Religious Sights Walking Tour (Self Guided), Milan

Milan may be a world fashion capital and an European financial capital, but religion, and "the church" in particular, remain a major part of Milanese life. Many of the churches that you see today have undergone reconstruction or renovation, as preserving historic and religious heritage is one of the city's priorities. Take this tour to visit some of the most notable places of worship in Italy.
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Religious Sights Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Religious Sights Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Milan (See other walking tours in Milan)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 Km or 3.5 Miles
Author: kane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • San Fedele
  • Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)
  • Santa Maria presso San Satiro
  • Sant'Alessandro in Zebedia
  • Santa Maria Presso San Celso
  • Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio
  • San Vincenzo in Prato
  • San Cristoforo sul Naviglio
1
San Fedele

1) San Fedele

The title is a canon of the church Santa Maria della Scala in San Fedele. After a decade near the church was built a great college that until 1763 was the main house of Lombardy of the Jesuits. Here stands the old image once called Madonna of the dancers and singers. The particular advance of the Baroque of the first altar on the right flanked by two angels who gracefully detach from their capitals and columns hold up the slant, giving an impression of fragility and lightness.
2
Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)

2) Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) (must see)

Milan Cathedral, also called Duomo, is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan and the largest church in Italy (third largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world) covering an area of 12,000 sqm and weighing 325,000 tons.

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent and has been a central part of the city's life since 1386. Its foundation was laid by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, who died in 1402, when only half of the structure was completed, upon which construction came to a standstill for almost 80 years due to the lack of both funds and ideas. It resumed in 1500 and by 1510 the octagonal dome was completed and embellished with four series of 15 statues representing different characters from the Bible. In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte forced completion of the façade which overall took another seven years. In honor of his efforts, a statue of Napoleon was erected at the top of one of the spires. Later, Duomo also saw his crowning ceremony.

Only in the 20th century was the Duomo fully completed. Inaugurated on January 6, 1965, the completion of the last gate marked the very end of the centuries-long process. A visit to the roof and the Paleo Christian baptistery beneath the west end are part of the Duomo attraction. The rooftop offers a closer look at the intricate details of the spires and the gargoyles which adorn it. You have to climb a huge 201 stairs to reach the top. However, those who wish to avoid the stairs can use an elevator. The view from the top, about 70 meters high, is spectacular with myriads of statues, pinnacles, tracery and flying buttresses. Climbing all the way up through winding narrow passageways is rewarded with a wonderful and breathtaking panorama of the city!

Why You Should Visit:
The Duomo is Milan's one and only must-see sight – its exterior a vast riot of ornate religious sculpture, its interior sublimely huge.

Tip:
Buy the online skip-the-line tickets that include the church entry and access to the elevator to view the rooftop.
The experience of the surrounding piazza is at its finest at night when the whole facade is lit by white lights.

Opening Hours:
[Cathedral] Daily: 8am-7pm (last ticket: 6pm; last entry: 6:10pm)
[Rooftops] Daily: 9am-7pm (last ticket: 6pm; last entry: 6:10pm)
3
Santa Maria presso San Satiro

3) Santa Maria presso San Satiro (must see)

Commonly known as San Satiro, this Italian Renaissance structure (1476-1482) just south of the Duomo in Milan houses the early-medieval shrine to Satyrus, brother of Saint Ambrose. The church is known for its false apse, an early example of trompe l'œil, attributed to Donato Bramante.

Dating back to the 800s, the structure was renovated in the second half of the 1400s by Donato Bramante, after Duke Gian Galeazzo Sforza commissioned a new church for his city. The Duke wanted to build a huge church but the location available to him was very small due to the busy street. The choir, the space behind the altar, had to be reduced, making the church awkwardly short.

Many famous architects and painters participated in designing a church in such a way that it would fit on a tiny plot. In order to solve this problem, Bramante devised an ingenious solution by painting an optical illusion. Though architectural optical illusion was popular in the late Renaissance and Baroque, Bramante gave it an entirely new dimension. If you stand at the entrance of the edifice you will have an impression of a much deeper space giving the illusion of the altar far behind than is physically possible. Special lightings inside the church were used to help create this effect. The illusion, however, quickly disappears when you step aside from the main axis of the church. The magic reappears when you step back.

Why You Should Visit:
There aren't many places like this in Milan: small, half-hidden, and ready to reveal themselves only to those who know how to discover them.
Entry is free and photos are allowed, so you can easily have a look at the views of its interior. The perspective effect at the end is simply stunning.

Tip:
As in other churches in town, volunteers will offer you a short explanation about the history and art of the building, so be sure to take advantage.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-12pm / 2:30-6pm; Sun: 2-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Sant'Alessandro in Zebedia

4) Sant'Alessandro in Zebedia

The Church of Sant'Alessandro in Zebedia, built in 1589, is a Baroque style church with two lateral bell towers. One functions as a clock whilst the other has been a belfry since 1643. The church comprises of a principal building on the Greek cross plan with a central dome.

