One visit to Italy really is never enough and I have found this to be particularly true with Milan. Since studying in the city for a semester, I have been back three times… and counting.
Milan, I have also come to learn, is a city that people either love or could do without. Yes it can swallow you whole, but so can Paris if you don’t do your homework.
Overall, I think that Milan is very underrated and always worth a visit.
WHEN TO VISIT
You can certainly experience all four seasons in Milan, so in the end it comes down to when you’d prefer to travel.
I personally have really enjoyed visiting the city from April up until early June or September thru December.
April and May, in my opinion, are often overlooked in terms of traveling times. On the cusp of tourism season, for the most part, the crowds are at a minimum. Not to mention that there are usually flight deals around this time!
With the exception of a few rain pockets in April, the weather is generally pleasant. You won’t likely be needing rain boots, but I’d definitely bring along a light jacket and an umbrella. Dressing in layers would also be a good idea as the weather can vary slightly throughout the day.
From mid-June thru August, Milan can get very hot and crowded. I am hardly a mermaid, but if I am going to be in Italy during the late summer months, I’d rather be under an umbrella along the beaches of Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast. Of course, if you’ll be passing though the city and have time to stop, definitely take a gelato detour.
My happiest of fall time memories always circle back to 2 words and 11 letters… Fashion Week !! Even if you can’t attend a live show, it is so fun to experience how the city celebrates the event of Italian designers showcasing their latest collections. I may have ran into Kate Moss, when I was hopelessly lost in the fashion district, en route to Dolce & Gabbana.
September’s forecast is definitely on the warmer side while it gets progressively cooler (still mild) from October thru November. You can get away with a light coat up until the end of November and it may be a good idea to plan for a rainy day or two.
In terms of the winter season, I have only experienced November and December in Milan.
If you love Christmas time as much as I do, then I would absolutely recommend visiting the city in December. From the market outside of the Duomo to the twinkly lights that adorn the fashion district, experiencing how Milan rings in the holiday season (don’t forget the hot chocolate) will fill you full of joy.
I definitely recall the weather being rather damp, at times, but considerably milder than in Canada with hardly any snow. As a reference, the winter coat that I bought in Milan has been my fall coat back in British Columbia.
I would imagine that there would be a fair amount of rain from January thru March. The only way I can see myself wanting to visit Milan during these dreary late-winter months, is to take advantage of the January sales (sadli) or to experience Fashion Week in February.
GETTING TO MILAN
Milan is arguably the transportation hub of Italy and offers many options within and outside of the city.
Should you prefer to fly, from what I’ve gathered, these are the two main airports that you need to consider prior to your Milan visit:
Milan Malpensa (MXP)
- Best for international flights
- Milan’s largest airport
- A ways away from the city center
- Would recommend either the regional train or a shuttle service to Centrale Station
Milan Linate Airport (LIN)
- Best for domestic flights
- Not too far from the city center
- There is not a direct train link to the city (currently under construction)
- Would recommend the shuttle service to Centrale Station for now
Aside from the time when my uncle once dropped me off, I have only ever arrived to Milan via train.
Whether you are traveling within or outside of Italy, you may find that majority of the train tickets to Milan arrive at Centrale. This main train station connects to most of the major train stations throughout Italy as well as the metro stations in Milan.
Aside from the Centrale Station, the only other train station that I have ever arrived or departed from was Garibaldi. You can travel to and from some of the bigger cities in Italy such as Turin, Florence, Naples and Rome. I personally have caught the TGV from here to visit Paris.
For your own peace of mind, I would suggest grabbing your train tickets well ahead before your visit to Milan. Especially, if you are traveling to another region or country. I have bought tickets from the following in the past:
WHERE TO STAY
Whenever I visit Milan, I opt to stay at a hotel within steps of a main train station. I like not having to worry about hauling my suitcases up the steep (and many) metro stairs or relying on a cab if possible.
