Make the most of your visit at Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral

You seen it countless times in artistic and architectural photos, in documentaries, in travel guides and in photo galleries of world’s landmarks. It’s the third largest Christian church in the world, and one of the easiest to recognize – yes, I’m talking about the Milan Duomo, also known as The Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente (St Mary of the Nativity) or simply The Milan Cathedral. This cathedral was the main reason I wanted to visit Milan, so I did a lot of research before going. But I soon found out that my research was almost useless. Nobody told me about the things below, so I thought I must share them with you. Take notes and thank me later :)

Some wild facts about the Milan Cathedral

The construction started in 1386 and it took almost 6 centuries to complete. On the outside, the Cathedral is decorated with 135 spires and 3400 statues. It’s located right in the heart of the city, in Piazza del Duomo di Milano.

The Milan Cathedral
The Milan Cathedral

It’s main spire is also it’s highest point (108,5 meters) and the golden statue at the top depicts the Virgin Mary. Fun fact: In 1930, a local law declared that no building shall pass the height of Madoninna. In the late 50’s a higher tower was built (the Pirelli Building) and in order to keep the tradition alive, a smaller replica of the Madoninna was placed at the top. However, after that, Milan’s need of expansion and development rescinded the law.

The interior is immensely large and it’s divided into 5 naves. The 52 pillars that support the ceiling represent the number of weeks of the year.

The interior of the Milan Cathedral
The interior of the Milan Cathedral

Another interesting fact is that the cathedral was build of white marble, brought from the quarries of Candoglia. Considering the size of the Milan Duomo, it goes without saying that massive amounts of stone were needed at the construction site. For easy transport, the marble was brought on water, using canals dug specifically for this purpose. Part of these canals can also be seen today, in the area called Navigli Grande.

Now let’s see what’s in for you if you choose to visit the cathedral:

Visit the Milan Cathedral interior

If you already did some research on the Milan Duomo, you probably found a great number of websites that have this landmark on a list of free things to visit in Milan. Not valid for visitors, only for worshipers. To visit the Cathedral you must pay 2 euro, and the ticket will give you access to everything, except the Archaeological Site (for which you must pay 2 more euro, and I didn’t). As soon as you reach Piazza del Duomo di Milano, you will see a big queue on one side of the Cathedral. If you are as impatient as I am, you will be happy to hear that there is no need to stay an hour in line (often under a merciless sun) for a ticket. There are ticket offices on every side of the building, and guess what: the others aren’t crowded at all! Alternative option: buy the tickets online and minimize the hassle.

Useful tip: To avoid being denied the access inside, dress appropriately, keep your shoulders covered and don’t wear shorts. Also, you will be scanned with a metal detector and if you have bags or backpacks, your belongings will undergo a quick check.

The interior is a little bit gloomy, so you might be tented to take pictures with flash, but that’s not allowed. There are many works of art to look at, but my favorite was the statue of Saint Bartholomew, with his flayed skin hanging on his shoulders.

Saint Bartholomew statue
Saint Bartholomew statue

Also, take your time and admire the huge stained glass windows, which are among the tallest in the world. The amount of painted details is just stunning!

Huge stained glass window inside the Milan Cathedral
Huge stained glass window inside the Milan Cathedral

Get up on the Cathedral’s roof

There are special tickets that allow you to visit the Cathedral Terraces, and you can chose to ascend by elevator or by stairs. Unless you have health issues, I recommend taking the stairs. The ticket is cheaper (9 euro) and the effort will make you appreciate the top view more. The strange thing is that for me it seemed that the number of stairs was far more when I descended. And I wasn’t the only one with that feeling.

The roof's intricate details from up close
The roof’s intricate details from up close

 

Selfie on the roof on Milan Cathedral
The temptation to take a selfie was too strong :)

The roof will give you the opportunity to see up close the amazing spires and statues of the cathedral and the astonishing view of the city’s skyline. If you’re lucky enough, you might even see the Alps in the distance.

Milan skyline - view from the roof of Milan Cathedral
Milan skyline – view from the roof

You’ll finally reach the top terrace, where you’ll be flanked by other tall spires and unique looking statues.

