Best of Milan
Updated: Apr 7
Milan is the second stop in our journey. Energetic, cool, young, and bubbly are the adjectives that best describe the city. Considered to be one of the fashion capital, a metropolis among the liveliness of Corso Como, prestigious boutiques, a magnet for multiple visitors. A dynamic city that travels through the past with its historical monuments, the present with the liveliness of its clubs and squares, and the future with the modernism of its neighborhoods. Let’s go parakeets!
What not to miss?
When visitors think of Milan, they believe there is little to see. In reality, this city has a wealth of gems located in different areas. This is an opportunity to see more than just stay in Piazza Duomo discovering the hidden places. Moreover, getting around the center of Milan is very easy as the red metro line covers the main stations. Let's see together the curiosities and characteristics of the gems of Lombard city.
Cathedral of Milan
Everyone knows that the greatest symbol of Milan is the so-called Duomo, the third largest Catholic church in the world and the most important work of Gothic art in Italy. The interior of the church houses 3500 statues, but the best known is the copper Madonnina statue on the main spire. The view from the cathedral terrace is certainly wonderful!
A visit to the cathedral, of course, also includes a walk along the rich Corso Vittorio Emanuele where Milan's best-known shop, La Rinascente, is located. As well as many haute couture shops.
Right next to the Cathedral there is the renowned Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, defined as Milan's “salotto” and considered a meeting place for locals among elegant boutiques and cafés.
But above all, restaurants with Michelin stars such as chef Cracco's restaurant. Try to pay attention to the gallery interiors. At the top of the walls are four painted lunettes alluding to the four continents through drawings of women representing Europe, Africa, Asia, and America.
Tips for you: we advise you to go up to the Highline Galleria: it's a path suspended over the gallery roofs, from where it is possible to admire the dome of the Galleria, the Duomo, but also the city skyline.
Alla Scala theatre
Like a Parisian passageway, the gallery connects with Piazza Della Scala, home of the theatre. Its construction was commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and to this day it is considered the temple of opera.
Curiosity: this theatre is the first theatre in the world to be lit by electric light. Until then, candles had been used, placed in a lamp whose light reflected off metal shields. 500 meters from the theatre you can find the royal palace, which today houses many exhibitions and events.
Located at the extreme of Sempione Park, it was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, it houses several museums: the Museum of Ancient Art, the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Museum of Prehistory, and the Egyptian Museum. Important works include Leonardo's frescoes or Michelangelo's Pietà Rondanini and also a Treasure Room.
Pinacoteca di Brera
Considered an important art gallery, its collection contains magnificent works such as the Pala of Brera by Piero Della Francesca, the Kiss by Francesco Hayez, the Marriage of the Virgin painted by Raffaello, Dinner in Emmaus painted by Caravaggio, and many more. We would also love to show you the Braidense Library, an ancient Hogwarts-style library. If you are passionate about art, you will certainly not miss Leonardo da Vinci's “L’Ultima Cena” preserved in the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie.
Alessandro Manzoni’s houses
The great author of the historical novel Promessi Sposi, Alessandro Manzoni is remembered through this precious place. Enter the heart of 19th-century life by retracing his studies, literary, poetic, and theatrical achievements. But above all to get in touch with Italian literature.
What else to visit?
Did you know that one of the engineers involved in the design and construction of the first navigable canal was Leonardo da Vinci? Indeed, he devised the innovative dam system he devised to connect Milan with Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Adda, and Ticino. Today, about the connection system, only the Naviglio Grande and Pavese, and the Naviglio Martesana remain visible. In the evening, this place changes completely, it is the center of nightlife but is also considered the romantic side. Especially in the Darsena area where the walkways allow you to enjoy the lights of the city, and where people enjoy spending the evening dangling their legs over the banks.
Tip for you: We recommend a visit to Navigli, especially at sunset when the lights are reflected in the basin and the atmosphere is enlivened by Milanese happy hour venues. By metro, the nearest stops are Porta Genova (green line), while for those who enjoy walking, the ideal is to start from the Duomo, head towards Via Torino as far as the columns of San Lorenzo, continuing straight ahead.
Basilica of St. Ambrogio
The most important church after the cathedral is dedicated to the city's patron Saint. In Romanesque style, presents a particular legend: inside the basilica, you can find a black bronze snake placed on a column. It is said to have been forged by Moses himself during the crossing of the desert to protect himself from snakes.
Constitutes the fashion quadrilateral, plenty of high fashion shops. Luxury is definitely at the heart of this place. Here you will find Italy's most famous pastry shop, Iginio Massari. His most popular dessert is the Maritozzo (a typical Roman cake), a fluffy sweet bread filled with cream and whipped cream.
This area a little further away from the center is known as the design and VIP district characterized by tall, New York-style buildings, and a Shopping District surrounded by green spaces. A perfect place for an open-air promenade in futuristic Milan. If you like this kind of environment, you could also visit the Gae Aulenti square, you can take the metro and stop at 'Garibaldi'. Maybe you don't know this neighborhood, but you will certainly know a famous building called Bosco Verticale (Isola district) which was awarded in 2014 as the tallest, most innovative, and most beautiful building in the world.
Museum of illusions
If you have some time left on your visit, we recommend you to see this fun, and entertaining museum. A place that has become very popular among Instagram users, and where you can take lots of funny photos with whoever you want!
How to get there?
Since Milan serves as one of the key transport nodes of Italy and southern Europe, it is easily accessible both by land and air.