Built by Barnabite monks in the 9th century, the church has a centralized plan with a cupola that serves as a presbytery. The interior is decorated with precious paintings in the Lombard tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries. Federico Borromeo laid the foundation stone in 1602. The design was done by Lorenzo Birago and the church was built on an area where there was once an antique oratory dedicated to Saint Pancras. Saint Zebedia prison was also present there in which, it is thought, martyr Alessandro was held.

There is a lobby with wooden insets in front of the entrance of the church. It leads to the church through one of the two existing doors: three naves separated by large pillars and buttress. The central area is lined with benches for the faithful. Baptismal font is also present along with a harmonium and a beautiful, sacred image of the Virgin Mary.

Platform is embedded with precious stones. The whole altar structure is in green marble and covered with precious gems. The walls of the presbytery are decorated by six paintings which date back to 1687 and show scenes from the Saint's life. There are thirteen confessionals present in this monumental church, two of which are made of walnut and have marble insets.

Milanese families donated generously to the building of the church and obtained patronage of many chapels. The remains of Saint Alexander are also preserved in this chapel.

It is a peaceful and relaxing place which takes one away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Your visit to this church will take you to a journey of heavenly bliss.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Santa Maria Presso San Celso

5) Santa Maria Presso San Celso

In order to house a miraculous image of the Madonna, Gian Giacomo Dolcebuono and Giovanni Battagio started the construction of a church in 1493. Octagonal dome was built first which was covered externally by a tambour with a veranda. Twelve brickwork statues made by Agostino De Fondulis and designed in Lombard style were used to decorate the arcades.

A compound with nave and two aisles was added to the original structure in 1506. The structure is covered by a colossal barrel tomb. A square entrance in classical style was added in the 16th century. Galeazzo Alessi designed the massive façade in the late 16th century. Statues and reliefs made by Stoldo Lorenzi and Annibale Fontana are used for decorating the church. In the left transept, a respected marble statue of the Assunta by Annibale Fontana (1586) with two angels by Giulio Cesare Procaccini, is housed within the altar.

A Romanesque Church of San Celso dedicated to the martyr Saint Celsus, is situated next to Santa Maria. The bell tower erected in the church is from the 11th century. A rose window in the frontage and animal figures on the Romanesque style entrance add to the magnificence of the church.

Santa Maria Church conceals its charm behind sober facade and reveals its treasures only to the attentive visitors.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio

6) Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio (must see)

Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio is primarily a 12th-century church standing on the remains of a much older church. Founded in the 4th century and situated in Milan, it was the main centre for many pilgrims who used to travel to Rome or to the Holy Land. The tomb of Three Magi or Three Kings is present in this church. The name refers to Eustorgius, the elected 9th Bishop of Milan in 343 who translated the supposed relics of the Magi to the city from Constantinople in 344.

St Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, ordered the construction of the first church here to house the remains of the Three Magi which he brought back with her from the Holy Land. Frederic Barbarossa stole them in 1162. He then shifted the relics of the Magi to Cologne. In 1903, the pieces of bones and garments were sent back to Sant'Eustorgio. These are now stored in the altar near the empty Three Kings stone coffins. Even today the bell tower is prevailed by a star instead of the traditional cross in the memory of the Three Kings.

Portinari Chapel is the most remarkable part of the church. In Lombardy, it presents the most important examples of Renaissance art. It has mural paintings done on plaster by Vincenzo Foppa and a marble grave by Giovanni di Balduccio.

A separate doorway leads through to the cloister to Paleo Christian burial site, once outside the city walls. The graves date back to the early 4th century and belonged to those martyred for their faith. Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio is an absolute masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.

Tip:
To understand the history of this church, start your visit with its museum which requires a ticket, but do yourself a favor and go – you'll see one of the most beautiful chapels around among other treasures.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 7:30am-12pm / 3:30-6:30pm; Sun: 8:45am-1pm / 3:30-6:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
San Vincenzo in Prato

7) San Vincenzo in Prato

San Vincenzo in Prato is a church established by the Lombard king Desiderius in 770. Originally this church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. When the relics of St. Vincent were found in an urn in the crypt, it was rededicated to him. The name in Prato is derived from its location in the "Prata" area owned by bishop Odelpertus.

The basilica of San Vincenzo in Prato is the only one in the city of Milan that has entirely maintained its original Palaeo-Christian appearance. It is situated on the ruins of a Roman temple.

A Benedictine convent was added to the church in 806. At the end of the 9th century and in the early 10th century, the deteriorating church was rebuilt keeping its old appearance. The baptistery on the exterior has an octagonal structure. It dates back to the 9th century while a column-shaped front dates back to even earlier years. The convent was finished in 1520 and in 1598 the church was restored and turned over to a rural community.

