Welcome to Milan, one of Italy’s leading cities in fashion, cuisine, culture and design. Often skipped over in lieu of more touristy spots like Rome or Florence, Milan is definitely worth a visit. Here are some of the best activities you just can’t miss in this northern Italian gem of a city.
- Explore the Canals of Navigli
- Visit the Cathedral
- Chow on Some Pizza
- Shop 'Til You Drop
- People Watch
- Indulge in Gelato
- See The Last Supper
- Sip on Spritz & Vino
- Spin on the Bull's Balls at the Galleria
- Enjoy the Sunset at a Rooftop Bar
- Attend a Soccer Match at the San Siro Stadium
- Go Beyond the City Limits
- Major Airports
- Public Transportation
Best Things to Do in Milan
Explore the Canals of Navigli
Venice isn’t the only Italian city where you can admire the sunset over canals. Milan’s Navigli district has five of the small waterways: Naviglio Grande, Naviglio Pavese, Naviglio Martesana, Naviglio di Paderno, Naviglio di Bereguardo. The canals are lined with shops, restaurants and bars and even the occasional street fair. You can boat down the canal, walk across via charming footbridges, bike alongside the water or check out the street art along the canal walls. It’s also worth picking up a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket to more efficiently navigate the city before and after the cruise.
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Visit the Cathedral
It may be touristy and crowded, but you can’t leave Milan without seeing its famed cathedral, simply known as il duomo — the fourth largest in the world. If you want to see it properly, and avoid lines when you’re there, be sure to book your entrance ticket and get rooftop access ahead of time. The majestic building towers over one of Milan’s most central squares, crowded with tourists, locals and even pigeons, but its stature is so impressive you won’t really notice the chaos around you. That’s a solid reason you should hang on to your personal belongings though. You don’t want your infatuation with the façade, which seems to be dripping in opulent Gothic styling, to distract you from potential pickpockets or overzealous street vendors.
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Chow on Some Pizza
Milan has an up-and-coming, expansive dining scene — and some of the best pizza in the country (with both Neapolitan thin-crust and Roman square cut-styles). Piz is popular for its no-frills, colorful atmosphere and delicious, wood-fired margarita pizzas, which ooze melted mozzarella bufala. For a trendier take on the panned dish, make a reservation at Dry Milan, which pairs chic, creative cocktails with fancy pizzas topped with things like lemon zest, smoked pork cheek and salted shallot in a low-lit, trendy atmosphere.
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Shop ‘Til You Drop
Known as one of the world’s trendiest fashion capitals, shopping in Milan is practically a sport. You can peruse every fancy designer from A to Z around the high-end shopping district of Montenapoleone, visit vintage shops along Porta Ticinese or hit one-of-a-kind boutiques on Tortona. When someone back home asks where you got that cool leather wallet or original bracelet, nothing sounds cooler than responding, “Oh, just in Milan.”
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Milan is one of the most fashionable cities in the world, making people watching one of the most interesting things to do in this trendy city. See men in designer suits riding bikes, dogs dressed in fancy outfits, impeccably-dressed elderly couples and models wandering about everywhere. Find a tree-lined street near the Sempione park, relax on a bench with gelato and watch the world go by.
Indulge in Gelato
Did somebody say gelato? Toss your diet out the window in and stop at one of the many gelato shops around town. While it’s near-impossible to get bad gelato pretty much anywhere in Italy, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you steer clear of touristy areas, like right around the Duomo. Gelateria Oasi has a massive selection of flavors, and also offers fruit shakes and chocolate bonbons too. You may have to wait in line at Gelateria della Musica, but the unique combination of flavors you can sample there is worth it.
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See The Last Supper
Admire one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most renowned works The Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. Plan to purchase tickets well in advance if you want to view the painting — guided tours are also available. If you’d prefer to navigate yourself, you can also purchase skip-the-line tickets. We recommend planning to see the masterpiece sooner rather than later, which is in a rather fragile state due to years of wear and tear and a couple of botched renovation attempts.
