Insider’s Guide to Milan Italy
Milan is known for the Duomo, the various ‘fiere’, Cenacolo Vinciano, The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (the oldest shopping mall in the world), La Scala Theatre, Fashion, AC Milan, and the Navigli. Milan is often looked at as only a ‘stopover’ destination and as the financial hub of Italy. Do not let stereotypes fool you. Milan is a vibrant city with a lot to see and do – even for tourists.
We personally LOVE this city. For starters, for those that love to walk, the main sites in the city center can all be done on foot and unlike most parts of Italy, public transport works really well. Secondly, something is always going on in Milan and it is the real trendsetter in Italy so you will find a variety of restaurants which will go from classical cuisine to new age. For those that do not know, what gets launched in Milan and succeeds, is then adopted from the rest of the country.
Cenacolo Vinciano & Santa Maria delle Grazie
As a blog on things to do in Italy and useful information – we could not leave out one of the most popular tourist sites in Milan. Everyone must try to visit the Cenacolo Viniciano (tickets are tough to get by) known in English as The Last Supper.
Leonardo da Vinci painted the Last Supper in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie at the behest of Ludovico il Moro, in a span of time ranging from 1494 to 1497. It is regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian art.
Both are truly amazing and a must-visit. Certainly not an undiscovered site but certainly a treasure for all those interested in religious and cultural tourism.
Ah, Brera. This is the part of town where you are very likely to bump into some very famous football players (eye candy for Giulia) and top models (some eye candy for Valter), found behind the La Scala theatre.
Of course, while we probably would not recommend eating here if you are on a budget, we would say to try one of the many bars in the area. If you do have a bit of money to splurge on a good meal, enjoying a delicious Italian wine, in one the most ‘in’ areas of Milan, then do not hesitate to walk the cobble streets and pick the right place for you. You will find high-end restaurants throughout your Osteria – you should expect to pay no less than 40.00 EU per person on an ‘antipasto’ and first/or main course.
Each restaurant is unique and provides an insight into what real Milanese life is like. High fashion, beautiful people, and ‘cool’ restaurants and bars.
While you are in the area and you love Italian art, do not miss the Brera Art Gallery (Pinoteca di Brera – link ). You will also love the history of the building itself and the beautiful interiors (besides the art). A whole world to discover.
Address: Via Brera, 28. Price: 10.00EUR Opening: Mondays closed. Tuesday-Sunday 8:30am-7:15am. Google Map Here
The direct translation of Navigli is ‘canals’ and they are an interconnected system of navigable canals. There are currently works in place to have these canals navigable again. This will surely add to the beauty of this part of Milan.
Welcome to the ‘younger’ part of town, where you will find the ‘second hand’ stores, the antique shops, the small bars to watch the football and of course good restaurants (not great and many are tourist traps) and worth the visit for a quick aperitivo. Here you will also find clubs, bars, and even old sand transporter boats that have become bars! So if you do not mind being surrounded by a younger crowd, a glass of wine, and even a bargain purchase at one of the second-hand stores, then this is certainly the place for you.
Connected to the Navigli area is where you will find the Porta Romana area. Here you have a good choice of restaurants to choose from and you can be sure it will not be a tourist trap, as many places on the Navigli. But you never know, you might come across a hidden gem of your own and we would love to hear about it!
For all those visiting the Navigli, make sure to take a walk back in time to visit the Vicolo dei lavandai. See the Google Map HERE.
Tired of shopping, going to the theatre, or eating lunch and dinner? Well, take a stroll through the beautiful ‘Central Park’ of Milan. Here you will be able to enjoy a pleasant walk which covers approximately 5 km, and even here, monuments to enjoy and you can even use many of the grassed areas for picnics with some fresh bread, wine, cheeses, and salumi.
While here you can also visit the Sforza Castle if you are looking for things to do. Keep in mind that there are always a large number of tourists between Spring and Summer, however, we would not put this on the top 10 things to do.
Sforza Castle is open daily 7.00 a.m-6.00 p.m. (in winter) and 7.00 a.m-7.00 p.m. (in summer). Free admission. The museums are open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Price: 5€ (except for castle museums). Google Map Here
Royal Palace of Milan
Located next to the Duomo of Milan (Piazza del Duomo, 12), this is a great and inexpensive experience. The history of the building speaks for itself and there are times that you can expect a bit of a line but what is great is the fact that you can always expect at least two (2) exhibitions at a time. Last year we visited the Bob Dylan art exhibition and even Rodin, as just some examples of the variety you can find.