As we already mentioned in our article about Visiting Turin, Italy has an excellent network of efficient and modern access routes, designated by ‘A’. The most important ones that connect Milan to other Italian and international destinations and which are linked together by a ring road are the following:
A4 Turin to Trieste via Milan and Venice
A1 Milan to Naples
A7 Milan to Genoa
A8 Milan to Varese
A9 Lainate (near Milan) to Switzerland
So, getting to Milan by car, motorcycle or a camper should not require a lot of difficult route planning. However, for driving across the city center, we recommend avoiding using those means of transportation due to the high traffic congestion and some measures that have been recently introduced to reduce car use.
Next to this way of getting to Milan, it is also very easy to reach it by train. Since Milan is a hub for regional, national, and international rail networks in northern Italy, there are a lot of suburban and regional services that operate as well as daily international destinations and high-speed rail lines connecting it to other big cities like Turin or Rome. The central station (Centrale FS) is 9 minutes away from Piazza Duomo by taking the metro towards San Donato.
Another option is getting to Milan by plane. Since the city is served by 3 airports – Malpensa Airport, Linate Airport, and Orio al Serio Airport –, there are a lot of daily domestic and international connections to choose from. Among these airports, Milan Linate one is the closest to the city center.
Since Milan is the country’s business center, it is more expensive than many other cities in Italy, especially in comparison to southern Italy. The average daily expenses you should expect to spend are around 130€ a day, although as a budget-minded traveler who wants to keep the expenses to a minimum, it is also possible to spend a lot less, depending on the preferred type of accommodation.
Hostel prices in a shared room starting at 20€ per night per person, while you can already expect to pay around 50€ for a private room.
Concerning the food prices, it can be said that it really makes a difference if the place offers table service or not, which raises the prices significantly. In low-cost restaurants, you can expect to spend around 10-18€, while the prices in mid-range restaurants are already much higher.
Even if Milan is a quite compact city, you can get a 24-hour transportation ticket for around 4,50€ to get around and also visit the outer neighborhoods. Otherwise, a ticket for Milan’s urban network that is valid for 90 minutes only costs 1,50€.
When to travel there?
First of all, choosing the best time to go to Milan really depends on what you are looking for during your stay there. Since the city is the country’s business center as well as the second-largest city, you can always expect it to be crowded and busy. However, the tourist season from June to August results in even more people wandering around the city, which can lead to long lines at the attractions and higher prices. If you wish to visit the city because of its landmarks, the best time to go there is spring, because the weather is cooler and there are fewer people than in summer. In winter, you can expect Milan to be cold and grey. When it comes to autumn, which is also a quite pleasant season, you should be aware of the fashion week, which is taking place yearly in September and results in the city being sold out.
Considering all this, Milan’s really worth visiting during the whole year – and you don’t need to worry about seasonal closures, since the city receives tourists and business travelers all-year-round.
What to eat?
As Milan is part of northern Italy and the capital of the Lombardy region, Milan’s cuisine is characterized by many culinary influences from the region as well as some influences from neighboring countries.
Since the Lombardy region is one of the largest producers of rice in Europe, it is very popular for its risotto dishes. One of Milan’s most famous and traditional dishes is called Risotto alla Milanese, which only consists of simple ingredients but creates a very defined and unique flavor. Its golden color given by the precious saffron pistils and its irresistible creaminess are the features that identify it. Often, it is accompanied by ossobuco, a cut of beef, typical of Milanese cuisine.
The second ingredient that is used a lot in the Lombardy region is Maize, which is used in polenta dishes. Those dishes really are just made out of cornmeal and can be prepared in different ways, usually serving as a side dish.
Mercato Centrale Milano
A place we recommend to visit while being in Milan is the so-called Mercato Centrale Milano, which is not just a place to eat, but a meeting point for tourists and locals, where food and culture come together. Open from 7am to midnight, you have the possibility of sitting down somewhere to eat, just wandering around and doing some shopping or even taking part in workshops or events. Mercato Centrale really is a place for everyone, whether you’re young or old, looking for a quick snack, a high-quality dinner, a business lunch or just an aperitif. To get there, simply take the metro and stop at Central Station (Stazione Centrale).
If you want to know more about the tastiness of Milanese recipes, read our article about the food and drinks in Milan!
Milan fashion week (February)
Together with Milano Design Week in April, these are the most famous events in Milan for fashion, design, art and culture, transforming the metropolis into a city-wide catwalk and a magnificent event in which everyone becomes a participant.
Milano art week (March)
A whole week where Milan becomes a hub for visual culture and modern and contemporary art. Here you can discover the best exhibitions, events and so on.
Milano Digital Week (March)
Another interesting event under the ideology of Milano art Week is Milano Digital Week program which is also held in March.
Fiori e sapori (April)
The canal on the Navigli turns into a large botanical garden. Florists celebrate the arrival of spring by flooding the area with colorful flowers and heady scents.
Milano Food Week (May)
A week dedicated to food with a rich program of events and tastings in the city with different themes to follow the trends in the gastronomy sector. Usually, the centers where the event takes place are piazza duomo and city life.
Festival dedicated to books and reading where Milan's universities convert the city into a narrative center for spending free time among different activities.
Artigiano in Fiera (December)
Milan hosts many trade fairs as there is an exhibition center far from the center that is located at the last stop of the red metro (Rho Fiera). The handicraft fair is one of them, bringing together handcrafted and handmade products from the best producers.
Other interesting events
Festival del Mediterraneo (March)
Milano wired next fest (May)
Villa Arconati Festival (July)
Milano Film Festival (September)
Milano Games Week e Cartoomics (November)
Darsena Christmas village (December-January).
This was our short guide in Milan. Traveling through the metropolis immersing ourselves in the luxury city, the artistic center, and the vitality of districts. Never stop exploring beautiful places and check our other articles. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @thewalkingparrot for more content and be alerted for our next articles!