Top historic sites in Milan

Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Extensively rebuilt by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city"s museums and art collections. History The original construction was ordered by local lord ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Milan, Italy

Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) is the third largest church in the world and it took nearly six centuries to complete. History Saint Ambrose built a new basilica on this site at the beginning of the 5th century, with an adjoining basilica added in 836. When fire damaged both buildings in 1075, they were rebuilt as the Duomo. In 1386, Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began construction of the cathedral. In 1389, a ...
Founded: 1386 | Location: Milan, Italy

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio

One of the most ancient churches in Milan, Basilica of Sant"Ambrogio was built by St. Ambrose in 379–386, in an area where numerous martyrs of the Roman persecutions had been buried. The first name of the church was in fact Basilica Martyrum. In the centuries after its construction, the edifice underwent several restorations and partial reconstructions, assuming the current appearance in the 12th Century, when ...
Founded: c. 1080 AD | Location: Milan, Italy

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle grazie ('Holy Mary of Grace') is a church and Dominican convent in Milan, included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list. The church contains the mural of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, which is in the refectory of the convent. The refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan forms an integral part of this architectural complex, begun in 1463 and reworke ...
Founded: 1463 | Location: Milan, Italy

Basilica of San Lorenzo

The Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore was originally built in Roman times and is one of the oldest churches in Milan. The basilica was built between the late fourth and early fifth centuries. The exact date is uncertain, as are the name of who commissioned it and the circumstances of its foundation. What is certain is that at the time of its construction the basilica was the largest, centrally planned building in the Wes ...
Founded: c. 364 AD | Location: Milan, Italy

La Scala

La Scala (official name Teatro alla Scala) in Milan is one of the most famous opera houses in the world. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778. Most of Italy"s greatest operatic artists, and many of the finest singers from around the world, have appeared at La Scala. The theatre is regarded as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and is home to the La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala T ...
Founded: 1778 | Location: Milan, Italy

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Italy"s oldest active shopping mall and a major landmark of Milan. Housed within a four-story double arcade in the center of town, the Galleria is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It was designed in 1861 and built by architect Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. The structure consists of two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting ...
Founded: 1865-1877 | Location: Milan, Italy

Colonne di San Lorenzo

The Colonne di San Lorenzo or Columns of San Lorenzo is a group of ancient Roman ruins, located in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in central Milan. The colonnade, consisting mainly of 16 tall Corinthian columns in a row, now fronts an open square. In the 4th century, the columns were moved here, after removal from a likely 2nd century pagan temple or public bath house structure. South of the columns, on ...
Founded: 300-400 AD | Location: Milan, Italy

Royal Palace of Milan

The Royal Palace of Milan (Palazzo Reale di Milano) was the seat of government of the city for centuries. Today it serves as a cultural centre and home to expositions and exhibitions. Originally designed with a structure of two courtyards, the palace was then partially demolished to make room for the Duomo. The palace is located to the right of the facade of the cathedral opposite the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. T ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Milan, Italy

Pinacoteca di Brera

The Pinacoteca di Brera is the main public gallery for paintings in Milan. It contains one of the foremost collections of Italian paintings. The convent on the site passed to the Jesuits (1572), then underwent a radical rebuilding by Francesco Maria Richini (1627–28). When the Jesuits were disbanded in 1773, the palazzo remained the seat of the astronomical Observatory and the Braidense National Library foun ...
Founded: 1776 | Location: Milan, Italy

Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio

The Basilica of Sant"Eustorgio was for centuries an important stop for pilgrims on their journey to Rome or to the Holy Land, because it was said to contain the tomb of the Biblical Magi or Three Kings. Probably founded in the 4th century, its name refers to Eustorgius I, the bishop of Milan to whom is attributed the translation of the supposed relics of the Magi to the city from Constantinople in 34 ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Milan, Italy

Basilica of San Simpliciano

The Basilica of San Simpliciano is the second oldest church in the form of a Latin cross, first erected by Saint Ambrose. It is dedicated to Saint Simplician, bishop of Milan. The site of the present church was occupied in the 3rd century AD by a pagan cemetery. There St. Ambrose began the construction of the Basilica Virginum ('Basilica of the Virgins'), which was finished by his successor Simplicianus ...
Founded: 3th century AD | Location: Milan, Italy

Cimitero Monumentale di Milano

The Cimitero Monumentale is one of the two largest cemeteries in Milan, the other one being the Cimitero Maggiore. It is noted for the abundance of artistic tombs and monuments. Designed by the architect Carlo Maciachini (1818–1899), it was planned to consolidate a number of small cemeteries that used to be scattered around the city into a single location. Officially opened in 1866, it has since then been filled ...
Founded: 1866 | Location: Milan, Italy

Porta Sempione

Porta Sempione is a city gate of Milan. The gate is marked by a landmark triumphal arch called Arco della Pace ('Arch of Peace'), dating back to the 19th century, although its origins can be traced back to a gate of the Roman walls of Milan. A gate that roughly corresponds to modern Porta Sempione was already part of Roman walls of Milan. At the time, the gate was meant to control an important road lea ...
Founded: 1807-1838 | Location: Milan, Italy

Biblioteca Ambrosiana

The Biblioteca Ambrosiana is a historic library in Milan, also housing the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, the Ambrosian art gallery. Named after Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, it was founded in 1609 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, whose agents scoured Western Europe and even Greece and Syria for books and manuscripts. Some major acquisitions of complete libraries were the manuscripts of the Benedictine monastery ...
Founded: 1609 | Location: Milan, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.