The 22 best things to do in Milan
The best things to do in Milan in recent years have been heavily influenced by a strategic investment by the government in all things transportation and culture. Tourism is booming, the already efficient subway system is expanding at lightning speed, starchitects are clamoring to design the next beautiful building to grace the city’s growing skyline and there is a growing sense of Milan being a “place to be” and a destination renowned for more than out-of-this-world pizza and shopping than ever before. The word “renaissance” has been thrown around lately to describe the shifting tides, a moniker that becomes that much more fitting considering that 2019 marks 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci, whose legacy runs deeper than The Last Supper (housed in the city's Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie). The Italian artist is responsible for the city’s criss-crossing network of canals (legend has it he helped with their renovation) and aesthetic contributions to the historical Castello Sforzesco. This year, Milan is highlighting da Vinci’s impact on the city with an extensive series of events collectively known as Leonardo 500. There has truly never been a better time to visit the Northern Italy metropolis.
How to spend 48 hours in Milan
A weekend in Milan is just enough time to get a taste of the Italian fashion capital’s hustle and bustle. Like Milan itself, you’ll find a mix of the traditional and the ultra-modern: some history at the Duomo; some fashion-spotting in the Quadrilatero district; some culture at the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Fondazione Prada, and—if you book ahead—at The Last Supper and the famed opera. There are beautiful buildings and attractions aplenty, so your itinerary can be as packed as you like. Plus—this being Italy, after all—be sure to leave time to try some amazing restaurants and bars, combined with prime people-watching along the bustling canals of Navigli or a classic Milanese foodie emporium like Peck. Just make sure to dress your best if you want to fit in.
Where to go shopping in Milan
There is no lack of high-octane fashion flagships in the centre of this Italian metropolis, shopping in Milan is a world-renowned activity and one of the best things to do in town, after all. Most major brands are well-represented in the so-called Quadrilatero d’Oro (“golden rectangle”) fashion district – bordered by Via Senato and Via Merone to the north and south and Corso Venezia and Via Manzoni to the east and west. You don’t even have to worry about the logistics involved in getting around the area: every shop, boasting show-stopping windows and perfectly curated store designs (often dreamed up by some of the interior design world's biggest names) is worth a visit – if only just to browse. Aside from the obvious choices, which also function as top local attractions in some ways, Milan’s best shops are a bit harder to suss out. Many are hidden far from street level or down otherwise unassuming alleyways, by anonymous-looking bars and restaurants that are also certainly worth exploring. But don’t be put off by the off-the-beaten-track locations: these exactingly edited boutiques are the real gems. An added bonus, the best are often presided over by a charismatic owner, who has poured his/her hard-won sense of style into creating the perfect shopping experience.
10 must-see attractions in Milan
Despite being a true cultural mecca – with plenty of museums, restaurants, things to do and a booming fashion industry – Milan is a city that keeps its cards close to its chest. In fact, attractions in Milan don’t necessarily dazzle, aside from a few splashy signatures like the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco and the new spire-topped UniCredit skyscraper... But: walk into the city’s stately palazzos (some of the Milan's most beautiful buildings) and you’ll find treasure troves of Renaissance paintings. Or peek inside a former industrial warehouse and you’ll come across thoughtfully curated exhibitions of contemporary art and design. Even Milan’s shiny new high-rises are emblematic of the city’s dynamism and forward-thinking approach to urban development. So yes, at first glance, Milan may not be the most conspicuous city, but there’s plenty to discover if you scratch below the surface. Here are our pick of the top 10 must-see attractions in Milan.
20 travel tips to follow while visiting Milan
Sure, you know you should eat all the pizza you can get your hands on, enjoy an aperitivo at the city's best bars and shop until you literally drop, but there's much more to Milan than what your average travel guide tells you. To uncover it all, you're going to have to behave like the locals do. To that intent, we've gathered a list of straight-forward travel tips (read: Bible) that you should follow whether it's your first or tenth time in the Italian metropolis. RECOMMENDED: Your essential Milan travel guide
The best time to visit Milan
Follow the lead of Milan’s trendsetters and visit the city in the spring or fall, which is when Milan Design Week and Milan Fashion Week, respectively, are held. Unlike summer, when the air becomes soupy and the mosquitoes come out to play, spring and fall offer bright sunny days without the excessive heat and humidity–perfect for exploring the city's attractions on foot and enjoying sidewalk seating at the city's top restaurants. There’s always the chance of rain, but like London, Milan has a charm of its own on wet days. Winters are usually foggy and gray, but not overly cold, making it a good time to get lost in the city’s many art museums, galleries and cozy bars. RECOMMENDED: Your essential Milan travel guide
The 10 most beautiful buildings in Milan
Known as Italy’s centre of industry, Milan has the same reputation when it comes to its urban architecture: industrial with lots of grey tones. And though the city was heavily bombed in the Second World War, there are still many beautiful attractions and excellent examples of Milan’s varied architectural and design history, such as the Duomo with its gothic spires and flying buttresses, or clusters of Liberty-style apartment buildings which knit together Art Nouveau flourishes and classical elements. Today, Milan is booming as new high-rises and skyscrapers, like Bosco Verticale, are rearranging the skyline and arts institutions like Fondazione Prada are bolstering an already-bright cultural scene dotted with bars, restaurants, galleries and plenty of shops.
