Last Updated on 12th June 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
For the most magical view of Milan, you need to venture to the very city centre. Close to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest covered shopping mall in Italy, the Duomo di Milano (Milan’s Cathedral) is easily one of the most impressive Renaissance buildings in Italy. However, what really steals the show when it comes to this beautiful building is the Duomo di Milano rooftop terrace. Open to the public, here’s a guide on how to visit for yourself, as well as where to get tickets and the best time to go!
Duomo di Milano, a Renaissance Gem in Northern Italy
As the capital city of the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, it should come as no surprise that the city of Milano is filled with things to do, and even more attractions to marvel at. For example, aside from having the second largest cathedral in the world (more on that in a moment), the city is also home to delights such as a vineyard gifted to the city by Leonardo da Vinci, and the Last Supper painting, also by the grand master.
Elsewhere in Milan, you’ll soon discover plenty of quirky eateries, hidden gems, and more museums than you could while away the time in for a whole week. And of course, for the photo lovers, the Navigli district is a must, while Bar Luce is a can’t miss for any Wes Anderson fans. Finally, if you’re looking for a little luxe during your trip to the Italian fashion capital, then book yourself to stay at the TownHouse Galleria.
Back at the Duomo di Milano itself, the Cathedral Church of Milan dates all the way back to the 14th-century and took a staggering six centuries to complete! The current church is dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente (Saint Mary of the Nativity), though it’s well documented that there’s been a place of worship onsite since as early as the 4th-century.
The Duomo di Milano rooftop terrace
In truth, what makes this church truly special is not that it’s been touched in many ways by the hand of Da Vinci, nor is it the panelled and intricately carved marble façade. Instead, what makes this cathedral so unique is its rooftop terrace, which covers an expansive area and is home to a myriad of gargoyles, statues, spires, and other stone carvings.
Walking on the rooftop gives you the chance not only to admire the piazza and city below but to get up close and personal with a side of the city that’s otherwise out of reach in many other Italian towns and cities. In total, there are well over three thousand sculptures and spires decorating the Duomo!
Paths across the cathedral’s rooftop are clearly marked and, on a clear day, it’s said that you can see as far away as the mountains! One thing I would say though is to make sure you charge your camera fully prior to your visit. During our brief tour of the roof, I found that every time we rounded another corner, there would be yet another stunning carving or view to snap…
How to Visit the Duomo di Milano Rooftop Terrace
Thanks to a real surge of tourism in the past decade or so, the Duomo can be popular throughout the week, though as a general rule of thumb, it’s definitely busier on weekends and during school holidays. The Cathedral rooftop is also most visited later in the day and around sunset when the sky turns golden hues and the city is bathed in a pinkish glow.
As such, I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance. Check here to purchase Duomo rooftop terrace tickets only. When I first visited Milan several years ago, the Cathedral itself was free to visit. However, times have changed and you now have to pay to visit both the Duomo and its rooftop terrace. Please note that to visit any area of the cathedral, you’ll need to dress modestly (this means both shoulders and knees covered).
If you’re running short on time (as we were during our last visit to Milan), then I would prioritise a first visit to the rooftop over venturing into the cathedral itself for a second time (I had already visited the interior back in 2013 but had never stepped foot on the Duomo roof terrace). If you haven’t done either, then clear your schedule as these are the top two attractions in the Lombardy capital. Check here to purchase a combined rooftop and cathedral ticket.
Finally, for those who are looking for a guided experience in order to soak up all the history, then you might consider booking yourself onto a private guided tour with an official tour guide. These tours last for 90 minutes and offer the opportunity to both wander around the cathedral and on the terrace above it with a knowledgeable guide. Purchase your private tour with fast track lane ticket here.