“Without stones there is no arch”
– Marco Polo
Milan is a shopping paradise for fashion lovers and offers cultural minded visitors the Duomo, the Last Supper and many museums. Going to Milan also means lots of delicious Italian ice-cream, Risotto alla Milanese for lunch and a legendary Aperitivo Milano at the end of your day.
Reasons enough to visit Milan and to enjoy all the good stuff this city has to offer you. Below you find 10 tips to make most of your city trip.
Enjoy your virtual visit to magnificent Milan and your real one even more!
1. Visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Since Milan is a shopping paradise, let’s start with a shopping tip. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a high end shopping centre and an absolutely amazing one. It is literally around the corner of the even more famous Duomo and something you should visit when you are in Milan. When you are a low-budget traveller it is better to do window-shopping there than actual shopping, but go there you should!
The Galleria is a collection of super posh shops and restaurants under a 50 metres high and beautiful glass roof in a super stylish arcade with a magnificent mosaic floor. Even without buying anything you will enjoy walking (and gazing) there. It’s very impressive!
A fun fact about the mosaic floor. At the building’s centre you will often find a crowd gathered around one of the Zodiac signs displayed in the mosaic floor: Taurus the Bull. The bull is said to bring good luck to those who spin on their heels three times over… his testicles. This would explain the deep hole that has formed in the pavement below the animal’s attributes😉 I didn’t know this and have chosen a far more innocent part of the floor for my ton-sur-ton photo.
2. Relax in the Sforzesco park
The Sforzesco castle and park are close to the city centre and an oasis of green and rest (after you have shaken off the street vendors at the entrance that is). A welcome change after having spent time in busy streets and shops. You can simply stroll through the park or walk to the other end, where you can take a tram to the Cimitero or the Chinese quarter. You can of course also bring your coffee-to-go (made by a real Italian barista) and enjoy it on one of the many benches in the park or on the grass, which is what many Milanese do.
3. Plan a visit to The Last Supper far ahead or simply skip it
The Last Supper, the famous fresco by Leonardo da Vinci, is highly popular. Many tour operators book visits for their groups long in advance, so it is a real challenge to book a visit as an individual (even if you want to book several weeks before your visit you may find it already booked out). You should therefore certainly not try a spontaneous visit. It will only cost you precious time that you can use better to visit the many other interesting sights in the city.
However, when you really want to see The Last Supper fresco, book as soon as you have booked your flight, train, ho(s)tel and so on. You may be lucky! For those of you travelling on a budget, it might be interesting to book a trip to Milan in the first weekend of a month, since the entrance to the museum is free on the first Sunday of each month. Mind you, booking is still required.
4. Take a tram
The city centre of Milan is not that big. Many sights are within walking distance of the Duomo. Even so, you may want to enjoy a tram ride to give your feet and legs some rest. When you are in Milan just for the day it will also save you precious time. Though Lisbon is famous for its charming yellow trams, Milan can easily compete.
5. Walk on the roof of the Duomo
The absolute highlight of your stay may well be walking on the roof of the Duomo. You can get there by taking the stairs or the elevator. I think anyone with a moderate condition can do the stairs and the reward, standing on the roof of the Duomo, will be even more special after your climb. There is often quite a long queue for the elevator, so that can also be a reason for you to take the stairs.
Though the stairs aren’t a big deal at all, the roof, on the contrary, is a real big deal! So beautiful and special to walk on top of a cathedral, close to so many arches and statues and with the most amazing views over the city. I have even seen people enjoy a picknick on the roof, how romantic is that?!?
6. Have lunch in the Brera quarter
The Navigli quarter is the place to be at night, but the Brera is where you want to be to have lunch. It is pretty close to Milan’s golden shopping triangle (for actual shopping or window-shopping), the Duomo and the Brera Academy of course (hence the name of this neighbourhood). On weekdays the restaurants and terraces fill up with vividly talking and gesturing Milanese. When you order Italian specialties, your lunch can hardly get more Italian than here.
The Brera area is very lively at any time of day, but I think its position and ambiance make it a perfect spot for lunch between your sight-seeing and shopping.
7. Make time for the timeless Cimitero Monumentale di Milano
The Cimitero Monumentale di Milano is a huge graveyard full of family tombs that are real pieces of art. For everyone who has read Romeo & Juliet and wondered about the scene in which they both commit suicide in the Capulet tomb…visit this graveyard and you will wonder no more.
It’s very, very impressive (see the photo above and look at the entrance below). Père Lachaise in Paris and Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen have their own charm, but are less impressive than the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano. Even though a graveyard may not be the first thing on your list of things to visit in a city, this one is more than worth visiting.
8. Enjoy Italian ice-creams
To get into a more mundane mood again, go to the Chinese Street (Via Paolo Sarpi) close to the cemetery, and have the best ice-cream ever! Or go to one of the ice-cream parlours of this list, from the website “Wanted in Milan“, since one ice-cream is no ice-cream, right? That said, make sure to leave some room for your Aperitivo Milano at the end of the day!
9. Go shopping
Among all else (and maybe even above all else), Milan is a shopping paradise. You can find everything there, from high end shops till cheap ones, trendy and classy ones, galleries and markets. Below you find some links that will guide you to several lists of places to go when you want to have the ultimate Milano shopping experience.
For a list with high end shops and vintage and low budget ones (15 shops in total): click here.
For an almost over-complete list plus the possibility to filter on price: click here.
For a quick overview, including opening times: click here.
For those of you with different than average shoe sizes, check out the Ghigocalzature shoe shop, specialised in small and overly big sizes. You will love it! I for sure did 😘
10. Have your Aperitivo Milano in the Navigli quarter
The Aperitivo Milano means buying a cocktail, a glass of wine or a soda for a price of around 10 euros and getting all kinds of delicious finger food to enjoy with your drink. That’s why you should limit your Gelato intake during the day 😉 .
Navigli is a great spot to enjoy your Aperitivo. Navigli is a pretty quiet area during most of the day, but around 6 in the evening the streets and terraces are filling up with a nice mix of tourists, Italian students and people who are looking for a way to relax after a day of work. When you want to go Italian all the way, order an Aperol Spritz.
For those of you travelling on a budget it may be interesting to look for a place where they serve a wide variety of dishes, so that your Aperitivo serves as your Milano-style and budget-friendly dinner. We did and enjoyed every bit(e) of it!
As you may have guessed…I love Milano! Staff everywhere was very friendly, the sights very beautiful, the shops very diverse and the food very good! I can highly recommend a visit.
The good news is that you can do and see a lot in a single day if needed. Just schedule your visit such that you can enjoy an Aperitivo too, so maybe leave late or stay one night.
Thanks for visiting my blog and enjoy your time in Milan when you go there.
More travel tips and useful links:
- For background information about the Galleria Emmanuel II, read this article on the website of the Milan Tourist Information.
- When you consider visiting the Sforzesco Castle and not only the park, you will be interested in opening times and tour options. That’s all to be found here!
- There are some museums with free access. You can find them listed on this website.
- The Cimitero Monumental can be visited from 8 am until 6 pm Tuesdays-Sundays. For more background information and how to get there best, click on this link.
- For those of you who want to book tickets for the Last Supper, here’s a website with all kind of options for you.
- The Duomo is a must-see. Tickets can be bought around the corner of the Duomo, but in case you want to buy them online, here’s a link for you.