Did you know there are is so much to see in Milan? Yes, I’m not just talking about the Duomo – there are over 400 churches in Milan, each offering something special and unique.
For example, have you ever heard of San Bernardino alle Ossa, decorated with thousands of human skulls? Or of the optical effects of Santa Maria presso San Satiro, and its optical illusions? Or even about San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, known as Milan’s Sistine Chapel?
BTW, did you also know that Milan played an important part in the history of Christianity? Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 AD from Mediolanum (modern-day Milan), granting tolerance to all religions within the Empire, the first step for Christianity to become the most popular religion within the Roman Empire.
Milan churches are always – first and foremost – places of worship, so don’t forget to be respectful and avoid visiting if there are masses or ceremonies going on.
Also don’t forget that churches in Milan (and elsewhere in Italy, really) have a dress code – short skirts or shorts, and sleeveless tops are not allowed. Some will offer shawls and sarongs to cover yourself, but it’s best to bring your own!
Now, let’s move onto discovering the most beautiful churches in Milan!
20 Best Milan Churches
Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)
Every list of the most beautiful churches in Milan simply must include the Duomo, the best-known landmark in the city.
The Duomo took over 500 years to build – it was started in the Middle Ages and completed just last century, when the last entrance doors were completed. Start your visit outside, marveling at the Neo-Gothic façade with spires, carvings and statues, and walking around Piazza del Duomo, one of the most beautiful Milan squares.
Then, move inside – check out the beautiful stained glass windows and statue of St. Bartholomew the Tanner, holding his own flayed skin. I was terrified of it as a child! Finally, climb up to the terraces for a wonderful view over Milan, and to see the Madonnina, the golden Virgin Mary statue watching over Milan.
The Cathedral is located in Piazza del Duomo and opens daily from 9 am to 7 pm. The Duomo is NOT free – there is a €2 charge to enter the church, and climbing up to the terrace is €13. Make sure you book your tickets online before you visit!
It’s also worth taking a guided tour of the Duomo run by a licensed Milan guide, which also includes admission!
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
If the Duomo is Milan’s #1 must-see church, then Sant’Ambrogio is the second. It’s dedicated to Saint Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, and it was first established by Ambrose himself in the 4th century.
The church is one of the finest examples of Lombard Romanesque, built with bricks of different color with white stone inlays. Make sure you check out the entrance portico right outside – the column capitals are all different, carved with animal and plant motifs according to the Romanesque tradition.
Inside, there are two stunning mosaics – one on the apse, representing Christ the Redeemer, and an earlier Paleochristian mosaic over the San Vittore Chapel, dating back to the 5th century.
Walking around the church, you may also notice a column topped by a bronze snake. According to a Milanese legend, the snake will slither down the column on Judgement Day!
The church is located in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, close to the metro station of the same name. It is open for visits from Monday to Saturday, from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2.30 to 7 pm; Sunday 3 to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
San Bernardino alle Ossa
This is one of Milan’s most unique churches, really worth visiting! From the outside, it just looks like one of many Baroque churches in Milan, and even from the outside to be honest. So, why am I including it in this list?
Walk down the narrow corridor leading to the Ossuary and you’ll know what I mean. The small square-shaped room is beautifully decorated with skulls and bones, placed on walls, in niches, around doors and pillars. The ceiling is covered in Baroque paintings, creating a graceful blend between beautiful and macabre.
San Bernardino alle Ossa is so unique that it captivated a Portuguese king, who decided to recreate an identical chapel in Evora, where it is known as Capela dos Ossos.
The Church is located in Piazza Santo Stefano and it is open Monday to Friday, 8 am to 6 pm, and Saturday from 9.30 am to 6 pm. Entrance is free.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
Stunning Santa Maria delle Grazie is located in the square of the same name near Corso Magenta, and it is worth visiting for two reasons – first, it’s UNESCO-listed and one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Milan, and second, it’s home to Leonardo’s Last Supper!
The interior of the church is actually Gothic, very bright thanks to airy dome designed by Bramante. Each chapel is worth looking at, as they all offer something special – from intricate carvings to frescos. Before heading to see the Last Supper (don’t forget to book your tickets ahead of time) also pay a visit to the Clositer with its fountain decorated with frogs.
