Whether it’s the classic weekend away with the girls or a cultural break for two, Milan needs to be on your holiday list for 2017. For the quintessential Italian city experience, packed with chic couture shopping venues, gastronomic delights to die for and cultural highlights beyond compare, Milan has it all and more. Families won’t be disappointed either. There’s plenty to keep inquisitive minds and active legs happy for visitors of all ages. You’ll discover historic museums brimming with art, artifacts and curious inventions, lavish gardens bringing green landscapes to the city and Italian architectural wonders. Ranging from the mighty and impressive Duomo di Milano Cathedral to a tiny optical illusion tucked away in a church on via Torino, Milan is full of surprises.
With Monza just a short drive away, you can hit the racing circuit or take a tour of the impressive Ferrari Museum. A road trip away from the city can see you taking in the sights of the magnificent Lake Como in under an hour or heading into the Italian countryside. Take a walk in Milan’s streets, explore the magic of the city, or relax and unwind in one of the many sophisticated cafés and bars.
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Italian
- Time Zone: GMT +1
- Average flight time: 2h 40m
When to go
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When most people think of a holiday to Milan, there’s just one thing on their list: shopping. But Milan’s streets have so much more to offer. From beautiful botanic gardens to well-stocked museums brimming with artifacts, there are hidden gems around every corner. With an aquarium, water park and water sports lake, there are plenty of chances to enjoy the typical sun, sea and sand holiday activities – even without a beach. The San Siro stadium is the place to catch a game, while Milan’s sports bars can keep you up to date with all the sporting action back home. Milan’s Duomo di Milano cathedral, the Museo del Novecento art museum and the Sforzesco Castle are the city’s best spots to enjoy moments from Milan’s past. Don’t forget to book tickets in advance to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Tucked away in a monastery next to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, it’s a highlight among the many treasures in Milan’s winding maze of streets.
Wine and Dine
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack to refuel during your extended bout of retail therapy or an intimate three-course dinner for two, there’s a wealth of restaurants to choose from in Milan. Menus from far-flung corners across the globe are gracing the tables of Milan’s eateries. Alongside the many chefs serving up authentic Italian cuisine and local Milanese dishes, your taste buds are in for a treat on a holiday to Milan. A visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without sampling two of its most famous creations. Both the result of accidental experimentation, they have stood the test of time, regardless. First up are the saffron-infused risottos. Created by an artist so famous for using the spice to colour his work, a friend joked that one day he would put it in his cooking, too. He tried it and it was a huge success. Luxurious and simple, it’s a must on a visit to the city. For a pre-dinner drink order a Negroni. Milan’s Bar Basso ran out of gin one night, substituted it for sparkling Spumante and the Negroni was born. Every bartender in the world knows the mix, but drinking it in its hometown makes it that little bit more special.
Worried that Milan’s city streets might not have much to keep families entertained? Children and visitors of all ages will have a wealth of options on a holiday to Milan. From the underwater world at the city’s aquarium to the hectic fun of the water park on the city’s outskirts, there’s an attraction to suit everyone. Just outside the city, Idropark Fila, gives active families chance to indulge in all kinds of water sports. Canoe or water ski across the lake or, if you prefer to stay on dry land, you can rent bikes, play tennis, go climbing or take a horse-riding trek.
Back in Milan, the museums are home to huge dinosaur skeletons and replicas of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions. Interactive science labs get the children involved or you can sit back in the planetarium and gaze up at the wonders of the night sky. Football fans may want to visit the iconic San Siro stadium to catch a match. But if certain members of the family aren’t keen on the beautiful game, the nearby Milan Hippodrome is just the thing. A golf course keeps sports fans occupied, while the museum, botanical gardens and horseracing track keep the options open.
Action and Adventure
For some holidaymakers taking an extended trek around the vast network of shopping stores is all the action and adventure they need. But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to find adventure in this wonderful city. Football fans will want to head to the San Siro. On match days, the electric atmosphere inside the stadium is unbeatable. On non-match days you can visit the stadium’s museum and take a tour of the infamous ground. To the west of the city, the Gardaland water park is a great place to let off steam, or indeed escape the heat on a hot summer’s day. Water slides and rapids are fun for visitors of all ages. For a more sensible approach to water sports, head to the Idropark Fila. Originally a landing strip for sea planes, the lake is now a place to try wake-boarding, sailing, canoeing and water skiing. With climbing, horse riding and tennis also on the menu, there’s something for everyone.
Life's a Beach
A holiday to Milan needn’t mean you have to miss out on some quality beach time. Heading south for a day trip gets you to the nearest ocean. Clocking in at around a two-hour journey, the road trip will take you through some beautiful Italian landscapes. Head to Sori for a sandy beach or Genoa’s coastal strip for pebble and shingle beaches. If you head north out of Milan you can reach the shores of Lake Como in around 40 minutes. With many beautiful lake beaches to enjoy, there are also all the facilities you’d expect from premium seaside locations – sun loungers, umbrellas, and plenty of cafés and restaurants to enjoy. With stunning views over the lake, plus the chance to enjoy boat trips and water sports, Lake Como is a fantastic place to top up your tan on a holiday to Milan. If you’re keen to stay in Milan, the Gardaland water park has an artificial beach, water slides and plenty of pools in which to take a refreshing dip. You’ll find it west of Milan and easy to reach by public transport.
Evening revellers hitting Milan’s streets late into the night may well miss out on the best of the city’s nightlife. Unlike party towns where the evening starts well after 11pm, Milan kicks off the evening at around 6pm. Starting early, most partygoers head out for an aperitivo. This is where Milan’s socialites mix and mingle enjoying prosecco, cocktails and anything from the lightest of snacks, to a fully stocked buffet big enough for the strongest appetites. The party atmosphere carries on from there. Head wherever the night takes you. From small and intimate cocktail lounges to some of the biggest clubs in Italy.
Milan’s streets are paved with romantic opportunities any couple can enjoy. Shopping for wedding outfits? Men can get suited and booted by some of Italy’s sharpest suit makers and women can browse through the high-end fashion in the boutiques. If your Milan holiday isn’t entirely fashion-focused, the beautiful gardens in the city are a perfect escape from the commercial cityscape and Sempione Park is a gorgeous spot to enjoy a picnic. For a scenic stroll of a slightly different kind, head to the Cimitero Monumentale. A cemetery may not be the most romantic spot in the city, but the stunning sculptures make this more of an open-air museum than a graveyard. For another unusual way to see Milan’s highlights, hop aboard the ATMosfera tram. An onboard chef creates a delicious menu of food to sample while you tour the city on the historical tram. Or, for a sparkling evening to remember head to the Brera district in the city. The neighbourhood piazzas are lined with candlelit tables waiting to greet romantic couples. For the perfect post-dinner activity, the Brera Astronomical Observatory is just around the corner where you can get a closer look at the constellations together.
To make the most of a Milan holiday, a list of the top cultural spots to tick off is a must. From the famous Duomo cathedral to the iconic Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, there’s a glimpse of history, culture and art around every corner. It’s also worth adding some quirky lesser-known haunts to your list, too. For a different look at the work of some major Italian sculptors, head to the Cimitero Monumentale. Milan’s city cemetery, the displays of grief and wealth are almost theatrical, and depict a moment in history unlike any other in the city. For an architectural delight seek out the Santa Maria presso San Satiro church on Via Torino. Hidden amongst the retail chain stores, this church hides an unmissable gem. The architect Bramante created a gilded apse that’s more or less than meets the eye. The optical illusion is fascinating and well worth tracking down.