Lined with gothic architecture buildings and home to Italy’s rich artistic legacy, Milan is a city brimming with charm and style. The city is a true kaleidoscope, known for its cutting-edge style, stunning skyline and picturesque countryside. Some of the world’s most storied fashion houses from Dolce and Gabbana to Prada have beginnings here. Whether you have a passion for art or are on a gastronomic conquest, the city’s treasure trove has a lot to offer. Here’s your all-encompassing Milan travel guide to plan the perfect trip!
Things to do in Milan
A walk through the streets of Milan offers a mix of unique cuisines, rustic architecture and a glimpse into Italy’s fashion legacy. Here’s our Milan travel guide to the top 8 must-see spots in the bustling metropolis.
The crown jewel of Milan is the Duomo di Milano, a cathedral known for its gothic architecture. The intimidating structure has more than 3,400 statues complete with 135 towering spires. The most famous of these statues is the Mary (or Madonna), perched on the highest spire overlooking the city.
The Duomo is considered the pride and joy of Milan and overlooks the Piazza del Duomo. You can head to the terrace of the cathedral and enjoy some panoramic views of the city. Given that the Duomo is the focal point of Milan, it can get crowded pretty quickly.
We recommend booking your tickets ahead.
Piazza Della Scalia
An iconic spot in Milan is the Piazza Della Scalia, located in the center of the city near the Duomo di Milano. The square was built in the 19th century and showcases the rich historical culture of Milan while paying tribute to Leonardo Da Vinci.
The square is lined with various statues and is an Instagram hotspot in Milan.
The Piazza Della Scalia can get crowded pretty quickly so make sure to get there early for some good pictures.
Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II
A short walk from the Milan Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II. This gothic building houses the oldest shopping mall in the world and gives you a glimpse into Milan’s rich fashion culture. A glass ceiling towers over this landmark that contains some of the most famous brands in the world like Gucci and Prada. Follow our guide to shopping in Milan to get the most out of your visit.
Shopping at the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II may not be ideal for the budget traveler but the stunning interiors make this place worth visiting. You can even enjoy some authentic Italian cuisine at restaurants like Savini and Bar Camparino.
The Last Supper- Santa Maria Del Grazia
A must-see spot in Milan is the Santa Maria Del Grazia. While the monastery is not known for its architecture, it is home to one of the most famous paintings in the world- The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. This celebrated work of art is over a millennia-old and depicts Jesus’ final supper with his apostles.
Unfortunately, much of the artwork has faded over the years, despite many attempts to preserve the painting. The landmark only allows 30 people in at once to view the painting. Due to the crowd limit, tickets can be hard to come by. Make sure to reserve your tickets 3 weeks before your visit.
History buffs will enjoy a visit to Castello Sforzesco. The monument is a semblance of Milan’s military history and was constructed in the 14th century. The castle was rebuilt multiple times and now contains a host of museums that depict pieces from Milan’s art history. The castle is free to visit but there is a fee for the museums.
Once you’ve had your fill of Milan’s art and history legacy, it’s time to enjoy some of its natural beauty. Just a couple of minutes from Castello Sforzesco is a famous park- Parco Sempione or Simplon Park. Take a walk around the vast troves of green land and enjoy the stunning English landscaping that adds to this evergreen beauty. The park houses the Arco Della Pace that was built to celebrate Napoleon’s victory. Parco Sempione stretches over 47 acres so make sure to get there early to beat the crowds.
A trip to Milan is not complete without shopping in the fashion capital. The Via Dante is one of Milan’s largest commercial streets and was named after the famous Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. Both street and luxury shoppers have a number of options to choose from. Once you satisfy your retail cravings, lounge by one of the many cafés that line Via Dante and watch the Milanese go about their daily lives while adorned in their finery.
Venice isn’t the only city in Italy with beautiful canals, the Navigli district in Milan has canals with pubs on either side. This is the perfect spot to end a day of sightseeing in Milan. Enjoy an Italian meal at one of the many restaurants and pubs that overlook the canal. Legend has it that Leonardo Da Vinci designed the canals himself!