The top terrace of the cathedral roof
The top terrace of the cathedral roof

And the you look up, and there it is, the famous statue of Virgin Mary that I told you about at the beginning.

Madoninna statue on top of the Cathedral
Madoninna statue on top of the Cathedral

There is even a song, written in 1934, that is directly dedicated to this statue. Over time, it’s popularity gained it’s title as the unofficial anthem of Milan. I’ll just leave it here:

One of the statues from the top is none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. He played an important role in the long history of Milan Cathedral. After rushing the completion of the front facade and promising to offer the money needed for the work, Napoleon demanded “a small favor”: to be crowned as Emperor of the French and King of Italy in the cathedral. Needless to say that he succeeded, on May 26th, 1805.

Relax in Piazza del Duomo di Milano

Piazza del Duomo di Milano is the perfect place to relax and admire the majestic facade of the cathedral. In it’s center you can see the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy.

Tip: Unfortunately, it’s also a place where you can be the victim of a very common scam. There is a huge chance that somebody will walk to you and before you know it, put corn grains in your hand. At that moment, lots of pigeons will fly down and within seconds eat the grains. After that, the same person will ask in an intimidating voice a ridiculous amount of money. Do I need to say that I myself fell in the trap? I know, shame on me. But to redeem my pride, when the man asked to give him 10 euro (!!!), I handed him a 1 euro coin and just walked away, leaving him muttering what seemed to be some very “kind words” addressed to me. My word of advice: If you care about your safety and your money, stay aware of your surroundings and avoid these people, especially if you’re a solo traveler!

Piazza del Duomo di Milano
Piazza del Duomo di Milano

Discover The Great Museum of the Duomo

After you complete the cathedral tour, head towards the Great Museum of the Duomo. Located right next to the Milan Cathedral, the museum houses thousands of works of art from the cathedral. It’s an impressive collection of statues, carvings, paintings, stained glass windows and religious items. And the best part? It’s price was included in my 2 euro ticket for entering the Cathedral. Because most people don’t even take a look at the ticket to see what’s written on it, the museum is not crowded. The downside would be the lack of information about the artifacts. Without audio guide, you’ll leave the museum with only some pictures to remind you of it, and very little knowledge about what you’ve actually seen. But all in all, it’s totally worth a visit of at least an hour!

Statues from Duomo Museum
Statues from Duomo Museum

 Take a peak inside San Gottardo in Corte church

That 2 euro ticket will allow you to enter in one more place: San Gottardo in Corte church. It was built in 1330, so it’s even older than the Cathedral. It was initially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, but afterwards it was renamed after Saint Gotthard (protector of those with gout). It’s octagonal bell tower houses one of the oldest public clocks in Milan.

Octagonal clock tower of San Gottardo church
Octagonal clock tower of San Gottardo church

The inside of the church is not very spectacular. Actually, from the inside it’s hard to tell that you’re even in a church. There’s nothing to catch your eye in particular, but you can only see a few modern works of art on the walls. Visiting it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, including the time for taking photos.

This is the place where the tour ends. I hope you’ll enjoy living the full experience that the Cathedral can give you and you’ll make the most of it. Is The Milan Cathedral on your bucket list too or did you already visited it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

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34 Comments on "Make the most of your visit at Milan Cathedral"

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Guest
10 months 24 days ago

Really great and informative post. Look forward to using your post to plan our visit.

Guest
10 months 29 days ago

Amazing pictures💚 Loved the article

Guest

No wonder it takes six centuries to complete! Sooo stunning and lovely! And I must agree with Lala, the rooftop is jaw-dropping!

Guest
11 months 1 day ago

I have never seen a rooftop like it – never mind on a church. I haven’t yet visited Milan but it certainly looks like an impressive place to see when I finally make it.

Guest
11 months 2 days ago

I would love to explore the Milan Cathedral. It reminds me of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Guest
11 months 3 days ago

When I first visited the Milan Duomo I was experiencing a bit of European Church Burnout. I thought it would be just another gorgeous building, as so may are. But the Milan Duomo is in such a league of its own!

Guest
11 months 3 days ago

Wow, amazing Shots. I feel like this Cathedral is not a “popular’ place or I have not seen much of it. Really love the detail in your Photographs, and really who can resist a Selfie?

