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Points of interest
It's home to the glorious, soaring Milan cathedral and its galleries are filled with priceless Renaissance artworks.
But this is also a forward-looking and progressive city, planted firmly in the 21st century. Milan is an industrial powerhouse, driving northern Italy forwards. It has some of the most innovative contemporary architecture of any city in Europe. It's a glamorous world-beater on the international fashion stage, the banking capital of Italy and home to Europe's most famous opera house, La Scala. Its shops rival any in Paris, and it's something of a foodie paradise, with welcoming trattorias, chic grand caffès and fragrant delicatessens putting in an appearance on almost every street corner.
Much of Milan's historic Centro Storico is pedestrianised and is compact enough for you to navigate its major sights on foot. The city is also gateway to the Lombardy lakes of Como and Maggiore, easily accessed by train.
Whether you're spending a sightseeing weekend in Milan or flying in for meetings at the Fiera Milano convention centre, Accor hotels are some of the best places to stay in Milan.
Things to See in Milan
Any tour of Milan should start in the vast, cobbled Piazza del Duomo, around which Milanese life has drifted for 2,000 years. The iconic Duomo Milan looms over the square like a giant bird, some 600 years in the making and only finally completed in 1965. Topped with a 5-metre gilded figure of the Virgin Mary, its exterior bristles with gargoyles and buttresses, while the tranquil interior is all patterned marble floors, jewel-coloured stained-glass windows and side chapels dotted with marble tombs. Climb up to the roof for panoramic views to the snow-capped Alps on clear days.
Also in Piazza del Duomo is the neoclassical Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, surely the most elegant shopping mall in Italy. Decorated with marble and mosaics and topped by a glass-and-iron dome, the arcade is home to high-end fashion stores and provides the perfect stage for a spot of people-watching from the terraces of traditional grand caffès.
A short walk away is the delightful terracotta-and-cream, Lombard Renaissance-style church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, with an elaborate colonnaded cupola and serene cloister designed by Donato Bramante. It's well worth a peek inside even though most people head straight to the main attraction: the world-famous and much-restored Last Supper fresco by Leonardo da Vinci, completed in 1497 and hidden away in the church's refectory.
There is a cluster of Milan museums (covering decorative arts, ancient history and musical instruments) in the labyrinthine Castello Sforzesco, a sprawling and austere 15th-century castle and city landmark. When you've had your fill of culture there, head for the peaceful meadows of Sempione Park Milan behind the castle, where you can graze on picnic goodies picked up from the posh deli Peck nearby.
Among the many, many other Milan tourist attractions, we recommend a visit to the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery for a romp through Italian masterpieces including the ethereal Cristo Morto by Andrea Mantegna and Caravaggio's sublime Supper at Emmaus. If your artistic interests are more contemporary, the Museo del Novecentohighlights modern Italian works in futuristic surroundings.
Travelling with kids? Accor offers some of the best hotels in Milan for families, and you can treat your offspring to a couple of hours playing on interactive exhibits at sprawling Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, repository of Da Vinci's amazingly prescient designs for flying machines.
Round off a day's activities in Milan with a visit to buzzing Navigli Milan, the trendy and revitalised canal district packed with clubs, aperitivo bars and al fresco trattorias. It's also home to a monthly Sunday antiques market, and by day there are innumerable cool boutiques to browse.
Things to Do in Milan
Shopping in Milan is a dream, with a choice of high-end boutiques, well-priced department stores and funky vintage shops, as well as sleek design ateliers. The stylish streets of the oh-so-exclusive and eye-wateringly expensive Quadrilatero d'Oro are stalked by fashionistas all year round, while during Milan Fashion Week (September) models pour in from across the globe for shows by the greatest names in design, including Armani, Gucci and Versace.
If you're on a cultural visit to Milan, be sure to book tickets ahead of time and dress up for an opera performance at La Scala Milan, the prestigious and famously opulent Milan opera house founded in 1778.
Excursions around Milan
A stay at an Accor hotel in Milan city centre puts you in pole position for the short train journey from Stazione Centrale, the main train station in Milan – and a visitor attraction in its own right, thanks to its imposing neoclassical façade – to the racing circuit at theAutodromo Nazionale Monza in around 45 minutes. Site of the Italian Grand Prix since 1922, it's now open year round for all aspiring Lewis Hamiltons who fancy being a racing driver for the day.
Other popular places to visit when in Milan include theCertosa di Pavia (just under an hour by train), a breathtakingly beautiful Carthusian monastery with an intricate Renaissance/late Gothic façade and chapels swathed in frescoes.
What else to do in Milan? From Stazione Centrale, take the 45-minute rail journey toLake Como for a day cruising the waters to beguiling ochre-hued towns likeBellagio andVarenna, with their awe-inspiring backdrops of the Alps, boutiques selling hand-crafted leather goods and lakeside restaurants.
Milan is a gourmet paradise, offering up a robust Lombardy cuisine rich in cheese and butter, showcasing hearty cuts of meat, intensely flavoured salamis and piquant pork sausages. Pasta dishes feature on menus in cosy osterias and tratts throughout the city, but in Milan corn and rice take precedence, forming the basis of many local favourites, such as the famous saffron-tinged risotto alla Milanese or cornmeal polenta enlivened with rich ragù sauce. Other popular regional dishes offered at restaurants in Milan include cotoletta alla Milanese breaded veal fillets, and ossobucco, a hearty veal stew with braised vegetables and white wine.
Blue-marbled Gorgonzola and soft, creamy Taleggio are the cheeses of regional choice, while popular street-food snacks include piadina flatbreads, with all manner of fillings such as prosciutto di Parma, Mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. A sweet bread stuffed with almonds and candied fruit, panettone takes centre stage at every festive family table over Christmas, but you can buy it all year round – you'll find it goes famously with a glass of sparkling Franciacorta wine, produced in the rolling hills of Lombardy.
Accor's choice of hotels in Milan city centre include some of the best boutique hotels in Milan: a 4-star Milan hotel with a pool, fitness room and all-day trattoria, plus a romantic Milan hotel near the Duomo with antique furnishings in the lobby. Economic family hotels in Milan include several ibis and ibis Styles properties within easy walking distance of the major attractions.
Milan Transport Information
Lombardy's main airport is Milan Malpensa, with two terminals serving budget and scheduled flights from across Europe and the UK. You have a choice of bus, taxi or Malpensa Express train into the centre of the city; all three options take about 50 minutes. If you have an early departure, Accor can offer you a budget hotel or a stylish 4-star Milan airport hotel with workspace.
East of the city, Milan Linate Airport also connects with major cities within the EU and UK, and buses travel into the city centre in around 20 minutes. Should you need to stay close to the airport, Accor's 4-star Mercure property has co-working space, a swimming pool and gym.
Rail services from all over Italy arrive at Stazione Centrale; fast trains from Rome take 3.5 hours and it's 2.5 hours from Venice. If you're travelling by car, the A4 and E70 autostradas run across northern Italy, connecting Turin, Milan and Venice.
Once in the city, it's easy to navigate, thanks to an integrated public transport system comprising 4 metro lines, buses and trams. Popular stops for visitors include Duomo and Cairoli, both on the metro's Red Line.