explore Milan, Italy

Museums in Milan, Italy

Milan offers the visitor a large variety of art museums, mainly of Italian Renaissance and Baroque.    

  • Pinacoteca di Bregera, Via Brera. A world class museum with importance comparable with the Madrid‘s El Prado or the Paris‘ Louvre. One of Italy‘s most important art collections and one of the foremost collections of Italian paintings. Shows masterpiece and art Icon like “the Kiss” by Francesco Hayez, the “Lamentation of Christ” by Mantegna, the “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio or the “Marriage of the Virgin” by Raphael.
  • Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Piazza Pio XI, 2, 02 80692 1. Historical library that also houses the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana art gallery. It is a must see and shows the world famous “Basket of fruits” of Caravaggio, along with the “Musician” by Leonardo da Vinci and the preparatory drawing of the School of Athens by Raphael.
  • Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Via Manzon. One of the world’s richest private art collections.
  • Museo del Novecento, in Duomo square, it is one of the most important art museum dedicated to the XX century. It shows the world icon “The Fourth Estate” by Giovanni Pellizza da Volpedo.
  • Bagatti Valsecchi Museum — A late 19th century aristocratic mansion with Italian Renaissance art collections located in via Gesù 5, between via della Spiga and via Montenapoleone.
  • Galleria d’Arte Moderna Via Palestro 16: Mainly features 19th Century Italian art. It is located in one of the finest palaces of Milan, the Villa Reale or Villa Belgiojoso-Bonaparte, a late XVIII century neoclassical masterpiece from Leopold Pollack. Many frescoes and statues decorate the artsy interior of the palace, now used as a museum.
  • Gallerie d’Italia piazza Scala— settled in three gorgeous palaces, Palazzo Anguissola Antona Traversi, Palazzo Brentani and Palazzo della Banca Commerciale d’Italia, well worth a visit on their own, this museum offers a very interesting collection of masterpieces from XIX and XX century. Located in Piazza Scala, this museum is very easy to visit and well enjoyable.
  • Societa’ per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente. Changing exhibitions of contemporary art.
  • The Sforzesco Castle. Houses several of the city’s museums and art gallery collections. Home to the museums of applied arts, ancient art, historical musical instruments, prehistory, Egyptian art and fine arts. A must see is the Michelangelo statue of the Pietà Rondanini.
  • Basilica of Saint Ambrose, “Mother and Queen of all Romanesque architecture”
  • Civico Museo Archeologico — Roman antiques from Milan and the surrounding area. Interesting collection of roman statues and glasses. This museum spans every single century of the 26 centuries of history of this city.
  • Contemporary Arts Pavillion (PAC), Via Palestro 15, near Porta Venezia Gardens.
  • Museo del Duomo (Museum of the Cathedral). Displays the 700 year old history of construction of the cathedral, with impressive walk-in wooden models, façade designs originating from several centuries, sculptures and more.
  • Museo d’Arte Paolo Pini — Contemporary art gallery collection.
  • Hangar Bicocca — Contemporary art museum located in a giant hangar in the industrial district just north of Milano Bicocca University. They have a few permanent sculptural installations along with rotating temporary exhibits and events.
  • Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, Via San Vittore 21.
  • Natural Science Museum, at 55, Corso Venezia, inside Porta Venezia Gardens. Has reduced and free entry (depends on person) after 16:30 most days or 14:30 Fridays.
  • The Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace): opposite the South side of Duomo, always hosts many exhibitions, usually very interesting. The palace itself it is definitely worth a visit. Subway: MM1 and MM3 Duomo Station.
  • Triennale di Milano, Via Alemagna: Museum of Design and Architecture, always has 4-6 exhibits on the subject of design, photography or modern art, at least 1-2 of which are always free entry.
  • Museo Teatrale alla Scala — A museum dedicated to the world’s most famous opera house. Subway: MM1 and MM3 Duomo Station.

Churches

  • Duomo
  • The Certosa di Garegnano
  • Santa Maria alle Grazie basilica
  • San Satiro’s false apse
  • Sant’Antonio Abate
  • San Lorenzo Maggiore
  • Sant’Eustorgio, Portinari chapel
  • San Simpliciano
  • San Nazaro in Brolo, Marshall Trivulzio Mausoleum

Milan has the oldest churches in Italy (yes– older than the ones in Rome because Milan was the capital of the Northern part of the late Roman Empire). Milan has more ancient and monumental churches than any other European city outside of Italy. You can see a very complete collection here.

