Read on to learn about our travel guide for cosmopolitan Milan, the capital of Italy’s Lombardy region attracts visitors from all over the world who come to experience its historic sites, world-class shopping, glamorous restaurants and nightlife. You can spend leisurely days photographing the city from the rooftop of Milan’s famous Duomo, take a city walking tour to Sforza Castle and Sempione Park or shop for high fashion in Quadrilatero d’Oro. With canal side cafes, regal palaces and Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ to discover, there’s something for everyone in this buzzing northern Italian metropolis.
How to Visit Milan
Milan is accessible by both land and air. It’s the gateway to the Italian lakes and has two airports – Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate which both receive domestic and International flights. Alternatively, if you are visiting Milan from other cities in Italy or Europe you can travel by rail. It takes 3 hours to journey from Rome and 2 hours from Venice. There are also regular coach services from European cities to Milan which can be cost effective ways to travel if you’re on a budget. Alternatively, there’s an impressive network of highways leading to the city from Turin, Como, Bergamo, Piacenza, Genoa, Brescia and Verona.
How to Get Around Milan
One of the best ways to get to know your bearings in Milan is on an Insider Milan City Tour. The 2-hour guided tour of Milan is the perfect way to spend your first day in the city. On this fabulous walking tour, you’ll learn about famous Italian’s who lived in the city like Leonardo da Vinci, visit Piazza del Duomo, Vittorio Emanuele II shopping centre, La Scala Theatre, Brera neighborhood and awe-inspiring Sforza Castle. When you know how to navigate the city, the rest of your holiday will be a breeze and you will be able to travel around Milan on foot, via Metro, tram, bus, car, or taxi. You could also consider hiring a city bike. Milan’s bike sharing initiative BikeMI is a sustainable way to get around the city and with bike stations at regular intervals you can pick up and drop off as you please.
Neighborhoods of Milan
This is the historic centre of Milan, dominated by the breath-taking Duomo in Piazza del Duomo, the Royal Palace and Merchant’s Square – a lively medieval square with outdoor markets, exhibitions and live music. The neighborhood is also home to Vittorio Emanuele II, the city’s oldest and most glamorous shopping centre. In short, Centro Storico is a great base if you want to be close to shopping, fine dining, cultural and historical sites of Milan.
Isola stands alone to the north of the city – a once poverty stricken neighborhood, it’s now one of its trendiest districts of all, home to affluent entrepreneurs, artists and creatives. Exuding a charming village feel Isola boasts chic, quirky boutiques, jazz cafes, great dining and nightlife. It’s a superb area for students and groups wishing to experience life as a local in Milan.
Just north of the city centre a short walk from Sforza Castle, La Scala and several interesting museums is Brera. This neighborhood is popular with writers, poets and artists. It has a bohemian vibe, and cobbled streets flanked by traditional houses are peppered with trendy art galleries, cocktail bars and old-style trattorias which delight with Milanese treats. You can visit Brera Astronomical Observatory for a spot of star gazing, wander through botanical gardens or visit the 15th century Romanesque church of Santa Maria del Carmine with its beautiful frescoes and artwork. Brera is the perfect neighborhood for a romantic couple’s break in the city.
You can experience life by the canal if you opt to stay in Navigli neighborhood southwest of the city. These waterways were once for trading but today they are lined with pink, apricot and ochre-hued buildings which hide stylish cafes, bars and restaurants. Every first Sunday of the month, the riverbank thrives with a superb antiques market attracting visitors from all over Lombardy. There are several parks close by, museums and speciality shops to browse, and you’re a 30-minute walk or short Metro or bus ride into the historic centre of Milan.
Food, Drink & Nightlife
If you class yourself as a bit of a foodie or wine connoisseur, then you could enjoy a Milan Wine Tasting Experience. Our 2-hour guided wine tasting tour takes place in a traditional Italian wine bar where a professional sommelier takes you through the art of wine making, accompanied by delicious delicacies prepared with locally grown ingredients.
