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 neighbourhood.
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.
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 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.
Milan 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.
Milan 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 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.
There'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.
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.