Milan, industrial powerhouse and fashion capital of Italy, is a buzzing city packed with architectural masterpieces and cobblestone streets dotted with boutiques and cafés. It has everything a traveller could want, and more.
At the heart of the Milan, in Piazza del Duomo
, sits the Duomo
, an elaborate Gothic cathedral that is the symbol of the city. North from Piazza del Duomo
, the elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
provides a covered passageway to the 17th-century Teatro alla Scala
opera house. Further north lie the Castello Sforzesco
, the lively Brera
district and the designer boutique-laden Golden Rectangle
West of Piazza del Duomo spreads Magenta
. This once residential neighbourhood counts many monuments, among which the Santa Maria delle Grazie church
. Moving south from Piazza del Duomo gets you to the hip Navigli
district. Here is what remains of the network of canals that connected Milan with the great lakes of its hinterland. The banks, called alzaie
, are livened by trendy restaurants and funky bars.
History and culture
You can delve into Renaissance history at Santa Maria delle Grazie church
, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper
. One of the world's revered artworks, this is a must-see that requires some forward planning. Be sure to book
well in advance.
If you're in the mood for an evening of unparalleled culture, take in an opera or ballet at Teatro alla Scala
. The world's premier opera house, its neoclassical facade gives way
to an opulent red velvet theatre and gilded seats.
The concierge recommends…
- Castello Sforzesco, a Renaissance castle which houses frescoes painted by Leonardo da Vinci, as well as Michelangelo's unfinished Pietà Rondanini.
- A stroll through the Navigli district, admiring the pastel-hued buildings and still waters of the canals. Once filled with warehouses, today the area has been colonised by local artists and a plethora of bars and restaurants.
- Brera, a lively bohemian neighbourhood distinguished by independent boutiques, antiques shops and exceptional galleries. Of particular note is the Pinacoteca di Brera, which houses an important collection of neoclassical and Napoleonic art.
- A football match at Meazza stadium, colloquially called San Siro, home to AC Milan and Inter Milan.
Hotels in MilanThe beauty of staying in a city-centre hotel is the proximity to Milan's sights and destinations. And if you're staying in the financial district near the central Garibaldi station, you won't have far to walk after a night out.
The Zara district, roughly 5 km north of the centre in a quiet and pleasant residential neighbourhood, offers respite from the city buzz. It's well connected with public transportation, which means exploring the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II will be easy and convenient.
Hotels close to Milan's airports, Malpensa (MXP) and Linate (LIN) tend to be more affordable than city-centre options and include amenities like fitness centres and restaurants. As an added bonus, these hotels often offer free shuttle services to the airport terminals.
Budget options nearer the city include Assago, ideal for business travellers who want to be near Milanofiori Congress Centre.
Eating Out in MilanMilan is a modern city, so it's not unusual to come across ultra-chic restaurants and international cuisine. The good news is, there is plenty of food that remains true to its Italian roots.
Even the most stylish of restaurants will likely have polenta (a cornmeal mixture that's baked, fried or grilled) on the menu, as well as a vast selection of local cheeses like gorgonzola and stracchino.
If you're looking for a quick lunch, you can stop at chic deli Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone in the heart of the Golden Rectangle. You can order a quick plate of local meats like bresaola and prosciutto di parma and get back to shopping in no time.
Panzerotti Luini behind the Duomo has the best panzerotti (dough pockets filled with tomato sauce and cheese) you'll ever have.
The quaintest places to eat in Milan are in the Brera district, where quality Italian wines flow freely. You can pop into Fioraio Bianchi Caffè, which serves refined Italian and showcases stunning floral arrangements.
If you're looking to pick up some treats to take home, you can visit the market in Piazza Wagner. This neighbourhood market sells everything from fruit and vegetables to wines, cured meats and cheese.
The chef recommends...
- Risotto allo zafferano: Risotto made with saffron and Grana Padano cheese.
- Cotoletta alla milanese: A breaded and fried bone-in veal cutlet. You can sample it – with a twist – at Ristorante Cracco near the Duomo, a meat-centric restaurant that serves up some of the best traditional dishes from the region.
- Ossobuco: Veal shanks braised in broth and white wine.
- Panettone: A sweet bread with raisins and other candied fruit, typically enjoyed at Christmas.
Shopping in MilanMilan is the undisputed fashion capital of Italy, which means shopping is practically a local pastime. Designer boutiques are plentiful and scattered throughout the city, although you can also find affordable stores, brand-name chains and vintage shops.
If you're in the market for famous Italian labels, head straight to the Golden Rectangle, which is enclosed by Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia. These streets and the smaller ones running through them are packed with high-end designer boutiques.
If you're looking for designer goods on a budget, visit DMagazine Outlet on Via Manzoni for seriously discounted prices. Stores line Via Torino, a hot destination for the young and hip. Vintage lovers should head to Corso di Porta Ticinese for a selection of vintage clothing shops like Pourquoi Moi Vintage, as well as brand-name denim outposts like Diesel and Edwin.
Milan's top shops
- You can pick up football-themed souvenirs at the AC Milan official store in San Babila or at the Inter Milan store minutes from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
- Considered Milan's most conceptual fashion shop, bar and restaurant, 10 Corso Como is run by former Vogue editor Carla Sozzani and is stocked with designer wares and funky branded goods.
- Head to Milan's Eataly outpost in Piazza XXV Aprile to find local specialities and take home some of the city's flavour.
Culture & Nightlife in MilanMilan is a nocturnal city, so you won't be hard-pressed to find something to do in the evening hours. The city offers a plethora of bars and nightclubs, the latter of which usually remain open until 4am or later. If you're a nightcrawler, staying near Garibaldi station will put you within a 10-minute walk of Corso Como, one of Milan's hottest districts for bars and clubs.
Milan hosts a number of late-night arts events including Notte Bianca, which sees museums, galleries, restaurants and bars stay open until 6am. The annual Notturni Italiani showcases jazz and classical musicians at Castello Sforzesco.
Cool nightlife spots in Milan
- The Milan outpost of the famous New York club, the Blue Note, is regarded as one of Europe's most important jazz clubs and has hosted renowned musicians like Wynton Marsalis.
- You can sample the local craft beer at Birrificio Lambrate, a brewery specialising in unpasteurised and unfiltered beers. You'll find a host of seasonal craft brews as well as mouthwatering dishes.
- Hollywood and Loolapaloosa are two legendary clubs that attract the city's fashion crowd, glitterati and international DJs.
Visiting Milan with a FamilyThere's truly no better way to introduce your kids to history than to literally walk through it. From museums to monuments, Milan is teeming with tales from Ancient Rome and the Renaissance, with art and science discoveries in between. The city's temperate climate also makes it a great spot to explore parks and gardens.
Parco Sempione, adjacent to Castello Sforzesco in the city centre, offers more than 386,000 square metres of green space for kids to play in and panoramic views of Milan. Here you'll also find the neoclassical Arena Civica, which hosts football and rugby games, and the Civic Aquarium, which houses over 100 different species of marine life.
At Minigolf Adventure, kids can putt on a huge green and take in the spectacular flora of its botanical gardens. Water babies will love the pools, slides and lagoons at Acquatica Park.
Indoor family activities in Milan
Dating back to 1949, Nano Bleu is a toy store located steps from the Duomo. It carries an assortment of toys and games, including traditional wooden figurines.
- An institute dedicated to promoting science, the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci showcases machine models based on the artist's drawings. It also features interactive labs and hands-on exhibitions to encourage informal education.
- Every day, Biancolatte whips up fresh gelato in their lab. Flavours run the gamut from strawberry and blackberry to hazelnut and pistachio.