Compared to some of the many amazing cities to visit in Italy, Milan isn't the most popular or exciting, but it's a place that's close to my heart. It was the first city I had ever visited in Europe, and I spent 4 months falling in love with it during my study abroad back in 2011.
Get In & Get Around
AIRPORTS There are three main airports that service Milan.
- Milano Malpensa is the largest one that offers the most international flights. There is a Malpensa Express train that takes you to Centrale train station or Cardorna train station. It takes around 50 minutes to 1 hour and around 30-40 minutes respectively. A cheaper option is to catch a bus to Malpensa from the Centrale train station.
- Bergamo (Orio al Serio) is an hour away by bus, and is usually for flights from lower cost airlines like Ryan Air. You can also catch a bus that will take you back and forth at the Centrale train station, which takes about one hour.
- Milano Linate is the closest to the city center, but there are probably fewer flight options here. This is my favorite since it's the most convenient, and I usually just take a taxi or bus to the city center.
Milan is a pretty small city, so getting around is pretty simple. The Metro and buses/trams can take you around pretty much anywhere you want to go. Even walking between landmarks is doable around the city center. For buses and trams, make sure to buy tickets before you board (you can buy tickets at a Metro or Tabacchi stores marked with T), then stamp the ticket once you board.
It's also pretty easy to reach Milan by bus or train if you're getting there within Europe.
Things to See
DUOMO I had daily 30-minute walks to the Duomo from my Navigli apartment during study abroad. I was in awe of its beauty since the first time I had ever laid eyes on it, and even now I think it is the most gorgeous Duomo in Italy. Spend time walking around and walking inside to admire the stained glass. Climbing to the top of the Duomo is also a perfect way to view the sunset over Milan.
GALLERIA VITTORIO EMANUELE II A historic shopping center right next to the Duomo, this gorgeous building now houses some of the top brands and fancy restaurants. The domed and vaulted glass ceilings are spectacular, I used to spend hours admiring them. Oh, and don't forget to spin around the bull's testicles (from the Turin coat of arms) for good luck!
MUSEO DI NOVECENTO One of my favorite museums in Milan, it's filled with contemporary art. It's located right next to the Duomo (and the opposite side of the Galleria) and has a great view of the Duomo from the third floor.
BRERA This is a historic neighborhood with charming, beautiful streets. It's a great area to just wander around and discover small stores and cafes. You will often see middle-aged, fashionably dressed Italians walking around the area. It is also common to see expensive cars in this neighborhood. The Pinacoteca di Brera is also a beautiful courtyard with a public art gallery.
NAVIGLI This is the canal district where I once lived. The canals were historically used to navigate and carry goods around the city. Now it's a lively area with many restaurants, cafes, and bars. It's a great place for aperitivo (happy hour, explained more below). If you're lucky, you can catch a beautiful sunset with the bright colors reflecting in the waters. Don't forget to stop by some of my favorites, including La Rimonata Gelateria for yummy nutella crepes or gelato, Gelateria Lattenave for some awesome gelato from a friendly family, Osteria Del Gnocco Fritto for fried dough puffs.
THE LAST SUPPER Da Vinci's famous painting is housed in Milan. You have to register to enter and it fills up pretty fast, so make sure you get tickets while you plan your Milan trip. There are many options for tickets and tours, you can start off here for the basic tickets.
10 CORSO COMO A newer addition to Milan's skyline, this is what I like to call New Milan. The 10 Corso Como building houses restaurants, shops, art galleries, and bars. The surrounding area is full of new restaurants and shops. Be sure to stop by Piazza Gae Aulenti.
CHURCHES There are many smaller cathedrals around the city that are worth a visit, including Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, San Marco (has a beautiful inside too), Basilica of San Lorenzo, San Bernardino alle Ossa (best known for its side chapel that has walls full of human skulls and bones)
Places to Eat
LUINI This famous panzerotti place near the Duomo is absolutely amazing. Mattia and I stop by every time we're in Milan. We grab a few panzerotti and then walk over to eat them happily on the steps of the Duomo. (Panzerotti: think of a calzone, except smaller, softer, and fried.) Don't be discouraged by the long line, it usually goes by pretty quickly.
APERITIVO Milan is known for its aperitivo, or "happy hour". It's normal in other Italian cities to offer a discount on drinks around 6pm, but Milan's aperitivo culture is distinctive since it also includes a buffet of small plates and dishes with your single drink order. Some of the best places for the drink+buffet combo are Globe (on top of the Coin mall), Ceresio 7, Le Biciclette, Mag Cafe, and Pave. When in doubt, just head over to the Navigli Grande and walk around until you find a place you like.