If you wish to stay within walking distance from the city centre (the Duomo) you may want to factor direct transportation into your budget. I would not recommend arriving via metro, as the Duomo’s metro stop is generally busy. I am also going to go ahead and confirm that it is NOT suitcase friendly.
Above all, dragging your suitcase across the cobblestone streets will draw attention and puts you right under the radar of a pick pocketer. For peace of mind, arrange to be dropped off in front of your hotel.
Hotels to Consider
- 43 Station Hotel
- AC Hotel Milano
- Four Seasons Hotel Milano
- INNSiDE by Melia Milano Torre GalFa
- Matilde Boutique Hotel
- NH Collection Milano Porta Nuova
- NH Milano Palazzo Moscova
- Park Hyatt Milan
- Rooms Milano Duomo
- Rosa Grand – Starhotels Collezione
- Senato Hotel Milano
- Speronari Suites
- STRAF hotel & bar
- Starhotels E.c.ho.
- The Westin Palace
SHOPPING IN MILAN
Milan is without a doubt my favourite city for shopping and is not surprisingly always on the top of my list, of things to do, whenever I visit. Whether you are on a starving student budget or feel like adding a designer bag to your wardrobe, the options are nearly endless. I may have paid the airline fee for extra baggage weight more than once.
Duomo to Sforzesco Castle
Between Sforzesco Castle (located on a lovely park) and the Duomo, you’ll find all sorts places to eat and shop. Whether you take Via Manfredo Camperio, Via Dante or venture through Piazza Cordusio, it is less than a 20 minute walk.
If you find yourself with a limited amount of time for shopping, keep this in mind as you can cover a lot within a relatively short distance.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II
Steps for the Duomo, this street is chalked full of places to shop and eat. Definitely grab yourself a gelato!
Nearby, and would also recommend visiting, is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. A note that this is completely separate from Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Essentially, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an outdoor mall, covered in glass, while Corso Vittorio Emanuele II is a pedestrian only street. Either way, you’ll find yourself surrounded by fashion and no lack of food.
In between Galleria and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, I also wanted to point out one of my favourite department stores. From a local bar of soap to the latest Valentino gown, there is SO much to see!
A warning that one can easily spend hours here… so enter wisely. On that note, if you are going to go into Rinascente, then you may as well visit the “food hall” on the top floor!
Quadrilatero della Moda
Located in the fashion district, essentially, Quadrilatero della Moda consists of four streets (Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia) that box in a number of prestigious fashion houses and upscale cafes. I have spent MANY hours within these streets and the ones nearby.
If you are already at the Duomo, you can walk to the fashion district in less than half an hour (shopping not included). I would often take Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and head towards Via Monte Napoleone,
Heading back to the Duomo, from Quadrilatero della Moda, you can take Via Monte Napoleone as an alternative route.
If you’d rather take the metro, there is the yellow line that runs between the Montenapoleone and Duomo stop. It’s a bit faster, but then you’d miss all of the shops and gelato along the way.
I really adore this district. The streets are lovely and there is a great mix of quaint and upscale shops, with a handful of places to stop, sit, and enjoy a plate full of carbs. Apparently if you are wanting to invest in leather goods, this would be the district to do so.
If you are already within Quadrilatero della Moda, you can continue walking along Via Monte Napoleon and arrive at the Brera district in less than 15 minutes. If you plan on walking from the Duomo, it is about 30 minutes without stopping… but where’s the fun in that?
I would recommend doing this walk only if you have the time for it and really want to. It can easily amount to half a day.
Alternatively, you can also take the yellow metro line to Centrale FS and then the green line to Lanza.
This is where I stock up all things food to shove in my suitcase. From Sicilian salt, to lavender tea… I have easily spent a few hours here. Not to mention the meal options! I love the Pizza & Cucina on the top floor. It is relatively casual, yet SO good!!
To get here, you will need to take the green or lilac metro line and get off at Garibaldi.
Absolutely chic, I have not spent nearly enough time here! If you have the time during your visit, I absolutely would recommend passing through this district while in Milan. It is also a great stop on your way to Eataly.
