Milan is part of a unified Italy today, but the city was once the capital of an independent duchy, with the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) as the seat of a succession of dynasties. Though the palace was heavily damaged during World War II, the restored building continues to dominate one side of Piazza Duomo and a visit to its museums is a must for art and history enthusiasts. Most walking, bike, or rickshaw tours of Milan include a stop in Piazza Duomo to see the Royal Palace and enjoy skip-the-line entrance to the impressive Duomo before moving on to other important landmarks like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and La Scala opera house.
Things to know before you go
- The Royal Palace has a cloakroom to store large bags and backpacks, which are not allowed inside the museum.
- Services inside the museum include a café and gift shop.
- The museum is completely accessible to wheelchair users and offers a motorized chair service for those who may have trouble touring the entire museum on their feet.
- Milan city tours are mainly outdoors, so dress for the weather.
How to get there
The Royal Palace is located directly on Milan’s bustling main Piazza del Duomo, easy to reach on foot from most major attractions in the city center or by metro and tram.
When to get there
As home to the Royal Palace Museum, the palace is best visited during one of the many special exhibitions held regularly throughout the year. The Royal Palace is open daily, though closed on Monday mornings.
The History and Architecture of Milan’s Former Main Square
The Dukes of Milan moved into the Royal Palace from the Castello Sforzesco in the early 16th century, though the building predates that move. Much of the exterior dates from an 18th-century renovation by Giuseppe Piermarini and the interiors, largely rebuilt after heavy damage during World War II, reflect Neoclassical and Napoleonic influences. A highlight of the palace is the Hall of the Caryatids, a sumptuous ballroom almost completely destroyed in 1943 that has been recreated almost exactly in its original form.
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