Welcome to another #MondaysinMilan post – today we’ll tell you all about Milan museums! Including the Last Supper Museum, Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, Prada Museum and more!
When I first started the #MondaysinMilan series in 2014, my aim was showing people that Milan is an amazing city, a far cry from the grey, industrial stereotype that so many associate to it. I wrote about Milan street art, about Milan parks and what to do for first time visitors, and I am happy to say that so many people reach our blog looking for Milan-related content.
Three years later, the city has changed a lot – the Darsena was opened, giving new life to a long-neglected area, the entire Navigli district has become the hotspot of the Milan street food scene and Design Week gets better and better each year.
Another stereotype I want to dispel is that Milan is a boring and expensive city. In fact, it’s the opposite – there are plenty of free things to do in Milan, and with many budget Milan hotels and amazing hostels, you definitely don’t need to have a fat wallet to enjoy your Milan visit!
The Best Museums in Milan
If you’re visiting on the first Sunday of the month, you’re in for an extra treat – Milan’s municipal museums (musei civici) are free! I can’t believe it has taken me so long to write about Milan museums, and with over 60 museums and art galleries around the city, there’s no way I can cover them all.
Here are my 20 favourite Milan museums, to inspire your next visit to my hometown!
1) Pinacoteca di Brera
The Pinacoteca di Brera is not just an art gallery – it’s one of Italy’s best art galleries, located in an art school in Milan’s ‘artists neighborhood’. The pinacoteca is in a stunning neoclassic building and the collection of paintings dating from the Middle Ages to the Romantic period is perhaps second only to the Uffizi in Florence – and Brera only sees a fraction of its visitors.
Some of my favourite artworks exhibited at Brera include Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christ, Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin and Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus. Complete your visit with a stroll in the Orto Botanico, a secret botanical garden that is a true oasis of peace in the city centre.
Pinacoteca di Brera, Via Brera 28, 20121 Milano – free every 1st Sunday of the month!
Full Price Tickets €12 / Reduced Tickets €8 – Book your guided tour to the Pinacoteca di Brera here!
2) The Last Supper
Ok, technically this isn’t a museum, since there’s only one artwork being exhibited – but as you need to pay a ticket to get in, and it’s definitely one of the top things to do in Milan, I decided to include it anyway.
The Last Supper is Leonardo da Vinci’s most mysterious artwork, portraying the reaction of the apostles after Jesus’s announcement that one of them would betray him. The peculiar expression on the face of Jesus Christ, halfway between sadness and hopelessness, is one of the great enigmas of art history.
The Last Supper is not a true fresco, as it was painted on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster. This makes the artwork very fragile, and only a limited number of people are allowed to see it each day. Make sure you book your tickets well in advance – check our complete guide on how to book Last Supper tickets to find out how!
The Last Supper (Cenacolo), Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, 20123 Milano
Full Price Tickets €15 / Reduced Tickets €4 – Book your skip-the-line Last Supper tickets here!
3) Fondazione Prada / Prada Museum
Fondazione Prada / Prada Museum is one of the most recent additions in the world of Milan museums, having been open since 2015 in a former gin distillery in the southern outskirts of the city. The gallery is dedicated to contemporary art and it includes permanent exhibits as well as temporary ones, arranged in the spaces of the former distillery and in three purpose-built structures.
The centerpiece of the gallery is the Haunted House, a four-story building covered with gold leaf and including artworks by Louise Bourgeois – only 20 visitors are allowed at each time, so make sure you book a time slot when you purchase your entry ticket.
Last but not least – tickets to Fondazione Prada also include entrance to Osservatorio, another exhibition space just behind Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
Fondazione Prada, Largo Isarco, 2, 20139 Milano
Full Price Tickets €15 / Reduced Tickets €12 for temporary and permanent exhibitions
4) Museo del Novecento
This museum definitely wins the best location award – it’s right next to the Duomo, and from its terrace you can get a wonderful view over the square. This museum is dedicated to 20th century art and it showcases over 300 permanent exhibits. One room includes works by international artists, but the bulk of the museum focuses on Italian 20th century art, with sections dedicated to the major art movements of the time.
