Offering a unique atmosphere from other popular destinations in the country, Milan is undoubtedly one of the most special cities in Italy. Thanks to its geographic location, Milan has a strong Swiss influence that is reflected in its work ethic and cuisine, and yet it still sparkles with that classic Italian charm. In the following Milan travel guide, we’ve teamed up with some friendly locals to cover everything you need to know for an unforgettable vacation in this amazing city. We’ll cover what to do, what to see, what to eat, which neighborhoods to visit, and everything else you need to know. Let’s get started!
How much does it cost to travel to Milan?
As the country’s business and fashion capital, Milan is one of the most expensive cities in Italy. The good news, though, is that Milan has many affordable transatlantic flights, meaning you may be able to offset the city’s daily travel expenses with cheap flight tickets.
We recommend budgeting about 60 euros per day for backpackers on a budget. It is easy to spend far more or a little less, but this is a good estimate for those staying in hostels.
🎡 Attractions: 10 euros per attraction on average
🍕 Food: 23 euros per day
🍳 Breakfast: 3 euros
🍝Lunch: 6 euros
🍽️ Dinner: 12 euros
🍷Snack (dessert/beer/wine): 2 euros
🚕Transportation: 1.50 euros (but you can easily walk most places)
🛏️Accommodation (Hostel via Hostelworld): 20-28 euros per night or check Booking.com for hotels.
These prices are based on what you will need to travel comfortably in the city – they do not include things like bar hopping, club admission fees, souvenir/clothing shopping, tours, impulse purchases, nicer meals, etc. Don’t forget to budget extra for those things.
How Long to Spend in Milan
2-4 days is definitely enough.
Unlike Rome, Venice, and Florence, Milan does not have a lot of “must-see” sights, so you can see all the major points of interest in two days. However, Milan still has a lot to offer visitors, so you can easily spend a few enjoyable days exploring the city. There are also plenty of day trips within an hour or two by train of Milan that are worth checking out.
Therefore, we recommend spending at least two days in Milan if you want to see the highlights and 3 to 4 days if you want a little more time.
When is the best time to visit Milan?
Many travelers often assume that Italy is warm all year round, but this is not the case as Milan can be very cold in winter. Milan warms up in the summer months, so we recommend visiting in April-May or September-October for the best weather.
July and August tend to be the busiest months in terms of tourism, so be prepared for the crowds at this time. In fact, many locals leave the city at this time to enjoy the peace of coastal towns.
Winter can be chilly and there may even be a day or two of snow and lots of rain. However, the Christmas markets that start in early December are always a lot of fun to check out. Winter is also the cheapest time to visit as long as it is not during Men’s Fashion Week in January and Women’s Fashion Week in February.
Things to know: Milan is built on marshland, so mosquitoes can be quite annoying during the warmer months.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Milan Edition
- Lively nightlife: Milan has some great neighborhoods that come alive at night, so you can always find a bar, restaurant, or club that suits your style.
- The Duomo and the city center: Milan’s city center is beautiful and a great way to spend the day. A visit to the Duomo is highly recommended.
- Great day trips: Milan is well-connected to the rest of northern Italy by public transportation, so it’s easy to reach other cities and areas by train.
- Shopping: Of course, there’s shopping. Almost anything you can imagine can be found in Milan, especially luxury goods.
- Not a must-see city: We wouldn’t put Milan on our list of “must-see” cities in Italy. Don’t get us wrong, we liked Milan, but Rome, Florence, Venice, Siena, etc. are definitely more interesting cities to visit. So, we say save Milan for your second trip.
- Not the old-world Italy: When people think of Italy, they think of ancient Rome, the hills of Tuscany, and the canals of Venice… But Milan feels a bit more like a European New York City. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it surprises some people.
- Prices: Milan is the business and fashion capital of Italy, so you won’t find cheap prices.
The Best Neighborhoods in Milan
Milan has a number of unique neighborhoods, so you can always find an area to stay in that suits your travel style – from vibrant city life to peace and quiet. Additionally, Milan is a relatively small city, so getting from one neighborhood to the other is always within a quick walk or easy subway ride away.
Duomo and the City Center
In the heart of Milan, you’ll find the Duomo Cathedral, and we consider everything nearby to be the city center. Milan is quite small, so the city center is where you’ll find most of the shopping malls, museums, and restaurants. Naturally, it attracts a lot of tourists, so prices are high and it’s harder to find good deals.
The Brera Neighborhood
It’s easy to see why people fall in love with the Brera neighborhood. It has long been the artistic heart of Milan thanks to its Renaissance architecture and beautiful cobbled streets. Prices there are rising these days, but there are still plenty of small boutiques, lovely shops, and streets lined with charming cafes. It is definitely one of Milan’s most romantic areas.
