Perhaps the most recognizable monument in Milan is the Duomo, with its bright, white facade and countless spires. Walking around on the roof is an unforgettable experience (especially if you, like me, are afraid of heights). When you’re on top of the Duomo, though, by definition that means its iconic shape isn’t in the background of your photos, identifying the picture for everyone as being snapped in Milan.
That’s when you need this list of some of the best views in Milan, many of which include the Duomo.
Not all of these places are about being high above the street, although that usually means you’ve got a great view. Sometimes having a great view means finding a picturesque place to do some people-watching.
And in Milan, sometimes you can have both.
What are your favorite views in Milan?
Located right next door to the Duomo, the multi-storey department store of La Rinascente offers the next-best-option to walking on the roof of the Duomo itself – a rooftop terrace. From the tables on top of the building, you are almost at eye level with the cathedral’s roof. It’s a somewhat surreal, and extremely picture-worthy, backdrop for lunch or aperitivo.
While you’ll pay for the privilege of enjoying a drink or a snack within sight of the Duomo, the scenery might make it worth the expense. Pick just about any restaurant or a bar that opens onto the Piazza del Duomo – the most popular square in the city – and indulge in some of the best people-watching in Milan. This, of course, also gives you a chance to get a photo of your cocktail with the Duomo in the background. Very chic.
The slim Pirelli Tower is near the main train station in Milan, Milano Centrale, and it has a public observation deck on the 31st floor. It was Milan’s tallest building at one point, at over 416 feet tall. Originally built for the headquarters of the Pirelli tire manufacturing company, the building no longer houses Pirelli offices but is still known as “Pirellone” by the Milanese.
Plan your visit to the museum of 20th century art, the Museo del Novecento, to be just before dinner so you can just head up to the fancy rooftop Ristorante Giacomo Arengario (in the same building as the museum) after you’re done appreciating art. It’s open until midnight daily, and the location right next to the Duomo means you get yet another view on the famous landmark.
The oddly-shaped Velasca Tower is considered something of an eyesore by many, but that almost doesn’t matter if you’re inside it and (therefore) can’t see it. Head up to the observation deck on the tower for views over Milan’s skyline that include the Duomo in the background. Best of all – it’s free.
Another unattractive spot that offers wonderful views once you’re inside (so you can ignore how ugly the tower is) is the Torre Branca, a big metal thing in Parco Sempione that looks like a utility tower. Ride the elevator to the top for a few euro (less than half of what it costs to ride up to the Duomo roof) for a 360-degree view over the city.
An elegant rooftop terrace for aperitivo with a view is up on top of the luxury Boscolo Hotel. Relax in one of the comfortable sofas with a drink and some appetizers as you take in the view of the Duomo spires. Daytime views are fine, but it’s even more magical at night when the spires are illuminated.
For another 360-degree view of the city (including an up-close look at the Duomo roof) as well as a great cocktail menu, head for the 10th floor lounge of the Brian&Barry Building. The bar, called Terrazza 12, isn’t entirely outside – there is some outdoor seating, but the big windows mean that even in chilly or wet weather you can enjoy the views in comfort.
Not surprisingly, the Terrazza Martini is atop the building that houses the Martini & Rossi headquarters, so you can rest assured they know what they’re doing with the drinks menu. They’ve also got a pretty amazing view over the Duomo.
On a sunny day, there are few places in Milan that are better for sitting back, relaxing, and people-watching than Parco Sempione. Bring a blanket and a picnic and find a place to stretch out that’s on the Castello Sforzesco end of the park, with a clear view all the way to the Arco della Pace at the other end. I love watching the famously more-businessy-than-the-average-Italian Milanese at play in the park.
No, you won’t have the whole Duomo in the background of a photo taken from the great cathedral’s roof, but it’s impossible to get closer to the spires than this – especially the golden Madonnina at the very top. On a clear day, you’re also likely to see the Alps on the horizon. Plus, I always get a thrill out of walking around on the roof of such a monumental cathedral. Take the elevator up or climb the stairs, but either way don’t miss a chance to walk around on the roof of one of the largest churches in Europe.