There’s a world beside Piazza del Duomo! Milan is full of beautiful squares – known in Italian as ‘piazze’. You’ll find quaint squares surrounding beautiful churches, large piazzas framed by skyscrapers and parks, and pretty much anything in between.
Milan squares make for perfect photo opportunities, while also serving as outdoor gathering spaces for a sunset drink or dinner – Milan is warm enough to eat outside at least six months of the year, sometimes more.
As a Milan local, I had a hard time narrowing down my favorite Milan squares for this article – there are really many beautiful ones, including some hidden secrets that tourists hardly visit. If you know of any other piazzas in Milan that you think deserve to be in this list, shoot us a message or let us know in the comments!
Best Milan Squares in the City Centre
Piazza del Duomo
We could only start this list of pretty squares in Milan with the one and only Piazza del Duomo (Duomo Square).
Piazza del Duomo is the best known piazza in Milan, an important gathering point for both tourists and locals. It is named after the Duomo (Cathedral), dominating one of its sides – other monumental buildings overlooking it are Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Palazzo Reale, and the Arengario – home to one of the most beautiful museums in Milan, Museo del Novecento.
It is also one of the largest squares in the city, with a total surface area of 17,000 square meters, and truly the ‘center’ of the city – concerts, demonstrations, protests, and all sorts of cultural activities take place round the clock.
If you are planning to visit the Duomo, make sure you buy your tickets online before your visit as the queues are craaaazy! Don’t miss climbing up to the terrace for top views over the city!
Milan doesn’t really have a medieval historic center like many other Italian cities, with cute cobblestoned alleyways. The best-preserved Medieval landmark is Piazza Mercanti, located just a few steps from Piazza del Duomo heading towards the Sforza Castle.
Piazza Mercanti was the centre of administrative and political life during the Middle Ages. It started to be built during the 13th century, and most buildings surrounding it also date back to that time. Palazzo della Ragione was once the city’s broletto, home to the podestà (mayor), and location of the city court and assemblies.
Milan’s first name was Mediolanum, in reference to the scrofa semilanuta, a sow with half the body covered in wool. According to the legend of the foundation of Milan, the sow marked the location where the city was to be built. You can find an engraving depicting the half-wooled sow under one of the arches around the square. Can you find it?
A few minutes walk down Via Mercanti and Via Dante will lead you to Piazza Castello, the square right in front of Sforza Castle, once home to the rulers of Milan. It’s a cool place to take pictures of the castle façade before heading in to explore the castle and its museums, or just chill and walk around Parco Sempione.
You’ll also definitely notice the fountain, all gleaming white marble and water jets, nicknamed the ‘torta degli sposi’. It was installed in the 1930s to celebrate Mussolini’s visit to Milan, then it was taken down 30 years later when the metropolitana (subway) was being constructed. The fountain was then lost for decades, until it was randomly found again in the Nineties in a depot, and placed it back in its original location.
If you’re hungry, there are two excellent kiosks serving up creative panini on either side of the square – Chiosco Al Politico, with panini dedicated to various politicians, and Chiosco Squadre di Calcio.
Piazza del Carmine
Piazza del Carmine is a secluded, picturesque square in the middle of Brera, Milan’s former ‘artists’ neighborhood. It’s one of the most pleasant places in the area for an alfresco meal or drink – God Save the Food has outdoor tables and reasonable prices.
The square overlooks the Neo-Gothic Santa Maria del Carmine church, built with bricks according to the Lombard tradition. The church also hosts services in English every Sunday.
The statue in the middle of the square opposite the church is the work of Polish artist Ivan Mitoraj, and it depicts a classical-looking male bust.
Another wonderful little square where it’s nice to sit and look at the world go by! Piazza Sant’Eustorgio is in the Ticinese/Navigli district, and it is named after Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, connected to Basilica of San Lorenzo by the wonderful Parco delle Basiliche, one of Milan’s most beautiful parks.
Sant’Eustorgio is one of the oldest churches in Milan, first built in the 4th century. It was later rebuilt in Romanesque style, and houses the graves of some members of the Visconti family, the former rulers of Milan.
Skip the touristy restaurant right on the square and head a few steps away down Via Santa Croce to Enoteca Naturale, serving small plates and natural wines in a lovely courtyard with tall trees.
This Milan square takes its name from the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, one of the most beautiful churches in Milan, dedicated to the city’s patron saint.
The most noticeable building is the Basilica, fronted by a quadrangular colonnaded courtyard – take your time to walk around and notice the capitals, all with different engravings of plants, animals and mythical creatures.
Two other points of interest in the square are the small temple dedicated to fallen Milanese soldiers, and the Roman column with two holes, said to be evidence of a fight between Sant’Ambrogio and Satan.
Colonne di San Lorenzo
Ok, this is not officially a Milan piazza – the name ‘Colonne di San Lorenzo’ indicates the area opposite the Basilica of San Lorenzo, framed by a Roman colonnade.