EATING IN MILAN
From gelato, coffee bars, street food, specialty shops, mom and pop restaurants, to a fancy dining experience… there is absolutely no lack of food options to visit in Milan.
Food Spots to Consider
- Bar Pasticceria Rovida
- Cioccolati *
- Cova *
- Eataly *
- Emporio Armani Ristorante & Caffè
- La Rinascente Food and Restaurant *
- Lavazza Flagship Store
- Luni *
- Marchesi 1824
- Pizzium – Stazione Centrale Milano
- Ristorante Giannino dal 1899
- Ta Bonu!
- Trattoria Mirta
- Terra Gelato
- The Dome Milano *
- V Bart & Restaurant
* I have been to… more than once
While eating out in Milan is definitely a must, do not bypass a grocery store. They are very much underrated!! Wine, cheese, and fresh bread for less than 10 euros? I rest my case.
In between pizza slices and plates of pasta, I basically lived off of white wine, cheese, cold cuts, chips, fresh bread, fruit, and Italian yogurt, during the duration of my last stay.
If you are staying at a hotel, I’d absolutely check to see if there is a fridge in your room as well as a grocery store within walking distance. On that note, I highly suggest throwing the following items into your suitcase before leaving for Milan:
To be honest I do not think that I have ever sat down at a table for an actual breakfast in Milan. Breakfast is generally light and readily available, within steps of your morning destination.
I would highly suggest a brioche to pair with your morning tea or coffee. Made fresh every morning, usually available in Nutella, cream and sometimes marmalade, they are kind of intoxicating. Make sure you grab an extra napkin as this buttery pastry is super flaky!
Also, if your hotel includes breakfast… do not bypass it. Depending on the hotel, there is a solid chance that it will not be your typical continental breakfast, I repeat!!
As you may know, lunch is kind of an important meal in Italy. I would definitely carve out an afternoon to enjoy a sit-down meal in the city. Especially since (according to my uncle) the concept of “slow food” originated in Milan. Do note that lunch time is generally around 1-2 PM.
Think of it as a cocktail hour before dinner… all week long ! You may find that most restaurants, hotels, and bars will offer their drinks and light snacks from around 6-9 PM. It’s usually quite affordable and one of my favourite ways to recharge after a day of shopping.
Comparing to lunch, dinner is a rather simple meal. As a result of aperitivo, restaurants are generally open much later and you’ll see the tables begin to fill up around 9, rather than 6 PM.
- red or yellow line
- Duomo metro stop
- Must Visit: cathedral & rooftop, Rinascente, Galleria & Corso Vittorio Emanuele II
- green line
- Sant’Agostino or Porta Genova metro stop
Porta Nuova district:
- green line
- Lanza metro stop
- yellow line
- Montenapoleone metro stop
- Must Visit: The fashion houses within the streets of Quadrilatero della Moda
PACKING FOR MILAN
This Taurus is too high maintenance to see any value in packing “light”. One carry on for over three days? Get real. With that being said, I do try to keep everything to one medium suitcase + one carry on bag. Because I will absolutely be shopping during my visit, when packing for Milan I try to leave about 1/3 of my suitcase empty.
Packing for your stay in Milan will of course depend on the time of year. As previously mentioned, while the temperature is generally mild from April up until early June or September thru December, the city tends to get a decent amount of rain. I would suggest monitoring the forecast before you bring out your suitcase.
Generally speaking, I’d suggest bringing along the following if you plan on traveling from fall thru springtime:
- water bottle
- umbrella (especially spring & fall)
- swim suit (if hotel has a pool or sauna)
- flats for walking
- sneakers for walking
- high heels for walking
- high heels for going out
- sandals (if visiting in spring)
- waterproof boots (if visiting fall thru winter)
- shoe insoles
Also, leave the bright colours (if any) in your closet.
If you have any queries or takeaways to add, please add a note in the comments section below or message me on Instagram.
This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Only products that I would use myself (or truly loved) are recommended.