Fast-Track Milan Cathedral and Terraces Guided Tour
This ticket gives you a guided tour of the Milan Duomo Cathedral. You get to skip the long lines and get full access to the terraces where you can enjoy views of the city. The ticket also lets you explore the museum and San Gottardo Church on your own. The tour lasts 1.5 hours.
The Last Supper and Santa Maria delle Grazia Tour
The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is a must-see during your trip to Milan. This tour lets you skip the lines to see this magnificent painting. You can learn more about the history behind the church and the artwork on this 1.5 hours guided tour.
3-Hour City Highlight Walking Tour
If you are on a short trip to Milan, consider taking a walking tour to explore the highlights of the city. This 3-hour walking tour covers hotspots like the Milan Cathedral, Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II shopping mall and the La Scala Theatre and Museum.
See Related: 18 Top Places to Visit in Northern Italy
Ways to get around Milan
The best way to get around Milan without blowing too much cash is to use public transport. We recommend buying a 24-hour (€ 4.50) or 48-hour (€ 8.25) travel pass depending on your duration of stay. This pass gives you access to bus, metro and trains within the city. You can also get an all-inclusive Milan Pass which covers public transport and free entry to some major attractions in the city.
Subway- There are four lines on the subway- each has different colors and numbers. The trains on the subway run every day from 6 AM to 1 AM. The main transfer locations between stations are at Centrale, Duomo, Loreto, Cadorna, Porta Garibaldi and Zara.
Train- If you are looking to venture outside the city, consider taking the train to enjoy some scenic views. The two major train stations are Lago Di Como and Lago Maggiore. The train takes you to the smaller towns that surround Milan.
Bike- If you want to stay active while checking out Milan’s hotspots, consider renting a bike. There are numerous pickup and drop off bike options around the city. It’s a great way to see the city at an affordable price!
Taxi- Taking a taxi should be your last resort since it’s not the most economical option. During prime hours of 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM, fares start between €3.30 and €5.40. If you don’t want to waste time traveling between landmarks, a taxi is the fastest way to get around.
Finding an ATM is by no means a hard task- they’re all over the city. However, you don’t want to waste time stopping by an ATM everywhere so it would be ideal to have a travel-friendly card and some cash on hand at all times. Milan’s currency is the Euro and denominations range from €10 to €500. Make sure to use an authorized ATM to avoid bank fraud.
Tipping is allowed in Milan but it is not mandatory. This is because the bill usually comes with a service charge or ‘coperto.’ However, you can show your appreciation for the warm-hearted Milanese with a tip.
Italians are known for being incredibly friendly people but there are still a few etiquette rules you should keep in mind during your visit. Avoid talking too loudly in public spaces as this is considered rude.
Greeting people when you enter a place is appreciated but avoid engaging in long conversations with the locals as this is not part of their culture. Finally, keep your dress code clean and simple- don’t overdress or underdress during your visit.
Places to Stay
Many people believe that visiting the fashion capital of Italy can cost a fortune but this is far from the truth. With the right amount of planning, you can see the beautiful city of Milan on a budget. Attractions in Milan surround certain neighborhoods, so keep the locality in mind when choosing your hotel. The main districts include Brera, Centra Storico, Porto Nuova and Chinatown.
See Related: Guide to Living in Italy
If you are looking for a budget hotel room, consider staying in a 2 or 3-star hotel. Prices here can start at €50 per night but they can be higher during the tourist season. An alternative to a hotel room is an Airbnb that you can share with other travelers. The starting price for shared rooms is €20 and private rooms are €31.
