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10 Travel Tips for Your First Visit to Milan

First Visit to Milan

I am excited to share my First Visit to Milan tips with you. This was not my first stay in Milan – just six years ago we spent five days here.  I wanted to visit some of the key attractions again, but finding sights that were less explored was also important to me. 

Milan is a perfect blend of history and modernity where one minute you are looking at stunning architectural wonders and the next, you are in a trendy cafe.  I love to strike up a conversation with locals, as they have the inside scoop on all the coolest spots, tastiest eats, and most intriguing experiences.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano is a stunning cathedral, with beautiful stained glass windows and a must-see when in Milan.  It is the largest church in Italy and the fifth largest in the world. It is highly recommended that you buy your tickets online and well in advance to avoid standing in line for hours.  You can buy tickets for a guided tour, access to the rooftop terrace, or combination tours. Tickets can be purchased next to the Duomo or online. I highly recommend that you go to the rooftop. While the climb to the top is steep, it is well worth the close access to the architecture, and amazing views from the top.  It is also a great location to get photos with a Milan backdrop, or of the architecture.  Needless to say, if this is your first visit to Milan, this attraction is a must.

Opening Hours:

  • Cathedral: Monday – Sunday, 8 am – 7 pm
  • Rooftop Terraces: Monday – Sunday, 9 am – 7 pm
  • Museum: Thursday – Tuesday, 10:00 am – 5:10 pm

the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano

I suspect that this may not be on your list of places to visit while in Milan.  It was not on mine until I saw it.  The Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano is an intricate masterpiece of Italian craftsmanship and coffee innovation.  Inside, it is visually stunning, with:

  • a working roastery
  • a 22-foot roasting cask that periodically unfolds and rotates to view the de-gassing phase of the coffee bean roasting process
  • a floor-to-ceiling, engraved brass story of Starbucks
  • attention to detail in the architecture including mosaiced marble floors, heated marble countertops
  • upstairs is the Arriviamo Bar where you can enjoy cocktails
  • a wood-fired oven for making bread

Pro tip:  the bar features more than 100 cocktails with new creations and traditional favorites like the Negroni and the Aperol spritz.

First Visit to Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a stunning center arcade that links the Duomo to Teatro alla Scala.  It is Italy’s oldest shopping mall and has both luxury brand shops. Most of the shops inside the Galleria are open from morning to evening, but the Galleria itself is open 24 hours.  It is hard to get a photo without people in the background unless you visit early in the morning, or late at night.  Right in the middle, you will see people spinning around in a particular spot. People believe that touching the little torino mosaic brings good luck if you spin around three times with your heel on the bull between its two hind legs.  There is no charge to visit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

Navigli

Navigli, the district around the two canals of Milano Italy, is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Milan.  Navigli specializes in clubs, cafes, and vintage shops, and during the evening, it is highly popular. While enjoying aperitivo and perusing the antique stores are popular in the area, be sure to wander up the sidestreets, enjoy the art galleries, and enjoy the architecture.   The best time to visit is on a warm summer evening. There are some great street walking tours that you can enjoy in the area. 

First Visit to Milan

HISTORICAL LANDMARKS

The Duomo di Milan and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele are among the popular historic landmarks to visit in Milan, but some of the lesser attractions are just as spectacular:

  • Castello Sforzesco is a Renaissance fortress turned cultural hub in Milan. It boasts impressive architecture, housing museums, art collections, and lush gardens.
  • Teatro Romano is an ancient archaeological site showcasing remnants of an ancient Roman theater, offering a glimpse into Milan’s rich historical tapestry.
  • Colonne di San Lorenzo features ancient Roman columns, vibrant street life, and a lively atmosphere, perfect for strolling and soaking up culture.

CASTELLO

Castello was originally built in the 15th century by the powerful Sforza family. It is a great example of Renaissance architecture and art, including Michelangelo’s final masterpiece.  While the entrance is free, lines can be long to enter the museum exhibits.  Pro tip:  on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 2:00 p.m. admission is free.

First Visit to Milan

Parco Sempione

After the busy streets, Parco Sempione is a serene oasis. Lush greenery and tranquil lakes are the perfect picturesque backdrop for leisurely strolls, photos, or moments of quiet reflection. Quite frankly, the park is stunning and charming.  Besides taking a seat and people-watching, strolling around the pond, and enjoying the aquarium are welcomed attractions. Pro tip – kids love the wide open areas to run and play.

ARCO DELLA PACE

The “Arch of Peace” was recently renovated, and is one of Milan’s most beautiful pieces of history. Made of marble and topped with horse-drawn chariots, the arch was built as a tribute to Napoleon’s victories. Wear comfortable shoes, and have time to spend admiring the architecture. There is often a musician in the area, so spending a day enjoying the sun, music and arch is quite relaxing.

First Visit to Milan

EATALY

Eataly is food heaven meets Italian charm.  Even if you have no plans to purchase something, I’d recommend you add it to the list of sights in Milan.  It is a great combination of high-end Italian food and wine products, a market with fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats, and restaurants ranging from cheap to expensive. The first Eataly location was opened in Manhattan in 2010, and all have the same premise: restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery, retail items, and a cooking school.

BRERA

Brera district is a wonderful combination of history, culture, and modernity.  Its cobblestone streets lead to Pinacoteca di Brera where you can find masterpieces by Italian artists. Cafés, stores, and boutiques fill the charming alleys, making it wonderful for strolls and grabbing an amazing meal. It’s considered the most bourgeois neighborhood in Milan, and at night, it becomes vibrant with restaurant goers. Pro tip: visit the weekly outdoor mercato on Via San Marco.

First Visit to Milan

Whenever I visit a city, I love to explore the top attractions is paramount, but also find some of the lesser-known sights.  Getting inside tips from locals adds to an enriching experience. My goal is to always leave with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the city I’ve just explored. Looking for a day trip while in Milan?  Whether this is your first visit to Milan, or you’ve been before, I hope you found these tips helpful. Take the Trainline train to Genova and explore this wonderful city.

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