Travel Guide: How to Plan a Trip to Milan

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If you want to plan a trip to Milan, you’re in the right place! Milan, located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, is one of the most stylish cities in the world. Known for shopping and fashion, Milan is so much more. Art, culture, and history are literally etched into its stones. Milan is a vibrant city offering the perfect mix of classic and contemporary in everything from architecture to the arts, music and lifestyle.

I help travelers plan itineraries in Italy. I specialize in custom itineraries for Milan and Lake Como; here are my tips to help plan your trip to northern Italy.

Reasons to visit Milan

Before booking a flight and choosing a hotel, decide what you want to get from your trip to Milan.

One of the most popular reasons to visit Milan is for the shopping. The city is home to some of the best shopping in the world, with a wide variety of high-end fashion boutiques and department stores. Another big draw for travelers is the food. Milan is known for its fine dining, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, no matter what your budget. Of course, no trip to Milan would be complete without seeing some of the city’s famous sights. The Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Sforza castle and Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper are just a few of the must-see attractions in Milan. Finally, Milan is a great city to simply relax and enjoy. Whether you’re strolling through one of the many parks or people-watching from a curbside cafe, you’re sure to have a memorable time in this beautiful Italian city.

A large number of visitors come to Milan for business.  Milan is a hub for fashion, design and finance, and there are over 50 official trade fairs every year and thousands of conferences and other events drawing thousands of visitors from all over the world. If you are traveling for business, add a few days to your itinerary to enjoy your stay.

Shopping in Milan is an attraction in itself / Photo Depositphotos

How many days to stay in Milan

According to data compiled by the Milan Municipality, the average visitor stays in Milan for 10 days or less. In my experience as a travel advisor, most of the people I assist stay in Milan for 3- 5 days and then move on to Lake Como, Venice and Florence.

If Milan is one of many destinations on your Italy travel itinerary and you don’t have much time, then you will want to stay long enough to see the main attractions. Plan at least 2 days to see the main attractions in Milan without being rushed.

Milan is a great location to use as a base for day trips. You can stay a week to ten days in Milan and take short day trips to see another city or two. Lake Como, Bergamo, Brescia, Torino and even some cities in Switzerland are all within reach by fast Intercity trains.

Getting to Milan

Airports in Milan

There are 3 airports serving Milan, Linate, Bergamo Orio al Serio and Malpensa.

Linate is the most accessible because it is only 30 minutes from the center. Bergamo Orio al Serio is just 45 minutes from Milan and is the landing pad for many low-budget airlines like Ryan Air, Wizz and EasyJet. This is especially convenient for travel from other European countries.  Malpensa International is a bit further than other airports, about 1.5 hours from the center and is where intercontinental airlines such as American Airlines, Air France and Emirates arrive and depart.

If you are doing a tour of Italy or Europe and visiting several cities, you may want to plan to arrive in Milan and depart from another city.

Train Stations

There are two major stations in Milan; Stazione Centrale and Stazione Garibaldi. International trains from Switzerland, France, Germany and other European countries arrive at both stations. There are other stations in Milan (such as Cadorna and Lambrate), but they are local commuter stations.

Where to stay in Milan

If you only want to see the highlights of Milan, then I recommend you stay in the heart near Piazza Duomo or Brera.
Park Hyatt Milano is located behind the glass-domed gallery, or your might like the edgy Straf Hotel located near the Duomo.

If you have more time and want to get to know the city, staying in a residential neighborhood of Milan might be interesting. The Enterprise Hotel near City life or a charming B&B like Le Dimore near the station might be more your style.

Cultural connoisseurs will want to stay in a historical location. Locanda Pandeneus is across the street from the Sforza Castle.  Atellani Apartments are in the house where Leonardo da Vinci lived while painting the Last Super. Grand hotel et de Milan located next door to the La Scala Opera House is where famed vocalists and composers stay.

What to see in Milan

Milan has 4 “must-see” attractions: Duomo cathedral,  Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Sforza Castle, and the Last Super by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Just seeing these four sites at a leisurely pace will take up a full day and a half.

If you have more time in Milan, you may want to visit Pinacoteca di Brera, and the Museo del Novecento. Football (soccer) fans shouldn’t miss a match at San Siro or a visit to the football museum. Opera and ballet lovers will want to see a performance at La Scala and contemporary art affascinados must visit the Fondazione Prada and Bicocca Hangar. If you have the time, you must have a night on the town in Navigli, the canal district.

Milan is the capital of fashion, so naturally, shopping needs to be part of your Milan itinerary. The Golden Quad, the neighborhood around Via Montenapoleone, is where you’ll find big brands like Valentino, Gucci, Versace and more.

Some small fashion outlets are found in the city center, but you will find major discounts at some of the other larger outlets. For outlet shopping, plan for a half or full day.

Aperitivo in Milano / @BarBasso-Facebook

Food & Drink in Milan

Milan is a treasure trove for foodies. Everything from street food to five-star dining is here. International cuisine and intercultural fusion restaurants are making their mark.

Before a meal, do as the Milanese and have an aperitivo! Popular drinks served at the aperitivo time are Campari and soda, L’americanoSpritz, Bellini, Prosecco or beer. Moscatelli Bottiglieria, Lacerba and Bar Basso are classic aperitivo hangouts.

For traditional Italian dining, go to Posto di Conversazione in the Canal District or have a homemade-style meal at DOT Chianti in Via Orti. For a fine dining experience, book a table at Da Giacomo or La Langhe.
When you’re on the go, try some street food delights from Luini or Spizzico.

This guide is only the beginning.  There is so much to do and see in Milan. If you’d like a personal, tailor-made itinerary, feel free to contact me,  I’d be happy to help you plan a trip to Milan!

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