Our Ultimate Milan Food & Exploration Guide
The Italian capital of fashion has bloomed in the past years. The city has grown within the business area, and its astonishing architectural beauty got a needed facelift, especially since the Expo exhibition in 2015. Milan central location also makes it a perfect spot to explore the North of Italy. In this Milan Food and Exploration Guide, you will find all the main spots you have to visit and experience to get a true feel of the sumptuous Italian city.
- Piazza Duomo
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Santa Maria delle Grazie
- Castello Sforzesco
- Wander the Brera District
- Aperitivo at Naviglio Grande
- La Scala Opera
- Where to Shop
- Stroll through Corso Como
- The Best food in Milan
1. Visit the Piazza Duomo
A trip to Milan should start at the famous Piazza Duomo with its magnificent built in the 14th century Cathedral (it was actually constructed in 1386 but not officially completed until 1965!). With an Italian Gothic style, the front façade of the cathedral is truly magnificent and is crowned with countless towers, statues and decoration.
One of the best experiences of Milan is climbing the steps to the rooftop of this astonishing monument.
The way up is not long and stairs are small, it’s easy to climb. The elevator is also available, but I highly recommend taking the steps. Its cheaper and more fun!
↬ Note : The ticket office is located on the right of the cathedral if you face it. Make sure to buy ticket to enter both- the cathedral and the roof. To save time for a little additional cost you can buy the tickets here.
↬ TIP : For another beautiful view point, cross the road and go up the 7th floor of Rinascente shopping centre to the rooftop bar. The entrance of the rooftop is free, but if you’d like to stay longer to enjoy the view, wait until sunset for aperitivo.
2. Go through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Created in 1877 and despite the fact that walking in feels like entering an opera or a marvellous palace, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world and was designed by Guiseppe Mengoni. Here, you’ll find luxurious boutiques like Prada, Versace and Louis Vuitton just to name a few.
Don’t forget to look up at the impressing glass dome and the beautiful mural fresco circling it. And also at the floor where you can find the depiction of a bull, emblem of Turin city. For good luck spin 3 times to the left, placing your heel in the not-so-randomly positioned cavity created by more than a century of this superstitious tradition.
↬ TIP : Stop for the best Sicilian panzerotto (a savoury pastry with mozzarella and tomato) at Luini and delicious gelato at Chocolati Italiani ?- but be aware of the long queue as both of this places are very popular.
3. Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Even if the exterior of this church does not strike as much as Duomo Cathedral, it still has charm and grace. It was created in 1497 in Gothic style using red bricks.
But it’s the interior that hides real value…Inside the building rests one of the greatest artistic masterpieces in the world – The Last Supper by Leonardo di Vinci.
To visit the church and Da Vinci’s masterpiece, you must reserve the tour in advance- no tickets are sold on the site. You must choose a specific time, as tours and visitors are limited- due to this reason, the entrances are sold sometimes weeks in advance. We suggest this to be the first thing you book, right after your plane ticket to Milan.
You can book the tickets and find all the information about the visit here.
4. Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione
Wander from Duomo towards Cordusio, another beautiful square, making your way further to Parco Sempione and Castello guarding it’s entrance.
This 15th century castle with red brick walls hosts a small museum with artefacts and history of Milan.
The park hidden behind its walls can be considered Milan’s “Central Park”. It’s the perfect place to relax in the nature and take few deep breaths from the heat of the city.
↬ TIP : Walk all the way to the end of the park to the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace), a triumphal arch dating back to the 19th century.
5. Wander in the Brera district and Pinacoteca di Brera
A distinct Bohemian atmosphere of the oldest area of Milan, hiding many beautiful streets, art academies, galleries and countless restaurants with delicious food.
While wandering around this district visit the Pinacoteca, located in the Palazzo Brera. It is a fine Art Gallery that contains a large collection of Italian art.
6. Have aperitivo at Naviglio Grande
This stunning district comes to life in the evening hours. This is when locals and tourists join at the cafes and restaurants spread on both sides of the canal, to enjoy a glass of prosecco or most famous italian aperitivo drink – spritz (a mix of prosecco and bitter apparel served with a slice of orange). Make sure to taste some of the delicious finger food that comes in the price of a drink (its really cheap and a great bargain!).
7. La Scala Opera
Piazza della Scala is located just on the other side of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This opera house is one of the finest in the world and is reknowned for its acoustic qualities and opulence. Guided tours are available of the Opera House. But consider purchasing tickets to see a show: an exciting, fancy and memorable evening is in perspective!
