Every time I go to Italy, I have the biggest smile on my face. Italy feels right at home, for reasons beyond me. So, when I was looking for destinations to travel solo I decided to include Italy. Now, if you are travelling to Italy for the first time and looking for that authentic Italian experience, I wouldn’t recommend going to Milan. Milan is more modern (or should I call it Metropolitan), as compared to some of the other cities like Rome, Naples, Venice etc. Having said that, I had a great time in Milan. I fell in love with the vibe of the city, the smooth mix of modern and traditional architecture and the fact that it was affordable as compared to other Italian touristy destinations. So, here are my suggestions and tips for Top 5 Experiences in Milan You Can’t Miss.
Top 5 Experiences in Milan You Can’t Miss
Duomo di Milano
In my opinion, this should be your starting point. If you take a look at Milan’s layout on google maps, you will see that the Duomo occupies the centre most position with streets circling this stunning architecture. Also, Duomo di Milano is the highlight of Milan, just like Duomo di Firenze is the highlight of Florence. Just stand at the main square in front of the cathedral and spend a few moments to admire this piece of art! You will be amazed.
The entrance to the cathedral is inexpensive and is just 3 euros per person and the tickets to the Terraces is 9 euros (if you climb the stairs) or 13 euros (by lift). There are also a few packages available to choose from. For more details and opening hours, check their official website. I traveled in mid May and the queues for tickets weren’t very long. However, I assume that queues will be longer in summer and booking your passes online would be a good idea.
I would highly recommend going to the Terraces as the view is amazing and the architecture is extraordinary. I had the best time walking around and admiring the views. Plenty of photography opportunity as well.
Photography tip: Go to the Duomo in the morning and wait for the sun to peak from behind the cathedral. Keep your camera on relatively higher focus and you will be able to capture that burst of sun rays peaking from behind. During morning hours, the crowd is less as well.
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Milan has two canals – Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavaerse. Of course, these are not comparable to Amsterdam or Venice but the vibe here is like unlike any place I have ever seen. If you ask me, this was my most favorite part of the trip.
Naviglio Grande is more happening, filled with numerous restaurants, cafes, shops and pubs. Just take a stroll around, chill out at the canal or peak into some of the numerous shops.
Quick tip: Go here in the evening for dinner and stay out until late. Try out Il Forno Dei Navigli Bakery for some delicious Italian delights.
The Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is a master piece and one of the most famous paintings in the world. It’s a wall mural in the refectory adjoining the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie and depicts a dinner between Jesus and his disciples. For information on ticket prices and opening hours, check here.
Quick tip: Book the tickets in advance or go for a guided tour. Tickets sell out quickly and only 30 people are allowed inside at one time due to the delicate nature of the painting.
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Shopping in the fashion capital of the world
When you are in the fashion capital of the world, you can not and should not escape shopping. The main high-end shopping area is called the Quadrilatero d’Oro (‘rectangle of gold’). It comprises of Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Montenapoleone and includes all the high end shopping boutiques you can think of. I would go there just for window shopping and admire all the fancy stuff on display!
Another shopping spot you should not miss is Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s a really stunning shopping mall with glass roof, pretty tiles and fancy architecture and is located right next to the Duomo. You can check out Prada’s flagship store here. There are a few fancy restaurants and gelato parlours that you try as well.
I tried some of the stores on orso di Porta Ticinese. It has a mix of high end and affordable boutiques and I really enjoyed just strolling around and admiring the wall murals.
Most of the locals go to outlet stores for shopping for designer bargains. Some of the outlet malls worth trying are – corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Il Salvagente, Dmagazine Outlet. If I had extra time, I would have considered going for a look but high end brands are really not my thing. I rather spend that money on buying an air ticket. 🙂
Quick tip: The tourist information booths (I saw one at the central station) can provide flyers and sell tickets for return bus journey to these out of town outlet malls. Maybe worth considering that if you are planning to go and are not sure of the modes of transportation.
Aperitivo is basically happy hour in Italian and you get free food when you buy a drink. Originally the idea was to have a drink before dinner that would increase your appetite but this tradition has evolved over years. Traditional aperitivo drink would be Aperol or Campari liquors but restaurants these days serve a variety of drinks like beer, cocktails etc. Aperitivo does not mean dinner. It’s just drinks with finger food before dinner and a lovely way to socialise. It is also believed that drinks are little pricey as they include the cost of food but living in Dublin , my drink was half the regular Dublin price.
Quick tip: Go to Naviglio area for drinks and then you can hop on to another restaurant for dinner. Alternatively, check out Lonely Planets guide for Milan’s 10 best spots for an aperitivo.
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Planning your travel
In addition to Top 5 Experiences in Milan You Can’t Miss, I wanted to cover the travel planning topic a bit as it always gets difficult to figure out commute in a new city / destination. The below tips will definitely be helpful.
How to reach from Airport:
There are three airports in Milan – Malpensa, Linate and Bergamo Airport. My flight was to and from Bergamo airport which is about an hour away from city center. The best way to reach the city center is by taking a bus. I didn’t book one in advance but just went to the bus stand and paid 5 euros before boarding. By doing that, I was not bound to one particular bus company. I checked the departure time and boarded the one which was leaving in 5 minutes.
For transportation from any other airport, check out this website. The information in there was very helpful for me to plan my journey as well.
Transportation within the city:
Milan has a good network of public transportation i.e. Metro, Tram and Bus. There are two type of cards you can buy which will help you save on your journey – 1) Milan card 2) Day tickets. Don’t get confused, as they are different. With Milan card you can get discount on museums, but in case you are not planning to visit those just get the one day or two day tickets.
Day tickets are covered on all three modes of transpiration and you can buy them at the newspaper or tobacco shop at the metro station. If you see people queuing up in front of a tobacco shop, just join the queue. 🙂
Where to stay:
My first hostel was in Milan and it was a really good experience. Since I was travelling solo, it made more sense to just pay for one bed as I was just planning to crash at night. I would highly recommend Babila Hostel as it was clean and located near Duomo. If you rather stay in a hotel, then book for one which is closer to the city center to reduce your commute time.
I thoroughly enjoyed Milan and I hope you find my suggestions and tips for “Top 5 Experiences in Milan You Can’t Miss” useful.!