Wondering what to do in Milan Italy on your first visit? We got you covered! Exploring the big city can feel overwhelming as you try to experience as much as possible. Yet, you’ll quickly see there’s a wide range of activities for every traveler. So strap on your walking shoes and get ready to take on Milan! From strolling the roof of the Duomo to sipping Aperol Spritz’s on the canal, here are the 10 best things to do in Milan Italy!
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Our First Visit to Milan Italy
Back in 2019, we did an amazing trip through Northern Italy but didn’t spend much time in Milan! Thankfully, we had the chance to visit again this year and had a blast.
When we first arrived we were so excited for all the amazing things to do in Milan. The city is rich in history, food, and incredible architecture! Hopefully, this guide can give you an idea of what to do in Milan Italy on your first trip.
Quick Milan Travel Tips
Research: Do some research prior to your Milan travel to best plan out your time in the city. Utilize the Yes Milano website for great tips on discovering the best things to do in Milan Italy.
Be Ready to Walk: For how big Milan is it is surprisingly walkable. We spent all three days on foot between the different attractions! There is also a great metro system if you want to save time.
Look for Hidden Gems: Not everything in Milan is listed clearly in guide books or blogs. Keep your eyes open for unique churches, history, and experiences along the way.
Milan Weather: Plan your days around the weather. For example, if it’s particularly hot or rainy on one day maybe that’s the time you can visit the museums. Weather is always unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your day!
Day Trips: It might be hard to believe, but Italy’s most famous lake is only 40 minutes away from Milan. If you have time take the train and spend a few hours around beautiful Lake Como. You can also easily take a day trip to the stunning city of Bergamo!
Have fun: While you might be in a daze trying to fit everything into your schedule remember you are on vacation! Take in the cafe culture, enjoy delicious food, and see the city at your own pace. There is no way you’ll see everything on your first visit so embrace the time you have.
Best Things to do in Milan Italy
1. Explore the Duomo Inside and Out
You can’t talk about the best things to do in Milan Italy without starting with the Duomo! Construction on the cathedral first began at the end of the 14th century, and work has continued up until the present day. It stands proudly over the Piazza del Duomo and serves as both the central point and defining architectural monument of Milan.
The inside of the Duomo is absolutely spectacular and a must-see on your visit. The pillars inside seem to rise up forever and the colors of the stained glass windows will leave you captivated.
However, the inside is not the only part of the Milan Cathedral to explore! Make sure to get a combo ticket and take the lift or walk the stairs up to the rooftop. From here, you’ll have unbelievable views of the city and different vantage points from the terraces.
2. Stroll Through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Right next door to the Duomo is Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery. You wouldn’t know it by the modern shops and restaurants, but Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II first opened in 1877!
In addition to Prada and Louis Vuitton, be amazed by the large glass windows above and the bright colors all around you. This is a shining example of old meets new and why Milan is seen as the fashion capital of Europe.
Milan Travel Tip: Look for the bull on the floor of the Galleria! Legend has it, if you put your heel where the tiles are worn and spin around three times your wish will come true. If you can’t find it right away just keep your eyes open for people spinning around in circles!
3. Take in the Cafe Culture
We were told there are two types of people in the world. Those who drink espresso and those who like Cappuccinos. You may not think there is a big difference, but when traveling in Milan it’s important to know what type of person you are!
Espresso drinkers stand at the park and quickly sip on their drink before continuing on. While cappuccino fans like to sit down at a table, order a sweet treat (my favorite is the pistachio stuffed croissants), and enjoy the morning. What type of coffee drinker are you?
4. Experience the Different Milan Neighborhoods
Each part of Milan has its own character and vibe to see on your visit. From the popular fashion district and the canals of Navigli to the elegant Brera neighborhood, there’s something for everyone in Milan! Below we’ve listed some of our favorite places in Milan, but don’t limit yourself to just these neighborhoods.
Centro Storico: Home to the Duomo, Galleria, and numerous museums, this is the cultural and historic center of the city. No matter if you’re visiting for one day or one week, you will spend some time here in Milan!
Fashion District: Stroll the streets of one of Europe’s most fashionable cities. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s still fun to do some window shopping on your Milan travel.
Breha: One of the most gorgeous neighborhoods in Milan full of color and life. Great place to grab a coffee and people watch.
Navigli: One of the best things to do in Milan starts here at 6pm! Stop into the canal district for aperitivo on the water.
Chinatown: Yes, Milan has a Chinatown! It’s definitely worth a trip if you have time and want a switch up from Italian food.
