I know Milan as the city of haute couture. A lifestyle that does not interest me. Yet, I still went there, because Milan (fortunately) has more to offer than just exclusive high-end fashion stores. This is also the right place if you like visiting beautiful churches, discovering charming or funky neighborhoods, and enjoying delicious food. In this blog post, I am sharing 7 lovely things to do in Milan, Italy.
1. Visit Duomo’s rooftop
First up on the list of things to do is of course the Duomo of Milan. Translation: Milan’s cathedral. The most beautiful thing about it is undoubtedly the front. A marble façade with an endless amount of spires and pinnacles. How blindingly white the outside is, how dark the interior is. This does make it easier to see the stained glass details. Make sure to purchase a ticket with rooftop access (“Duomo Terraces”) for a beautiful view of the city.
Tip: book your Duomo tickets online. If you book them with a tour operator you often get the option to cancel free of charge if plans change. Make sure to also bring a scarf to cover your shoulders or knees.
Next to Duomo, you can find the high-end shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
2. Take a stroll in the Brera district
A 10-minute walk from the Duomo you find yourself in lovely Brera, a colorful neighborhood with classy buildings. I enjoyed slowing down here, strolling around and taking some pictures now and then. Make sure to come here a little earlier in the day, because in the afternoon the streets fill with tourists. Places that are worth a visit are Pinacoteca museum, Palazzo di Brera, and Santa Maria del Carmine church.
3. Relax in Sempione Park with Sforzesco castle
To rest your feet in between, I recommend going to Sempione Park. This is the largest park in Milan that also houses some beautiful historical sights. So, two birds with one stone! One of the entrances is marked with a monumental triumphal gate (Arco della Pace). Furthermore, in the middle of the park stands the Sforzesco castle. This is the castle of the 15th-century Duke Ludovico Sforza who invited Leonardo da Vinci to further grow his artistic talents here. I myself have not been to the castle, only to the courtyard garden which is free for the public.
4. Join A bike tour in Milan
During my city trip to Milan, I joined a bicycle tour with Velocipedi. Accompanied by a very knowledgeable guide, our group was taken to a few places that I would not naturally visit. We gazed up at the Generali Tower nicknamed “Lo Storto” (the twisted one) and walked around a monumental cemetery with impressive tombs (Cimitero Monumentale di Milano). Other more well-known places we saw were, for example, Bosco Verticale. Two residential buildings that have created their own urban ecosystem.
Click here for an overview of bicycle tours in Milan.
5. Have an aperitivo in Navigli
Ending the day with a typical Milanese aperitivo (drink and snacks)? Head over to the Navigli district. This neighborhood has based itself around two canals: Navigli Grande and the Pavese. This was once a connection between the city and the sea so that goods could be brought back and forth. Nowadays Navigli is a popular entertainment district where tourists and locals come for food and drinks. The streets around Navigli Grande are the busiest, there are the larger cafes with large terraces and staff trying to lure you in with deals. The area around Pavese is a bit more relaxed.
6. Go on a little Street art hunt
Navigli is also a great place for some street art. For example, one of the bridges over the Pavese has a cool painting with a shark that eats pedestrians. Outside of Navigli, Garden of Cultures is also a nice place to see murals. The Italian artist Millo has created two beautiful black and white works with a red heart as the main theme. You can also see cool street art in Via Pio IV.
7. Plan a day trip to Como
A perfect addition to a Milan city trip is taking a day trip to Como. Just a mere 40-minute train ride away and you enter a different world. Como is a photogenic town set near a large lake with a green mountainous surrounding. I really enjoyed strolling through the streets of Como and walking along the shore of the lake. For a view from higher up, you can take the cable car to Brunate.
Train ticket Milan – Como costs €5 (one-way ticket). Tickets can be bought at the station without any worries because a train leaves every 15 to 20 minutes. Please note: Como has two stations. It is best to get off at S. Giovanni.
Exploring Milan by public transport
Milan is a big city, so don’t underestimate the distances. Make use of the metro, bus, and tram network. You can buy a one-way ticket (ordinary 3 zones ticket) for €2. If you plan to go by public transport more often, I recommend buying a 1-day ticket (€7) or a 3-day ticket (€12). This way you do not have to go to the ticket machine every time. Moreover, the ticket applies to all forms of public transport.
Where to eat in Milan (for vegetarians & vegans)
Italy is food heaven. Specifically for vegetarians and vegans, I recommend these places:
Radicetonda: a chain with sandwiches, soup, cake and coffee. Vegan options are clearly indicated.
La Colubrina: completely vegan restaurant with especially good desserts!
Flower Burger: a vegan chain with colorful burgers, shakes and tiramisu.
Capperi Che: a pizzeria with lots of vegan and gluten-free pizzas. Be on time because some options run out quickly.
Ginger: an aperitivo buffet café in Navigli with many vegan options.
Vanilla Gelati: ice cream parlor near Duomo with vegan pistachio ice cream. Delicious!
Where to stay in Milan?
I stayed at the B&B Milano Aosta hotel. Ideal, because it is next to the main train station, metro station, and various tram stops. The only bad thing was that there were a lot of people hanging out on the station square in the evening. Click here for more hotel options in Milan.
And that’s it, a list of 7 great things to do in Milan. Have fun!
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