Milan is packed with cafes, bars, Italian trattorias, International and fast food restaurants. There’s something to cater to everyone’s taste buds and dietary needs whether you wish to feast on platefuls of pasta and risotto alla Milanese or American burgers and Lebanese cuisine. Bars in Milan range from iconic wine bars to al-fresco piazza cafes and cocktail clubs.
When it comes to nightlife, you can spend a low-key evening at the theatre or opera, or dance till dawn in underground tunnels or palatial, neon lit clubs with the city’s glitterati. One of the most popular clubs is Plastic. It’s been a hotspot in Milan since the 80’s and its clientele has included Freddie Mercury, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Andy Warhol.
Milan is a shopper’s paradise. It’s Italy’s fashion capital with designer stores, bustling shopping malls and independent specialty stores selling everything from hand-made jewelry to vintage garments and interior design elements. The best place for glamorous shopping and dining combined is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s stained glass and iron cupola and Victorian arcade design was completed in 1877. With floor mosaics, stunning architecture, and a great selection of shops and eateries to explore, you may be here a while. If its designer couture you seek, visit Via della Spiga – home to Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Tiffany & Co, and Moschino. Alternatively, for hand-crafted jewelry and antiques, you can’t go wrong in Brera or at Navigli for their monthly Sunday markets.
Milan Duomo & Sforza Castle Half Day Tour
One of the best ways to see Milan is on a Duomo and Sforza Castle Half Day Tour. Your knowledgeable guide will bring the history of Milan’s impressive Duomo to life and tell you some of the building’s secrets too! Then you will venture to 15th century Sforza Castle a short walk away. This, one of the largest citadels in Europe, housing museums and art collections, including works by Michelangelo.
Milan Night Walking Tour
Explore the city after dark on an amazing Milan Night Walking Tour. This superb guided tour invites you to discover incredible examples of haunting Gothic architecture after the sun goes down. Local experts will mesmerize you with stories and ancient tales as you wander Milan’s piazzas and side streets, passing the iconic Duomo, Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery, and Sforza Castle – one of Europe’s largest citadels. You’ll take in La Scala – one of the world’s most important opera houses and see the city’s charming cobbled streets as they illuminate by the glow of the moon.
Milan Food Tasting Tour
If food and culture go hand in hand for you, why not indulge in a Milan Food Tasting Tour. You will gain an exclusive glimpse into culinary life the Milanese way as your knowledgeable guide takes you to hidden trattorias and restaurants unbeknownst to tourists. You will discover why Franciacorta is classed as Italy’s champagne at a local bar, feast on freshly cooked risotto alla Milanese, regional pasta and cheese dishes, and conclude your tour with a scrumptious five-course meal with accompanying wines and dessert. What more could you ask for?
Accommodation in Milan is a mix of budget, mid-range, and luxurious independent and branded hotels in the heart of the historic center and fashion district. You can choose to lay your weary head in a traditional city B&B, book a 3- or 4-star hotel near the airport, or splurge on a 5-star city center, boutique hotel with all the amenities you desire.
What To See Near Milan
There are incredible sites to see in Milan, but just one hour north of the city you can escape to nature at awe-inspiring Lake Como. Visit Como City at the southern tip of the lake or take a boat trip around Lake Como, admiring lavish waterfront hotels and celebrity villas. Charming lakeside towns boast fine independent shops, cavern style wine bars and superb trattorias, plus there are plenty of historic sites to see. One of these is Villa Balbianello where several Hollywood movies, including Star Wars Episode II and Casino Royale, were filmed. Alternatively, you could spend a day in beautiful Bergamo. This is a city of two parts with a modern lower city and ancient hilltop walled city which is accessible on foot, by taxi, or via funicular. The old hilltop city is abundant with interesting cultural sites, quirky shops, and osterias, and offers incredible views of the Lombardy countryside.