This one is for architecture lovers! Milan is full of amazing buildings – from the flamboyant Duomo, to pretty residential Liberty buildings, some Brutalist gems, and a whole lot of shiny, new high-rises and skyscrapers!
Putting together this post was challenging, as we really wanted to include a selection of different kinds of Milan buildings to give you an idea of how diverse this city is when it comes to architecture.
There’s only one church, the Duomo – if you want to know more, we have a dedicated post about the best churches in Milan!
Here are 14 unmissable buildings in Milan – if you think we’ve left some out, feel free to let us know!
Not-To-Be-Missed Milan Buildings
Let’s start with a fairly old piece of Milan’s architectural history, the city’s main cathedral. Simply known as Duomo, this stunning edifice took almost 600 years to build. Construction began on the Gothic cathedral in 1386, with the finishing touches incredibly only completed in 1965.
With six centuries of craftsmanship put into this truly awesome building, it’s no wonder that it is so well-loved. It’s actually the largest church in Italy, larger even than the massive St Peter’s Basilica – it’s the second-largest church in Europe; and it’s the third-largest in the entire world!
2) Stazione Centrale
If you’re in Milan, chances are you’ll probably pass by Milan Central Station at some point – in fact, you may even arrive there. This is the city’s main railway station, and when it comes to architecture, it’s definitely a heavy-hitter.
Built in 1931, Stazione Centrale is an interesting blend of architectural styles, including Art Deco and Liberty, and is actually the largest railway station in Europe (at least by volume, anyway). Its facade alone is 200 meters wide, with a vaulting roof that soars 72 meters high, a world record when it was built.
There are secret areas in the Stazione Centrale that are not open to the public – this includes a room with a swastika-adorned parquet floor designed to receive a visit from Adolf Hitler (it was never used).
3) Casa Galimberti
Casa Galimberti is a Liberty-style building that sits on the corner of Via Malpighi and Via Sirtori. Designed by architect Giovanni Battista Bossi and engineer Gioacchino Luigi Mellucci between 1903 and 1905, the building is a classic example of Milanese Liberty architecture.
The facade is carved with floral motifs in concrete with wrought iron decorations and ceramic tiles, too. It was originally built to house private apartments, shops, and public spaces across four floors. Thanks to its beauty, the building has become a landmark of Milan.
4) Villa Necchi Campiglio
It’s hard to visit this elegant villa without wanting to move in. This beautiful house was built between 1932 and 1935 by architect Piero Portaluppi who built it as a family home. It’s surrounded by a beautiful oasis of gardens complete with a tennis court and swimming pool (at the time, the second to be built in Milan).
It has hosted an array of famous individuals over the years, including the Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy. The villa is now a museum where visitors can explore the elegant and effortlessly stylish interiors of this lovely old residence.
5) Casa della Memoria
The Casa della Memoria (translating to “House of Memory”) is a cultural center that provides the headquarters for five cultural associations. The simple, virtually cube-shaped building was finished in 2015 following a competition to design a structure that was dedicated to the values of democracy (it was won by Stefano Graziani).
With that in mind, the building is covered with images that represent post-war Milan, in a sort of modern-day version of a folding religious polyptych. The red-brick style exterior feels simple and down to earth, but inside the Casa della Memoria is a cavernous industrial space, dominated by grey walls and a huge, eye-catching yellow corkscrew staircase connecting the floors.
It’s a reflection on Milan’s industrial heritage and the city’s 20th-century fight for liberty and freedom.
Best Brutalist Buildings in Milan
6) Torre Velasca
This strikingly top-heavy 1950s skyscraper is an icon of its era. Completed in 1958 in a unique architectural style, Torre Velasca is often cited as part of the first generation of Italy’s modern architecture. Standing at 100 meters tall, it’s hard to miss Torre Velasca with its stark, boxy silhouette.
It actually harks back to Lombard building tradition in which medieval fortresses and towers would be built with narrow bases and high, bulky tops. It could be seen as a modern interpretation of a medieval Italian castle. It also cleverly works to minimize the floor used on the ground while maximizing space used on the upper floors.
7) Pirelli Tower
The Pirelli Tower is another of Milan’s shining beacons of modern architecture, a 32-storey skyscraper that soars to a height of 127 meters above street level. It was made with an incredible amount of concrete – 30,000 meters cubed, to be exact – which means it weighs in close to 70,000 tons. That’s a heavy building!