The Church is in Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie and it is open for visits from Monday to Saturday, from 9 am to 12.20 pm and from 3.30 to 5.50 pm; Sunday 4 to 5.50 pm. Entrance is free.
If you are planning to see the Last Supper (you should!) make sure you book your entrance tickets before your visit. Better still, book a guided tour – this one also includes a guided visit of Santa Maria delle Grazie!
Santa Maria presso San Satiro
Why does this little church near Via Torino has two names? Because it was built by Duke Gian Galeazzo Sforza in the 15th century, on the location of an earlier church dating back to the 10th century. However, this is not the reason why I consider it one of the best churches in Milan!
To find out why, walk inside and look at the apse. What if I told you it’s an optical illusion, and it’s only 90 cm deep? Genius architect Bramante was tasked with renovation of this church to include an apse, but only had limited space available, so he came up with one of the earliest examples of ‘trompe l’oeil’ in history of architecture. Pretty cool, right?
The church is located along Via Torino and it is open from Monday to Saturday, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, Sunday 2 pm to 5.30 pm. Entrance is free.
Located in the heart of the Cinque Vie district, the closest thing Milan has to a historic centre, San Sepolcro church is kind of eclectic – it has a Romanesque crypt, Neo-Romanesque exterior, and Neoclassical exterior, typical of a church that was built and renovated several times through the centuries.
The real gem in San Sepolcro is the crypt, opened in 2016 after being closed for 50 years. It’s located at the exact intersection of the Roman Cardo and Decumanus, and the pavement is still the original one from the Milan forum.
San Sepolcro Church is located in the square of the same name. Tickets cost €8 and need to be booked at the nearby Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, in Piazza Pio XI, 2. Opening times vary – visit the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana website for updated info.
Welcome to one of Milan’s best Baroque churches, located in ‘Milan’s most Roman square’! The full name of this church is Sant’Alessandro in Zebedia, as it was built on the location of Zebedia prison, where Sant’Alessandro was imprisoned before his martyrdom.
There has been a church in honour of the saint ever since the 5th century, but the current one dates back to the early 17th century. The outside still retains some elements of Renaissance architecture, but the decoration inside is purely Baroque, with flamboyant paintings by Procaccini, frescoes and even an exquisit confessional inlaid with gemstones.
The square just outside is known as ‘Milan’s most Roman’ as it’s a popular place to hang out, have a drink or dinner at one of many outdoor tables. There are not many places in Milan to enjoy this ‘piazza lifestyle’ – and this is probably the best!
This church is in Piazza Sant’Alessandro, and it is open from Monday to Saturday, 7 am to 12 pm and 4 to 7 pm, Sunday 9.30 am to 12 pm and 4.15 to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
Only a few steps away from the Duomo, this church is worth visiting after checking out the square of the same name, where you can also see a statue of Alessandro Manzoni.
It’s a beautiful example pf Mannerist architecture, popular at the times of the Catholic Reformation in the latter part of the 17th century. Inside, it’s decorated with pale stone from Angera near Lake Maggiore, and houses the Deposition by Simone Peterzano, Caravaggio’s master.
This church is in Piazza San Fedele, and it is open from Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4.30 pm, Saturday 5 to 7 pm, Sunday 10.30 am to 12.30 pm and 3 to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio
Sant’Eustorgio is another one of the oldest churches in Milan, dating back to the 5th century AD. Naturally what you see today is the product of several renovations – the façade was renovated in the 19th century in Neo Romanesque style, making use of bricks as most other Milanese churches.
Inside the church you’ll find some Paleochristian ruins of when the church was originally built, but the most interesting feature is the Portinari Chapel, one of the best examples of Lombard Renaissance. It is decorated with frescoes by Vincenzo Foppa and the burial monument in Carrara marble is really spectacular. You’ll need a ticket for the Sant’Eustorgio Museum to access it.
The cloisters of Sant’Eustorgio house the Diocesan Museum of Milan, the largest collection of sacred art in Milan.
This church is in Piazza Sant’Eustorgio. Entrance to the Sant’Eustorgio Museum (including Portinari Chapel) is €6. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm.
Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore
Otherwise, from Sant’Eustorgio walk down the shady Parco delle Basiliche to reach San Lorenzo, another of Milan’s great churches.
San Lorenzo also dates back to Early Christian times, when Milan was still part of the Roman Empire. The exact date of construction is uncertain, but it’s probably older than both Sant’Ambrogio and Sant’Eustorgio. It has a central plan with four apses, and inside you can find a well-preserved Roman mosaic.
The colonnaded area in front of the church is a popular gathering place for young people at night. Make sure you also walk to the back of San Lorenzo to Piazza Vetra, where you’ll find a nice park built on what was once Milan’s execution grounds.
The church is in Corso di Porta Ticinese, 35, and it is open from Monday to Friday, 8 am to 12.30 pm and 3 to 6.30 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 1 pm and 3 to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
San Giovanni Bono
So far, I’ve been focusing on historical Milan churches, but some of the modern ones are true architectural marvels! One of my favorites is San Giovanni Bono in Southern Milan – from the front, it looks like a pyramid, from the side it looks like a tent floating over the surrounding buildings.
The church is at the centre of Quartiere Sant’Ambrogio, entirely planned by architect Arrigo Arrighetti. It’s entirely made in reinforced concrete, making it one of the best Brutalist buildings in Milan!
To be honest, San Giovanni Bono looks cooler from the outside than it does from the inside! If you want to visit it, the church is located in Via San Vigilio, not far from Famagosta M2.
San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
Have you made it this far? Good, I’ll tell you about my favorite church in Milan! San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore looks unassuming from the outside, but it’s a real marvel once you walk in, covered in frescoes from floor to ceiling.
The church is also of early Christian origin, but the latest look dates back to the Renaissance. The ‘monastero’ in the name refers to what was once Milan’s largest nunnery – this is why the church is divided into two parts, as one was for laypeople, the other for nuns.
The stunning frescoes by Bernardino Luini are the main reason to visit this church. My favorite is the one depicting Noah’s ark – if you look closely, you’ll see two unicorns boarding the ark! Whoever said unicorns don’t exist?
San Maurizio is in Corso Magenta, 15. It’s open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 10 am to 5.30 pm. Entrance is free.
Most Milan churches I mentioned so far are really well know, let’s move onto offbeat gems now! Sant’Antonio Abate is a wonderful example of Mannerist style, with a plain exterior concealing a richly-decorated interior.
Just walk in and you’ll be surrounded by stunning frescoes, oil paintings by Procaccini and other Milanese masters, and a striking altar inlaid with colorful stones. Don’t forget to look up to the frescoes decorating the ceiling, narrating the history of the Cross.
The church is in Via Sant’Antonio. It’s open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm (March-Oct), 10 am to 2 pm (Nov-Feb). Entrance is free.
San Pietro in Gessate
If you find yourself in Corso di Porta Vittoria, do yourself a favour and look into this little, unassuming church – you’ll find one of Milan’s prettiest Gothic churches!
Besides the Duomo, which is in fact a medley of styles, there are surprisingly few Gothic churches in Milan. San Pietro in Gessate is one – check out the vaulted Gothic arches and don’t forget to look into the side chapels. Cappella Sant’Antonio and Cappella Sant’Ambrogio contain noteworthy frescoes from the 15th century.
It’s also worth noticing that instead of the usual slender Gothic columns, the naves are divided by Corinthian columns – a clear sign of the transition into Renaissance style.
The church is in Piazza San Pietro in Gessate, right opposite the Tribunal. It’s open Monday to Saturday, 7.30 am to 6 pm (only until 12 pm in July, August and September), Sundays 8.30 am to 12 pm, 5 to 8 pm. Entrance is free.
This church is located in the Brera district. Milan’s Naviglio used to run right past it, lending it a peaceful, bucolic atmosphere – now it’s in the heart of the city.
The church is a blend of different styles – the exterior is Gothic/Romanesque, and inside you’ll find some Mannerist and Baroque elements. It’s worth visiting the Foppa chapel with frescoes by Lomazzo, and the Nativity chapel, with two unique Nativity sets, with oil-painted cutouts.