Sip on Spritz & Vino
There’s nothing like leisurely sipping an afternoon Aperol Spritz overlooking the canal. An Aperol Spritz is made from prosecco, soda water and a bitter, orange-flavored alcohol called Aperol. If the refreshing drink doesn’t tickle your fancy, sample a wine local to the Lombardy region, like a refreshing Franciacorta. Winetraveler’s favorite spots to sip are at Ciz cantina e cucina, one of Milan’s coolest bars or Mag Cafe, a quirky, hipster hangout.
Spin on the Bull’s Balls at the Galleria
This one might seem rogue, but spinning on the marble floor image of the Turin bull’s nether regions at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II will apparently bring you luck. Walk through the gallery, and you’re sure to see a group of people gathered in a circle, snapping photos and photos of their supposed luck-inducing spins. Give it a whirl!
Enjoy the Sunset at a Rooftop Bar
Experience the magic of a Milanese sunset with an aperitivo at one of the city’s stylish rooftop bars. Savor delicious cocktails, local wines, and Italian appetizers while taking in the breathtaking views of Milan’s skyline. Here are some exceptional rooftop bars to consider for your unforgettable evening:
Via Ceresio, 7, 20154 Milano MI, Italy
This chic rooftop bar and restaurant, designed by the renowned fashion duo Dsquared2, offers panoramic views of Milan along with a glamorous atmosphere. Lounge by one of the two pools or relax in the elegant seating area as you sip on expertly crafted cocktails and indulge in delicious Italian cuisine.
Piazza Duca d’Aosta, 9, 20124 Milano MI, Italy
Located at the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, Terrazza Gallia boasts sweeping views of Milan’s Central Station and Pirelli Tower. The sophisticated setting, complemented by an extensive cocktail menu and a selection of gourmet finger foods, creates an unparalleled ambiance to enjoy the city’s stunning sunsets.
Radio Rooftop Bar
Via Marco Polo, 18, 20124 Milano MI, Italy
Perched atop the ME Milan Il Duca hotel, Radio Rooftop Bar offers a contemporary and luxurious setting to unwind. With 360-degree views of the city’s skyline, this stylish venue features an array of signature cocktails, an extensive wine list, and a scrumptious menu of Italian and international bites.
P.za del Duomo, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
Situated on the seventh floor of the famous department store, La Rinascente’s rooftop bar and restaurant provide a unique vantage point to admire the iconic Duomo. Enjoy a classic Milanese aperitivo accompanied by a spectacular backdrop of the cathedral and bustling city below.
10 Corso Como
Corso Como, 10, 20154 Milano MI, Italy
This trendy rooftop bar is part of the famous concept store 10 Corso Como, combining fashion, design, and dining. Relax in the lush garden terrace as you sample a variety of cocktails, wines, and appetizers while taking in the views of Milan’s fashionable district.
Attend a Soccer Match at the San Siro Stadium
Experience the exhilarating atmosphere of Italian soccer by attending a match at the legendary San Siro stadium, officially known as Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. As the shared home ground of two of Italy’s most renowned football clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan, this iconic stadium is a must-visit for sports enthusiasts and anyone eager to embrace the passion of Italian soccer culture.
Built in 1926 and capable of hosting over 75,000 spectators, San Siro is the largest stadium in Italy and has played host to numerous memorable matches and events, both domestic and international. When attending a match, you’ll be swept up in the energy and excitement of the crowd, as the stadium comes alive with fervent cheers, team chants, and vibrant displays of team colors.
Before or after the game, consider visiting the San Siro Museum, which is located within the stadium complex. Here, you can learn about the storied histories of both AC Milan and Inter Milan, admire an extensive collection of trophies, and explore memorabilia that highlights the teams’ greatest achievements. The museum also offers guided stadium tours, providing a unique opportunity to walk through the players’ tunnel, visit the locker rooms, and even set foot on the hallowed pitch.
Attending a soccer match at San Siro is not just a sporting event; it’s a cultural experience that allows you to witness firsthand the fervor and devotion of Italian soccer fans, while soaking in the history and legacy of two of the world’s most celebrated football clubs.
