When you think about Milan, the first thing that pops into your mind is the capital of high-fashion and style and the ultimate shopping destination, but in fact it is way more than that. Being one of the coolest, most modern and vibrant cities in Europe, Milan is undoubtedly one of the most attractive European destinations. As I have been to Milan a few times now and I’ve had the chance to explore its versatile beauty, I can say for fact, that whether you’re a traveler, culture hawk, foodie, photography or fashion lover, Milan won’t let you disappointed. So here it is! A shortlist of my favourite top 10 things to do in Milan; from main tourist attractions to must-see places and eat locations. Hope you enjoy the roundup!
1. Milan Cathedral - Duomo
Let’s start with the must-see monument and the symbol of this city: The Milan Cathedral, a.k.a. Duomo di Milano. Located on Piazza del Duomo, the historic centre is the best starting point for a visit in Milan. Being one of the most important pieces of medieval architecture and largest cathedrals in the world, it will leave you speechless with its unique beauty. From the outside, you can admire its magnificent, Italian Gothic style façade, whereas, if you got time, it is highly recommended to get inside and head to the terrace of the Cathedral and let the spectacular city views take your breath away.
2. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Just outside the cathedral, on Piazza del Duomo, you will find the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, another top attraction in Milan. The whole place is really impressive, very photogenic and luminous, with magnificent arcades and superb dome made of glass and iron. Besides enjoying an Italian coffee or getting lunch at some of the most high-end restaurants downtown, inside you can find some of the most popular high fashion designers boutiques.
3. Museo del Novecento
Just at the right of the Duomo square, facing the Cathedral are some beautifully restored buildings, one of which houses the Museo del Novecento. The museum offers an impressive collection of modern artworks, representative of the Italian 20th century, but the place is also known for offering magnificent views over the Duomo square, that definitely worth an Instagram moment.
Tip: If you enter one or two hours before closing, your visit is free, otherwise admission is €5.
4. Terazza Aperol
Milano’s Duomo is an absolute architectural masterpiece that is worth admiring again and again, especially sipping a classic ice-cold Aperol Spritz at the Terazza Aperol Bar. You can easily spot the bar, which is situated on the second-floor balcony of the Piazza de Duomo’s Galleria shopping centre along the Via Mercanti and hopefully score the best seats, outside on the balcony planters, right next to the incredible walls of the Duomo. Needless to say, the collection of classic and special Aperol cocktails is great and the drinks are unbeatable.
5. La Scala di Milano
Leaving from the Piazza del Duomo, and walking along the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, you will get directly on Piazza della Scala. As the name suggests, it’s where La Scala, the world-famous Milan Opera house is located. Being one of Italy’s 3 most prestigious operas and worldwide famous for the masterpieces that were housed and the artists that have performed there from time to time, La Scala di Milano is definitely worth paying a visit, either to attend an event or just to admire its sumptuous interior. Make sure to book in advance and get your tickets as soon as possible though, as tickets are limited and sell out very fast.
6. Wander around the alleys of Brera
Less touristy and with authentic Italian vibes, Brera almost feels like a separate town within the metropolis of Milan. The quaint little alleyways, clubs and old community vibes really grab you, making it almost too hard to leave! It’s actually here that you’ll find the Pinacoteca di Brera, an incredible art gallery, some of the locals’ favorite restaurants, the much famous Proschiutteria di Brera as well as the coolest bars and wineries in Milan.
7. Enjoy authentic Italian pizza at Piz
Piz is one of the classic ones for pizza in Milan, and one of the most beloved pizza places among locals. You won’t find any “special pizza” here, since Piz offers only three types of pizza with few ingredients - as an authentic Italian pizza should be. You certainly won’t feel as if you’ve missed out though, as its pizza is simply the best. They don’t take reservations but try not to be put off by the wait: servers have been known to hand out complimentary samples and flutes of Prosecco to the hordes of hungry diners that amass outside.
8. Explore Via Montenapoleone
Shopping is a must in the capital of Lombardy, so, if you are in the mood for it, set aside some time in Milan’s most renowned shopping streets. Head to the “quadrilatero della moda”, meaning “fashion quadrilateral”, where the most luxurious brands and boutiques are to be found. The most important commercial streets are Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga. If you feel like you need a break, make sure to check the restaurant Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone, one of the cutest dining spots in Milan. Tiled floorings, orange trees and mint-green garden chairs set an idyllic set and offer a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle.
9. Eat Panzerotti at Luini
Milan's deep-fried panzerotti at Luini’s - a small traditional bakery located in the heart of Milan, on Via Santa Radegonda - is a local gem, so if you are a committed food-lover you don’t want to miss this one. Pillowy fried dough parcels stuffed with tomato and mozzarella will make you fall for authentic street-food all the way.
10. Navigli canals
Navigli is located to the southwest of the city-centre and it’s an upcoming neighbourhood with artistry vibes. There you can find some of the city’s best restaurants serving authentic Milanese cuisine, small shops, art studios and little galleries hidden down side streets. Just a few quiet minutes spent wandering around the canals of Milan, and you’ll understand why they are such a source of inspiration for many artists. Try to visit at dusk, as the setting sun reflects brilliantly off the surface of the water.
11. Ice-cream at Cioccolatitaliani
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” When it comes to gelato and chocolate, this ice-cream shop means serious business. Cioccolatitaliani focuses on one thing only: delivering superior ice-cream that celebrates chocolate in all its shapes, textures and flavors. To enjoy their famous three-layered cones with white milk ice cream, caramel and chocolate topped with Nutella spread, you will most likely have to wait in a long queue, as this is one of the most commercial and touristic of places in the city, but, trust me, it is totally worth it.