Some of the most important and beautiful churches one “can’t miss” in Milan are:

  • The Duomo, in Duomo Square. Milan’s main cathedral, a massive late Gothic church (started in 1386) in white marble, with hundreds of spires and thousands of statues on its exterior and a famous façade. Don’t miss the chance to climb up onto the roof and enjoy the spectacular views of the city between the Gothic spires. Roof open daily 09:00-17:30. Unless you are physically unfit, it is best recommended to take the stairs (250 steps only). On an average, it should not take more than 5-6 minutes to climb the stairs. You may have your belongings searched by the Guardia before entering the Cathedral, so show up lightly packed.
  • Saint Mary of the Graces (Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie). Entry to the basilica is free. A Unesco World Heritage site, this basilica is one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance architect Donato Bramante. The dome is one of the most delightful creations of Renaissance era. The exterior is delicately carved, and the interior is filled with bright light and whimsical atmosphere, a triumph of harmony. The nave is from gothic period. The rectory is separate from Santa Maria alle Grazie and houses the famous Last Supper (‘Cenacolo Vinciano’) by Leonardo da Vinci (even though nothing remains of “His” painting, it is now 100% restoration). Although not becoming a “pop icon” like the Mona Lisa has perhaps become, the Last Supper fresco is arguably the lifetime masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci and his most influential work artistically. It is best to reserve tickets a few months before the visit. Cancelled reservations are sold from 08:15 every morning (if there are any, best to show up in person).
  • Saint Ambrose (Basilica di Sant’ Ambrogio), in Piazza San Ambrogio. Free entrance. The most important example of the Lombard Romanesque style of architecture, built between 1080 and 1140. In this basilica structural and technical innovations like the groined cross vault lead to wider vaulted naves being made possible. Now it is the second church in the city right after the duomo. Partly damaged in World War II, it shows many masterpieces, like the Vuolvinious golden altar, a Carolingian goldsmith masterpiece, and the very important IV century mosaics of the chapel of San Vittore in Ciel d’oro. The magnificent marble pulpit dates back to X century, whilst the external Atrium preserves some of the best examples of Lombard Romanesque sculpture available.
  • Saint Maurice (Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore). Free entrance. A stunning UNESCO listed, fully frescoed Renaissance church. Most of the paintings are the work of Bernardino Luini. It’s considered the “Sistine Chapel” of Milan, you can find it beside of the Archeological Museum in Corso Magenta MM2 – MM1 Cadorna station.
  • Saint Lawrence (Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore). Preserved inside this church is a lovely 4th century rotunda, famous for its beautiful courtyard, with Roman-age columns and a statue of the emperor Constantine. The basilica has been built on an imperial palace of the Roman era and is one of the most ancient churches in the world, although baroque remodeling makes its age difficult to envisage. The Saint Aquilinus chapel is definitely worth a visit.
  • Sant’Eustorgio and the Portinari Chapel (Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio e Capelli Portinari). Deconsecrated church now a museum. Originally an IV century paleochristian basilica, it is now one of the most important monument of the city. Here you will find the gorgeous Sforza family monumental tombs and more importantly, the Portinari Chapel, one of the biggest achievements in Lombard Renaissance. It is located in the Navigli district, MM2 Porta Genova.
  • San Nazaro (Basilica di San Nazaro in Brollo). Free entrance. Another IV century basilica preserved within a younger church complex. It is very important in history because it was the first western church ever built in a Latin Cross plant instead of a Greek Cross plant. Very interesting the Trivulzio mausoleum at the entrance, dedicated to the Marshall Trivulzio, who betrayed the Sforza family and gave Milan to the King of France (and therefore forced Leonardo da Vinci to move to France). The masterpiece of the Basilica is the Santa Caterina chapel, with gorgeous Renaissance frescoes by Bernardino Lanino. Very interesting is also the archaeological part. Very close you can find another beautiful church, the San Calimero basilica, with an amazing frescoed crypt.
  • San Simpliciano basilica Contains the Shrine of the Martyrs dell’Anaunia, another important relic from the IV century, perhaps the best of all the paleochristian basilicas in Milan. Don’t miss the frescoed apse.
  • Santa Maria presso San Satiro church A hidden jewel, really a must see. It is a masterpiece by Donato Bramante, who created here the first trompe l’oeil in art history. Really important is also the San Satiro paleochristian chapel (IV century) and the mannerist baptistry by Bramante.
  • Santa Maria della Passione basilica huge temple built in mannerist style, this church is the city’s second largest. Very important it the spectacular dome.
  • Sant’Antonio Abate church. A museum of mannerist art, completely filled with gorgeous frescoes from late Renaissance and early Baroque era. A most important heritage near to the Ca’ Granda palace.