If you can, visit San Marco with a guide, and ask about the esoteric symbols found all over the church. If you look closely, there are pentacles, six-pointed stars and even some swastikas, making San Marco the most mysterious church in Milan. Really worth visiting!
The church is in Piazza San Marco, in Brera. It’s open every day, 7 am to 12 pm and 4 to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
San Cristoforo sul Naviglio
The Naviglio near San Marco may be well and truly gone, but luckily the one near San Cristoforo still flows – making this alone reason to visit!
San Cristoforo is in fact a complex containing two churches. The oldest is the one on the left, in Romanesque style, whereas the church on the right was built in the 15th century. Both contain frescoes worth looking at, even though the ones in the newer church are much better preserved.
If you are living in Milan and planning to do the Camino de Santiago, pilgrim’s passports are given out in San Cristoforo on the second Tuesday of each month. After all, St. Christopher is the patron saint of travellers!
The church is in Via San Cristoforo, alongside Naviglio Grande. It’s open every day, 8.30 am to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
San Carlo al Corso
Walking down Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you’ll no doubt notice this striking Neoclassical church, with a monumental entrance and a huge dome. It was built in the 19th century on the remains of a previous Medieval church, and it is run by the
Get in and tell me, what does it remind you of? That’s right, the Pantheon! The round plan surrounded by columns and covered by a dome complete with oculus was inspired by the famous Roman church. I also like the baptismal fonts made out of shells!
The church is in Piazza San Carlo along Corso Vittorio Emanuele. It’s open Monday to Saturday, 7 am to 12 pm and 4 to 8 pm, Sunday 9.30 am to 1 pm, 4 to 10 pm. Entrance is free.
Santa Maria del Carmine
Located in the Brera district, Santa Maria del Carmine has an elegant Neo Gothic façade by Maciachini, the same architect as Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale.
This church had a turbulent history. It was destroyed by a fire shortly after having been built in the 13th century by the Carmelitan Order, then it was abandoned, and only three years after having been renovated it collapsed again. By the 17th century, it had become known as the burial place of Milanese aristocracy – and numerous noble tombs exist to this day.
The interior is Baroque, richly decorated in contrast to the essential but elegant exterior. The square right outside is one of the prettiest in Milan – make sure you stop for a drink!
The church is in Piazza Santa Maria del Carmine. It’s open Monday to Sunday, 7.15 am to 12 pm and 4 to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
Another true hidden gem, Sant’Eufemia is church that most Milanese walk past without giving it a second glance. Big mistake – the elegant Neo Romanesque exterior gives way to a fairytale-like Neo Gothic interior, complete with mosaics and starry skies on the vaults reminiscent of the mosaics in Ravenna.
Sant’Eufemia is also known for its perfect acoustics, so much so that it was used as a recording studio. Maria Callas, the famous La Scala soprano, sometimes used it to rehearse, and recorded here Cavalleria Rusticana and La Sonnambula.
The church is in Piazza Sant’Eufemia, near Corso Italia. It’s open Monday to Sunday, 7.30 am to 12 pm, Saturday 9am to 12 pm, Sunday 10 am to 12 pm and 5 to 7 pm. Entrance is free.
All the churches located so far, with the exception of San Giovanni Bono, are located in or near the center of Milan. On the other hand, Chiaravalle Abbey looks (and feels) in the middle of the countryside, even though it is still part of the city of Milan.
If possible, head there by bike, crossing the spectacular Parco della Vettabbia en route. Then, move onto visiting the church and abbey complex, with a guide if possible. The Abbey was established in the 12th century, and it is one of the earliest and finest examples of Gothic architecture in Italy.
There are many reasons to visit Chiaravalle Abbey – to see the stunning Gothic frescoes in Bernardo Chapel, admire the unique bell tower known as Ciribiriciaccola, or even visit the working mill, and buy some locally-made products. This is one of my favorite Milan secrets!
Chiaravalle Abbey is in Via Sant’Arialdo, 102, bus 77 from Porta Romana M3. It’s open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 12.30 pm and 3 to 6.30, Saturday 9 am to 12.30 pm and 3 to 6.30, Sunday 11 am to 12.30 pm and 3 to 6 pm. Entrance is free.