10 awesome day trips from Milan
This Italian metropolis might have gotten a major facelift recently – or a total makeover, courtesy of the Expo – but, if you really want to experience the city like a Milanese, you should consider embarking on these awesome day trips from Milan. While there are plenty of things to do in Milan, such as these attractions and restaurants that will guarantee your eating like a local, a real Milanese only looks forward to leaving the city for the weekend, or even for a day. Milan might be landlocked, but short drives will take you close to the nearby mountains and the postcard-worthy lakes to the north, the French-Riviera-like Liguria to the west and the hidden cultural (and culinary) gems just about everywhere else. Where to go? The Lakes (Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, Lago di Garda) are dreamlike bodies of water that straddle Italy and Switzerland, just one or two hours away from the city centre. Thanks to George Clooney and his jet-setting friends who enjoy his Villa Oleandra in the village of Laglio, Lake Como is the best known to international tourists but located at the centre of Lake Maggiore are otherworldly islands, the Isole Borromee, whose pristine timelessness makes them look like they’re straight out of a movie set. Culturally and historically significant towns (Cremona, Varese) and cities (Turin, Bologna, Verona) abound, but if you’re craving some small-town, coastal charm, head to the village of Camogli. The majority of the tourists will likely flock to Florence, V
The 10 most Instagrammable places in Milan
Milan has a vibrancy and spirit well worth capturing—and we’ve gathered the top ten places in the city where photos are a must. Of course, as Italy’s fashion capital, the sophisticated stores, restaurants, coffee shops and people in the Quadrilatero district already fill many an Instagram feed. Then there are the iconic attractions like the Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the Arco della Pace, not to mention the ultra-modern sights that make Milan unique, from the vertical forest buildings to sleek museums like the Fondazione Prada and the HangarBicocca. Plus, as Italy’s spiritual home of aperitivi, you’ll have your pick of places to snap your obligatory Aperol spritz, from the hipster Navigli canals to cool rooftop bars with the Milan skyline twinkling behind. Duomo A post shared by Lucy Covington (@lucy_cov) on Mar 29, 2018 at 2:28am PDT Milan’s cathedral is by far the city’s most recognisable landmark (as evidenced by the hordes of people always surrounding it). But that’s for a reason: The second-largest church in Italy is a thing of beauty, with its intricate latticework, stained glass windows and elaborate rooftop spires. The main question is, which view do you want? The piazza in front of the Duomo makes for a classic shot, or for a different view, visit the Museo del Novecento (filled with modern art and worth a visit) next to the square, ascend its spiral staircase and snap a pic from on-high. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
10 great Milan tours
Stunning cathedrals, snazzy boutiques, amazing attractions, canalside restaurants: there’s a tremendous breadth of things to do, see and sample in Milan. But if you’re struggling to work out where to start with this jewel of northern Italy, then we’d suggest joining one the best Milan tours, as curated by in-the-know locals. They send you as far and wide as the crypt of the city’s cathedral, the waters of beautiful lakes and the home kitchen of a genuine Italian cook, giving you a fascinating insight into this remarkable city. And given each of these tours is led by an expert local guide, you know you’ll be getting an insider’s take on marvellous Milan.
Public transportation in Milan
Milan has an easy-to-use, integrated public transportation system run by Azienda Trasporti Milanesi (ATM) that includes four metro lines (with a fifth under construction), trams and buses, with a ticket costing 1.50 euros for a 90-minute ride on the trams and buses or one metro ride (changes included). It’s also possible to purchase a day pass for 4.50 euros. If you’re staying outside of the historic centre or want to visit one of the outer neighbourhoods and attractions, you’ll likely make use of the metro or the tram. Otherwise, the historic centre—where you'll find plenty of bars, restaurants and well-known shops—is easily walkable, and often walking takes the same amount of time as, or is faster than, taking public transport. RECOMMENDED: Your essential Milan travel guide