The basilica is made in brickwork, the interior is on a nave and two aisles with wooden spans ceiling. The columns belong to different ages. A large apse exists at the end of the elevated choir. A nave and two aisles divided by ten small columns with sculpted capitals also exists under the presbytery.

San Vincenzo in Prato offers a variety of styles and striking details that are well worth getting to know. Its monumental richness is appreciated and enjoyed daily by many Milanese and tourists alike.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
San Cristoforo sul Naviglio

8) San Cristoforo sul Naviglio (must see)

San Cristoforo sul Naviglio is a church complex in Milan comprising two churches. Standing along the left bank of the canal in a suburban area, these constructions are still identifiable. The left one is the most ancient, which is known to be a Romanesque reconstruction of a far more ancient edifice (probably in turn located on the site of a Roman temple). The Romanesque edifice was again rebuilt in the 13th century when the Naviglio Grande was excavated. In the mid-14th century, it received the Gothic portal and rose window.

The more recent church, which currently is united to the other and gives the appearance of a single edifice, was constructed along the naviglio (navigational canal) bank in the 15th century, and then called Ducal Chapel. It was commissioned by Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti in order to provide a holy edifice and dedicated to St Christopher, the protector of ill people. The intercession of St Christopher was said to have ended the onslaught of the plague during 1399, that had killed some 20,000 Milanese. The façade sports the Visconti coat of arms, while the older church has the heraldic symbols of Cardinal Pietro Filargo, then bishop of Milan and later pope as Alexander V.

Ducal Chapel is one of the best examples of Gothic Lombard style displayed both inside and outside. It is decorated with paintings from the 15th and early 16th centuries, and is dedicated to the patrons of the House of Visconti – Saints John the Baptist and James, and Blessed Christina. In 1405, the counter front elevation of the Ducal Chapel was decorated with a Madonna Enthroned and Saints and a Crucifixion.

The current bell tower is a 15th-century enlargement of the original one, with conical cusp and mullioned windows. The interior, turned into two naves in 1625 with the demolition of the wall separating the two churches, has a wooden ceiling in the left nave with fragments of frescoes by Bergognone on the wall. The apse houses frescoes of Bernardino Luini's school, portraying the Father with Angels and the symbols of the Evangelists, and Saints. The right nave has two spans with Gothic frescoes on the walls. There is also a notable wooden statue (14th century) representing St. Christopher and the Child.

San Cristoforo sul Naviglio is an architectural wealth. Visitors all over the world come to view these architectural masterpieces and monuments.

Tip:
Before or after your visit, make sure to explore the Navigli district – a fabulous Bohemian suburb with boutiques, bookshops, restaurants, cafes & bars. A wonderful place to stroll around to enjoy people watching, eating gelatos' or dropping into one of the waterfront canal bars for tasting the 'aperitivo' buffets or having a local beer in the early evenings.
There are plenty of boat tours available located on the canal frontage Alzaia Naviglio Grande. The canals were used in the medieval days to transport goods & are a huge part of Milan's heritage.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-12pm; 3:30-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Milan, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Creating your own self-guided walk in Milan is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Shopping Streets and Spots

Shopping Streets and Spots

Milan is a world-renown fashion and design capital. Here, you can find most of the world's top fashion brands, from Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana to Levi's and Diesel. Fashion is the second religion in Milan and this self-guided tour will take you to the worship places of the fashionistas and shopaholics.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles
East Centro Walking Tour

East Centro Walking Tour

Milan is a city steeped in history, but also a strategic economic center for Italy, as well as an international fashion hub. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the city's striking historic sites, as well as designer shops and other great places to explore. Take this tour and visit the main sites in Milan's Centro Storico.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Centro Museums and Galleries

Centro Museums and Galleries

Milan is not only the business and fashion center of Italy, it also a cultural center. The city of Milan offers numerous cultural activities, as well as countless art galleries and museums that exhibit some of the world's most famous and imposing artworks and artifacts. Most of these cultural centers are located in the very heart of Milan and within a pleasant walk.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 Km or 3 Miles
Core of Centro Storico Walking Tour

Core of Centro Storico Walking Tour

Milan is a city that boasts both historic and modern architecture. It is also a strategic economic center for Italy and is home to the country's stock exchange. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the city's striking historic sites like the La Scala opera house and the famous Duomo, as well as designer shops and other great places to explore.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
West Centro Walking Tour

West Centro Walking Tour

Milan is a city steeped in history, but also a strategic economic center for Italy, as well as an international fashion hub. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the city's striking historic sites, as well as designer shops and other great places to explore. Take this tour and visit the main sites in Milan's Centro Storico.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
City Orientation Walking Tour

City Orientation Walking Tour

Throughout its 2,000+ year-long history Milan has accumulated an impressive collection of architectural monuments, thanks to some of the best artists and architects this world had ever seen who blessed the city with their presence. Masterpieces like the Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, housing Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper,” vividly...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.2 Km or 3.9 Miles

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