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Milan, Italy Travel Guide: What to Do & Eat in Milan, Italy

Let's travel to: Milan, Italy

When you think of a ‘typical’ Italian city, you don’t think of Milan. Milan can often be described as gray and industrial; however, once you get to know the city, you will be surprised when you realize how quickly you’ve fallen in love with it. After spending six months studying abroad in Milan, I can definitely say I've fallen in love with Milan.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • Capital of Lombardy
  • Europe’s main hub for trade and industrialization
  • City was destroyed during World War II and only after World War II, did the city rise and turn into a flourishing business capital of Italy
  • Ruled by Celts, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Spaniards and Austrians
  • Fashion capital of Italy
    • Home to headquarters of many high fashion brands like Versace, Pucci, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Armani
    • Business home to 12,000 companies, 800 showrooms, 6,000 sales outlets with four weeks dedicated to fashion shows and other events
  • World’s two best soccer teams, F.C. Internazionale Milano (Inter Milan) and A.C. Milan are based in Milan

USEFUL INFORMATION

  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Tipping: Not necessary
  • Transportation: The easiest way to get around is the subway or tram.
    • Buy tickets at a tobacco store (tabaccaio) or newspaper stand (edicola) before boarding and get the ticket validated at a machine that will print the date and time
  • Some stores will have a day of the week that they are closed and will call it a day of rest. All stores are different.
  • Most restaurants and bars have specific opening times and will close in the afternoon
  • Locals drink coffee only during breakfast time or after a meal, never during a meal
  • When buying fruit or vegetable at a street market or supermarket, always use the plastic gloves provided and never use your bare hands

LOCAL SPECIALTIES

  • Milan Fashion Week
  • Aperitivo (‘happy hour’) culture - everyday from 7pm - 9pm
    • Starting from 6pm, people meet for drinks and snacks at one of Milan’s bars
    • Usually 10 euros for a drink and unlimited food. Food can take different forms from olives and nuts to buffets.  
    • Locals usually have aperitivo before dinner but some treat aperitivo as dinner

WHAT TO DO

  • Take the stairs up Duomo di Milano, the 4th largest cathedral in the world
  • Go to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the world’s oldest shopping mall.
    • Find the bull on the floor. Put your right heel on the bull’s balls and spin three times if you want to return to Milan
  • Watch an opera or ballet at Teatro alla Scala  
  • See the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci in Santa Maria delle Grazie
    • Book in advance for a 15 minute time slot. Tickets sell out quickly.
  • Castello Sforzeseco - castle with seven specialized museums
    • Free entry is offered from 2pm every Tuesday and for the last hour of every day, the city’s biggest park built in 1888
  • Discover Milan’s canals in the Navigli district
    • Artsy neighbourhood lined with restaurants and cafes. This young and hip area is lined with a network of canals and comes to life at night.
  • Stroll in the Brera district
    • These picturesque streets and narrow and lined with cute boutiques, apartment and charming cafes.
  • Pinacoteca di Brera - popular art gallery in Milan that holds early collections of italian paintings. Masterpieces by Mantegna, Raphael, Piero della Francesca
  • Fondazione Prada - century-old distillery in Milan transformed into arts centre by Rem Koolhaas’ firm

WHAT TO EAT

Cafe

  • Bar Luce - designed by film director Wes Anderson
  • Bianco Latte
  • Emporio Armani Cafe
  • Gucci Cafe

Snack

  • Luini - Panzerotti

Lunch/Dinner

  • Pastamadre
  • Taglio
  • Osteria de Binari
  • Giulio Pane e Ojo
  • Al mercato burger bar
  • Pizza il tegamino Milano
  • Burger Wave
  • Temakinho (half Japanese and half Brazilian)

Aperitivo

  • Maya (near Navigli)
  • Spritz (by the big canal)
  • Horaz Felix

Brunch

  • California bakery → brunch is extremely hard to find in Milan

Gelato

  • Cioccolati Italiani
  • No 22

WHERE TO SHOP

  • Quadrilatero d’Oro - upscale shopping district formed by four streets to create the rectangle
    • Via Montenapoleone - most expensive street in Milan and 6th most expensive street in the world
    • Via della Spiga
    • Corso Venezia
    • Via Manzoni
  • 10 Corso Como - more designer stores and one of Milan’s best boutiques
  • Corso Vittorio Emanuele II- high-street chains, Excelsior and Rinascente, Milan’s best department store
  • Corso Buenos Aires - longest shopping road in Europe
  • Corso di Porta Ticinese - small boutiques, young designers, streetwear, and vintage shops
  • Navigli market on Saturday

WHERE TO GO OUT

Clubbing

  • Gattopardo -  church turned into club  (best on Tuesday in fall/winter)
  • Just Cavalli - best on Tuesday once the patio opens
  • Le Banque
  • Old Fashion - best on Wednesday
  • The Club
  • Alcatraz
  • Armani

Rooftop bars

  • Terrazza Aperol - rooftop bar with a great view of the Duomo
  • Duomo 21 - rooftop bar with a great view of the Duomo
  • Boscolo
  • Ceresio 7
  • La Rinascente - located on the last floor of the famous department store outside the Duomo
  • Terrazza Triennale - beautiful view of Parco Sempione
  • 10 Corso Como
  • Terrazza 12 - 10th floor of the Brian&Berry Building
  • La Terrazza Di Via Palestro
  • Terrazza Martini

Casual bars

  • Birreria La Fontanelle
  • Fun bar with awesome containers to drink your beer from
  • Bar Basso - renown for signature cocktail Negroni Sbagliato

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LIST BY: CAROLYN CHEN

Carolyn Chen has done two backpacking trips around Europe and spent six months studying abroad in Italy. She loves finding the most beautiful scenery, hidden gems and indulging in great food. Find more posts by Carolyn here.

Follow her adventures on Instagram: @carolynjxchen

 

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