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Milan travel tips
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19 travel tips to follow while visiting Milan

From when to drink coffee to when never to visit, you'll be a seasoned expert in no time with these top travel tips

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan
Liz Humphreys

Milan might have a reputation for being an incredibly fashionable, and very cool kind of place, but don’t let that intimidate you. Milan is suited to absolutely anyone who fancies roaming its streets, and there’s enough of a fantastic food, culture and shopping scene to have you wanting to visit again and again, whatever you’re into. 

But if you want to do Milan right, there are some things you need to know. Our Milan experts have rounded up all the best tips and tricks to make you an expert in all things Milan living, from what time to drink coffee and the best negroni you can order to how to make sure you get to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper in the flesh. Here are our top travel tips for visiting Milan. 

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📍 The best things to do in Milan
🏘️ The best Airbnbs in Milan

Travel tips for first-time Milan visitors

No need to leave extra
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Benreis

1. No need to leave extra

This one might be a shock if you’re visiting Milan from a country with a big tipping culture, but here in Milan, it’s not a thing. Tips aren’t expected, as the city has a pretty good hourly wage (we know, unheard of, right?), so keep your coins for another negroni later on. 

Consider avoiding August
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/An Mai

2. Consider avoiding August

August might seem like a good month to live out your Italian dreams, but if you’re considering it, be warned – Milan gets seriously, swelteringly hot in August. But that’s not the only reason to make a plan for another month, as a fair few shops and restaurants shut down this month while the Milanese go on their holidays. Best not risk it, we say. 

Plan ahead to see Leonardo

3. Plan ahead to see Leonardo

If getting a glimpse of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is on your list, but you haven’t made reservations months in advance, all hope is not lost. Even if online reservations show no tickets are available, try calling the ticket hotline, as some are kept aside for phone callers. Another option is to book a guided Milan tour that also includes a visit to the painting, as these are sometimes more likely to have spots left.

Travel by tram
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Bert Kaufmann

4. Travel by tram

Though many trams have been modernised, for a unique experience, the ATMosfera lets you ride a 1930s tram on a sightseeing trip through the city while enjoying a multicourse dinner with wine. It is a very romantic way to catch a glimpse of Milan’s past inside while peering at the present right outside the windows.

Never order a cappuccino after lunch

5. Never order a cappuccino after lunch

Italians are convinced that drinking anything with milk after the morning will hamper digestion. So, to blend in, order that cappuccino (or other coffee drinks with milk, see below for more on that) only before 11am, or risk looking like a foreign fool.

We take latte literally

6. We take latte literally

If you want a coffee with milk, make sure you order a cappuccino (more foam) or caffé latte (less foam), a caffé macchiato (espresso with a little milk), or a latte macchiato (hot milk with a little coffee) instead of just a “latte” – or you’ll only get a glass of milk. If you just want an espresso, order “un caffé” to avoid strange looks.

Enjoy an aperitivo
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Luca Volpi

7. Enjoy an aperitivo

No visit to Milan is complete without partaking in the pre-dinner (or instead-of-dinner) tradition of aperitivo. Basically, cocktails are served with all manner of free nibbles, often a buffet with enough food to constitute a meal. Though the Navigli neighbourhood is home to many bars offering aperitivo, you’ll find it served throughout the city – so go ahead, sample a few different kinds.

Try a Negroni sbagliato
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Bex Walton

8. Try a Negroni sbagliato

While a classic Negroni – gin, Campari and sweet vermouth – is always a good idea, when in Milan, don’t miss the chance to sample a Negroni sbagliato, literally a Negroni “mistake.” It was born at Bar Basso in the ‘70s when a bartender added sparkling wine to a Negroni instead of gin, and you can still try it there (amongst other places).

Head away from the Duomo at night
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Harmishhk

9. Head away from the Duomo at night

Though several of the major sights you’ll want to see will be around the Duomo area, for a cooler nightlife experience, venture out to some of the more local haunts in such neighbourhoods as Isola, Porta Venezia or Navigli. You’ll get away from the tourists, save money and likely have more fun.