Have a few hours in the afternoon before you go out for an aperitivo in Brera, make sure to visit the Royal Palace of Milan.
Opening: Monday: 2:30 pm-7:30 pm. Tuesday to Sunday: 9:30 am-7:30pm Thursday and Saturday: 9:30 am-10:30 pm. Ticket: 9€. Google Map Here
Quadrilatero della Moda (district website)
The fact that this district has its own website, you can gather that it is a big deal. But what does the name mean? ‘Quadrilateral of fashion’ in the Via Montenapoleone fashion district (link to map). Wallets beware! If you love shopping, major fashion houses, boutiques, and all that relates to the world of high-class shopping, then this is the part of town you will want to visit and splurge some Euros.
Industry experts (i.e. Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, etc.) and fashion gurus regard Via Montenapoleone as the most important fashion district in the world! The quadrilateral is formed by via Montenapoleone, via della Spiga, via S. Andrea and via S. Spirito.
Needless to say, if you take anybody who goes crazy for shopping, you will remain in their good books for a long long time 😉
10 Corso Como
Unlike Via Montenapoleone, 10 Corso Como, offers a variety of shopping experiences and it is not reserved only for clothing. Here you will find art, books, music, culture, particular restaurants, and design. You could say Corso Como is the ‘alternative’ to Via Montenapoleone. If you like design and concept stores, then this is the perfect place. It is also the mecca of fashion and luxury brands.
10 Corso Como is great for shopping during the day and bars at night. A shopping retreat and what else would you expect to do in one of the fashion capitals of the world?
Easily accessible by Metro (Garibaldi FS), tram (line 33), and bus (line 37). See our Google Map Link – Here.
San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
When you visit the Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore the first words that will come out of your mouth are – WOW. While in recent years it has been getting a lot of tourist attention, Italians had not been aware of this church until recently! It really is an amazing architectural diamond of the 1500s and once attached to the most important female convent of the Benedictines, decorated with hundreds of breathtaking frescoes.
Believe it or not, the frescos are not the only highlight! In the Hall of Nuns there is an organ of 1554 by Gian Giacomo Antegnati entirely by mechanical transmission, consisting of a keyboard of 50 notes and a pedal of 20, constantly united to the keyboard.
Regarded as the Sistine Chapel of the North, the church was recently renovated and has reopened to the public in recent times. This does mean that there are lines up every now and then but this is still a somewhat ‘secret’, especially to the locals!
Address: Corso Magenta, 15 – 20123 Milano (Google Map Link). Timetable: Tue-Sat: 09:30 am-5:30 pm. Ticket: Free entrance. Reservations are required for groups: phone to 0039.02.20404175.
Cooking Class with La Cucina Italiana
We get to the La Cucina Italiana (Piazza Aspromonte, 15 – easily accessible by Metro from the Duomo to Loreto (red line or Line 1). We are signed up for the ‘Cooking with Couples’ course. Our chef for the night was Davide Neri – a very funny guy who explained the process and took us through each dish, for this 3-hour course.
The experience was fantastic! We really enjoyed the night (the Chef was also very entertaining) and it really is a unique way to spend an evening with your partner or friends. English courses are available (see website above) and our Valentine’s Day course was 90.00EUR per person and included a 3-course meal, beer, and champagne. Did we mention that this cooking school is the most renowned one in Milan with many celebrity Chefs also providing courses? A must-try for anybody visiting Italy – after all, it is an experience you will bring back home with you and you even learn a couple of dishes to try once you are back home!
Welcome to the new part of Milan – Porta Nuova (map link), where the tallest building in Italy, the Unicredit Tower, stands at 231 meters high. Built around the Garibaldi train station, known as the Porta Nuova District, it is the place to be for the locals, with new restaurants, bars, apartments, a new park and a number of metro stops in the area. It’s very highly sought after due to its proximity to the city center.
A must-visit as it is Italy’s skyscraper and on special occasions, the buildings can take on different colors depending on the occasion (for example the Italian flag).
Have you been to Milan? What were your thoughts and experiences during your visit? Please make sure to tell us your story and what you discovered on your trip by leaving a comment below – we love to hear the perspective of other travelers visiting our beautiful country.
Getting Around Milan
Getting around Milan is easy and one of the best cities for public transport, with many means available, including bike hire (link to BikeMi)! Find metro ticket prices and info – Here and the metro network map Here