Synonymous with high fashion and sartorial innovation, Milan’s charm is anything but skin-deep. While trends may come and go with the seasons in Milan, the hardworking, industrious and dynamic undercurrent of the city has endured for centuries.
Milan is not only the largest city in Italy’s Lombardy region, but it’s also one of the most powerful. Aside from its major fashion street-cred and non-stop nightlife, it’s the Italian base for international corporations and industries, as well as thriving hubs of business and general ka-ching. Plus, it’s the home to both AC Milan and Inter Milan (football teams, in case you didn’t know). A trip to the San Siro stadium on match day isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the atmosphere is extraordinary!
And speaking of extraordinary, history-rich Milan is filled with some of the most incredible architecture you are ever likely to encounter. Truly. Il Duomo alone will enchant and amaze, and the Basilica Sant’Ambrogio is bound to hold you spellbound. To indulge your other senses, La Scala is the world’s most famous opera house, while a day trip out to nearby Lake Como will produce jaw-dropping vistas (and the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the world’s most famous people).
But the jewel in Milan’s glittering crown is surely Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Adorning a wall in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, it’s street art at its best. On the other hand, it’s also the painting that inspired The Da Vinci Code. Damn you, Milan!
Milan's Top 10
10. Cimentero Monumentale Sounds a tad creepy to visit a cemetery while on holiday, but go for the incredible artwork and sculpture within the grounds.
5. Civico Museo Archeologico Archaeological museum. Take a guided tour through this historical place full of relics.
9. Scala Theatre Renowned for hosting some big-time opera peeps. Pavarotti played here many a time. Get some culture into ya!
4. Saint Ambrose This Byzantine church was almost destroyed in WWII – and that’s just a fraction of the extraordinary story it has to tell.
8. Pinacoteca Ambrosiana Historical library and art gallery in one. Read a book; check out some art. Perfect.
3.Quadrilatero della moda Stores and labels suited to the rich and snooty can be found here. It isn’t the place to bag a bargain, but it is the place to see Italy’s finest.
7. Sforzesco Castle Various art galleries and museums in one magnificent structure. Find everything from ancient Egyptian artefacts to Native American remnants.
2. Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle Imagine a palace and then put a billion and one stores in it. The only word is EPIC.
6. Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology A fun science museum that’ll please everyone. Plus, the gift shop is seriously cool.
1. Piazza del Duomo Pricey boutiques surround the mind-blowing, gothic cathedral. When lit up at night, it almost doesn’t look real. Very special.
- Duomo Cathedral – This massive religious structure was built over the course of 500 years, beginning in the 14th century.
- Basilica of Sant’Ambroglio – The church was built in the 4th century by St Ambrose.
- Colonne di San Lorenzo – The ruins date back to the 2nd century when the Roman Empire was still pagan.
- Arena Civica – Opened as a stadium in 1807, the structure continues to host public games.
- Casa degli Omenoni – A palace that has been home to many Italian artists and their works.
Milan Art & Culture
- Santa Maria delle Grazie – This medieval Dominican convent contains Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.
- Dynamis Ensemble – A traveling musical group formed in 1999 to perform the works of 20th-century and contemporary composers.
- Teatro degli Arcimboldi – A theatre and opera house located about 8km from downtown Milan that features both classical and contemporary performances.
- La Scala – This opera house is famous around the world for its breathtaking performances of classical and modern operas.
- Municipal Archaeological Museum – Contains various Greek, Italian and Etruscan works in bronze, among other art forms.
- Armani Superstore – The high-end fashion shop is located at 31 Via Manzoni, a popular shopping district.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – One of the oldest shopping malls in the world includes outlets for Prada and Gucci.
- Il Salvagente – Features three floors of clothing in various fashions for both men and women.
- Baglioni Caffe – This posh café offers Campari sodas and a ventilated smoking environment.
- La Perla – Find sophisticated lingerie and swimming attire here.
Milan Gay & Lesbian
- After Line – This openly gay disco is popular among both men and women.
- Hotel Demo – Friendly to the gay lifestyle, this fine hotel has a bar and provides free Internet access to customers.
- Metro Club Sauna – A men-only sauna located on the Via Schiaparelli.
- Bagutta – Home to the art crowd in Milan and open to all lifestyles.
- Sottomarino Giallo – This dance club is for women only.
- Parco Agricolo Sud Milano – This immense park forms a half-circle along the southern edge of the city.
- Milan University Experimental Botanical Garden – Botanical students operate controlled environments here.
- Garden of the Righteous – A park dedicated to those who have opposed genocide and oppression.
- Bicycling – Milan has recently upgraded its many miles of bicycle paths through parks and squares.
- Castello Sforzesco – The two towers of this castle offer a breathtaking view of the city and its environs.
- A.C. Milan – A world-famous football team makes its home in Milan at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium.
- Monza Formula One Circuit – Home to one of the oldest racecar circuits in the world, this track can handle nearly 137,000 spectators.
- Mediolanum Forum – This basketball arena is the home court of Olimpia Milano, Italy’s most successful team in this sport.
- Le Rovedine Golf Club – Located 7km from the city centre, this excellent club has dining facilities as well.
