Things to Do in Milán, an Italian City That Goes Beyond Fashion

Milan surprised us. Apart from the fashion, we enjoyed the architecture, the art, and the gastronomy. A city that is worth taking the time to visit.

Check out where to stay in Milan

The latest fashion on every corner, beautiful architecture and art in the buildings and museums, commercial and financial activity that filled us with energy, gastronomy for even the most selective palates….I’m talking about Milan, one of the European cities that has me captivated as of late. We were actually travelling to nearby Bérgamo, but we wanted to take a few days to get to know the Lombardy capital. Two marvelous days and I was in love with this northern city. And even though people had told us that one day was more than enough to see the city, we felt like we barely had enough time to do and see everything in Milan.

Visiting the center of Milan.

The view of Milan from the Duomo
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

You can’t talk about visiting this Italian city without taking a walk through the historic center. As soon as we set foot in the Piazza del Duomo we were amazed at how beautiful it was. In every direction there was something that we wanted to explore and visit. Logically, we started by visiting the Duomo, one of the biggest Gothic cathedrals in Europe. If we thought it was impressive on the outside, inside it was just as beautiful. If you can, in addition to visiting the inside of the cathedral, buy the ticket that includes the terrace. The views are impressive and you can get a great sense of the architecture and details of the cathedral.

Pedro taking photographs on the terrace of the Duomo in Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

After visiting the Duomo, (although we would have loved to have spent more time there) we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is just next to the cathedral. When you enter the Galleria it’s a sensory overload as you look around at the shops with the latest Milan fashions and the impressive architecture of the galleries, the floors, the ceilings, the mosaics, the details and even the shops have that touch of Milan aristocracy. On the other side of the galleries you arrive at the Piazza della Scala, another corner to stop in.

Walking through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan
Photo (by-nc) by Lorenzoclick

In this plaza you will find the Marino Palace (Palazzo Marino) and the La Scala Opera House. We tried to visit the inside of the opera house, but we were too late, so it’s a good excuse to come back again one day, and not only go inside, but also take advantage and see an opera and enjoy the acoustics. But the center isn’t all about visiting different sights, it’s also about walking through the streets, having an aperitif and watching the people pass by, and more than likely, knowing how to enjoy the charm of the grey and rainy days in Milan.

If you have extra time in the city, make sure to visit the Palazzo Reale and the Arengario near the cathedral, the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, the Palazzo di Brero or the Pinacoteca. The historic center clearly deserves more than one visit.

Leaving the center of Milan

Tram in Milan
Photo (by-nd) by Didier ZMI

When I was talking about the center of Milan, logically I was referring to the most historical part that was surrounded by the old city walls. But obviously, that’s not where the city ends. Without even touching the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, there are really interesting areas just outside the historic neighborhood. In addition to the multitude of churches like Santa Maria delle Grazie or the Basilica de Sant’Ambrogio and buildings with beautiful architecture, we visited two different areas.

Statues in the Municipal Cemetery of Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

The first one was at the metro stop Garibaldi. Here you will find the Municipal Cemetery, one of the places in Milan that left an impression on me. The cemetery might as well be an open air museum. It’s free to enter and there are an infinite number of statues and sculptures that are really impressive. The day we went, we were alone and it was grey and rainy, so the experience seemed even more authentic. I would never have imagined that we would find those kinds of pantheons. Some of them were as big as a small home!

Sunset over the canals of Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by Jeff Krause

The second place is the most romantic and it’s one of those transformations that we love to see in the cities we visit. In the area of Porta Genova, thanks to the beautiful canals, they have managed to revive the area with bars, restaurants and beautiful views by the light of the moon. This is the area the people from Milan come to for a drink or to eat, and that spirit was what we liked best. There is also an ecological market (Mercato Metropolitano) where you can buy food, eat or even attend concerts and activities. One of those charming corners that we love to discover.

If you have time left, the train station is also worth a visit. We were lucky because after visiting Milan we were catching the train to Bergamo. So we had a chance to explore the historic station and, just like Grand Central Station in New York; even if you don’t have a train to catch, it’s worth the visit.