The Navigli Neighborhood
We also love the Navigli neighborhood because it is undoubtedly one of Milan’s hippest and youngest areas, so you’ll find plenty of nightlife options here. The canals that run through the area are lined with bars and restaurants, but some of them can be a bit pricey. When you venture further into the neighborhood, you’ll find a lot of locals enjoying the area’s fun shops and more affordable bars/restaurants.
The Ticinese & Porta Romana Neighborhoods
In the southern part of Milan, you’ll find the residential neighborhoods of Ticinese and Porta Romana. Ticinese has a bohemian atmosphere thanks to the large student population there, and Porta Romana is home to many of the city’s wealthiest and most fashionable residents. Both neighborhoods are full of trendy bars, restaurants, vintage shops, and nightlife that caters to locals.
The Isola Neighborhood
Visit the Isola neighborhood in the northern part of the city to experience Milan’s modern and futuristic side. Here you’ll find looming skyscrapers and plenty of trendy bars, cafes, galleries, and nightlife that caters to locals. This area is an interesting mix that is still alive with a working-class vibe, but transforming into a backdrop of luxury. You’ll also find a lot of street art here.
What to Do in Milan – Recommended Attractions
Milan has only a handful of “must-see” attractions, but between those sights, shopping, delicious restaurants, neighborhoods, and day trips, there is plenty to do. Here is a list of the best things Milan has to offer:
Visit the Duomo Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo
The Duomo Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo are easily the best and most popular things to see when you’re in Milan. Located right in the heart of Milan, the Duomo draws thousands of people (and pigeons) daily.
The square is beautiful, but it’s always crowded with people — including a lot of pickpockets, so be aware of your belongings. We recommend visiting at night as well, as the Duomo and the surrounding buildings are lit up and it creates a stunning sight. Most of the bars and restaurants in the square are expensive, but that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Of course, you have to go inside the Duomo — which is one of the largest cathedrals in the world (it can hold over 11,000 people inside!) and took over 600 years to complete. But our favorite thing about the Duomo is seeing the city from the top of it.
Regular admission to enter the cathedral only costs €3.50. The ticket lines will be crazy long, so expect to wait over an hour (in full sun) if you’re buying tickets at the ticket office (or you can arrive about 30 minutes before opening). However, it’s worth knowing that you can skip the ticket lines by purchasing your tickets online for a specific time slot. Tickets can be booked directly from the Duomo website.
Tickets to enter the cathedral and the roof cost around €17 (elevator to the roof) or €13 (stairs to the roof). There is also a “fast track” ticket for €25 that includes everything.
Browse the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Shopping Center
Right next to the Duomo, you’ll find the oldest and most beautiful shopping center in Italy. Built in 1867, this impressive covered area now houses luxurious cafes and high-end designer boutiques.
See Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper
The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in the world, and it’s also one of the hardest paintings to see in person. Why? Because the painting is not in particularly good condition. Tickets go on sale two months in advance and often sell out within a few days of going on sale. Full-price tickets are €12 and can be purchased from the official website (they also offer an English-language tour daily for a few extra euros).
Head to Parco Sempione and Torre Branca
Parco Sempione is the largest park in Milan and it is a great place to escape the heat and hustle and bustle of the city. You can find sunny and shady areas, so it is a popular place for a picnic. There is also a large tower in the park that you can pay to climb for panoramic views of Milan.
Admire the Art at Pinacoteca Di Brera Gallery
If you love art, this gallery with its amazing Italian paintings is worth a visit. The building, which is a work of art in itself, houses an impressive collection with 36 rooms.
Enjoy an Opera Show at Teatro alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala is one of the most famous opera houses in the world and it has hosted some of the most famous operas and ballets for over 200 years. So, if you are an opera lover, you might want to catch a performance.
Tip: You can get a 25% discount on last-minute tickets if you ask at the box office an hour before the start of the performance.
Wander Through the Brera District
One of our favorite neighborhoods in Milan is Brera. This charming and artistic heart of Milan is known for its Renaissance architecture, as well as its cute streets and particularly cheerful atmosphere. You can find plenty of restaurants there, but the place really comes alive at night, when all the small cafes and bars fill up with people.
What to Eat in Milan
Milan has no shortage of places to eat, and there are plenty of local options that won’t break the bank.
So what should you order while in Milan? Below, are four dishes you must try!
Coffee: Most locals drink espresso in the morning, with cappuccino or other milk-based coffee drinks being a popular order. Note: Milk-based coffee is seen as a breakfast drink, so you might get strange looks if you decide to order it at a time that is not breakfast (cappuccino/latte/macchiato, etc.).
Risotto: The area around Milan is famous for its risotto, so be sure to look for a traditional restaurant that serves excellent risotto.
Ossobuco: Milan is known for its ossobuco, which is sliced veal shanks with vegetables, white wine, and broth. It is often served with risotto.