Hello!! Italy has so many stunning cities that really, we just need to tick them all off. We have been to Italy for weddings, holidays, and a road trip from Venice, down the west coast to Naples. Between us we must have been to Italy over ten times and seen a huge amount of cities and Italian countryside, so we’re definitely in good standing to give you some tips, tricks and things to do! Today’s post is all about ten things you should absolutely do when in Milan!
Milan is based in the Northern region of Italy, and is close-by to some stunning lakes and mountains (more on this later!) It is the second largest Italian city – after Rome – and has a hoard of history surrounding the Roman empire. It is one of the world’s most important fashion capitals, and there really is a huge amount to do here. There are often super cheap flights from London, and the journey itself takes around two hours, so it’s high up our list of quick cheap breaks! We had such a fun time here and I can’t wait to share with your our round up of the top things to do when you’re in Milan! Let’s get into it.
First up, see the Duomo cathedral square – Duomo di Milano – with the shopping arcade – the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This area is a must-do when in the city, as the architecture is bloody gorgeous! You can go up the Duomo (and over the roofs of the arcade, more on that later,) and visit the inside of the cathedral. Walking up to the roof consists of around 250 stairs, which is actually a smaller climb than a lot of the other cities’ cathedrals here in Italy. Whilst tiring, we never felt rushed and the view makes it all so very worth it. You can see all the statues from above and Milan’s skyline, and even sit on the very top roof of the building.
A note to make would be you have to cover up when going inside the cathedral – including covering legs and arms. There is an H&M nearby (plus a lot of street sellers,) so you could buy a shawl or cover-up, but you don’t need to cover when climbing the Duomo. This was one of the highlights of the trip for that spectacular view.
To follow on from this point, you should absolutely have a wander in – and above! – the shopping mall just across the square. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is filled with designer shops, and the glass roof and crazy high ceilings will give you emotions! Be aware of the street sellers/ scammers around here as the area was steeped in them, but if you keep your wits about you you won’t be bothered by them. Whilst we definitely couldn’t afford anything in the shops, it’s a really beautiful atmosphere. The Highline Galleria is a rooftop walkway 820 feet up. It is a collection of bridges and viewing platforms that allows you to see the city from different angles, and on to the mountains in the background. It costs 12 euros each for adults and is money well spent! You’re nestled in the roofs of the arcade for some of it so you will have some building views, but we actually really enjoyed seeing this from above too. I’ve seen online some people were unhappy there wasn’t consistent city views and the buildings got in the way, but we loved the variety.
Our next thing to do is a day trip and train journey out of Milan – to Lake Como. It takes about an hour and a half on the train, and you can walk down to the Lake from the train station at Como. Italian train fares are incredible, and it will cost you around six euros each for this trip. (England need to take a note from the Italian’s book when it comes to public transport!)
Lake Como is set in the foothills of the alps, and is a huge lake surrounded by stunning houses, and a beautiful Italian town. The town is full of restaurants, shops and little cobbled streets, and also has it’s own church. There are lots of parks in the area and you can hop on a boat tour around the lake! We did the boat tour, and also wanted to get on a seaplane – which you can do here in the peak of summer for 100 or so euros each. Unfortunately it was too windy to fly on the day we arrived – which also made for a very choppy boat experience. If this is something important to you it makes sense to do some research beforehand. Even if bad weather this lake would be incredible to sit and watch though; we’d love to see a storm rolling over it one day. We grabbed some food and had a wander around, and can safely say everyone should make this trip when in Milano!
Eat your body weight in Pizza. Oh Milan, you really do draw me in with that doughy, milky goodness. We like to check out Tripadvisor and review sites for all the best places to eat when abroad – unless you’re spending months visiting a place, it’s just not worth risking eating in places you stumble across, as you could be missing out on some of the real gems. Our favourite and most memorable meals always happen when we do a little Google search first, and Milan was no different. We ate in Piz Pizzeria here; which is just around the corner from the Duomo. It’s in a teeny little side street that you wouldn’t think to go down if you didn’t know, and ohhh myyy. This pizza was beautiful! We were seated downstairs in a basement floor that looked pretty unspectacular, but the food itself changed everything. It is most definitely up there with the top few pizzas we have had in our whole lives! Everything was so fresh and just perfectly done, we’re big fans. A note here, is if you have the common English taste buds and like tomato sauce on your pizza, beware of the white pizzas. Lots of places in Italy have a selection of white pizzas – which are actually really popular. They are essentially a pizza without any tomato, just the dough, cheese and toppings. If that’s your jam, you go for it brother, but double check if it’s not top of your list. We both had a margherita at Piz and it. was. divine.
Milan has a huge selection of bars and pubs, including some beautiful rooftop bars with views over Milan, the duomo, and surrounding mountains. Whilst we did visit a few of these, our favourite by a mile was Nottingham Forest! I have a post all about this experimental bar on the blog so have a read if you’d like to hear more, but if you’re looking for a fun place to have a drink in Milan I couldn’t recommend this enough. It’s essentially a bar that makes their drinks smoke, change colour, flavour, bubble, and are themed in the most amazing ways! If you’ve ever been to the alchemist in the UK (you should!) it’s a similar concept – but independent and even more enjoyable! The bar itself is a slim building and they do not take reservations, so sometimes you’ll be waiting outside to get seated. We waited for a short while but it would have been worth a much longer wait! We had a dexter style drink, where you had surgical gloves and had to cut into your drink, a drink served in a Chinese style box with incense, smoke and a fortune cookie, a bubbling skull drink, a sex in the city one served in a high heel and with a condom – and more!
Milan is also home to some stunning parks! In the summer the temperate here usually sits between 20 and 30 degrees, and in Spring and Autumn you can also have some beautifully sun-shiny days. Grab a picnic from one of the nearby bakeries, take it to a park and enjoy the surroundings. Our favourite park and often top rated, is the Sempione Park/ Parco Sempione. You can actually tick off three things here as it is next to the Arco della Pace – a beautiful arch and photo spot, translated to the Arch of Peace. It was built under Napoleon’s rule to echo the Arc Du Triomphe in Paris. The park is also home to the Sforzesco Castle, steeped in history and surrounded by stunning grounds. You could definitely spend a day here relaxing and wandering the park and ponds, or you could spend a half day here and squeeze it all in to see as much as possible. However you choose to do it, we think it’s a solid yes!
There are a huge amount of tours you can go on around Milan – the area is so absolutely naturally beautiful that you have so much to choose from. We find Expedia, Air bnb and for Milan, Get your Guide to be great tour providers. (Air bnb usually offer more niche tours and experiences by locals, and the others offer some more tried and tested tourist tours.) For example, you can jump on the Bernia Express to see incredible views of the Swiss Alps and countryside. There are also trips to Venice, Verona, Bergamo and more, so if you’d like to tick off more cities on your travels you can squeeze these in for about £100 per person. (Or, you can do a road trip/train trip and stay in each city for a few nights like we’ve done! Have a look at our Italy tab for all the details about how we made this work.)
And for Milan, you need to set aside some time to simply wander. Have a look online at the different districts and what areas interest you the most – more historical regions with older buildings, shopping districts, bustling bars and nightlife, and just explore. We always have the most memorable times setting out on foot and getting far too many steps in!