Insider tips: Explore Milan like a local
Megan & Aram is a travel blog that focuses mostly on travel in the Nordics and Eastern Europe with the occasional trip beyond those regions. We love coffee, promoting small businesses, and sports.
What should I do on my first trip to Milan?
Milan boasts the largest and arguably the most gorgeous cathedral in Italy, and visiting the Duomo is one of the best things to do in Milan. The Duomo is a breathtaking Gothic-style centerpiece of the city, which took 600 years to build. If you want to learn more about the church’s history, art, or architecture, consider taking a guided tour. You can also ascend to the roof (Terraces) for beautiful views over the city. Another world-famous treasure is Leonardo da Vinci’s "Last Supper" in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.
What are some hidden gems to see in Milan?
Though many people go see the famous "Last Supper" painting, few venture across the street to Casa degli Atellani and Leonardo’s vineyard, which he tended while he painted the Last Supper. You can tour the lovely house and gardens, including the vineyard. And don’t miss out on the Pinacoteca di Brera museum, a treasure trove of Italian art. You can also visit an astronomical observatory, a gorgeous library, and a botanical garden in the surrounding complex.
How much time should I spend in Milan?
While it is possible to see the main highlights of Milan in one day, the city is best explored in two or three days. This allows time to see some of the less-visited attractions and neighborhoods. If you have more than two or three days, consider taking a day trip; some great options include Lake Como or Verona.
What food is Milan known for?
Milan has some fantastic traditional dishes. Try the risotto alla milanese (risotto with saffron), ossobuco (stewed veal shanks), cassouela (cabbage and pork stew), and cotoletta alla milanese (breaded veal cutlets). During the holidays, try panettone, a sweet bread with candied citrus. While it is now popular all over Italy and the world, Milan was the birthplace of this holiday cake. There are so many different culinary delights in Milan, it is well worth taking a food tour to sample a wide variety of dishes and learn about the food scene from a local guide.
What is the best way to get around Milan?
Getting around Milan is convenient and easy. In the city center, many attractions are close together, and you can see interesting things as you move between them. Milan’s public transportation system is extensive and inexpensive, with four metro lines, 18 tram lines, and over 80 bus lines. Tickets cost around €2 and are valid for 90 minutes. Taking a taxi or renting a bike is also common and easy to do.
What are the best months to visit Milan?
While beautiful in every season, the best times to visit Milan are the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October. The weather is pleasant, and there are fewer crowds. Winter is an excellent option for the fewest tourists, especially during the holidays when there are beautiful decorations and Christmas markets, though it can be chilly. Summer is hot and can be quite crowded.
What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Milan?
Centro Storico, the historic center of Milan, is where most of the big attractions are, such as the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and La Scala. The Navigli neighborhood surrounds the canal and has a relaxed vibe, filled with cafes, bars, restaurants, bookshops, and markets. Brera is one of the city’s most beautiful areas, with lovely architecture and an artsy vibe. And while not as large as some others across the globe, Milan’s Chinatown is a great place to eat and explore.
What are the best neighborhoods for food?
Don’t miss out on eating in the Navigli neighborhood, which has many typical Milanese restaurants, cafes, and trattorie. Aperitivo is also very popular in Northern Italy — a pre-meal drink in the early evening, often accompanied by light snacks. Join the Italians in this relaxing custom as you sit at a table at one of the many attractive bars along the canal at sunset.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
Milan is Italy's fashion capital, so there is no shortage of shopping options here. Milan's most famous shopping center is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a mall housed in a gorgeous arcade. For luxury brands, visit the Quadrilatero della Moda, which literally means Fashion Quarter. For a wider range of price and store options, Corso Buenos Aires should be your destination. For more vintage, boutique, or alternative finds, head to Porta Ticinese.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Milan?
If you want to be at the center of everything, look for accommodation around the Duomo area, though it will be more expensive than more outlying areas. A picturesque neighborhood to plant yourself in is Brera, with great cafes and an artsy vibe. For more of a modern feel, stay in the Porta Nuova district, filled with reclaimed warehouses-turned-restaurants, shops, and the amazing Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) apartment building. The Navigli area has bars with great outdoor seating overlooking the canal, antique shops, and markets.
What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Milan?
The Sforzesco Castle is a great place to visit with kids. There is a great museum inside where you can introduce your children to fine art, and a vast garden and green space in Parco Sempione behind the castle where the kids can run around. If you or anyone in your family is a soccer lover, do not miss out on seeing San Siro, the legendary stadium where AC Milan and Inter Milan play. Even those with only a fleeting interest in soccer will love a tour of the stadium.
What is the best thing to do in Milan for solo travelers?
One of the best things about solo traveling is being on your own time schedule. Take advantage of this by spending as much time as you’d like wandering around Milan’s fascinating art and history museums, such as Pinacoteca di Brera, the Last Supper Museum, Leonardo’s Vineyard, Castello Sforzesco, and the Duomo. If you’d like to meet some people and sample some of Milan’s most delicious foods, sign up for a food tour.
What is the best thing to do in Milan for couples?
A great way to spend an evening with your partner is to dress up and see a performance at the stunning La Scala, Milan’s famous opera house. Whether a ballet, opera, or concert, it’s sure to be an impressive evening at this world-renowned theater. Another great way to spend an evening is strolling around the Navigli district, checking out the little shops and enjoying a sunset aperitivo along the canal.
What are the best annual events in Milan?
One of the biggest events in Milan is the biannual Fashion Week, each February and September. In December, holiday decorations are up, Christmas markets are open, and festive activities are held. In February, Milan celebrates Carnevale with parades, concerts, and exciting festivities.
What are the best things to do around Milan?
Parco Sempione is Milan’s largest park, directly behind Castello Sforzesco, which is a lovely way to take in some fresh air. If you want a more tranquil hidden gem, head to Guastalla Gardens, a small garden built in the traditional Italian style. If you have time for one of the best day trips from Milan, head to the beautiful Lake Como.