Guest
11 months 3 days ago

Lovely post! I have not been to Milan, but this truly inspired me to plan a visit. Thanks for sharing about this beautiful cathedral.

Guest
11 months 3 days ago

The Cathedral is so magnificent and grand. loved the post and the information you have shared. The pictures are great too and bring alive the elegance of the Cathedral.

Guest
11 months 3 days ago

Such a nice article, being a permanent resident of this area I go through this streets so often but I still manage to marvel at the idea of how many centuries it took to finish this building.

Guest
11 months 3 days ago

Wow! I did not know the Milan Cathedral was the third biggest church in the world. You did a great job explaining all the fun things you can do with a 2 Euro ticket.

Guest
11 months 4 days ago

The Milan Cathedral is absolutely stunning! I would love to explore it. Unfortunately, I’ve only been to Milan for a layover. I hope to go back soon though.

Guest
11 months 4 days ago

Your post brought back some fond memories I have of my visit there. Particularly the roof top of the cathedral. The statues looked like angels in the sky!

Guest
11 months 4 days ago

That cathedral is gorgeous. I need to check out Milan!

Guest
11 months 5 days ago

Great insight to such a beautiful Cathedral, thanks for sharing will bookmark your post for when we visit one day :-)

Guest
11 months 5 days ago

Awesome guide to Milan – I have always wanted to go and it’s pretty high on my list. The cathedral looks incredible and it’s amazing how far your money stretches with the ticket!

Guest
11 months 5 days ago

I always like reading how my country is seen boy others. Believe it or ot, I haven’t been on the top of Duomo myself yet. Such a shame!!!

Guest
11 months 5 days ago

Thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Milan Cathedral as well. When I was there, there was a free concert in front of the cathedral at night- it was magical.

Guest
11 months 5 days ago

It was really nice to learn titbits about the cathedral and its history- had no idea there a song about the virgin statue. It’s all about buying tickets online in Italy, for sure!

Guest
11 months 6 days ago

I totally loved this post. The interesting facts about the Milan cathedral, the useful tips and the pictures actually gave me a virtual tour, so much that I am craving a visit now. Thank you for the same.

Guest
11 months 6 days ago

Many years ago, when I visited Milano, the entrance to the Duomo was free. I didn’t know that it took over 6 centuries to build the cathedral. It is impressive though, I remember all those decorations made in stone.

Guest
11 months 6 days ago

I love the statue at the top. I don’t know much about Milano except that the train station was designed to make individuals feel small.

Guest
11 months 6 days ago

Medieval churches are so intriguing in design and Milan Cathedral seem so grand! I have a thing for architecture and totally love the post :D

Guest
11 months 8 days ago

It is indeed very royal and elegant. I enjoy visiting cathedrals. They are surreal and peaceful!

Guest
11 months 8 days ago

That cathedral looks stunning! Thanks for the interesting info and that view on top of the roof is incredible!

Guest
11 months 8 days ago

It’s stunning, isn’t it?! I visited a few years ago, and I was completely overwhelmed by how beautiful it looked xx

Guest
11 months 8 days ago

A super helpful and informative post! I’m definitely bookmarking this for next time I visit Milan. Thank you for sharing!

Guest
11 months 8 days ago

Milan’s Duomo is absolutely fantastic. The rest of the city is quite modest compared to other places in Italy, but just a visit to the Duomo is worth spending at least a few hours in Milan.

Guest
blair villanueva
11 months 9 days ago

Great post! I wish new structures nowadays are as beautiful and as sturdy as this cathedral that can stand for centuries

Guest

That is amazing! Look at all those intricate details!

Guest
11 months 9 days ago

so beautiful ! 6 centuries to build wow that is very impressive. I too would be tempted to take a selfie :)

Guest
11 months 9 days ago

Wow! Beautiful photos! Milan is absolutely beautiful!

-Marie
http://www.thatdarlinmarie.com

Guest
11 months 9 days ago

I’m scared of heights but the views were so beautiful I soon forgot my fears when I clambered over the roof. Thanks for the reminder and the memory

Guest
Jasmin N
11 months 9 days ago

Milan looks so amazing!

~ Jasmin N
Little Things With Jassy
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