Former town hall and Visconti palace the Royal Palace of Milan (Palazzo Reale) got a neoclassical – and much-needed – face lift in the late 1700s. Today, it’s a major exhibition space for modern and contemporary art. It draws crowds with its steady rotation of exhibits, which have included the likes of Gustav Klimt, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
During WWII, fire from nearby bomb strikes seriously damaged the Royal Palace, destroying many of its opulent and historic interiors. Today, visitors can still see and feel the impact of war when they enter the Hall of Caryatids (Sala delle Cariatidi) on the first floor. The room has intentionally been left in a state of disrepair to freeze this chilling moment of history in time. Other highlights include the magnificent staircase and the tapestries halls, with their elaborate ceilings, chandeliers and Giacomo Albertolli friezes.
This 7,000-square-metre space annually presents more than 1,500 masterpieces from museums around the world. It also plays host to a number of fashion and design shows – a fitting setting in this world fashion capital. The Royal Palace is also home to the Palace Museum, where you can learn more about the fascinating history of the building, as well as The Cathedral Museum (Museo del Duomo), which is positively brimming with treasures illuminating the construction and heritage of the majestic Milan Cathedral. (The palace is adjacent to the cathedral.) Admission prices and opening hours for the palace vary, depending on the exhibitions.
Also nearby are the elaborate glass-domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade – a shopaholic’s delight – and the beautiful Renaissance Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro. To get to the Royal Palace and surrounding attractions, take the Metro to Duomo station, or hop on a tram to the Piazza Fontana stop.