HangarBicocca is a popular cultural destination in Milan.
Next, take a 25-minute taxi ride to Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea.
Museo Poldi Pezzoli
Once the private collection of a wealthy Milanese aristocrat, the rare and unique pieces on display at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli range from armour and jewellery to world-renowned paintings and sculpture. Housed in a former Palazzo (palace), highlights of the collection include Botticelli’s “The Virgin and Child” and Bellini’s “Imago Pietatis”.
Take a 20-minute taxi ride to Fondazione Prada.
Converted from a former distillery and designed by the architectural firm OMA, Fondazione Prada in Milan is spread across a complex of striking buildings. Like its sister institution in Venice, the Fondazione offers an innovative year-round programme of art exhibitions, symposia, film screenings and more.
The Giuseppe Verdi Conservatorio is then a 15-minute taxi ride from the Fondazione Prada.
Conservatorio di Musica ‘Giuseppe Verdi’
One of Europe’s most prestigious music conservatoires, the ‘Giuseppe Verdi’ Conservatorio has a long history of musical education and an equally long list of famous alumni, including Puccini and Ponchielli. The venue also hosts regular orchestral concerts, tours and seminars. The Sala Verdi concert hall is widely considered to have some of the best acoustics in Europe.
Take a taxi for the 10-minute journey back to the hotel.
All journey times are approximate and subject to variation.