Exterior of Biblioteca e Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.

©Stephanie Ong/Lonely Planet

Biblioteca e Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Duomo & San Babila

One of Europe’s earliest public libraries (built 1609), the Biblioteca Ambrosiana was more a symbol of intellectual ferment than of quiet scholarship. It houses more than a million volumes and nearly 40,000 manuscripts, including Leonardo da Vinci's priceless collection of drawings, the Codex Atlanticus. An art gallery – the Pinacoteca – was added later. It exhibits Italian paintings from the 14th to the 20th century and famously features Caravaggio's Canestra di frutta (Basket of Fruit), which launched both his career and Italy's ultrarealist traditions.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Duomo & San Babila attractions

2. Palazzo della Ragione

0.12 MILES

Erected between 1228 and 1251, Milan's 'Palace of Reason' is one of the few remaining medieval constructions to survive. Its Romanesque arcade served as a…

3. Piazza degli Affari

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Home to the Italian stock exchange (Palazzo della Borsa), this square is a famous hub of financial activity. But that’s not all it’s known for. In the…

4. Museo del Novecento

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Overlooking Piazza del Duomo, with fabulous views of the cathedral, is Mussolini's Arengario, from where he would harangue huge crowds in his heyday. Now…

5. Palazzo Clerici

0.23 MILES

The blank façade of this 18th-century palace disguises the most extravagant interiors in Milan, including a golden hall frescoed by Tiepolo. It was owned…

6. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

0.24 MILES

So much more than a shopping arcade, the neoclassical Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a soaring structure of iron and glass. Nicknamed 'il salotto di…

7. Duomo

0.25 MILES

A vision in pink Candoglia marble, Milan's extravagant Gothic cathedral, 600 years in the making, aptly reflects the city's creativity and ambition. Its…

8. Il Grande Museo del Duomo

0.28 MILES

Stepping through Guido Canali’s glowing spaces in the Duomo's museum is like coming upon the sets for a Game of Thrones episode. Gargoyles leer down…