Off the beaten path in the outskirts of Milan

Fundazione Prada in the outskirts of Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

Those of you who know us well and have been reading the blog for a long time already know that we love to explore new cities and find the alternative and different spots that make our visit more authentic. On this trip, we found two places that, although they are farther from the center, are in safe areas that are perfectly accessible by subway. The first place was already featured on our blog: the Fondazione Prada, a real treasure in contemporary art hidden in the old industrial area.

The second place might not seem necessary or authentic to everyone, but it was one of my dreams to visit since I was little. I don’t know how, but at a time when I was a staunch supporter of Real Madrid, I was lucky enough to see the finals of the Europe Cup where Barcelona lost 0-4 against Milan. That moment stands out in my childhood and it was when I became a fan of A.C. Milan. Since then, whenever anyone asked me what my team was, I always told them Málaga and then Milan. “What about Madrid and Barcelona?” they would ask. And I still responded, “Milan.”

Pedro in the San Siro stadium in Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

So as you can imagine, I couldn’t visit the city without seeing the San Siro football stadium. When we got to the door and we saw how expensive it was I started to have second thoughts, but the little boy inside me, along with Abby who wouldn’t let me miss this opportunity, convinced me to go inside. I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. The stadium isn’t anything out of this world, and the area is more industrial and boring compared to other areas of the city, but if you are a football fan, this is like a shrine.

De compras por Milán

Milan is the cradle of fashion
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

I’m not going to lie, I left Milan without buying any clothes. But I won’t deny that if there is a place to be inspired by fashion and buy something special, it is Milan. The store windows are like museum exhibits with perfect suits and clothes designed down to the last detail. Of course the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the historic center serve as a reference since, apart from shopping you can enjoy the beautiful architecture. However there are other shopping areas including Corso Buenos Aires or Corso Di Porta Ticinese, el Quadrilatero della Moda or the Vias Torino, Paolo Sarpi, Savona, Tortona or Bergognone, where fashion lovers are sure to enjoy.

Disfrutando la gastronomía de Milán

Having an aperitif in Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

Milan is also a city to enjoy through its gastronomy. From the aperitifs, hearty dishes and desserts, Milanese cuisine is full of surprises. In our article about the Milan Food Tour, which we really enjoyed, we talk more in detail about our culinary adventures in the city.

Gastronomy of Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

Of the restaurants that we tried there were two places that really caught our attention. The first was actually specialized in food from the area of Parma. The name of the restaurant is Salsamentaria di Parma (Via S. Pietro All’Orto, 9) and they also have a restaurant in Paris. This was the first time that we tried drinking wine in a bowl…yes, you read that correctly, in a bowl! The food was spectacular as well and the atmosphere was wonderful. We definitely recommend it. The other place was a little bit farther from the historic center. The Mercato Metropolitano is a concept that turned an abandoned area into a place where local farmers and food vendors can sell their products, along with some new and delicious creations.

Prosciutto and wine in Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero

Where to stay in Milan

To tell you the truth, we specifically looked for a place to stay on the outskirts of the city, and wound up in the area of San Siro. The reason for this was that we visited during the Expo, and if the prices are normally rather steep in Milan, then that week was even more expensive. The area was well connected, and very residential, so we were able to save on costs. What’s more, we were only 20 minutes away from the center of Milan.

If you are planning to stay, here you can check out all the different options for where to stay in the city of Milan.

Streets in the historic center of Milan
Photo (by-nc-nd) by El Boquerón Viajero
*** Photo licenses: Photos with license (by); Photos with license (by-nc-nd); Photos with license (by-nc); Photos with license (by-nc-sa); Photos with license (by-sa).
Cover Photo  (by-nc) by Chris Goldberg
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Pedro Ramirez
I was born and raised in Málaga, Spain. After living in Madrid, Barcelona and New York, I've returned home to enjoy the sun! I love to share the places I discover and write about them.
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