Milan is Italy’s quiet triple threat—capital of fashion, finance, and design. Begin at the heart of the city in the Piazza del Duomo; the rest radiates outward in a mosaic of neighborhoods where history, art, and fashion overlap. Walk around the tony Brera neighborhood and peruse the shops of the Fashion Quadrilateral, literally a rhomboid dedicated to the world’s best designers. Head to Navigli for a cocktail when the sun is about to set. Wander the Isola neighborhood for homegrown designers and unique boutiques. By night, Milan’s marble and modern architecture is incandescent, so between aperitivi, make sure to stop and take it all in.

Milan, Italy, Sunset, Navigli

Photo by Michelle Heimerman


When’s the best time to go to Milan?

The best time to visit is late April and May, or mid-September through October, especially if you hope for mild weather and a bit of sunshine. From November through March, the city is cold and foggy, but lovely for its tranquility. Summer months are quite hot, and city residents head out of town for long weekends and even longer vacations.

How to get around Milan

Two airports lie astride Milan: Malpensa to the northwest, and Linate to the east. Choose which one based on where you are staying. A city-mandated fare of €90 (about US$120) gets you from Malpensa to anywhere in the city center, while the cost from Linate is based on a metered rate. Trains also run from Malpensa to Milan’s Stazione Centrale (central station) via Malpensa Express. And coach bus travel is available from both airports to the city center. Additionally, Milan is well-connected by rail regionally, nationally, and internationally. Stazione Centrale is the main hub and serves TreniItalia and TrenoNord railways, while the newly renovated Piazza Garibaldi is hub to Italo railways as well as Trenitalia and TrenoNord.

Milan has a comprehensive public transit system of buses, trams, and metro lines, and the city center is easily walkable. Taxis are prevalent and can often be hailed, but your best bet is to reserve one via taxi stand or phone.

Can’t miss things to do in Milan

Take time to visit Villa Necchi Campigli, a 1930s time capsule of Milan life, and Italian art and architecture.

Food and drink to try in Milan

Over the past few years, the quiet city has undergone a culinary and cocktail revolution. From street food, gelaterie, and pastry shops to osterias and restaurants, the scene has reinvented itself, showing off traditional recipes like risotto al milanese (a rice dish rich with marrow, accented with saffron), polenta, and cassoeula (meat and vegetable potage slow-cooked in a casserole) in often creative interpretations. A private walking tour, Savoring Milan Food, organized by AFAR’s partner, Context Travel, is led by a local chef or culinary historian who can lead you to the tasty heart of Northern Italian cuisine.

Culture in Milan

Milan is the discreet sister to gritty Rome, and it’s a city fully immersed in culture. Whether the art of the aperitivo, the spectacular art scene, or an amazing panorama of architecture that spans styles and milennia, Milan is an oasis of style, art, and architecture.

Depending on the time of year, Milanese life can be found indoors at cafés, restaurants, and cultural centers, or outdoors in an interactive catwalk of design and fashion.

The city celebrates its patron Saint Ambrogio on December 7, and then adds a week to carnival for Carnevale Ambrosiano.

In fall and winter, the city holds court as fashion capital for its women’s and men’s fashion weeks (held at separate times).

For two days in both spring and fall, Milan’s amazing “museum homes” are open to the public for Giornate FAI (Italian National Trust).

The mid-April Salone del Mobile turns the entire city into an indoor/outdoor party dedicated to design, and this is perhaps one of the loveliest times to visit Milan, if you can get a hotel room.

Local travel tips for Milan

  • Being polite goes miles in Milan, a city built on etiquette. “Grazie” and “Piacere” (a pleasure) will be your most useful terms.
  • Tipping is not required, and should be modest at most. Hotel porters and cleaning staff should be tipped. There is no need to tip taxi drivers.
  • Public transportation is great but many Milanese use BikeMi, Milan’s city-organized bike-sharing initiative that anyone can sign up for—daily, weekly, or yearly.
  • If you happen to hear the phrase “cortili aperti,” stop in your tracks. Milan’s very best secret courtyards, in the city center and surrounding neighborhoods, are rarely opened to the public, with a single Cortili Aperti event happening in late spring, usually with a last-minute announcement because, well, Italy.

