Milan, Italy, is known as the fashion and design capital of Italy and even if you’re not a shopper, you’ll be blown away by the designer shopping options. But what to do in Milan doesn’t end there.
There are also many historic and cultural activities, like the Duomo di Milano Cathedral and the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, which is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper”.
Once you start walking around Milan, you’ll discover how easy it is to explore. From architectural marvels, to fine art and dining, you’ll want to make time for everything.
Don’t worry, you won’t need a car to get around in Milan. It’s easy to walk to the various attractions. Has visiting Milan, Italy, been on your mind for a while?
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If you’re hitting up Italy as part of a larger trip to Europe, be sure to check out our 2-week Europe Itinerary.
10 Things To Do in Milan Italy
Milan’s tourist attractions will make you want to pack your bags and head off on a new adventure in Italy’s most dynamic and luxurious city. Whether you spend one day in Milan or a whole week, this list has all the Milan must-sees.
If you’re visiting other spots in Italy, we recommend this 10-day Italy itinerary, which covers many of the top spots in Italy.
1. Shopping in Milan – Shop ‘til you drop in the fashion capital of Europe
Milan’s shopping scene is pretty impressive and they take fashion quite seriously. There is a myriad of shops and boutiques to explore in the city, so make sure to bring an extra suitcase for all the new stylish clothes and shoes you are going to buy.
If you want to indulge in the high-end shopping, head to Via Montenapoleone where all the main luxury stores are located. This is considered the center of the “Quadrilatero della Moda”. Gucci, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and much more.
Of course, Milan isn’t only about exclusive boutiques. There are many high-street stores and small, family-run shops with handmade goods as well. Some of the best locations for endless shopping in Milan include Corso Buenos Aires, Via Torino and the Duomo area.
2. Eat Italian Gelato
While in Milan you will get a chance to try the best authentic Italian gelato, which I assure you is nothing like the ice cream OR the gelato you buy back home.
Ice-cream shops (gelateria) can be spotted around every corner and the choice of flavors is incredible.
During summer the lines might get pretty long with both the locals and the tourists treating themselves with a delicious cone, but it’s definitely worth the wait.
A few of my favorite ice-cream shops located in the center of Milan include:
- Grom, in Corso Buenos Aires and in Via Santa Margherita
- Venchi, in Piazza dei Mercanti
- Viel, in Corso Buenos Aires and in Viale Abruzzi
3. Enjoying an “Aperitivo”
The “aperitivo” or happy hour is a fantastic way to start your night out, meet new people and relax after a long day of shopping and sightseeing. The “aperitivo” is a wonderful way to get a glimpse of the authentic Italian lifestyle.
It lasts from about 6pm to 8 or 9pm and you get to enjoy a drink and a buffet at a moderate price (it’s usually around 10 €) with lounge music playing in the background.
Aperitivo is very popular in Milan so there are plenty of great places where you can enjoy it.
One of these is certainly the area of Navigli, which has a fantastic atmosphere and is literally filled with bars and pubs of all kinds.
4. Seeing Italy’s Largest Church – Duomo di Milano
The Milan Cathedral is a beautiful and breathtaking monument and a perfect example of Gothic architecture. This is the most important spot in the city and a picture in front of it is a must.
Make sure to go inside to admire the beautiful art and all the incredible details (remember to wear an appropriate outfit).
On the top of the Cathedral there is a roof terrace from which, looking between the characteristic spires, you can admire a breathtaking panoramic view of all the city.
The Duomo is also one of the largest cathedrals in Europe.
Pro Tip: Schedule your visit in advance since both terrace and Cathedral have a last admission policy at 6:10 pm.>> Here’s a great Milan Cathedral tour you can book now: Milan Duomo Ticket and Terraces Audio Guide Tour
5. See Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”
There are not many other cities around the globe where you can to admire one of the world’s most important paintings. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is a mural painting located in the refectory (Cenacolo) at Santa Maria delle Grazie and it dates back to the 15th century.
It is considered one of the most important paintings in history and a must-see if you’re visiting Milan. In this case, planning in advance is crucial since tickets sell out very quickly – usually I would recommend booking at least one month before your visit.
