Think of Milano as the fashion queen of love, passion, obsession, and pizza rolled into a historically significant city. Our Milan travel guide will help you plan your visit down to the smallest detail. We’ll begin by revealing her deepest secrets like only a local would know.
By reading our guide, you’ll what to do and see, where to eat, how to move in and around the city, where to do shopping and more. Let Milan be your entrance door to Italy, and may it forever surprise you with its charm and extreme elegance.
Milan is the capital of the Lombardy Region in Northern Italy. It was founded by the Celtic Insubres around 600 BC, and the Romans occupied it in 222 BC. Along the centuries, Milan was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the Duchy of Milan, and the Kingdom of Lombardy, Venetia.
In Milan’s history, the city grew as a commercial and political powerful core all through the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance, Milan became one of the main artistic and learning centers. Many artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, poets like Alessandro Manzoni, and composers like Giuseppe Verdi flourished while living in this historical city.
Nowadays, it is the capital of fashion, design, and arts, along with being a huge cultural attraction.
The historical center of Milan, Centro Storico, is most definitely the nucleus of tourist activity in the city. Within a stone’s throw of each other, you’ll find attractions like Duomo di Milano, Palazzo Reale, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and Teatro alla Scala.
To the north, there’s Brera, an upscale, ritzy neighborhood with art museums like the Pinacoteca, luxury hotels, and the all finer things imaginable in life. Just beside it, you’ll find Parco Sempione, which houses Castello Sforzesco, Triennale Milano, Acquario Civico, and Arco della Pace.
Porta Venezia is home to Corso Buenos Aires, Milan’s longest shopping street, along with the Civic Planetarium, and the Natural History Museum found in Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli. You also find some pretty swanky looking neighborhoods around Villa Reale and Palazzo Invernizzi. Quadrilatero della Moda is the high-class fashion district, where you’ll see international brand stores with Ferrari’s parked outside.
San Vittore, one of the more hip neighborhoods, is filled with restaurants, bars, and shops. It also houses the Science and Technology Museum and Leonardo da Vinci’s Vineyard. Just a short hop from its borders you can also find the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio and Santa Maria delle Grazie where the Last Supper mural can be found.
Navigli and Porta Genova combine to make up the canal area of Milan, which is particularly popular in the summertime. Locals and tourists alike fill up the restaurants and cafe’s, and tour boats along the scenic waterways.
When to Visit
Though Milan awaits tourists all year round, the best periods to visit are April and May, September, and October. Late spring and early fall welcome you with warm weather, mild enough to allow visiting the city at ease. This city is not as crowded then and Bosco Verticale is usually in full bloom. June and August in the summer, and December are the months with the most tourists. June, September January, and February in the winter are the best months to come shopping and watch the famous Milan Fashion Weeks.
Autumn is full of other events and festivals, such as the Monza Grand Prix, and Milan Film Festival. If you’re interested in museums and art, June and December are the best, as it the time for gallery events, new exhibitions, and amazing artistic shows.
What to Love
Milan is Italy’s most fashion-cool city. Five times a year, it becomes the heart of the fashion world, with mind-blowing events. You can purchase top-level brands, haute couture, small Italian brands creating fashionable clothes, shoes, and accessories.
You cannot ignore Milan when it comes to culture and history. It is an open-air museum: the marvels of Ancient Rome or masterpieces signed by the Renaissance’s most important masters, greet you on every corner. Plus you get to see some of humanity’s treasures when it comes to paintings and sculptures.
It is a glossy city, with an active lifestyle, lively people, street music, intense nightlife, and great food.
Places to See
There are lots of attractions to visit in Milan, but a visit to the historical city-center, Centro Storico, is an absolute must. From Da Vinci’s Last Supper to the Duomo di Milana, the tourist hot spots start in the middle and work their way outward.
Duomo di Milano
This is the most famous touristic attraction in Milan. It is a masterpiece of Gothic and Baroque architecture. It was built over several centuries and finished by Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted to get crowned here. It is the building with the largest number of full-size statues in the world (over 3000 ). On the highest tower, there is the golden Madonnina (statue of the Virgin Mary). She is the emblem and protector of Milan.
National Museum for Science & Technology
It’s the largest scientific and technological museum in Italy and among Europe’s best four. It displays original prototypes and sketches that belonged to Da Vinci.
It belonged to Visconti and Sforza families, who ruled Milan during the Renaissance. It was designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Besides the architecture, you can admire works of art made by Bellini, Tintoretto, da Messina, Titian.
La Scala Theater
It is the most prestigious Opera Theatre in the world. Geniuses like Verdi, Rossini, or Toscanini performed, and the greatest opera singers still perform today. Even if you don’t watch a full show, at least you should visit the building and its luxurious red velvet interior design.
Things to Do
There are hundreds of different things to do in Milan, it simply a matter of how much time you have during your stay.
The Last Supper
The world’s most famous mural created by Leonardo da Vinci, hosted in Santa Maria Delle Grazie.
Duomo di Milano Rooftop
The view of Milan from the top of the cathedral is simply magnificent. It’s something you have to do and an absolute ritual for tourists coming who want to experience the feeling of historical beauty.
San Siro Stadium
Giuseppe Meazza Stadium is the home stadium of AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano. If you are a sports fan, you must see the inside of a stadium that witnessed many of Italy’s international football glorious moments of all times.
With this artistic city also being the fashion capital of Italy and all of southern Europe for that matter, it’s no surprise that shopping in Milan is probably the #1 tourist activity. Wherever you look, there are stores-a-plenty, and if you’re looking for the latest trends in high-end fashion, you’ve come to the right place.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II
You will find here high-end brands, from Dior to Prada, luxury restaurants. However, the gallery itself is also an architectural attraction.
Quadrilatero della Moda
The fashion quadrilateral is a high-end shopping area made up of four streets with very expensive shops. On the streets of Via Montenapoleone, Via Della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea, and Via Manzoni you’ll find Italy’s greatest designers from Versace to Gucci. It’s also where many Milan Fashion Week shows take place.
The Highline Outlet
While not of the high-end variety, this shopping mall in the center of Milan has lots of discounted local and international brands with much more reasonable prices.
Beyond the big stores, you’ll find shopping markets in Milan are very popular with locals and tourists alike, due to their unique items for sale and bargain prices.
East Market Milano
A very trendy market in the Lambarte region that offers a variety of retro and vintage items, from clothes to jewelry and furniture.
An antique market by the Naviglio Grande with over 400 exhibitors that takes place each last Sunday of the month,
Mercato Piazza Martini
Taking place every Wednesday, and the market in Piazza Martini is renowned for fresh and premium quality vegetables, meat, cheese, and fruits.
What to Buy
While fashion again plays a big role in Milan shopping, you’ll find a lot of great porcelain items, as well as unique souvenirs like hand-carved wooden toys and decorations.
If you come to the European fashion capital, you can’t walk away without at least one designer fashion item or accessory.
Northern Italy in general has a tradition of selling carved-wood masterpieces of eccentric kid toys and decorations.
Milan has one of the greatest ceramic brands in the world, Richard Ginori.
What To Eat
If you want to eat just like the locals you need to try: Risotto (different rice recipes with spices and herbs), Ossobucco (veal meat, and vegetables), Minestrone Milanese (a meat soup with rice, and vegetables), Cassoeulla (pork and cabbage stew), Cotoletta (breaded veal fried in butter).
Obviously, you should try out the local pizza, too.
What to Drink
The artistry of Milan is in full bloom when it comes to unique Milanese drink options.
An ancient sweet beverage made of eggs, sugar, and red wine.
A cocktail made of sweet vermouth, Campari, and dry sparkling wine, or Prosecco.
A local liqueur made of spices and herbs like juniper, aloe, mint, and so on, served as a digestif.
Milan is famous for being a city where you don’t need a car. You have an amazing public transportation system. You’ll get metro, tram, bus, trolley-bus, and bike lanes. There are three metropolitan railway lines, and three subway lines, in the Milan Metro system. You can also rent bikes from everywhere.
Thus, you don’t ever feel the need to rent a car or take a taxi. Though, these options are available too. With a vehicle, you can cross the island from one side to the other, in 40 minutes north-to-south, and 25 minutes, west-to-east.