Its eye-catching curtain wall facade and tapered sides were iconic at the time of its completion in 1958. It was groundbreaking back then, changing the very aesthetic of European skyscrapers, and inspiring other notable buildings around the world. To this day, it still looks as though it could have been built yesterday.
8) Università Bocconi
The concrete buildings at the Bocconi University in Milan are almost like seeing a scale model of a big city, and that’s no mistake. The architects behind this bold, Brutalist building aim to create a structure that’s basically a city in miniature. So you can expect a lot of nods to civic city spaces throughout the building and almost direct connections to the city, too.
For example, inside, the main hall is supposed to be similar to a marketplace or public exchange, while the windows offer up a view of Milan with trams and people rushing by. Above, beams suspended from a large canopy allow light to filter through creating beautiful shadows.
There are offices and university spaces all incorporated in this building, as academia and the public city mingle together.
Modern Milan Buildings & Skyscrapers
9) Bosco Verticale
Translating to ‘Vertical Forest’, these twin residential towers have an apt name – they’re completely covered in greenery from top to bottom. Opening in 2014, this pair of buildings is actually a prototype for architectural biodiversity. More buildings could look like this in the future!
With a height of 111 meters, the towers are home to not only people (with 400 condominiums) but also 900 trees. Award-winning Bosco Verticale is part of one of the largest redevelopment projects in Europe and was designed to rejuvenate the historic district of Milan.
According to one of the architects involved, it was inspired by the 1957 novel The Baron in the Trees by Italian writer Italo Calvino.
10) Unicredit Tower
A striking modern landmark building in Milan, the Unicredit Tower is a skyscraper that is the headquarters of Unicredit – Italy’s largest bank. At 231 meters, the tower is actually the tallest building in Italy and makes up part of a new development with residential and business structures sitting alongside it.
The building was designed by architect Cesar Pelli, and stands out with its rounded form and pointing, needle-like spire. In fact, it has won numerous awards for its design. The spire is illuminated with LED lights which change depending on the time of year or seasonal celebrations.
11) Tre Torri
Not far from the city centre, the CityLife development is a contemporary area for business, retail, and living. The crowning glory of this development are its three towers, known in Italian as Tre Torri. Each one is officially named, though they have local nicknames too.
There’s the Allianz Tower (Il Dritto or “the Straight one”), a glass tower with 50 floors; the Generali Tower, dubbed Lo Storto (“the twisted one”), designed by eminent architect Zaha Hadid; and then there’s Il Curvo, or the curved one, officially known as the Libeskind Tower.
12) CityLife Residences
Situated in the same development area as the Tre Torri, the CityLife Residences are an apartment block that buzzes with energy, seeming almost to twist out the ground itself. Its 12 curved buildings, with 307 units between them, are topped by penthouses called “sky villas”.
These were designed by architects Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid; Libeskind’s (five buildings) are on the southwest and Hadid’s (seven buildings) are on the southeast. The residences have large windows that overlook parkland; inside the Hadid building, furniture has been created by the designer herself for a harmonious finish.
13) Fondazione Feltrinelli
This striking steel and glass structure is the new headquarters of the Giacomo Feltrinelli Foundation – a non-academic research organization. It houses a library, archives, and other dedicated spaces for the foundation, including a cafeteria.
The structure itself is made up of two twin buildings; the other building is actually the home of Microsoft in Italy. Both were inspired by Milan’s historic architecture, such as the Sforzesco Castle and the Rotonda della Besana. Its interior, futuristic triangular spaces are almost church-like in scale, but definitely rooted in modern-day design.
Needless to say, the Fondazione Feltrinelli provides a gorgeous contrast to the historic apartment buildings in the area.
14) Palazzo Lombardia
This complex of buildings is the seat of the Lombardy regional government, and at its center is a 43-storey skyscraper (116 meters tall). Opened in 2010, this contemporary space is made up of glass-fronted office buildings with plenty of elegant curving lines and an interesting play with perspective.
The complex includes a large central plaza, an auditorium, exhibition space, restaurants, and a public park. On its opening it was the tallest skyscraper in the country – briefly, at least, until the Unicredit Building was completed. The Palazzo Lombardia has also won various international design awards.