While Rome may be Italy’s capital, Milan has truly staked its claim as Italy’s second city. Not just the 2nd largest city in the country, Milan is also Italy’s commercial, industrial and financial centre. That’s not to say Milan’s culture scene isn’t thriving: a culinary scene that is more varied than any other Italian city, home to two of the world’s top football teams, a thriving hub of fashion and shopping, and a plethora of artistic and architectural marvels mean you won’t be short of things to do in Milan.
The Duomo Milano is the architectural jewel in Milan’s crown. The fruit of nearly 600 years of work, the cathedral is an amazing sight and a gothic masterpiece. 3500 statues, 135 spires, 5 bronze doors make up the imposing marble cathedral which sits in Duomo Square. The city was built around the cathedral and the main streets either go out from the square or circle it, meaning whether you just want to drop by to see the amazing façade or want to go inside, you’re in prime place to continue your adventures in the rest of the city. If you want to take a closer look (and it’s recommended you do!) take a tour around the cathedral, and don’t miss out on the chance to see the piazza from above; the roof is accessible by lift and is open for the public to get close-up to some of the spectacular sculptures.
Apart from visiting the cathedral Duomo Square is an ideal place to while away an afternoon. A host of great eateries, cafes and bars will keep you well fed and watered in the heart of historic Milan and the exquisite architecture on all side of the square mean you’ll be kept interested even when resting your weary legs. Its central location means it has optimal convenience for getting to other places, whether by walking, catching a Hop-on/ Hop-off tour bus which stops close to the square or hailing a cab. The opulent LaScala Opera House is just a few blocks away- a must-visit for anyone with an interest in opera. The square keeps going when the sun sets and its lively nightlife means it’s a hive of activity around the clock.
Visit the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and feast your eyes on The Last Supper, Da Vinci’s masterpiece which depicts the moment Jesus told his disciples one of them would betray him. Over 4 metres high and 8 meters wide, the painting is enormous, covering one of the walls of the monastery. Book tickets early to reserve a 15 minute viewing slot to ensure you get to see this historical piece of art.
Milan is well-known as the fashion capital of Italy and the heart of haute-couture. To make sure you don’t ruin your shoes pounding the pavements to find your favourite stores, the city has kindly collected together its finest shops together in one place, aptly named the Quadrilatero d’ora, or Rectangle of Gold. For a greater range, in the most grandeur setting, head to Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II. Probably the only shopping mall in the world where you won’t find a McDonald’s (it was evicted in 2012 and replaced by the mall’s 2nd Prada store!) the 19th century mall is one of the oldest in the world. The four-storey arcade is an architectural wonder that houses some of the oldest shops and restaurants in Milan. You’ll find a glut of luxury stores selling clothing, jewellery, books and paintings, as well as restaurants, cafes and bars.
Football fans can make the pilgrimage to the San Siro, home to Milan’s fierce rival clubs, Inter Milan and AC Milan. Take a tour behind the scenes to the changing rooms, interview room, hospitality areas and into the stands; whether full of spectators or totally empty, the 80,000 capacity stadium is an impressive sight. The museum gives you an insight into the two teams’ illustrious histories, with a unique collection of memorabilia including trophies, historical shirts and souvenirs. While you won’t see any football during the summer break, there are plenty of big-name music acts as the San Siro turns into Milan’s premier music venue.
You’ll find the most diverse cuisine in Milan’s restaurants. Italian food is rich, filling and flavoursome. Creamy pastas, risottos, cheeses, meats and vegetables are the main components of a typical Milanese meal.
Milan was the inspiration for Starbucks’ concept of launching a coffee shop in which people could work, meet and relax. Getting coffee is a social pastime in Milan, not just an essential perk-up. Give weary feet a rest as you plan the thing on your itinerary, or just watch the world go by. Expect to find your coffee dark, rich and expertly roasted.
The weather in Milan is very seasonal and varies greatly throughout the year. Depending on how you want to tour the city and what you want to go, Milan is an excellent year-round city break option.
Just outside the peak summer season, Spring is the perfect time to visit Milan. You’ll be able to enjoy the sites without the throngs of tourists you’ll find in July and August, and the cooler, more comfortable temperatures are ideal for wandering around without working up a sweat. Expect the occasional downpour, so pack a rain jacket or umbrella.
Summer sees high numbers of tourists, high temperatures and high humidity. Be sure to pack your suntan lotion and keep hydrated; the perfect excuse to sample the great range of bars and cafes you’ll find on every street!
Like Spring, Autumn in Milan is cool but expect less sunshine and more rainy days. Temperatures in October will be in the high teens, and the low teens in November.
Like Winter in the UK, Milan’s winter months are cold, rainy and sometimes even snowy. December is a wonderful time to visit to do some Christmas shopping- shops adorn themselves with twinkle lights and if you pay a visit to the Duomo, you’ll find a huge tree erected in Duomo Square. Huddle inside a café with a steaming mug of coffee and watch the world go by.