Unlike its older sibling, Rome, which attracts selfie-eager tourists, Milan is a sophisticated metropolis, for those looking to engage with the city’s people and culture. From its pristine parks, vintage shops, art galleries to the high-end boutiques, authentic restaurants and trendy nightclubs, Milan is to modern lifestyle and culture what Rome is to history and tourism. If you prefer wandering cities without rigid itineraries, discovering local hotspots and chatting with those who call the city home, then consider a trip to Italy's fashion and financial capital.
Fly into MXP (Malpensa Airport) and take the Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale Train Station. One way will cost you 13 euros. Uber and other ride sharing apps are highly regulated in Milan so download Mytaxi instead for easy transportation.
Where to stay
Milan is a small and fairly walkable city that also has a great public transportation system. You’ll find great shops, restaurants and activities almost anywhere but these are our favorite neighborhoods.
Porto Venezia. The buildings in this northeast neighborhood are slightly grungier than the rest of Milan and speak to how far Porto Venezia has come. Today it is one of Milan’s trendiest neighborhoods and home to chic vintage shops and the hottest bars and cafes. Porto Venezia is also the center of Milan’s active gay scene which adds to its vibrant character.
Brera. The former bohmian center of milan is home to a number of art galleries, antique boutiques, a botanical garden and two museums: Pinacoteca di Brera and Museo del Risorgimento. The neighborhood also features impressive graffiti murals on Via Carmagnola and Angelo della Pergola and is adjacent to Via Montenapoleone which houses Milan’s top tier designer boutiques.
Isola. One of Milan’s newest and modern districts, Isola is filled with luxury high-rises like the famous Bosco Verticale. The 2015 opening of the Purple Line subway saw an influx of cool new bars and restaurants along with hipsters from all across Milan.
Navigli. Similar to Venice, Navigli sits on canals lined with cute restaurants, boutiques and charming little alleyways. In the evenings and on weekends it quickly transforms into a buzzing neighborhood attracting Milanese youth to its many bars for Aperitivo. On the first Sunday of each month the banks of the canal host an outdoor market where you can find local artwork, furniture, antiques and more.
Things to do and see
A former distillery turned art museum, the Fondazione Prada houses permanent collections from Jeff Koons, William N. Copley and Damien Hirst as well as rotating temporary exhibits. The 200,000 square foot museum also features a restaurant called Torre where visitors can take in views of Milan over lunch and Bar Luce, a Wes Anderson designed local hangout.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Milan without indulging in a bit of shopping. For the best the city has to offer, head to Via Montenapoleone where you’ll find highend shops like Gucci, Burberry and Balenciaga. Even if for just a bit of window shopping and people watching, this charming little avenue attracts the world’s most fashion savvy crowd. Industry insider and celeb sightings are a common occurrence here.
The Duomo, Milan's most famous attraction and one of the most recognizable structures in Italy, is situated at the very center of the city. Despite the chaos of tourists and influencers, the scale and detail of this Gothic cathedral are worth seeing up close. Whether you choose to enter the cathedral, visit the rooftop terrace or just admire it from the exterior, the Duomo is a must see during your stop in Milan.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the famous shopping center that comes to mind when you think Milan. Despite being Italy’s oldest active shopping mall, the gallery is in pristine condition and houses Europe’s most famous and expensive designer boutiques. Even if not to buy anything, it’s worth strolling through the corridors of the famous Italian landmark.
If you’re an opera fan you can’t miss the world famous Teatro La Scala. If you plan to see a show be sure to check the schedule before securing your flights and book tickets well in advance as they sell out despite their hefty price tag. You can also opt for a expert-led walking tour of the opera house year round which will only cost you a fraction of the price.
Few people are aware that Da Vinci’s Last Supper lives at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Book a ticket in advance to spend fifteen minutes appreciating what remains of the world famous mural.
Where to eat
For dinner head to Dry Milano (Via Solferino) an upscale pizzeria popular among the Milanese and one of Time Out’s best in the city. Slightly rustic, slightly industrial and always buzzing, they’re known for their wood oven pizzas and artisan cocktails served in an intimate setting to a highly fashionable crowd.
If you’re hanging out near the Fondazione Prada and in need of a bite, check out Gecko 23. Restaurant by day and lounge by night, the outdoor garden patio is the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy a tasty meal after exploring the neighboring modern art museum.
Peck is a market-restaurant hybrid in the heart of Milan similar to Eataly. Here you’ll find three distinct restaurants; Ristorante Al Peck (fine dining), Peck Italian Bar (casual), and the Café Piccolo Peck. You should also explore Peck’s deli for the finest meats and cheeses then grab a few bottles from its world class wine cellar.
For a quick and casual bite, stop by Piadineria Artigianale Pascoli near Milano Centrale Station and grab a classic Italian Piadina. A thin, flatbread topped with your choice of meat, cheese and vegetables then folded to resemble an Italian style quesadilla. This lunch is popular among locals for being both fast and delicious.
Morgante Cocktail & Soul is a hidden gem near the canals of the Navigli neighborhood. The restaurant’s velvet clad interior and intimate alcoves make it the perfect backdrop for a romantic dinner date or catching up with a group of friends over artisan cocktails. Morgante is the type of place where you can confidently say “everything is good” then sit back and enjoy your company.
Porto Venezia’s new Shimokita lounge attracts trendy locals from around the city looking for an aperitivo and light bites before heading out for the evening. Grab a drink at the intimate bar while the DJ spins upbeat tunes or head to the restaurant downstairs for some of the best sushi MIlan has to offer.
Milan has arguably one of the best nightlife in Italy and it starts with Aperitivo. Around 6pm, residents flock to one of the city’s many bars for their “happy hour” where restaurants often serve free snacks like meats and cheeses to accompany drinks. These crowds are known to spill out into the streets so depending on where you’re staying you should be able to locate a buzzing crowd fairly easily. Milan is also notorious for its late nights. If you plan to hit up the club scene be sure to do your research ahead of time and connect with as many locals as you can. Doors can be tough and require ultra chic dress so tourists who blend in with the locals will have a better chance of entry. Milan also has a thriving gay scene. Dive right in by heading to the intersection of Via Lecco and Via Panfilo Castaldi in Porto Venezia where hundreds of gay men converge for aperitivo in the streets outside of Mono Bar, Red Cafe and Leccomilano. As with the straight clubs, it's best to strike up a conversation with a group of locals if you're looking to tap the night’s hotspot.