8. Go shopping
Milan is without a doubt the capital of shopping. If you want to shop high fashion, let your legs (wallet) lead you to via Montenapoleone- the most expensive street in Milan and one of the most expensive in the world. It holds boutiques of the luxurious brands from Giorgio Armani, via Alberta Ferretti and Versace to Ralph Laurent and Gucci.
↬ TIP : If you’d like to shop at the best boutiques, but your budget doesn’t allow you to do so, visit D Magazine (DMAG) outlets located on both via Bigly 4 (tiny street just behind via Montenapoleone) and via Alessandro Manzoni 44. Here you can find some gems from previous collections at incredibly discounted prices. My best finds include Jimmy Choo’s heels for 140 EUR (discounted from 890 EUR original price), stunning silk Lanvin dress for 120 EUR (discounted from 670 EUR original price) or Fendi sandals for 49 EUR (discounted from 490 original price).
Otherwise, for popular and commercial shops, stroll through Corso Vittorio Emanuele II all the way to San Babila. On both sides of the pathway, you’ll find Zara, Mango, Intimissimi etc.
Pass by Rinasciente shopping center, and do not forget to check out the other part of the building- on the first floor turn left next to the mens shoes collections. You’ll find many new designers and cool styles.
Otherwise, if you are a vintage lover there is no better place to shop than around Navigli. Many small vintage boutiques hold gems waiting for you to be found.
9. Stroll through Corso Como
This pedestrian street holds some cool bars and restaurants, as well as great concept stores.
Visit Corso Como 10, a multifunctional space, hidden in a quiet courtyard. It is a combination of everything that’s trendy in Milan, full of art which it releases from every corner, some high end shopping, terrace and garden, gallery and restaurant.
Where to eat: Our favorite spots
Italian kitchen is one of the best in the world. And after so much exploration, this guide must cover food in Milan. Some of the finest restaurants can be found in the city. But do not forget that in any place the food will be simply delicious. In fact, dishes are mostly simple and base their taste on high quality and fresh ingredients.
↬ Fact : Most Italians don’t have breakfast bigger than a “cornetto e cafe”: Italian style croissant and coffee. You will find this combination in every single bar in the morning- it will be yummy and cheap.
- God Save The Food on via Savona.
This modern style restaurant serves healthy breakfast options. You can find avocado toast and granola with almond milk on the menu, as well as soy cappuccinos
- Princi Bakery right in the centre, by Duomo. Here you can find delicious pastries as well as classic breakfast dishes- smoked salmon, bacon, eggs and freshly baked bread
- Biancolatte– It has a great variety of breakfast options- omelettes, pancakes, wraps. Or maybe you’ll decide to have gelato for breakfast? ?
Unless in a touristic area, restaurants in Milan (Italy) open for lunch from 12.30 to 14.30. After that time its pretty hard to find a good place open.
- Soulgreen– our absolute favourite pick in Milan at the moment. This modern restaurant serves international vegetarian food as well as some classic Italian dishes interpreted the new way.
- Corso Como 10 Café– rather fancy option, but a must visit. The modern Italian kitchen is very good and interesting, and the sitting is stunning in a small garden.
- Granaio– for a quick lunch in the center without breaking the wallet.
- Fratelli La Buffala– the best pizzeria.
- Officina 12– a cute Italian restaurant with hidden garden inside. The classic Italian dishes are delicious and fairly priced.
- Al Fresco– great Italian cuisine with beautiful outdoor scenery.
- Carlo e Camilla in Segheria– it is one of our absolute favourite places but it is usually fully booked so reserve in advance. Fantastic location in old sawing factory and modern Italian cuisine by one of the best Italian chefs Carlo Cracco. Highly recommend.
- Finger’s Garden– for those needing a break from Italian dishes. This beautiful restaurant serves great Japanese food.
- Sushi B– taking about Japanese cuisine- right in the center of Brera this cool, modern restaurant serves fantastic sushi. Take the chefs selection plate and let the taste surprise you.
And to finish, with an easy reach to many other beautiful Italian towns within the region, Milan makes a perfect place to base your exploration of the surrounding areas for 1-Day trips to: Como or Venice.
↬ Fall in love with Venice, check out our Ultimate Guide to Experience Venice.
With such a big program of exploration and food thanks to this guide, time to find the right accommodation in Milan. The city has quantity of hotels and airbnb at disposal, and depending on what your trip to the city will consist of, it is hard to recommend an ideal hotel in the perfect area. Nonetheless, here are a few inspiration of affordable or dreamy hotels.
↬ Find all hotels in Milan on booking.com