The Museo del Novecento is housed in the Arengario, a fascist-era building from where Mussolini used to address the Milan crowds. It is one of the Milan museums that can be accessed for free every first Sunday of the month – if you’re around, don’t miss it!
Museo del Novecento, Palazzo dell’Arengario, Piazza del Duomo, Milano – free every 1st Sunday of the month!
Full Price Tickets €10 / Reduced Tickets €8
MUDEC was opened in mid-2015 and it is dedicated to arts and cultures from all over the world. Rather than being divided geographically, it follows a historical approach, detailing the history of Milanese ethnographic and archaeological collections.
There are examples of art from as far away as Japan, Papua New Guinea and West Africa, and temporary exhibitions – in summer 2017 there will be an exhibition dedicated to Kandinsky and one about Argentinian dinosaurs.
MUDEC, Via Tortona, 56, 20144 Milano
Full Price Tickets €12 / Reduced Tickets €10
6) Leonardo3 Museum
Leonardo Da Vinci spent almost 20 years of his life in Milan, as a guest of the Sforza family. During this time, he authored some of his most famous artworks, like the Virgin of the Rocks and the Last Supper, plus several codices.
Leonardo’s works can be found in several museums around Milan – in the Science Museum (see below, which is also named after Leonardo), in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Sforza Castle and more.
There’s also a brand new museum dedicated to the Florentine genius – the Leonardo3 Museum in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, with interactive large-scale reproductions of some of his great machines. This museum is worth visiting if you’re in Milan with children!
7) Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ / Milan Science Museum
If you’re visiting Milan with children, the Science Museum is one of the best Milan museums to visit! Visitors young and old will love the hands-on exhibits and workshops on offer.
It is divided in sections dedicated to transports, communication, energy and arts and science – don’t miss the transports sections, including planes, the Ebe training schooner and the Toti submarine, preserved in its entirety.
The museum is dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci – the arts and science section includes some of Leonardo’s drawings and reproductions of his machines.
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, Via San Vittore, 21, 20123 Milano – free every 1st Sunday of the month!
Full Price Tickets €10 / Reduced Tickets €7.50 – Book your Science Museum tickets here at no extra cost!
8) Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano / Natural History Museum
This is another perfect Milan Museum for children, located in the Porta Venezia public gardens and right next to the Planetarium. It was my favourite museum when I was a little girl, and I guess it was one of the reasons why I fell in love with nature and travel.
There are sections dedicated to minerals and the evolution of man, but the best ones to visit are the palaeontology section with dinosaur bones and fossils and the diorama collection depicting different ecosystems from around the world.
Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano, Corso Venezia, 55, 20121 Milano – free every 1st Sunday of the month!
Full Price Tickets €5 / Reduced Tickets €3
9) Museo Poldi Pezzoli
If you’re staying near the city centre of Milan and it’s a rainy day, head to Museo Poldi Pezzoli – this casa museo (private home turned into a museum) is one of my favourite Milan hidden gems.
The museum is the home and private collection of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli, a wealthy 19th century noblemen who left his entire estate to the Brera academy after his death. The house was renovated and designed to provide the perfect background for the precious art collection, including paintings from the Italian and Northern European masters as well as some beautiful statues.
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Via Alessandro Manzoni, 12, 20121 Milano
Full Price Tickets €14 / Reduced Tickets €10
10) Villa Necchi Campiglio
Villa Necchi Campiglio is basically the 20 century version of Museo Poldi Pezzoli, the home of a wealthy industrialist family left to FAI (the Italian National Trust) after the death of the last member in 2001, and subsequently turned into a museum.