A few great budget hotel stays include:
If hotel prices don’t fit in your budget, staying at a hostel can bring costs down significantly. This is ideal for backpack travelers and is a great way to acclimate to the culture of the city. A 10 person dorm can start at €25 and a 4-6 bed room can be €30 or higher. Private rooms in hostels can cost €54. If you are looking to meet fellow travelers, some great options include:
- Madama Hostel and Bistrot – known for parties
- Ostello Bello – great for solo travelers
- Combo Milano – best location in the city
Places to Eat
Lunch expenses in Milan can add up but thankfully, there are numerous options for every type of traveler. If you are dining in the city, prices can start at €15 and can go as high as €40 for restaurant meals. Dinner at high-end restaurants can cost €75 or higher. If you are looking for some fine-dining options during your stay, here are a few restaurants to consider:
- Trattoria Madonnina – A great place to get a taste of Italy’s traditional and culture
- Trussardi alla Scala – a true symbol of luxury and opulence, the restaurant is known for its caviar
- La Gelataria della Musica – satisfy all your gelato cravings at this iconic gelataria establishment where the ice-cream flavors are named after musicians.
For budget travelers, Milan has just as many food options to offer. The city is specked with delis, food trucks, cafes and kiosks that can cut costs in half. Places like Panozzo and Luini offer light bites from €4-€7. For a quick meal on-the-go, McDonald’s is always a safe choice.
Whether you travel to Milan on a budget or go all out on a luxury vacation, Milan offers a great experience for both types of travelers. Here’s a snapshot of your expected daily expense based on your budget. This includes accommodation, food and sightseeing:
- Backpacker/Budget- €65
- Midrange- €130
- Luxury- €300
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Milan is in Spring from April to May or in the Fall from September to October. Avoid the rush tourist season from June to August if you can.
Here’s what you need to look out for during each season:
- Spring – This is, without a doubt, the best time of the year to visit. You get to enjoy the beauty of the city in great weather and avoid the tourist season.
- Summer – This is not a great season to visit Italy. You will explore the sights under the sweltering heat. Many locals leave Milan during this time to avoid the crowds.
- Autumn – This a great time to visit but beware of extreme temperatures. If you’re armed with a jacket and an umbrella, you’ll be fine.
- Winter – Winter in Milan is defined by frigid temperatures so plan your visit during this time if you’re okay with the cold.
Now that we’ve covered the sights to see and places to stay in our Milan travel guide, it’s time to get started on your packing list. This is a general list of things to include when packing for Milan:
If you are backpacking your way through Milan, we recommend getting the Osprey Packs Farpoint. The bag is lightweight, comfortable and even comes with a removable daypack.
Dimensions: 26”H x 13”W x 13”D
Fabric: 210- denier ripstop nylon
Straps: The carry handles are top and side padded- perfect for hoisting your backpack.
Features: Panel access, Front compression straps, Stowaway Backpanel.
If you plan on carrying travel luggage, a great pick would be the Delsey Helium Aero. The luggage comes in 5 different colors and is ideal for a multi-day trip. Its lightweight, durable and stylish.
Dimensions: 27.25”H x 17.75”W x 11.5”D
Fabric: 100% Polycarbonate
Features: Double spinner wheels, 3-dial combination lock, self-repairing zippers, expandable packing space.
1 pair of Jeans
1 pair of shorts
1 Bathing suit
5 T-shirts- long and short-sleeved
1 pair of flip/flops
1 pair of sneakers
3-4 pairs of socks
1 sweater (if you visit in the winter)
1 jacket (if you visit in fall or winter)
1 dental floss
1 shower gel
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of leggings
4-5 blouses/t-shirts (long and short-sleeved)
1 light cardigan
1 sweater (if you visit in winter)
1 jacket (if you visit in fall or winter)
Feminine hygiene products
Safety comes first, so always make sure you have a medical kit on hand. A few must-haves in the medical kit include band-aids, antibacterial cream, hand-sanitizer, Tylenol, earplugs and Hydrocortisone cream.
Here are a few kits you can buy:
Milan is a vibrant city that embraces the rich Italian culture while looking good. While it is often overshadowed by neighbors like Rome and Vienna, the city remains a rich metropolis that needs to be seen.
The sheer choice of gastronomy coupled with a stunning skyline will leave you yearning for Italy’s style capital long after you leave. We hope this Milan travel guide will make your trip planning as seamless as possible. Safe travels!