Go Beyond the City Limits
While there’s plenty to do and see in the city of Milan, heading out to see the nearby lakes, villages and mountains of the picturesque Lombardy region will give you a true sense of Italy. Bergamo, just a short bus or train ride away, is a Medieval town bathed in fog, perched atop a hill. There’s also the romantic spot of Verona, home of the sordid love tale Romeo & Juliet.
You’ve likely heard of Lake Como, which makes for a sophisticated getaway, or there are also the less pretentious lake scenes of Garda, Iseo and Maggiore. When in doubt about where to head, Prosecco Road is just a short drive away!
Take a Day Trip to Bergamo
Discover the enchanting medieval town of Bergamo, nestled just outside the vibrant metropolis of Milan. This private day trip offers an immersive exploration of Bergamo’s rich history and culture, as you stroll through the charming streets of La Citta Alta (High City) and marvel at the architectural splendor of Piazza Vecchia, Bergamo Cathedral, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. With transport from Milan included, this walking tour can be tailored to solo travelers or small groups, ensuring a personalized experience. Knowledgeable guides, fluent in multiple languages, will unveil the captivating stories behind Bergamo’s heritage, providing a delightful and memorable escape for wine enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
Take a Day Trip to Lake Como
Embark on an unforgettable Lake Como day trip from Milan, a perfect getaway to explore the captivating charm of the Italian lakes. This experience features a guided walking tour through the elegant town of Como, as well as a scenic Lake Como cruise, offering stunning views of snow-capped mountains and opulent lakeside villas. During summer, delight in a visit to the picturesque village of Bellagio, with ample free time to dine and wander. In winter, enjoy a gondola ride from Como to Brunate, taking in the breathtaking lakeland vistas. With this day trip, you’ll have the opportunity to shop, indulge in local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of Lake Como.
Explore Italy and Switzerland in One Day
Experience the best of Switzerland and Italy on this captivating day trip from Milan to Lugano and Lake Como. Accompanied by a local guide, embark on a Lake Como sightseeing boat cruise, keeping an eye out for stunning celebrity villas. Stop at the charming Bellagio, often referred to as the ‘pearl of Lake Como,’ before venturing into Switzerland for free time in the elegant city of Lugano. Here, you can admire the lakeside views, shop for Swiss chocolate, or visit Santa Maria degli Angioli to marvel at Renaissance masterpieces. Enjoy comfortable transport via air-conditioned coach from Milan, making this a delightful and seamless journey through two countries’ picturesque landscapes.
Visit Wine Regions Near Milan
Located just 1.5 hours east of Milan, Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to Champagne. This sparkling wine region boasts exquisite vineyards set against the backdrop of the stunning Lake Iseo. Known for its high-quality Metodo Classico sparkling wines, Franciacorta offers visitors a bubbly experience full of effervescent charm and elegance.
Oltrepò Pavese (Lombardy)
A mere hour’s drive south of Milan, Oltrepò Pavese is a picturesque region dotted with rolling hills and medieval villages. The area is renowned for its diverse and versatile wines, particularly its sparkling red Bonarda and aromatic white Riesling Italico. A visit to Oltrepò Pavese promises a journey through enchanting landscapes that are brimming with viticultural heritage.
Langhe-Roero and Monferrato (Piedmont)
Situated around 2 hours southwest of Milan, these UNESCO World Heritage-designated regions are home to some of Italy’s most celebrated wines. Langhe-Roero and Monferrato are famous for their robust, full-bodied reds such as Barolo and Barbaresco, produced from the Nebbiolo grape. Prepare to be captivated by the region’s alluring beauty and indulge in exquisite wines that embody the essence of Piedmont.
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Nestled within the breathtaking Alpine foothills, about 2.5 hours north of Milan, Valtellina is a hidden gem among Italian wine regions. This unique terroir is known for its elegant and complex reds made from the Chiavennasca grape, a local variant of Nebbiolo. As you explore the steep terraced vineyards of Valtellina, you’ll be treated to a harmonious blend of natural splendor and winemaking tradition.