Also, remember that taking pictures of the painting is forbidden. After visiting The Last Supper, don’t forget to take some time to visit also the famous Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located right next door.>> Here’s a tour you can book right now: Skip the Line: Small-Group Milan Walking Tour with Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ Tickets
6. Meet the Friendly Locals
Milan is Italy’s economic center and work is an important aspect of people’s lives here. And even though, just as in any other big city, life can get hectic and busy, the Milanese remain friendly, easy going and always willing to have a small talk with foreign tourists.
More than once I wasn’t sure about where I could find certain shops and stores, but I could always count on the locals with no hesitation.
Also they speak English pretty well, this is especially true in the touristic and central part of the city.
7. Amazing Day Trips
Thanks to its location, Milan is great for organizing fun and interesting day trips. The famous Lake Como is situated only 50 km north of Milan and can be easily reached with a local train departing from the Central station or Cordusio station.
The historical university town – Pavia, as well as Bergamo and Cremona, are also located nearby and are of exceptional beauty.
If you’re feeling romantic, then follow Shakespeare’s footsteps while discovering Verona (book the tour here). Verona — the town of Romeo and Juliet — is only an hour and a half from Milan.
8. Trying Risotto alla Milanese
Risotto alla Milanese is one of the most famous and typical dishes from Milan. Apart from the rice, its main ingredient is a spice called saffron which gives it the distinctive yellow color and flavor.
The aroma is unique and is mouthwatering if tasted during a typical cold winter day. My advice is also to add some additional Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano) on top to make it even more creamy.
There is no better place in the entire world to try a risotto than Milan so… Buon Appetito.
9. Milan Food Walking Tour
It’s Italy, so of course there’s fantastic food to try at just about every turn in Milan. You’ll want to get in on a food walking tour with a guide who is knowledgeable in the best areas and places to stop to sample the food.
You’ll get a chance to try specialties like Parma ham, Italian cheeses and pasta, but also classic Milanese dishes such as mondeghili (meatballs).
A guided tour is a great way to start your trip in a new city, so you can ask for recommendations for the best places to eat while you’re there.
Book your food walking tour of Milan:
10. Teatro alla Scala
You don’t have to be a huge fan of opera to appreciate the beauty and the cultural impact of La Scala. Opened in 1778, this opera house is one of the most important ballet and opera theaters in the world.
The interior of this place is incredibly elegant with beautifully decorated galleries and a magical atmosphere.
If you’re interested in opera music and are visiting Milan, you should check the Calendar Season that starts each year on the day of “Sant’Ambrogio” (December 7) and, also in this case, book well in advance since the tickets run out fairly quickly.
When leaving La Scala don’t forget to pass through the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which besides being Italy’s oldest shopping mall, is also one of the most beautiful streets you’ll find that leads directly into the Piazza del Duomo.
How to Get Around Milan
Getting around Milan is easy and cheap thanks to the public transportation network. The subway, known as Milan Metropolitana, covers the city’s most important points, the trains stop frequently and are usually on time.
With 4 lines (M1, M2, M3, M5), all Milan is easily reachable in no more than 30 minutes at a very reasonable price – the standard urban one way ticket costs only 1.50 euro.
You can also use trams and buses, but those are not as reliable as the metro and might be a bit more complicated to work out for non-Italian speakers.
Remember also that, if you are staying in or not far from the city center, you will be able to walk to all the main tourist attractions without using any public transport.
Where to Stay in Milan
Since your main goal in Milan will likely be to see the city’s main tourist attractions, we recommend staying in the Centro Storico.
It is the historic city center and heart of the metropolis. It is right next to the Milan Duomo, and within easy walking distance of all the major sights in the city.
- For modern and stylish luxury, stay at the Mandarin Oriental Milan
- For affordable luxury, great service and comfort, stay at the Park Hyatt (bear in mind the room design is a bit dated)
- Not concerned about luxury, but want somewhere clean and comfortable, stay at Room Mate Giulia
As you can see, there are many great reasons to visit Milan, even if it’s just for a one day. The city is actually a perfect stopover, as 3 days in Milan is just about perfect to see everything on this list.
Have you been to Milan? Tell us what you loved.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara is the founder of Crab In The Air, a travel blog where she shares her passion for traveling. She loves writing about all the hotels visited, the wonderful cities explored and the unique people met along the way.