The building is worth a visit for its exquisite Art Deco furniture and decorations, and because it was one of the first ‘modern homes’ in Milan with a lift, telephones and intercoms, and a heated swimming pool. FAI retains ownership of the house and sometimes organises events like flower exhibitions and farmers markets in the beautiful gardens around the villa.
Villa Necchi Campiglio, Via Mozart, 14, 20122 Milano
Full Price Tickets €14 / Reduced Tickets €10
11) Sforza Castle
The Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Milan. Most people just pass through its stunning courtyards en route to Parco Sempione, but did you know the castle houses 9 Milan museums, all of which can be accessed with a single ticket?
Here they are – pick two or three if you don’t know what to do in Milan when it rains!
- Museo Pietà Rondanini Michelangelo – dedicated to Michelangelo’s famous unfinished sculpture, Pietà Rondanini
- Museo d’Arte Antica – stunning collection of sculpture and decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance
- Sala delle Asse – don’t miss it! An entire room covered in frescos by Leonardo da Vinci
- Pinacoteca – including paintings by Filippo Lippi, Antonello da Messina, Mantegna and other great masters
- Museo dei Mobili e delle Sculture Lignee – pieces of furniture and wood sculptures through the centuries
- Museo degli Strumenti Musicali – this one is for music lovers, a museum dedicated to ancient and rare musical instruments
- Museo delle Arti Decorative – exhibits include jewellery, ivory, bronze, enamel, stained glass and tapestry
- Museo Egizio – the Egyptian collection of Milan’s Archaeology Museum
- Museo Archeologico – Sezione Preistoria – including prehistorical exhibits
Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle), Piazza Castello, 20121 Milano – free one hour before closing time, and after 2pm on Tuesdays.
Full Price Tickets €5 / Reduced Tickets €3 – Book your Sforza Castle tour here!
12) Triennale di Milano / Design Museum
The Triennale di Milano is located inside Parco Sempione, just behind the Sforza Castle. It’s worth visiting inside as well as outside – it’s one of the best examples of Fascist architecture in the city, located in a leafy, offbeat section of the park.
The building is the headquarters of Triennale, an art, design and architecture event with exhibitions and conferences taking place every three years, gathering visitors from all over the world.
The Triennale also houses the Design Museum, with a range of exhibits illustrating the evolution of Italian Design over the 20th centuries, with iconic pieces like Castiglioni’s lamp and Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriters.
There are also temporary exhibitions, especially on Triennale years – the next one will be held in 2022.
Triennale di Milano, Viale Emilio Alemagna, 6, 20121 Milano
Full Price Tickets €10 / Reduced Tickets €8
13) Royal Palace of Milan
Milan’s Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) is set in a prime location overlooking Duomo Square. It was the administrative building for the city municipality ever since the 12th century, and got a major facelift in Napoleonic times, when Milan was capital of the Italian kingdom – that is when ‘Royal’ was added to the name.
Nowadays, Palazzo Reale is the venue for most high-profile temporary exhibitions in Milan. Visiting in occasion of an exhibition is the best way to also enjoy the Palace’s exquisite Neoclassic architecture – many of the spaces are used as offices or function rooms, and may be hard to visit otherwise.
Palazzo Reale, Piazza del Duomo, 12, 20122 Milano
Entry price depends on the exhibition
14) Pinacoteca Ambrosiana
This Pinacoteca (art gallery) is adjacent to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, one of the oldest and grandest libraries in town, open since 1609.
Similarly to the Pinacoteca di Brera, it houses a vast collection of paintings by great masters like Tiziano, Hayez, and Raffaello, plus Flemish painters like Brueghel.
However, Brera focuses on paintings, whereas the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana has a much wider collection, also including sculpture, decorative objects, and memorabilia like a lock of Lucrezia Borgia’s hair, and the gloves Napoleon wore at Waterloo.
In my opinion, there are two unmissable reasons to visit Pinacoteca Ambrosiana – the first is Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit, and the second is the Codex Atlanticus, the largest collection of notes and sketches by Leonardo.