This is one of the liveliest areas in the city come nightfall, with lots of young people sitting around enjoying drinks. Sometimes this turns into full-blown parties, other nights somebody might start an impromptu concert – if you do decide to join the fun, please make sure to clean after yourself and be mindful of local residents.
Also, take a close look at the Colonne – how many are there? This is one of my favorite quizzes and to date, only one person ever guessed. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Piazza San Fedele
This is a cute little square right behind Piazza del Duomo, a nice place to sit down and have an ice-cream to escape the madness of the largest piazza in Milan.
Sit on stone benches and marvel at the pretty façade of San Fedele church, dating back to Renaissance times. Right opposite you’ll see the statue dedicated to Alessandro Manzoni, Milan’s most celebrated author, who lived nearby – and died after falling from the church steps.
Located just to the south of Piazza del Duomo, Piazza Sant’Alessandro is sometimes called ‘the most Roman square in Milan’, as it’s always full of people dining out, having drinks, or just sitting on the church steps.
Besides marvelling at the Baroque façade of Sant’Alessandro church, you can pick up a sandwich from L’Antico Vinaio, the famous Florence shop that opened its Milanese outpost right on this square. Two other nice eateries are Alle Colline Pistoiesi and Gastronomia Yamamoto, my favorite Japanese restaurant in Milan.
Piazza Duca d’Aosta
This may not be the most beautiful square in Milan, but I guarantee you’ll probably see it – because it’s where the Milan Centrale railway station is located!
The square is dominated by the huge station building, probably the best example of Fascist architecture in Milan. If you are traveling to or from Milan by train, we recommend taking some time to look around the station – it’s truly one of the most beautiful buildings in Milan.
Besides the station, in Piazza Duca d’Aosta you’ll also find the stunning Hotel Gallia, the Pirelli Tower (once the tallest in Milan) and Michelangelo Pistoletto’s apple monument, representing balance between science and nature.
Best Offbeat Milan Squares
Most of the squares in Milan described so far are really easy to find, while Piazza Affari is a little more hidden away, but it’s really worth seeking out!
The name Piazza Affari literally translates as ‘business square’, as this is where the Milan stock exchange is located, in Neoclassical Palazzo Mezzanotte.
Right in the middle of the square you’ll also find my favorite monument in Milan, L.O.V.E. by Maurizio Cattelan. It is a huge marble hand with all the fingers missing – save for the middle finger, so it looks like a huge hand flipping the symbol of capitalism in the city. Hell yeah if you ask me.
Welcome to one of the most instagrammable places in Milan come spring time! Piazza Tommaseo is not far from Cadorna station, and it’s beautiful year-round, with elegant Liberty residential buildings and Santa Maria Segreta Church.
Come mid-March, the magnolia trees planted all over the square bloom, attracting people from all over the city for a Milanese hanami of sorts. It’s really worth visiting if you happen to be in town at the right time – and while you’re there, make sure you also visit GM Gioielli, an artisan jewelry store owned by two dear friends of mine!
Piazza Santa Francesca Romana
All Milan squares mentioned thus far are either scenic, or offer points of interest. Instead, I decided to include Piazza Santa Francesca Romana because of the atmosphere – at sunset time, especially in summer, you’ll find groups of kids dancing hip-hop or k-pop tunes, carrying on until night.
There’s also a nice church to look at, and nearby Via Spallanzani is pedestrian and full of cool little restaurants!
Best Modern Squares in Milan
Piazza Gae Aulenti
Yep, I’m trying to save the best till last over here! Piazza Gae Aulenti is definitely the most beautiful modern square in Milan, the centerpiece of the new Porta Nuova neighborhood.
The square is just steps away from the Milan Garibaldi station, set in a slightly elevated position and surrounded by the Unicredit building, the tallest in Milan. It’s a nice place to hang out, with cool cafes, benches and a fountain where kids cool off on hot days.
On one side of the square you’ll find Egg, an interactive artwork by artist Alberto Garutti on the inner shaft of the car park. Brass pipes connect two different levels, allowing people to listen to what others are saying either above or below. The egg-shaped opening also works nicely as a frame for pictures!
Piazza Città di Lombardia
Another uber cool, sleek modern square is Piazza Città di Lombardia, an almond-shaped covered square in the courtyard of Palazzo Lombardia, headquarters of the regional government. It’s truly a steel and glass modern marvel, also offering top photo opportunities!
This Milan square also holds a record – it’s the largest covered square in Europe, with a surface space of 4000 square meters. The square is free to access for everyone, and regularly hosts events.
Piazza Tre Torri
Piazza Tre Torri is one of the most recently-built squares in Milan, in the heart of the newly-developed City Life district. The square is set around the eponymous Tre Torri – three high-rises designed by three different archistars.
Right next door there is a large park with walking and running paths, water fountains decorated by artists, and lots of spaces to enjoy nature while remaining right in the heart of the city.