I can’t believe it has already been a year since we celebrated Valentine’s Day in Milan. We had just gotten back from Porto, where it was sunny and warm, so I wasn’t as excited for this trip. I had heard that there wasn’t much to do in Milan, so I wasn’t expecting much. Once we got there, however, I was blown away by how underrated Milan is. There is so much to see and do in this fashion capital, and the apertivo scene is amazing. If you love gorgeous buildings, amazing shopping, delicious food, wine, and cocktails, Milan is the city for you! So much has changed in the world and with travel in the past year, but hopefully this post will inspire you to add Milan to your bucket list for the future. Here are some Must Do’s in Milan.
Top Two Things You Must Do in Milan
At the top of my Must Do’s in Milan list is visit the Duomo – inside, outside, and rooftop. The exterior of the Duomo is beautiful and iconic, but the interior is so unique and impressive. Sometimes when we’ve visited churches the outside hasn’t been as ornate as the inside or vice versa. This is not the case for the Duomo.
The exterior speaks for itself, with its intricately detailed marble facade, its imposing size, and grand amount of spires, statues, and gargoyles. The interior is dimly lit from the glow of the stained glass windows. There is a sundial on the floor near the main entrance, the altar is beautiful, and the organ is one of the largest in the world. We were able to tour the inside as part of our City Wonders tour, and I definitely do recommend having a tour guide to point out all of the noteworthy things inside of the cathedral.
And lastly, the most surprising part of the Duomo to me was the rooftop! You have to buy tickets during a specific time slot to go to the roof of the Duomo. We booked the first time slot of the day, and got there early to be the first ones up. You can either ride the elevator to the first level, or climb the stairs. Since we had a full day ahead of us, we opted for the elevator, and we had a few minutes on the rooftop all to ourselves. It’s important to note that the elevator takes you to the first level of the rooftop, but to get to the top you still have to climb stairs.
The rooftop is unlike any rooftop I had ever been to before. Walking among the spires and arches feels like you are wandering through a marble forest. Even the terrace balconies and alcoves are romantic and have some amazing views of the Piazza del Duomo. Once you climb to the highest part of the rooftop, you’ll enter a wide open space, which is pretty unique for cathedral rooftops (which are usually just narrow rotundas). Overall, the Duomo rooftop is my number one must see attraction in Milan.
Pro tip: wake up early one day to get pictures sans tourists outside of the Duomo, and be the first in line for the rooftop!
The two most iconic attractions in Milan are the Last Supper and the Duomo – and for good reason. I had always thought the Last Supper was a painting on canvas, and had no idea it is actually a giant fresco on a wall. When I stood in front of the Last Supper, I got goosebumps by how impressive and stunning it is in real life. This is something that I had never thought to put on my bucket list, but if it isn’t on yours, it should be. One thing to keep in mind – you have to book your tickets well in advance. You are only allowed to go in in 15 minute increments, so if you can’t book a ticket in advance, you’ll have to join a tour group to see it. We booked our tickets too late, so we ended up doing a City Wonders tour.
Other Must Do’s in Milan
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This is the oldest covered shopping mall in Italy, and is another one of Milan’s major landmarks. Its glass and iron dome makes it a popular spot for Instagram pictures, and it houses luxury brands such as Prada and Louis Vuitton. There are also restaurants and cafes within the Galleria. We had a coffee and croissant on the terrace of Cafe Biffi, one of the oldest establishments of Milan, and it made for great people watching. It is right next to the Duomo, so it easily makes the Must Do’s in Milan list!
Teatro Alla Scala
One thing that I wish we had done in Milan is seen a show at the Teatro Alla Scala. I started planning this trip too late, so by the time I looked into it all of the shows were sold out. La Scala is probably the most famous opera house in the world. The interior seating is arranged in six tiers/stories of boxes, and it looks so elegant inside. Although we couldn’t see a show, we were still able to go inside via the museum. I highly recommend the museum if you get a chance! The exhibits and displays show the history of the theater, some of the props and furniture of the past, the evolution of costumes, and you even get to go inside one of the theater boxes.
La Vigna Da Vinci
A fun interesting fact that I learned while in Milan: Leonardo da Vinci had a vineyard…in Milan! You can actually still visit it today. It is located right across from the Last Supper, so we decided to have lunch inside their cafe before taking a tour and tasting the wine. I always try to find something unique/less touristy on our trips, and this is one I’m glad we did. The museum is so cool – you walk through the rooms of Casa degli Atellani, which still maintains its Renaissance charm. The gardens are beautiful and the vineyard is a modest tiny plot, so don’t expect a big winery, but it was so cool to visit.
I’m a sucker for a fashion museum, so I convinced Timmer to venture out to the Fondazione Prada since the Armani Silos was closed for renovation. This museum was actually not a Prada museum, but a museum dedicated to contemporary art, architecture, and culture. Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, the exhibits were really cool, and the building itself was awesome. The coffee shop, Bar Luce, was designed by Wes Anderson, and the rooftop bar is beautiful.
Food & Drinks Must Do’s in Milan
La Rinascente Food Hall
La Rinascente is the department store down the street from the Duomo, but its Food Hall is a must visit. The market inside has tons of local foods, chocolates, and wines, but the rooftop restaurants steal the show. There is a row of restaurants and bars with swanky indoor seating areas and outdoor terraces overlooking the Duomo. We ate at Obica Mozzarella Bar and not only had an amazing view, but also tried smoked Buffalo Mozzarella for the first time. It was amazing!
Navigli Canal – Apertivo
Another favorite on my Must Do’s in Milan list: The Navigli Canal. The Navigli Canal is what made me fall in love with Milan. This neighborhood hosts a canal system lined with bustling restaurants and bars. At 5pm, apertivo starts, where you simply order a drink and are welcomed with complementary small plates. We apertivo hopped one night, and I wish we had done it more than once! Drinks + apps are my favorite way to dine, and the Navigli Canal apertivo scene did not disappoint. GinO12 and Bond Milan were my two favorite spots of the night.
We always try to do at least one fancy meal on our trips, and L’Alchimia was our choice for Milan. It has one Michelin star and it definitely deserves it. The restaurant was cozy and welcoming and the service was amazing. The tasting menu was great – I judge a menu based on if I am still thinking about a unique dish a few weeks later. I loved their risotto and their dessert ball!
Day Trips and More!
Go to a game
When we got stood up on our game in Porto, we booked tickets to the Juventus vs. AC Milan match in Turin. We had second row seats to watch Ronaldo vs. Zlatan and that is a game that I will never forget. If you get a chance, watching a futbol match in Europe is so fun!
One amazing thing about Milan is how many great day trips you can take from there. Lake Como is the most popular day trip, but you can also visit Bergamo, Bologna, or Torino. We decided to do a day trip to Turin (Torino) because of the soccer game, and I have a travel friend who lives in Turin. She gave us a whole list of recommendations and we had such a great time. Blog post on Torino coming soon!
What are some of your Must Do’s in Milan? Leave them in the comments below!