- The Lido – One of Milan’s best-known swimming pools attracts a crowd during the summer months.
Cameras to the ready in Milan’s most architecturally pleasing district. The Palazzo Saporiti, Palazzo Castiglioni, Palazzo Serbelloni and Villa Reale are all beautiful palaces on huge grounds. Then once you’ve has your fill of domes and arches, hit up the Museum of Natural History (Museo di Storia Naturale), which may look like just another palace, but actually holds some of Italy’s most important treasures. This area is home to a big African population, so expect a good feed and a unique nightlife.
Arty types will appreciate Brera’s cultural vibe as well as the number of art galleries scattered throughout. The Brera Art Gallery and Brera Picture Gallery both house a variety of ancient and contemporary paintings and sculptures, and see plenty of tourists on a daily basis. This area is also home to the Brera Botanic Garden, an exquisite display of flora on lush grounds.
Quadralitero della Moda
If you’ve got the taste (and budget) for expensive Italian brands and glamour, this place will make you very, very happy. This is one of the swankiest shopping districts in the entire city (which is obviously saying something) and where you’ll find a number of high-profile malls including Via Verri (McQueen, Burberry & Gucci) and Via Borgospesso (Versace & Armani). If you’re going to splurge on fashion, you may as well do it here.
Simplon Park, Milan’s main park, is located in this district and while it’s always buzzing with people, it’s still a great place to relax and re-group (particularly after a hefty shopping session at the Quad). Head to the top of the Torre Branca for an extraordinary city view. Once finished in the park, visit Sforza Castle, a mammoth, neoclassical building steeped in history and filled with masses of sculptures, statutes (including the last one completed by Michelangelo) and art.
Milan Eat & Drink
Peck Feeling peckish? This is a popular gourmet store for hip locals that provides oodles of delicious, quality goodies and a few lunch-on-the-run options.
Bar Bianco Casual, outdoor bar + drinks + sunny day = perfection. Go and chat with some locals.
Boeucc Italy’s oldest restaurant (est. 1696) serves home-style cooking to it’s patrons. Its dessert cart has the finest sugary treats you’ve ever seen.
Just Cavalli Hollywood The restaurant version of J.C.’s little Milano venture is bold and extravagant, in both it’s décor and food. Expect leopard print and lots of it.
Alcatraz One of the biggest discotecas in the country. Big music, big crowds and lethal drinks. The only question is… will you escape? Via Valtellina
Nobu The chic chain (not an oxymoron, we can assure you) has joined forces with Armani at this eatery. Enjoy Armaniesque style and posh Japanese food.
Chandelier Chic and trendy place serving modern Italian eats. The menu is huge and the desserts are worth the kilos!
Trussardi A modern venue and intricately plated nosh make the perfect pair.
Cicco Simonetta This place provides a dark solace for the boho-types and a cool, live venue for the rockers. It’s cosy (sometimes), but mostly loud and fun.
Just Cavalli Hollywood The bar adjacent to the restaurant is epic. Even if the surroundings are a little too rich and out-there for your liking, you’re still guaranteed a good time with good-looking people. So hot right now.
A popular antique market finds it’s home along the Navigli canal on the last Sunday of every month. Practice your haggling skills and bag yourself a vintage treat. Make sure it’s worth lugging home, though.
Early to mid-June sees Milan Food Week take the city on a food-fuelled extravaganza. Restaurants, bars, galleries and other venues throughout Milan are brought alive with the aid of fine food and wine, as well as music and even debates (food is important to Italians, OK?).
Milano Jazzin’ Festival (July/August) really ought to get itself a new name as it’s not purely a festival of jazz. Pop, world and folk tunes are just some of the other genres that pull in the crowds at this music fiesta. Grab some food and dance like nobody’s watching.
Men, if you’ve got some kissing up to do, we suggest you hit up Bijoux if you’re in Milan during the month of September. This jewellery and accessory event showcases jewellery of all budgets and styles.
Milan Fashion Week and Milano Pret-a-Porter in September are iconic fashion events known all over the world. You won’t get access to shows thrown by the likes of Gucci, Prada and D&G, but you will be able to loiter around and check out the celebs and fashionistas who’ve fallen off the wagon.
When To Go
Milan has a very hot and humid summer, so try to avoid visiting from June to August. Also, if you’re not keen on shopping during heavy rains, steer clear of visiting around October/November.
- Winter: Average of 5°C (41°F)
- Spring: Average of 19°C (66°F)
- Summer: Average of 28°C (82°F)
- Autumn: Average of 13°C (55°F)
What To Miss
Milan is rife with street vendors who pressure tourists into buying their obviously fake designer wares and string bracelets. If they manage to get your attention, they won’t hesitate to slap a bracelet on your wrist and then demand payment. Be firm, but not rude, and ignore them when possible. This tends to mostly occur in tourist-heavy areas around Il Duomo.
Despite its popularity and the buzz of people, Milan’s Central Station is often the site of crime. Always make sure you’re surrounded by crowds and come and go via the main gates. Also, try to avoid being the area at night. Loreto and Porta di Mare are also iffy after dark.
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