Italy's second largest as well as second most populated city is Milan. It was once the capital of the Western Roman Empire but today it is the capital of the country's Northern region of Lombardy. It was founded back in 600 B.C. and is home to the world's fifth largest church, the Milan Cathedral, which took over 500 years to build and is still standing today. Milan is also home to the Pirelli Tower which was once the tallest building in all of Italy, although it has been surpassed and now it is the 10th highest.
If you are interested in learning more about this incredible city, you will want to stop by some of its museums. There are many for you to choose from and unfortunately, if you don't have enough time to stop by them all then you will have to choose to visit the ones that interest you the most. We've compiled a list of our favorites.
Travelers tip: Keep your luggage safe and out of the way at a suitcase locker in Milan. Most museums prefer luggage, large bags, and backpacks not to be brought inside.
Pinacoteca di Brera
One of Milan's top art galleries is the Pinacoteca di Brera which has painting displays ranging from the 14th century to more modern works. The museum is located in a building called the Palazzo Brera which was used to house all of the finest art from the time of Napoleon, who has his own statue in the courtyard. The Brera Fine Arts Academy also operates from inside the Palazzo Brera.
Most of the exhibits here are displays of Italian art but now artworks from Van Dyke or Rubens are also featured alongside Raphael and Caravaggio. If you want to make the most of your experience you should listen to one of their audio guides as you walk through the halls of the museum. Make sure to save time for a stroll through the Orto Botanico di Brera which is located just behind the Brera Gallery.
Although this is not technically a museum it is still one of the most impressive pieces of art in all of Milan and a famous painting known around the world. Cenacolo Vinciano is where The Last Supper is kept, and you can see it in person if you stop by. This masterful painting by Leonardo da Vinci is located in the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery.
Considering that the painting is over 500 years old it is quite impressive how it still stands in good condition and has survived bomb raids and careless handling. As you might guess, security for viewing this painting is intense and once you buy your ticket you are allowed 15 minutes to admire the painting before the next group is let in. However, it is still worth visiting this historic artwork and the surrounding piazza is beautiful as well. Be sure to book your tickets in advance since they are often sold out months before.
Musei del Castello Sforzesco
This place, which in English translates to the Sforza Castle Museum, has a history that begins back in the 14th century. The building that now serves as a museum was once a fortified stronghold with canals and eventually the castle was built, although construction took about six decades. Once it was complete the fortress stood as the largest in the entirety of Europe.
The structure has seen a lot throughout its lifetime, from bombings to raids and reconstructions. Leonardo da Vinci's artwork was added to the castle's frescoes and can still be seen today. Otherwise, the building is home to several museums including the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco and the Musei del Rondanini Pieta. With just one ticket you can have access to all of the museums located in the Castello Sforzesco and it is the perfect activity for history buffs or anyone who wants to learn more about the city and its culture.
La Scala Museum
Teatro Alla Scala is the greatest theater in Milan and getting tickets to a show can be quite a challenge, although you can still step foot into the building at the La Scala Museum. During your visit, you will have access to 8 different rooms all showcasing a different part of the establishment.
Near Duomo Milan, some of the rooms included in your tour of La Scala are the foyer and the theater gallery. In other parts of the museum, you can see costumes, flyers and posters, different mementos, and displays showing the history of the theater and acting in the city. You can find the theater in Largo Antonio Ghiringhelli in Milan.
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci
One of Milan's best museums is this science and technology museum dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. It is a great spot to bring kids although grown-ups will have a blast too. The establishment is separated into different sections following several themes. This includes energy, art, science, transportation and communication.
In the arts and science areas you will get to see some of Leonardo da Vinci's own drawings and replicas of the machines that he created. Visitors often choose the transport section as one of their favorites and you can see some pretty cool things here like airplanes, a preserved Toti submarine and the Ebe training schooner.
Museo del Novecento
The Museo del Novecento is located in a beautiful area next to the Duomo River, and if you make your way to the terrace you will be greeted with a lovely view of the square below you. The museum itself is also quite a sight with a permanent collection spread over 300 unique exhibits. The building that the museum is located in was built during the fascist era.
Most of the exhibition space in the Museo del Novecento is dedicated to displaying artwork from the 20th century. Many of the displays focus on Italian art although there is also work from international artists.
Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano
This is Milan's Natural History Museum and it stands as one of the coolest places to bring kids in the city. There are many exhibits here including some about minerals, human evolution and different ecosystems from around the world. A common favorite among all of the visitors is the paleontology exhibit which has fossils and dinosaur bones.
It will take you a while to get through the museum but the fun doesn't have to end when the displays do. Found just outside the Natural History Museum are the Porta Venezia public gardens which are perfect for a walk or picnic, and the Planetarium is a stone's throw away too.
Galleria D'Arte Moderna
The Galleria D'Arte Moderna, or Modern Art Gallery of Milan, is one of the best places to see contemporary art pieces in the city. Aside from the beautiful art located inside you will be impressed by the building where the museum is located. It is called the Villa Belgiojoso and is made with stunning architecture and is one of the most beautiful structures in the city.
The art collections housed here are mainly made by Italian artists. For example, there are works by Segantini, De Nittis and Hayez as well as other artists from around the world like Gauguin, Van Gogh and Cezanne. The art gallery is located close by to the Natural History Museum so visiting both in one day is a good idea.
Villa Necchi Campiglio
The Villa Necchi Campiglio is a masterpiece created by the architect Piero Portaluppi sometime in the early 1930s. It was constructed for two sisters and one of their husbands and the building was named after them. Today it is a great spot to appreciate the incredible architecture and is furnished with an Art Deco style.
Here you will also find a vast collection of artwork dating from between the 18th century and the early 20th century. Outside the building is a beautiful garden that you definitely need to check out while you are in the area. It is quiet and peaceful giving you a nice break from the usually busy city streets, and it has an on-site garden cafeteria that is styled like a greenhouse.
You will find this Milan museum overlooking Duomo Square and it has served as the city's administrative building since the 12th century. It began being called the Royal Palace once Milan became the capital city of the Italian kingdom, which is when the building received major updates to its structure and design.
Aside from being an impressive building, the Palazzo Reale houses some of the most high profile exhibits in the city. You should definitely try to visit while one of the permanent or temporary exhibitions are going on since there is not much to see otherwise since many of the rooms are used as offices.
What are the Best Free Museums in Milan?
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci
If you are looking for museums that you can visit for free in Milan then you are in luck since many of them offer entry without a ticket on the first Sunday of every month. This one, which is the oldest civic museum in Milan, happens to be one of them, so if your vacation falls at the beginning of the month then you are in luck! Otherwise, entry is only around 10 euros.
Musei del Castello Sforzesco
Another museum that can be visited at no cost is the Musei del Castello Sforzesco. They offer free entry one hour before closing every day as well as all Tuesdays after 2 pm, so make time to visit this one in between going to other museums. If you are looking for more free things to do in Milan, read our guide.
What are the Best Museums in Downtown Milan?
If you find yourself staying in the downtown part of the city then you won't be far away from the Royal Palace of Milan. It is one of the most impressive buildings in the city and also a great museum which you should make time for during your stay.
Museo di Storia Naturale di Milano
The Natural History Museum is also found in Downtown Milan and should be added to your itinerary. They have a pretty cool permanent exhibition and you can have a great afternoon exploring the different displays.
Are There any Cheap Museums in Milan?
There is no shame in saving money during your vacation, in fact, it is recommended. If you can manage to find some of the best cheap museums in Milan then you can afford to visit more of them, so we are all for it! The Cenacolo Vinciano is one of the best art museums in Milan and home to one of the most famous paintings in the world. You won't want to miss your opportunity to see it in person, especially since regular entry is only about 15 euros.
Pinacoteca di Brera
You can see some incredible artwork from the Renaissance period of Italy at the Pinacoteca di Brera, and tickets are affordable at about 15 euros standard price. There are also some impressive sculptures and statues located outside in the courtyard so both the inside and outside of this art gallery are worth visiting.
Milan's Best Art Galleries and Museums
Milan is full of fun activities and one of the best things to do while on a vacation is to stop by the different art galleries and museums. Whether you want to see ancient art from the Middle Ages, decorative arts from modern times, prehistoric dinosaur bones, old restored submarines, or gorgeous buildings and sculptures, Milan has something for you.
There are so many places to visit that you most likely won't have time to stop by them all which is why this list can help you decide where you want to go first. If you budget well and make a schedule, you can visit more than one museum in a day and will be able to experience the best of all the Milan museums. There are sometimes many buildings found in the same area and some offer free entry at different times so you should be able to see several of these museums during your trip!