Ever wondered what it’s like to actually live in the city you’re travelling through? Scared of falling into the tourist trap, you may end up second guessing every place you visit wondering whether it’s truly worth the visit, or if it’s all part of a bigger scheme to indirectly manipulate your trip’s agenda.
which includes both tourist attractions and entirely unappealing spots in the city to truly savor the essence of the Milanese lifestyle. I leave it up to you to decide whether that’s good or bad 😉
Today though, we start of with the basics: Landmarks & Attractions!
- Duomo Cathedral
I know what you are thinking – “I thought this was a local’s guide”. Well, trust me, it is: the Duomo is not only a magnificent piece of architecture that you absolutely must see, but it is also a crossway through several public transport routes running across the city. On top of this, the area is filled with shops (most notably, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele), restaurants and bars, making it an ideal place for anything from shopping, to getting a coffee with a friend, to afterwork drinks. On top of this, I love walking around the Duomo area as there are always heaps of street buskers strumming away, meaning you get to feel like you’re in a romantic Italian movie while local music is playing in the background. Pure magic.
2. Parco Sempione: Castello Sforzesco, Triennale and More
Basically a stone’s throw away from the Duomo, it makes sense to visit the Parco Sempione either before or after this landmark. In fact, Parco Sempione is a collection of multiple must-see’s: not only is the park massive and beautiful, making it a perfect spot for a picnic, a walk, a jog, or a romantic date, but it’s sprinkled with several gems to keep you entertained.
First of all, wlking from the Duomo and through Cairoli square, you get to enter the park through the former gate to the Castello Sforzesco, built in the 15th century and belonging to the Sforza (royal) family back then. The castle’s walls are shaped as a square and envelop a courtyard and a museum inside, which is made up of several showrooms and galleries hosting both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Moving through the park, you’ll be glad to know you can also find all sorts of drinks and food, from street vendors to actual restaurants and bars. In fact, there’s even a club in there! On top of this, you can find amusement rides and, in the winter, even ice skating rings. Once you get to the other side, you will find the Arco Della Pace – a majestic arch overlooking the park from the North specularly to the Castello Sforzesco in the South.
But Italians are not only about the fun, are they? Indeed, we do love our good dose of culture everyday. This is why the park not only hosts a public library, literally built amidst the meadows and trees, but it is also the home of the Museo della Triennale – by far my favorite contemporary art museum in the city. The museum holds both mostly temporary exhibitions and is open everyday until 8pm, which makes it ideal for people working office jobs until late in the afternoon. What I love about it especially, is that whenever you go, you will always find some exhibitions open to the public for free, meaning that even people on a budget will get to relinquish in some art whenever needed. Truly magical.
3. Cimitero Monumentale
I bet when you were booking your Italian trip, you never thought you’d be visiting a cemetery. Well, get ready to be surprised: the city’s historical cimitero is definitely a must visit before you leave. Drenched in history, it entirely lives up to its name: the monumental cemetery. Built in the 18th century, it is home to many illustrious figures in Italian history such as Alessandro Manzoni – aka the author of the famous Promessi Sposi (‘The Betrothed’). As soon as you get to it, you will immediately feel the grandeur of the place, which can of course be visited for free as it is actually quite different from a regular museum. So, enjoy your tour of the dead.
Located quite literally next to the Duomo, Brera is a must visit for one reason: it feels like you just got teleported to a different place, in the heart of the city. Talk a walk in the neighborghood cobblestone streets and revel in the beauty of a medieval burgh. In fact, the very word Brera originates from the Medieval Latin word for a place that was next to the residential area.
Today, it is a very artistic area of the city where you will find Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the most famous museums in the city sporting some truly sensational art pieces from the likes of Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and more, as well as street artists and art shops selling all kinds of things.
You will also find many restaurants with outside sitting which very much remind me of the cobblestone streets in Rome, which are a very beautiful place to have a meal out during your trip. However, as this area is in fact highly popular amongst locals and tourists alike, expect prices to be slightly higher than normal.
5. Giardini Indro Montanelli & PAC, via della Spiga & Porta Venezia
Despite being outside of most people’s budget, via della Spiga is a really nice street to walk down on before hitting up Giardini Indro Montanelli – aka my favorite gardens in the city! But to give you some context: via della Spiga is one of the most famous shopping streets in Milan, adorned with designer shops and luxury buildings, and somewhere in the middle between the Duomo and Porta Venezia.
You can easily walk through here to hit up the Giardini – a huge green lung in the heart of the city. What makes this place special is not just the beautiful walks in between the trees and through small artificial ponds, but also the fact that nestled in the middle of the park are bars, restaurants, playgrounds and everything in between, which makes it a lively place always full of people and kids playing around. The park also hosts PAC – the Padiglione di Arte Contemporea – meaning a contemporary art pavillion hosting different art exhitions depending on the time of year and definitely worth a visit!
At the end of the Gardens lays Porta Venezia – by far one of my favorite neighbourhoods in Milan due to its constantly lively and crowded vibe. This is where you will find heaps of restaurants, bars and everything in between to feed your soul. Most notably, you will find many ethnic restaurants such as Lebanese, Eritrean, Korean, and some of the most famous bars in the city. On top of this, Porta Venezia also sits at the start of Corso Buenos Aires, one of the most famous shopping streets in the city for both high end and retail.
Well my friends, this is all for today – my list of top landmarks and attractions to see in the city as a first time visit. Of course, it is in no way inclusive of all places to see – however, you can rest assured that if you visit the places, you will have seen all the spots that a local would really consider a must.
If you’re interested to know more about Milano, watch out for the next post, where I will explore some less common and more local spots to hit up when you’re travelling through the city.
Until then, keep rocking!
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Sources for images:
– Image 1 – Duomo: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thetrainline.com%2Fvia%2Feurope%2Fitaly%2Fmilan%2Fvisiting-the-duomo&psig=AOvVaw3XPXVfy66u-95XSQrQeGMN&ust=1681289527396000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CBEQjRxqFwoTCKCrgsy-of4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE
– Image 2 – Parco Sempione: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fnbts.it%2Fblog-italia%2Flombardia%2Fmilano-il-castello-sforzesco%2F&psig=AOvVaw28xN7Journ2NvoU202yWRs&ust=1681290105154000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CBEQjRxqFwoTCJjc0MS-of4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE
– Image 3 – Cimitero Monumentale: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fmonumentale.comune.milano.it%2Fitinerari%2Fpercorso-generale&psig=AOvVaw02n6GfI8FZ-S0ajY3bimZp&ust=1681290170718000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CBEQjRxqFwoTCKCRqpC8of4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAP
– Image 4 – Brera: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.spotahome.com%2Fit%2Fblog%2Fquartiere-brera-milano%2F&psig=AOvVaw0VguZfqM2mW9ez8hErcORc&ust=1681290325198000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CBEQjRxqFwoTCKCH_9a8of4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE
– Image 5 – Giardini Indro Montanelli: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.expedia.it%2FGiardini-Pubblici-Indro-Montanelli-Milan-Centre.d507944.Punti-di-Interesse&psig=AOvVaw0tp3nYvJdkHg6yznHGBpmg&ust=1681290493318000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CBEQjRxqFwoTCODv-6a9of4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE