When you say ‘Milan’, it’s hard not to immediately think of high-end fashion, expensive stuff and… well, what else? I know I didn’t get much farther than that! Truth be told, when I was sent there for the third time (sometimes they let me out of the office) I wasn’t super excited. But while there are definitely prettier or more exciting cities in Italy, Milan is a force in itself and should not be skipped!
How to get there
Milan has 3 airports: Milan Bergamo, Milan Linate and Milan Malpensa. Linate is the closest to the city, but if you’re coming off a transatlantic flight, you’ll probably land at Malpensa. The shuttle bus from Milan Linate will get you to the city in 30 minutes, the train from Malpensa in just under an hour.
Breakfast or brunch
Depending on your arrival time, start your day with food! What else could you expect…? A typical Italian breakfast is a quick coffee and a croissant while standing at the coffee bar, but you might want to take it a bit easier.
- Biancolatte: a very cute café with homemade breads, jams, pastries and fresh juices.
- Pasticceria Marchesi: one of the oldest pastry shops, and just being there is pretty awesome (make sure to go to Marchesi 1824). Marvel at all the pastries!
- Cocotte: named after the iron cast pan to cook in, offers a lavish brunch with anything on the menu ranging from salmon pancakes to poached eggs with zucchini.
Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Visiting Milan without seeing the Duomo and the Galleria is like going to New York and not going to the Empire State Building, or Paris and not the Eiffel tower… you catch my drift. Get your tickets to the cathedral ahead of time (or online here) and while I list this to start the day with, visiting right before sunset is magic. Get a ‘pass lift’ and you’ll be allowed access to the roof, from which the views are stunning.
The cathedral itself started construction in the 1380’s, and it’s hard to say when it was finished, as it is still missing some details. However, it was largely finished around the 1850’s and to date, one of the largest in Europe.
Galleria Vittoria Emanuele, named after the first king of Italy, is probably known as the most expensive shopping arcade in Europe. Like me, you probably don’t come here to spend your money on Prada, Gucci and Versace, but the architecture and domes are beautiful if you can tear your eyes away from all the glamour.
And that mosaic of a bull on the floor? Look closely and you will see its testicles are a hole in the ground. Putting your heel in it and spinning around (counterclockwise!) 3 times is said to bring good luck.
You might be hungry after this! Right next to the Duomo is shopping center La Rinascente. On the 7th floor, there is a mozzarella bar with fantastic Duomo views. No lie, the mozzarella is as excellent as the views!
Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Teatro alla Scala
If you’re into the arts, you can’t skip the Milan Museum, that houses Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Tickets must be bought in advance, and while you can see it yourself or by a guided tour, a private viewing of the Last Supper is also possible.
Teatro alla Scala might just be the most beautiful theater I’ve ever seen. However plain it looks on the outside, you’ll be surprised once inside. It’s not hard to image a Toscanini or Puccini opera. Only 140 gallery tickets are available for a same day performance, and you’ll be seated on the upstairs balconies. For an actual tour of the boxes, backstage etc tickets must be, you guessed it, bought well in advance.
Arguably the most favorite part of my day! Hungry for gelato? You can’t not be in Italy! I love Grom gelato, which has a few locations throughout the city, or Il Massimo del gelato which if you’re a ‘chocolate connaisseur’, is heaven on earth.
Now for a proper aperitivo, head on over to the coolest neighborhood of Milan; Navigli. The canals, or navigli, were a system of 5 canals. There are some boat tours on the canals (don’t really recommend them) but the main attraction here is to browse hip shops, cool cafés and enjoy the Milanese scenery.
When you sit down at a café between around 3 and 5pm and order an alcoholic beverage (aperol is popular) they will automatically serve you little bites to eat ranging from olives, small breads and chips to cold cuts. They will serve different things at different places, so it’s worth having a peek at what’s on the table before you decide where to sit down!
Navigli is a perfect area to just wander around, have a drink, explore little courtyards and do a little low-key shopping. There’s a flea market on every last Sunday of the month, stretching 2 km along Naviglio Grande. Visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo church, shop at super cool vintage shop Pourqoi Moi Vintage, have a drink at MAG Café and take your photos off the bridges and small cobbled streets. Promise you’ll love this area!
Yay. Casual dinner:
- Pizza AM. Yasss, pizza! Of course there’s a line (there should be) but if you’re lucky, you’ll be handed a free beer to ease the wait.
- Sorbillo. Anyone that knows pizza or has been to Naples swears by Sorbillo. They now have a branch in Milan!
- Posto di Conversazione. For just good, Italian pasta
Dropping some cash?
- Mimmo Milano. Beautiful setting, excellent service and the food is ah-mazing. You won’t leave hungry, guaranteed!
- Ceresio 7. A rooftop, poolside restaurant to see and be seen. Especially cool in summer.
- Milan is a walkable city, but the metro system is good. A variety of tickets can be bought depending on your needs.
- Tickets can be bought at any shop or stall that has a big ‘T’ on it.
- The city gets super busy over the summer. Fancy a bit more quiet? Late fall and winter is the time to go!
- Can’t see where to turn the water on in public fountains? Check your feet, there’s a foot pedal!
- Looking for a place to stay? Milan has tons of options, ranging from b&b’s to apartments to hotels.