Milan, the city of fashion and home to the global stock market and football. It’s a city filled with small boutiques, designer stores, and high-end dining as well as the history that testifies to the centuries of art and culture. A city where stunning churches and modern architecture collide and some of the world’s most famous pieces of art can be viewed. Milan offers eye-catching and awe-inspiring gems for every type of tourist to discover.
Once the capital of the Western Roman Empire, it’s where Emperor Constantine I guaranteed freedom of religion for Christians, where Charlemagne took the title of “King of the Lombards” and later where Napoleon would invade and be crowned.
So what are some of the must-see attractions on city breaks to Milan?
Visit the Duomo
It is easy to see why this stunning cathedral took 500 years to complete, as the marble structure with a Baroque and neo-Gothic façade compromises of 3,500 statues and 135 spires.
The clock inside the church, above the entrance, was designed in 1443 when the 24th hour of the day ended at sunset. It still works.
It’s where Napoleon was crowned after declaring Milan capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
But perhaps the most amazing feature of this remarkable building is also one of Milan’s most important relics. Above the cathedral’s high altar are fragments from the Cross and a nail from the cross of Christ, which has been on display since 1461. The Holy Nail was a gift received by Emperor Constantine from his mother, Helena, who discovered the fragments from the Cross and nails from the Crucifixion in 326 in Jerusalem.
Wine and Dine on Navigli
It isn’t just the architecture and art that make up the history of Milan. The entire city has a water network thanks to the creation of the Navigli, an intricate canal system that’s used for transportation and water supply. It’s a canal system that has evolved from the brilliant minds of Leonardo da Vinci and Napoleon.
The Naviglio Grande is the oldest, created in 1177-1257. Its canals are fed by the river Ticino and once served as export and import route.
Milan offers a tour of this beautiful canal system via boat or walking. Lined with beautiful artisan shops, cafes, pubs and cafes. Discover an enoteca (wine bar) or feast with an all-you-can-eat apertivo.
View the Last Supper
Often regarded as the greatest painting of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper is the must see in Milan. Housed in the church of Santa Maria della Grazie, the 180-inch x 350-inch mural depicts the moment when Jesus revealed he would be betrayed.
Throughout the centuries, it has somehow survived several close encounters. In Renaissance times, the wall was used for target practice and it almost got destroyed during the Second World War, when aerial bombardment hit the church and convent destroying much of the refectory. The paint has started to peel away, but this monumental work of art can still be viewed in all its glory.
Plan a visit to Milan, for a first-hand glimpse of the history and architecture, spend an afternoon shopping, and, if time permits consider a quiet cruise down Milan’s canals. Dine at some of the world’s finest restaurants and relax in the beauty of the landscape that makes Milan one of the most visited destinations.