Approximately 1.5 hours southeast of Milan, Lugana straddles the border between Lombardy and Veneto, near the southern shores of Lake Garda. This region is acclaimed for its crisp, mineral-driven white wines made from the indigenous Turbiana grape. A day trip to Lugana invites you to discover a serene oasis of vineyards and charming lakeside towns, where every sip reflects the area’s distinctive terroir.
Getting to and Around Milan
Getting to and around Milan is a seamless experience thanks to the city’s well-connected transportation network and easily accessible international airports.
Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP)
As Milan’s primary international airport, Malpensa is well-served by numerous airlines from around the world. Located about 30 miles northwest of Milan, the airport offers convenient transportation options to reach the city center, such as the Malpensa Express train and shuttle buses.
Milan Linate Airport (LIN)
Situated only 4.3 miles east of Milan, Linate is the city’s secondary airport, mainly serving domestic and short-haul European flights. To reach the city center, travelers can use shuttle buses or taxis.
Orio al Serio International Airport (BGY)
Located 28 miles northeast of Milan, near the city of Bergamo, this airport primarily caters to low-cost airlines. Shuttle buses and taxis provide easy connections to Milan.
Milan’s public transportation system, operated by ATM, includes a comprehensive network of buses, trams, and metro lines (M1, M2, M3, and M5) that make navigating the city efficient and affordable. Single-journey tickets, 24-hour passes, and multi-day passes are available for purchase at ticket machines, newsstands, and online.
Taxis and Ridesharing
Taxis are widely available throughout Milan and can be hailed from designated taxi stands or booked via phone or smartphone apps. Additionally, ridesharing services like Uber do operate in the city, providing a convenient alternative to traditional taxis.
There are a wide range of private and guided tours that include transport to and from your hotel throughout the city. Some of our reader’s favorites include a “Kickstart” tour operated by Withlocals, where you’ll get a 90-minute highlight tour that shows you many of the city’s main attractions. Alternatively, for the more active group of individual, hop on a bike with a local and see the sights and get recommendations for the best restaurants, bars and experiences around the city.
Biking and Walking
Milan offers a bike-sharing program called BikeMi, with stations scattered throughout the city. Renting a bike is an eco-friendly and enjoyable way to explore Milan. Additionally, the city’s historic center is quite walkable, allowing travelers to easily discover its charming streets, shops, and landmarks on foot.
Top Hotels in Milan for Winetravelers
Mandarin Oriental Milan
Nestled in the heart of Milan’s fashionable Brera district, the Mandarin Oriental Milan offers a luxurious retreat that blends contemporary Italian design with oriental elegance. The hotel is housed within four meticulously restored 18th-century buildings and features sumptuous rooms and suites, a world-class spa, and two Michelin-starred restaurants, Seta and the more casual Mandarin Bar & Bistrot. Guests will enjoy easy access to major attractions like the Milan Cathedral, La Scala Opera House, and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, all within walking distance.
Park Hyatt Milan
Located steps away from the iconic Milan Cathedral, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and La Scala Opera House, Park Hyatt Milan is a haven of refined luxury and modern sophistication. This prestigious hotel occupies a historic palazzo and boasts elegantly appointed rooms and suites with exquisite furnishings, a renowned spa, and a Michelin-starred restaurant, VUN Andrea Aprea. The hotel’s central location makes it an ideal choice for guests seeking to explore Milan’s top attractions while enjoying unparalleled comfort and service.
Four Seasons Hotel Milano
Set within a 15th-century convent, the Four Seasons Hotel Milano is an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Milan’s bustling Fashion District. Its elegant rooms and suites blend Renaissance-era charm with contemporary design elements, and the hotel features a luxurious spa, a fine dining Italian restaurant, La Veranda, and a chic lounge bar. The hotel’s prime location offers guests easy access to Milan’s designer boutiques, as well as iconic landmarks like the Milan Cathedral, Sforza Castle, and the picturesque Brera district, ensuring a perfect balance of culture, luxury, and convenience.
Frequently Asked Questions about Things to Do in Milan
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