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Piazza Pio XI, 2, 20123 Milano
Full Price Tickets €15 / Reduced Tickets €12 – Book your Pinacoteca Ambrosiana tour here!
15) La Scala Museum
Whether you are visiting Milan for the first or fiftieth time, I’m sure you’ll know that La Scala tickets are quite tricky to come by. If you haven’t managed to snag one of these elusive tickets, but still want to visit Milan’s greatest theatre, you can just head to La Scala Museum!
Visits include access to the foyer and the theatre gallery, unless rehearsals are on. The actual La Scala Museum includes 8 rooms filled with theatre costumes, posters, flyers and other mementoes, detailing the history of the theatre through some of its protagonists, like the great Maria Callas.
Museo Teatrale alla Scala, Largo Antonio Ghiringhelli, 1, 20121 Milano
Full Price Tickets €12 / Reduced Tickets €9 – Book your La Scala Museum tour here!
Are you a fashion lover? After checking out the Prada museum, you can’t miss visiting Armani/Silos, a museum curated by King Giorgio Armani himself, located at Armani headquarters near Via Tortona.
Armani/Silos includes two sections. The permanent exhibition is all about timeless Armani style, divided in three areas – Androgynous, Ethnicities and Stars, themes that have inspired Giorgio through the years.
Temporary exhibitions are always held, showcasing the work of artists chosen by Armani – in 2020/2021, it’s possible to see a retrospective of photographer Peter Lindbergh.
Armani/Silos, Via Bergognone, 40, 20144 Milano
Full Price Tickets €12 / Reduced Tickets €8.40-6
17) GAM / Galleria d’Arte Moderna
The GAM (short for Galleria d’Arte Moderna) is another of those museums that is worth visiting not just for the artworks, but also for the beautiful building where they’re held.
The setting of GAM is Villa Belgiojoso, one of the most beautiful Neoclassical villas in Milan, a stone’s throw from the Natural History Museum – perfect if it’s a rainy day in Milan and you want to visit two museums.
The collection focuses on paintings from the 19th century – mainly Italian artists like Hayez, De Nittis and Segantini, but also including some international painters like Van Gogh, Cezanne and Gauguin.
GAM/Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Via Palestro, 16, 20121 Milano
Full Price Tickets €5 / Reduced Tickets €3
18) Museo del Risorgimento
Did you know Milan played a key role during Italian unification? History buffs will enjoy visiting Museo del Risorgimento, highlighting the series of events that started during the first campaign of Napoleon in Italy, and culminated almost a century later with the annexation of Rome as capital of Italy.
You’ll see mementoes, pamphlets and artworks from this period, and learn about what was going on in Milan at the time.
Museo del Risorgimento, Via Borgonuovo, 23, 20121 Milano – free entrance
19) Gallerie d’Italia
This art gallery in Piazza della Scala is one of three galleries opened by major bank Intesa Sanpaolo to display their extensive art collection. The other two locations are in Naples and Vicenza.
The Milan exhibition space includes stunning Palazzo Anguissola, housing priceless 19th century sculptures and paintings from artists like Canova, Segantini, and Boccioni.
Artworks from the 20th century can be seen in the nearby branch of Banca Intesa, right next door.
Gallerie d’Italia, Piazza della Scala, 6, 20121 Milano
Full Price Tickets €10 / Reduced Tickets €5
20) Civic Archeological Museum
Milan’s Archeological Museum is adjacent to San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, one of the most beautiful churches in the city, nicknamed the ‘Milanese Sistine Chapel’.
Inside, you’ll find sections dedicated to Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art, plus exhibitions about the Migration Period (‘arte barbarica’ in Italian) and art from the Gandhara region in northern Pakistan. Inside the courtyard of the museum, you’ll find the remains of some Roman walls.
Civico Museo Archeologico di Milano, Corso Magenta, 15, 20123 Milano
Full Price Tickets €5 / Reduced Tickets €3
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