When I booked my return flights to Milan for my latest holiday, I have to admit that wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the prospect of exploring this northern-Italian city.
Not that I had heard bad things per se, but rave reviews were hard to come by – compared to other cities friends have visited.
To my pleasant surprise, Milan quickly carved a special place in my heart alongside my other favourite European cities like Dresden and Barcelona.
Why? Partly because it is a sophisticated city, full of interesting people who know how to stomp the streets with style and grace. But on top of that, it has a rich cultural and entertainment component for locals and visitors alike.
Whether you’re looking for hot culture or haute couture, Milan has plenty to keep you happy.
Let’s break down some of the standout things to do and see while you’re in Milan including, most importantly, where to get the best gelato on the go:
- Via Antonio Carnevali, 116, 20158 Milano, Italy
Start your day with some authentic sweet and savoury Italian pastries and an espresso in the Bovisa area of Milan, north of the city centre.
This charming little bakery is full of friendly faces behind the counter, who were very forgiving with my lack of Italian language skills.
The coffee was the perfect combination of rich, full-bodied flavour and just the right amount of bitterness to set off the tastebuds. The mini pizza and spinach pastries were delicately made, with the perfect amount of crunch and satisfyingly savoury flavours.
The stunningly-made cakes in the fridge were hard to resist, but I had to if I was going to consume my weight’s worth of gelato later in the day!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Piazza del Duomo, 20123 Milano, Italy
The Galleria is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls and is the must-visit shopping destination when you’re in Milan. If you’re after high-end fashion, you need look no further.
Fashion powerhouses Prada, Versace, Gucci, Armani and Louis Vuitton, as well as many local names such as Cadè and Piumelli, have kept the Milanese looking fabulous for generations.
While you’re in the Galleria, why not try out the old Milanese tradition known as the ritual of the bull (where you grind your heel three times on a specific spot of the mosaic of the bull positioned on the floor).
Salsamenteria di Parma
- Via S. Pietro All’Orto, 9, 20100 Milano, Italy
This beautiful foodie oasis is a short walk from the Galleria, making it the perfect place to take a rest from sightseeing and shopping to enjoy some drool-inducing, carb-heavy creations.
I chose the Anolini Di San Secondo, which are stuffed pasta parcels with cream and spalla di San Secondo. To accompany the meal, I ordered a Lambrusco Spritz, a refreshing combination of Aperol, Lambrusco Marcello, sparkling water and orange rounds.
Make sure to try one of their bowls of red wine as well while you’re there. Watching someone drink it is quite a sight to behold.
- Via Benedetto Varchi, 4, 20158 Milano, Italy
Italy is synonymous with gelato, and Milan does not disappoint when it comes to this frozen delicacy. My go-to flavour of lemon was utter perfection, but good luck just sticking with one flavour.
Because I was fortunate enough to spend four days in total in Milan, I had the privilege of going back a couple of times for more (just to make sure it was as good as I remembered).
Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano)
- Piazza del Duomo, 20122 Milano, Italy
Milan is famous for its fashion, but the Duomo, with its imposing gothic architecture, entices countless visitors each year. And rightly so.
Situated in the centre of the city, in the Piazza del Duomo where the Milanese come to socialise – so it’s the perfect launching point to explore the rest of the city.
The top of the church offers stunning views of town, but make sure to wear comfy shoes if you want to walk to the top (thankfully there is a lift if you can’t stand stomach the stairs).
From the Duomo, the best way to see the heart of the city is to walk towards Arch of Peace, through the magnificent Sforzesco Castle – taking in all of the beautiful parks, monuments and fountains along the way.
Gelato from Ciacco Gelato senz’altro, conveniently located just off Piazza del Duomo, is the perfect accessory for your city trek.
Il Bucatino Con Giardino
- Via degli Imbriani, 54, 20158 Milano, Italy
A tip off from a friend led me to this out this haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The charming and attentive waiter brought out a selection of appetisers with the meal, free of charge, including some mouth-watering cured meats.
I ordered the Bucatini alla gricia (amatriciana bianca), a creamy version of the house specialty (I snuck a mouthful of the traditional tomato-based one as well).
The Bucatini, a spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the centre, was cooked to perfection, and the sauce, made from Pecorino Romano cheese and pinches of pepper, made my tastebuds sing.
Between the service and the food, our group was made to feel like we were getting an authentic Italian dining experience. I topped off the meal with Italian digestive Amaro Montenegro – my favourite. It was the perfect nightcap to the delicious dinner.
Excelsior Hotel Gallia
- Piazza Duca D’Aosta 9, Milan, 20124, Italy
If you’re wanting to treat yourself to pure luxury during your stay in Milan, make sure to check into the Excelsior Hotel Gallia. Find the time to enjoy a relaxing dip in the pool after your long day of pounding the pavement.
Monkey Cocktail Bar
- Via Napo Torriani, 5, 20124 Milano, Italy
Not ready to hit the pillow yet? Head along to Monkey Cocktail Bar for a tailor-made cocktail or two.
It’s a short walk from the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, which makes the journey home a breeze.
The brotherly bartending duo who own the establishment will help finish your night off in style.