  • Certosa di Garegnano charterhouse A little bit outside of city center you will find this most important church completely frescoed charter house, with loads of frescoes by Simone Peterzano (the teacher of the Caravaggio) and Daniele Crespi. It is perhaps the best church interior in the city along with San Maurizio church. The completely frescoed vault it just so inspiring. A must see, and take with you a good camera!
  • San Vittore al Corpo basilica Originally an IV century basilica and now a Mannerist monument, it is perhaps the finest baroque church in the city. The dome is just awesome with frescoes by Daniele Crespi, and the interior decorations are filled with frescoes and plaster works from XVI and XVII century. Very close to the Science and Technology “Leonardo da Vinci”. It is one of the biggest basilicas in the city.
  • Sant’Alessandro Basilica A very baroque church, interestingly scenographic. It reminds one of sicilian Baroque. Very rich decoration. Located near via Torino, some 350 meters away from the Duomo. Near, in piazza Missori, you’ll find the remains of what used to be the church of San Giovanni in Conca. The crypt is one of the most ancient in Milan, and it shows huge roman imperial era ruins.
  • Sant’Eufemia Basilica From piazza Missori MM3, following corso Italia, you’ll find the gorgeous Sant’Eufemia basilica, probably the finest neo-romanesque church in Milan. Beside you’ll find the San Paolo Converso church, twin church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. The amazing facade is from Galeazzo Alessi and the Cerano, while the absolutely gorgeous interiors are frescoed by Giulio Campi. Amazing is the painted vault, resembling the one in San Maurizio.
  • San Bernardino alle Ossa One of the most frightful churches in the world! The walls of this little church are completely filled with…bones and skulls! A must visit church in Halloween time, it is said to be haunted. Very spectacular! Beside it you will also find the Santo Stefano basilica, where the painter Caravaggio was baptized.
  • San Cristoforo church. Little cozy ancient gothic church, it is settled beside of the Naviglio Grande. It is one of the most picturesque sights of the city. Take a picture with the yellow ancient tramway passing by. The interiors are filled with medieval and early Renaissance frescoes and the intense blue stained glass windows are just so poetic.
  • San Francesco da Paola. An elegant baroque church in the central via Manzoni. Great frescoes on the inside. Incredible vault and interesting side chapels.
  • San Marco Basilica. It shows the city’s second longest nave after the Duomo cathedral. Spectacular and huge interiors, a must see it is definitely the frescoes on the choir and and the apse. You can find here a lot of interesting painting of excellent quality, a free-entrance ancient art gallery.
  • Santa Maria dei Miracoli presso San Celso basilica. The facade and the narthex of this basilica are most interesting, realized in mannerist style by the great architect Galeazzo Alessi. The interior in built in a rich baroque style.
  • San Fedele church. Very elegant church built in the counter-reformation era. Full of lights and noble materials, it stands near the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
  • Santa Maria del Carmine. An ancient gothic church from XIV century. The neo-gothic facade by architect Maciachini shows the best rose window in the city. Don’t miss the spectacular Carmine chapel on the right side of the apse! Absolutely gorgeous!
  • San Giuseppe in via Verdi The first baroque church in Milan, from great architect Carlo Maria Richini, the floor decoration is just awesome.
  • Santa Maria Incoronata Twin church contains an ancient fresco by Bergognone. Magical ancient gothic atmosphere.
  • Sant’Angelo church very rich interiors decorated with baroque frescoes. It contains paintings from finest baroque milanese painters.thic
  • San Pietro in Gessate ancient gothic church, don’t miss the Grifi chapel, with renaissance frescoes by Zenale. All the church is pretty full of renaissance precious frescoes and statues.
  • San Gottardo in corte Small jewel, this church used to be the Royal Palace chapel and it shows neoclassical interiors and Azzone Visconti’s tomb by great sculptor Giovanni di Balduccio (XIV century) and frescoes by the school of Giotto itself.
  • The bell tower is considered to be the most beautiful in the city, and was planned by Francesco Pecorari.
  • San Vincenzo in Prato basilica. The only church in Milan to have conserved a plain paleochristian style. Don’t miss the whimsy crypt. It dates back to the IX century.
  • San Giorgio al Palazzo church. Located where once there were the imperial palace of Milan, when the city was roman empire’s capital. It shows Luini’s lifetime masterpiece: the chapel of the passion.
  • Santa Maria Podone church. A church from IX century, it contains very important XIV century frescoes, the Renaissance apse frescoes is from Michelino da Besozzo. In front of the church you can find Palazzo Borromeo, from XIV century, one of the oldest in the city.
  • San Carlo al Corso church. A Neoclassical jewel built in early XIX century. Built as a Rotunda with a marble portico as an entrance, it is one of the biggest dome in Milan. On the inside you’ll find a gorgeous coffered dome inspired by the one of the roman Pantheon and very similar to the church of San Francesco da Paola in Naples. The bell tower, 84 meters high, is the tallest in Milan.
  • Chiaravalle Abbey A must see! The cloisters and the vault frescoes are just incredibly precious. A beautifully-preserved medieval abbey still run by monks today, 7 km South of Milan.
  • Viboldone Abbey Incredibly beautiful abbey built in gothic style with lots of Giottesque frescoes from XIV century. It is located in San Giuliano Milanese, few km away from Chiaravalle Abbey.