…and even during the day

10. …and even during the day

After exploring the Duomo, the Galleria and La Scala, take a bus or tram out to some of the farther reaches of Milan for truly unique museums that never feel as crowded as the centre city attractions. Fondazione Prada, Pirelli HangarBicocca and MUDEC are all housed in interesting buildings and feature permanent and rotating exhibitions worth your time.

Watch out for Salone
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Carole Mariani

11. Watch out for Salone

Though arriving during the Milan Furniture Fair, called Salone del Mobile – which runs for six days in mid-April – can be super fun as there are loads of parties and events happening, the city becomes super crowded and expensive. Hotels jack up their prices to stratospheric levels and get booked up months in advance. Ditto during Milan Fashion Week. Unless you’re a diehard furniture design fan, it may be a better idea to visit at a time when the city’s a bit more relaxed.

Visit museums for free
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Joyofmuseums

12. Visit museums for free

On the first Sunday of each month, all of Milan’s civic museums – including Museo del Novecento, Sforza Castle museums, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Casa Museo Boschi di Stefano and MUDEC, among others – offer free admission. Though they tend to be more crowded then, it’s still a good chance to squeeze in some more culture without spending a cent.

Head up high
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Case

13. Head up high

Milan boasts loads of vantage points where you can enjoy prime views of the city skyline. The rooftop of the Duomo, Torre Branca inside Parco Sempione and the terrace on the seventh floor of the Rinascente department store are fabulous places to get an eyeful. Prefer a drink with your vistas? Try the Radio Rooftop Bar or Ceresio 7 Pools & Restaurant.

Wear your snazziest shoes

14. Wear your snazziest shoes

The Milanese take their footwear very seriously. Women may want to bring a pair or two of high heels to wear out at night – or even during the day if they dare. (You’ll see plenty of locals traipsing effortlessly along the cobblestones wearing stilettos.) Men can often get away with cool sneakers. If you catch the locals checking out your shoes, you’ve probably done well.

Go to La Scala on the cheap
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Anna & Michal

15. Go to La Scala on the cheap

Even if you’re not an opera-lover, catching a performance at Teatro alla Scala is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The problem is, not only are tickets super-pricey, but they sell out months and months in advance. However, if you visit the box office an hour before a show starts, any leftover or returned tickets are sold at a 25% discount – perhaps not cheap, but definitely worth the splurge.

Embrace discount fashion

16. Embrace discount fashion

Yes, many of the clothes, shoes and accessories on sale in Milan are through-the-roof expensive – after all, this is the home of Prada and Versace. But if you just can’t bear to visit this fashion town without a purchase, head over to DMAG outlet. You’ll find three locations showcasing discounted Italian and international luxury brands, so perhaps you can head home with those Miu Miu boots you’ve been eyeing after all.

Shop outside the fashion district

17. Shop outside the fashion district

You’ll want to window shop and stroll in Milan’s premier fashion area, Quadrilatero della Moda. But for fun and unique purchases, head north of the Duomo to the pretty Brera district. You’ll find appealing boutiques, galleries and design stores where shopping doesn’t feel like it will bankrupt you.

Plan around the sales
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mike Beales

18. Plan around the sales

If you’re a serious fashion fiend, consider timing your Milan visit to coincide with one (or both!) of the two yearly sales (saldi) periods. The winter sales generally run from early January through early March, and the summer sales from early July through early September – though check online for the exact dates, which vary slightly each year and are announced about one month before. Sale prices can be up to 70 percent off the original, making it well worth a trip.

Get out of town

19. Get out of town

If you need an escape from Milan’s urban hustle, there are some fabulous destinations just a train ride away. Bergamo, less than an hour by train, boasts a lovely medieval hilltop old town, while the Italian Lakes – Como, Garda and Maggiore – are also close by (half an hour, an hour-and-a-half and an hour by train, respectively) and offer some of the most romantic settings in all of Italy.

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