Unlike other cities in Italy, you need to dig a little to find the wonders in Milan, as it doesn't boast as many tourist, sightseeing attractions as the likes of Venice, Rome or Pisa. Whilst we used this city break as an opportunity to soak up the food and atmosphere of Milan, we also planned a few trips to significant locations, so here are my hits and misses for some of the picturesque sights in Milan.
Up there with maybe my top 3 most beautiful cathedrals, Duomo is a magnificent white-stone building that is unmissable in the plaza and is in fact the first thing you see when emerging from the underground metro station. Not only that, the plaza containing the cathedral and the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is a beautiful destination in itself, lined with wine bars and restaurants and filled with tourists trying to get a snap in front of the wonderous cathedral. In addition to the maze of tripods and selfie-sticks the square is full of an unbelievable amount of pigeons, and people selling bird food so you can get candid pictures of you with birds on your arms (honestly, I can't think of anything worse but each to their own).
Tickets for the Duomo have to be bought from the ticket office at the right of the building and queues for this place are HUGE. In early June we queued for almost an hour to get tickets, the queue of which winds all the way around the inside og the building and all the way down the street, so I would definitely recommend getting to the ticket office early, even if you don't plan on visiting the cathedral later in the day. Better still, buy online at the Duomo website to get a discounted price and to skip the queues! When buying your tickets I would 100% recommend entry which includes the terraces on the roof of the cathedral as these provide breathtaking views of Milan. Unless stairs are a massive issue for you, I wouldn't bother with the lift tickets, as the stairs really aren't that bad and only take 10 minutes to get to the top. In addition to the gargoyle-lined balconies, the terrace tickets allow access to the direct roof of the cathedral, providing a panoramic 360 view of the square below.
Obviously being above 100 metres, stood in the direct sunlight in Italy in the summer, it's going to get hot up there. I would maybe recommend avoiding the hottest hours of the day while visiting the terrace, although it may be nice to watch the sunset with these panoramic views. Another great feature of the Duomo, in addition to the lovely stained glass windows inside the cathedral, is that the ticket also includes entry to the underground crypts which show some of the foundations of the church.
Metro Duomo Red Line 1
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The galleria is a work of art itself, with golden arches and the stunning architecture it is home to Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton to name a few. Not only host to luxurious shopping, the galleria is also home to cafes and restaurants, making this a great destination to shop and eat (if you have a spare grand or so). Even without the versace budget, it's a beautiful place to wander through to window-shop and even stop for a coffee, whilst next to the Duomo it is great way to relax after a trip to the terraces of the cathedral.
Metro: Duomo Red Line 1
A beautiful castle in an unlikely destination, the huge park that encompasses the Sforza Castle is a very population tourist sight and includes the grounds, an enormous fountain area and the huge structure that is the castle itself. Whilst there are lots of 'questionable salesmen' here (aka con-artists), this is a really nice area to relax with a picnic or even just some beers. Whilst there are alot of cafes and bars circling the fountain entrance to the castle, it's also great to grab some drinks and pastries and enjoy them while dipping your feet in the fountain like the locals do. Whilst we didn't pay to enter the castle itself, it is free to roam around the huge grounds, so unless you're desperate to visit the interior of the building this is a great place to visit for free. The castle also provides an entrance to Parco Sempione which is a beautiful park, complete with rivers filled with turtles and ice-cream trucks which is definitely worth a visit.
Metro: Cairoli Castello Red Line 1