Tortona: One of the newest hip spots to explore in Milan. Once home to many factories, Tortona is now bustling with art galleries and boutique hotels.
NoLo: Another up-and-coming trendy neighborhood with great art and shopping.
**Need a tour guide in Milan? Reach out to Llaria Fiore. She is the best!
5. Visit the Sforzesco Castle
One of the best things to do in Milan Italy is to explore its castle! This epic fort was built back in the 14th century and tells the interesting story of the city. Originally it was built as a symbol of power for the Visconti family and then named after the Sforza’s who came after.
Over the years though, it would be taken over by the French, Spanish, and Austrians as power changed hands in this region of Italy. Today the castle is home to many stunning gardens and museums, and still serves as a reminder of its storied past.
6. Marvel at Milan’s Museums
While we’re on the topic of history, Milan has some of the most remarkable museums in Italy! After seeing the inside of the Sforzesco Castle, you’ll be sure to find your way into more of the history of Milan. After all, it was home to Leonardo Da Vinci and many other famous artists and innovators over the last several centuries.
If art is your thing, check out Pinacoteca di Brera. Into history? How about a visit to the Milan Natural History Museum. The bottom line is, when searching for what to do in Milan Italy you’ll find no shortage of great museums!
7. Enjoy Aperitivo at the Navigli Canals
Every evening a special event takes place along the canals of Milan. First of all, did you know this city even had canals?? We had no idea when looking for the best things to do in Milan Italy! Navigli is made up of two canals, one of which is lined with great restaurants and bars.
They all specialize in the Aperetivo which is typically a drink that includes food. Many of the restaurants offer an all-you-can-eat special for 8-12 Euros. This includes a buffet of appetizers like cold cuts, pasta, fruits, and more! In Italy, Aperitivo is seen as a time to socialize in between work and dinner and is something everyone should experience in Milan.
8. Eat, Eat, and Eat Some More
While Italian cities like Bologna and Parma may get all the shine, Milan has great food of its own! Even just strolling around Milan it will be hard not to grab a quick pizza or bakery treat.
Get all the Italian hits, but also make sure to try the specialty dishes from Milan. Risotto alla Milanese is one of the most famous meals, as well as Cassouela at Manna. Seek out plenty of Polenta and also try the minestrone soup!
9. Go Shopping in the Fashion District
No trip to Milan would be complete without exploring the fashion distract! Milan is known around the world for its high-end clothing brands so it’s only natural you’d spend some time soaking it in. Aside from Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, there are numerous streets to get your shopping on.
Check out Via Montenapoleone, Corso Venezia, and Corso di Porta Ticinese. Corso Buenos Aires is one of Europe’s longest shopping streets and where you can buy amazing Italian leather products. Wherever you go, you’re sure to find some great places to shop in Milan.
10. Witness the Sacred Bone Church
Need something completely unique to finish your Milan travel? San Bernardino alle Ossa may be just it… Yet, the bone church is not for the faint of heart! There are many unreal churches around Milan, but maybe none with a story as unbelievable as this.
Legend has it, that back in the 13th century a nearby cemetery ran out of room. Eventually, they moved the bones and skulls to a small building with a church to it. Now hundreds of skulls from the Middle Ages are on display here!
Honestly, we couldn’t believe this was just steps from the Duomo. Seeing the San Bernardino alle Ossa is definitely one of the wildest things to do in Milan Italy.
Have any questions about this article or want to share more of the best things to do in Milan Italy? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
This experience in Italy was made possible in collaboration with Yes Milano. As always, any opinions and recommendations remain our own.
Where to Stay in Milan Italy
Ultra Luxury – Four Seasons Hotel Milano – Located in Milan’s shopping district, this luxury hotel is an oasis in the city center. Built in a 15th-century convent, the Four Seasons has everything you could ask for from a luxury hotel.
Unique Hotel – Galleria Vik Milano – High-end hotel set overlooking the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Each room has its own unique design and you’ll be near all of the best things to do in Milan Italy.
Apartment – ESTH Suite Apartment del Don 8 – These stylish mini-apartments have a hotel feel with extra space and kitchenette included. Quiet area, yet not far from Piazza Duomo.
Hostel Life – Ostello Bello – This popular and vibrant hostel has the perfect location. You can pick from dorm or private rooms and enjoy the full kitchen, sun terraces, and even hammocks!
For more places to stay during your Milan travel explore the latest prices here!
Italy Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to explore when traveling. Consider renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another for an epic Italian road trip!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.