Guide Editor

Erica Firpo is a journalist with a passion for art, culture, travel, and lifestyle. She has written and edited more than 20 books and her travel writing has appeared in Yahoo Travel, Discovery Magazine, BBC Travel, The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Fathom, Forbes Travel, and Huffington Post.

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From hipster to haute couture and small palazzo to skyrises, Milan’s unique neighborhoods have unforgettable personalities that make the city an incredible adventure at every metro stop. One-of-a-kind shops, fabulous street art, clever galleries, trendy restaurants, and vibrant nightlife are the essential characters that define Milan’s neighborhoods and contribute to the overall vibe of Milan as a city not to be overlooked.
Just north of the city center, Isola is Milan’s slightly offbeat, somewhat hipster, and completely all-natural neighborhood. On any given day, its vibe is friendly and local. The area offers amazing boutiques and specialty stores, boasts the best barber in the city, and features colorful street art.
The perfect day in Milan is easy if you plan it right. From delicious pastries and art to fabulous fashion and culture, Milan in 24 hours can be the most beautiful experience. Make sure to begin bright and early with a cappuccino and cornetto so that you are fueled for art watching, window shopping, and climbing to the city’s heights. And then get ready for a stylish evening at Milan’s very best cocktail spot.
While there’s much to do in Milan, there’s also a lot to do outside the city. Hop on a train and enjoy lunch by a lake, see a contemporary art collection in an 18th-century villa, and dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Then take a stroll in a walled city, go winetasting, or climb a tower. All you need is an adventurous spirit.
You’re in Milan for only three days; what are you going to do? Grab a city bike and pedal fast—you’ve got a busy schedule for the next three days. Drink in Milan’s fashion and art and, yes, an espresso or glass of vino at a café table—all while pondering the wonders of 15th-century architecture and deciding in which fabulous Milan restaurant or cocktail bar to luxuriate over dinner.
Like most Italian cities, Milan has an amazing and very visible history that spans two millennia of art and architecture. But what really distinguishes it from other città is the ever-present testament to modernism and modern architecture—all accessible via the charming vintage trams.
The traditional seat of business and fashion in Italy, Milan is the place other Italians love to hate—which means that it obviously has much to love. On the obvious side of the scales you’ll find Leonardo’s “Last Supper” and an outrageously beautiful cathedral, less so are the art and dining scenes which become more complex by the day. Ranging further afield, travelers will discover day trips to great wine regions, incredible contemporary art collections, and Lake Como (and George Clooney).
Morning, afternoon, or evening, Milan knows how to do caffè culture right. Known as “bars” in Italy, these local spots serve coffee drinks and pastries in the morning, and delicious savory and apertif menus in the afternoons.
Italy’s fashion capital is of course full of stylish hotels. Luxury brand behemoths such as Armani and Bulgari both opened hotels in the city designed to embody their beloved aesthetics. A former fashion editor masterminded the three chic apartments at the intimate 3 Rooms Corso Como hotel. Park Hyatt Milan has a dreamy setting in an 18th-century palazzo, while the Seven Stars Galleria boasts a unique location in the oldest shopping mall in the world.
There’s so much to see and do in Milan that identifying the must-do experiences is nearly impossible. Seeing the Duomo, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” (in Santa Maria delle Grazie), and the Museum of the 20th Century must be top of the list. Style aficionados should certainly check out Milan’s Fashion Quadrilateral. Similarly, football fans should try to watch a game at San Siro, Milan’s cathedral of European soccer.
You can find the best of the best in Milan. Whether you’re in the market for iconic and hand-tailored Italian suits, fashionable bicycles, or a ballet flats, there are artisans and boutiques in this city that will present you with treasures. And design? From haute couture to interior, industrial, and architectural design, some of the world’s most amazing designers, homegrown and international, have set up shop in Milan to showcase ingenious products and style. Come to the market and prepare to be knocked out.
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