SORELLE CAPITONE A very yummy pizza place with real Naples-style pizza. Milan isn't known for its pizza, but you can get a taste of authentic Naples pizza here.
LA PIADINERIA This is one of my favorite places to grab a quick bite to eat. Piadine is one of my favorite Italian foods, I love that it's simple and tasty. This chain restaurant has several locations throughout Milan, so grab one if you see one around! My go-to order is Crudo, Squacquerone, Rucola (which is prosciutto, a soft, creamy cheese, and arugula). A more unique and renown piadina restaurant is Pascoli Piadineria Artigianale Milano.
RIBOT An excellent steakhouse with an amazing fiorentina steak, high quality buffet, and even a good risotto.
ERBA BRUSCA A modern take on Italian food that focuses on farm-to-table goodness. The chef uses herbs from the restaurant's own garden in an innovative way.
TRATTORIA TOSCANA This restaurant has an unassuming entrance but a beautiful garden-like interior. They make their own salami and prosciutto and is also great for classics like cotoletta, pasta, and risotto.
BACARO DEL SAMBUCO Located in Montenapoleone, this is a charming spot that the Milanese locals love. It's great for lunch, with great tiramisu for dessert.
BIANCA A beautiful restaurant with head-to-toe white decor with a modern feel, great for seafood.
GELATO I like Gelato pretty much anywhere in Italy, but some of my favorite places in Milan include Cioccolati Italini (they have several locations throughout Milan), Il Massimo del Gelato, and Gelato Giusto.
PASTICCERIA MARCHESI A very popular, beautiful and delicious bakery. It has great holiday panettone. It's a favorite of the traditional and stylish in Milan.
PAVE Known for its amazing pastries and good coffee, Pave is a great cafe to get breakfast or lunch. Its interior design is also excellent. Good luck trying to choose what to get!
BIANCO LATTE There's a coffee shop up front along with a cute kid's store, with dining in the back. The cafe offers great coffee, pastries and gelato. The atmosphere of this place is bright and clean.
MINT GARDEN CAFE A cheery, bright local cafe great for lunch and aperitivo at night. The flower shop creates a beautiful, natural atmosphere.
OTTO A unique and well-designed interior, and a favorite of the locals. Great for lunch/brunch, and also has a great aperitivo at night.
SANTERIA A cute cafe with a great al fresco dining area, it also has a unique bookstore and music.
NAVIGLI The canal district is great for starting the night out at aperitivo, and then going bar-hopping and ending at dance clubs.
COLONNE DI SAN LORENZO Public drinking is legal in Italy, so whenever the weather was nice, my friends and I went and bought some alcohol and took it to the columns outside of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. It's a favorite of the young Milanese, so try your best to meet some locals! I always found Italians to be friendly and fun.
DANCE CLUBS I've had some of my best nights out in Milan. My favorite was Old Fashion on Wednesday's, which was the best during the warmer seasons when the outside portion was open. I also had a lot of good times at Le Banque (Saturday's), The Club (Thursday's), Hollywood (Tuesday's).
UGO BAR This modern bar is a well-designed place with a great atmosphere and an equally awesome food and cocktail menu.
H CLUB>DIANA A super trendy, classy bar frequented by the fashionable upper-class. The atmosphere is amazing, especially in the summer with the gorgeous fountain. This place is great for aperitivo as well.
BAR BASSO The original bar that created the famous Negroni Sbagliato. This place is a favorite of designers, students, journalists, and more.
TERRAZZA APEROL A very busy bar full of tourists, but easy has the best views overlooking the Duomo. Make sure to get the Aperol Spritz cocktail, a cultural institution that comes from the Northern Italian region.
LUCA & ANDREA CAFE BAR Located in Navigli, this bar offers some of the best cocktails in Milan. It is popular with young people and the bartenders have won many International cocktail competitions.
DRY BAR Awesome drinks, awesome pizza, awesome atmosphere.
CORSO PORTA TICINESE & VIA TORINO Some of my favorite shopping is along the streets of Corso Porta Ticinese and Via Torino. You can get there easily by walking from Navigli to the Duomo. It has a great mix of local boutiques, vintage shops, and international retailers.
LA RINASCENTE Once you make your way up to the Duomo, right next door, there is a multi-level department store, an iconic Milan institution for shopping.
VIA MONTENAPOLEONE A trip to Milan isn't complete without visiting the street home to many high-fashion, luxury Italian brands.
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