Travel Guide: Milan

Milan is a city of grandeur. Beyond its reputation as the fashion capital of the world, this city is also a hub for business and the European stock exchange. After Paris and Madrid, Milan is the third wealthiest city in Europe. While these facts are interesting, they don’t tell us much about the character of the city. Is Milan livable? Is it a destination where a traveler can find culture, life, and soul as well as the wealth and industry? I would say, these questions can be answered with a resounding yes.

Here we will look at what one can see and do in Milan and a few things to be aware of before planning your next trip!

Food Scene

To begin, we will answer my favorite question: what are the best things to eat in Milan? Situated in the northern region of Lombardy, this area is known for a rich, hearty cuisine that has similarities to its Swiss and German neighbors. Milan itself has a few classics they are especially known for; most notably, Risotto Milanese. This dish is prepared by cooking rice in a rich, saffron-scented broth and topping with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

After risotto, if you are looking for a authentic sweet treat, the Cannoncini alla Crema is a must try! A hollow cylinder of puff pastry (the name comes from it’s shape resembling a canon) is stuffed with fresh pastry cream, forming the perfect bite-sized burst of sugary goodness.

Cannoncini at Serge Bakery

One of the best bakeries to try a cannoncini is called Serge. At Serge, you have the option of plain cream, sabayon (marsala-flavored pastry cream), or pistachio cream for your little canon. You can watch the bakers fill your treat with your selection as you wait to receive your treat.

Yet another Milanese food tradition is the Apertivo! Coming from the Italian word aprire, meaning “to open”, the apertivo is a pre-meal drink and small bite to prepare one for the meal ahead. While this has become a staple throughout all of Italy, an apertivo in Milan is nothing short of an experience, and one that is unforgettable at that! While there are endless spots to enjoy apertivo in the city, I would recommend Port Noy. Situated right on the edge of the city center, this bar serves high-quality drinks and a varying and delicious plate at a very reasonable price. With a cozy and intimate atmosphere and kind staff, Port Noy is a great spot to sit for hours and linger over a cocktail or glass of wine.

Apertivo at Port Noy

Sights to See

Milan is no small city, measured at around 180 square kilometers. With so much to see, it is important to plan your travel day wisely, or, even better to spend a few days or a week in the city. Many of the main attractions are in the city center, where you can find the incredible Duomo (one of the only Gothic-style buildings in Italy), Basilica di San Lorenzo, Sforzesco Castle, Teatro alla Scala, and more! While in the city center, you must walk through The Golden Triangle, which is the nickname for the luxury fashion district of the city. Strolling down these streets, you are surrounded by dozens of grandiose shop windows, showing off the newest Prada bag or Armani coat. It is an experience which truly characterizes Milan as a city in its magnificence.

Milan Duomo – construction took around 600 years! (1386-1965)

If you are looking for a sight in Milan that may be off the beaten path, visit Santuario di San Bernardino alle Ossa. I don’t think unique is a strong enough word for this small chapel situated in the city center. Unimposing from the outside, the church has an ossuary (chapel of bones) with walls and floors decorated and covered in ancient human bones. While some have said these bones are from Christian martyrs killed in the first century, it is more likely that this was used as an overflow space for the hospital and graveyard nearby.

Leaving the city center, one can still find many great attractions to observe. My highest recommendation is the Navigli district. Navigli is best known for the night life and clubs but is a great stop at any time. Here you can stroll some of the city’s most beautiful canals, find many charming (and reasonably priced!) bars and restaurants, and many beautiful shops. Navigli has great vintage shopping, art stores, and markets that differ from the big industry you see in the rest of the city.

Navigli Vintage Market on the Grand Canal

What to Look Out For

With the industry and wealth in Milan, the biggest complaint from travelers is prices. Food, drink, and lodging in Milan can be 2-3 times as expensive as in most other Italian cities, so it is important to travel smart! Specifically, in the area of the Duomo and center, many of the restaurants are chains (a surprising amount of fast food restaurants for an Italian city) and are quite expensive. I would recommend going out to Navigli or another district outside the center to find a restaurant.

Another thing to keep in mind while in Milan is the city’s size. After visiting Italian cities like Venice, Florence, Bologna, and Lucca, it is easy to get into the “small city” mindset where everything is within a twenty minute walk. While not nearly as big as Rome, it is still important to plan your steps wisely and pick activities that are near each other. This may help you avoid being stuck on public transit all day or walking for miles!

Milan – “The Factory of the Future”

Milan is a city that takes your breath away. It does not take long to see how this city coined the nickname, “the factory of the future”. The hustle and bustle of Milan never stops. Day or night, this city is invigorating and captivating, showing a side of Italy that makes it worth the stop.


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