Things to see and do in Milan

leisure in Milan
Updated 2023-04-19 21:01

Famous for fashion, gastronomy and design, Milan has much more to offer than glamour. The city is full of renowned museums, prestigious music and theatre institutions, art galleries and numerous craftsmen. It also boasts two of Italy's most popular football teams, not to mention its bars, restaurants and lively nightlife.

The Milan Tourist Office is an excellent resource for discovering Milan. Although primarily aimed at tourists, it is also a practical starting point for expats wanting to get to know the city and the equally rich region.

Museums and galleries in Milan

Milan has long been a hotbed of creativity and continues to delight the culturally inclined and curious with its museums and galleries. The number of museums in Milan is impressive, and it would be impossible to list them all. We will still mention some of them to guide you in your first steps in discovering the city's culture.

Among the most famous museums in the city is the Pinacoteca di Brera, where you can admire the masterpieces of world-famous masters such as Caravaggio and Bellini. The majestic setting of the Pinacoteca and the Brera district also offers a great opportunity to take a stroll through an area dotted with art galleries and craftsmen.

Another museum not to be missed is Palazzo Reale, an essential pole of Milan's museum activity managed by the municipality, which offers excellent public exhibitions.

Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper can be seen at the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, as can the artist's residence during his stay in Milan.

Another must-see museum is the Triennale di Milano, a museum of design and applied arts that offers visitors a fresh look at design and contemporary art.

Contemporary art enthusiasts will also appreciate the Fondazione Prada, which hosts a permanent collection as well as numerous exhibitions and events.

Science lovers will enjoy the Museum of Science and Technology, which has devoted an entire wing to the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

Finally, there is the Museo del Novecento, which has a permanent collection and exhibitions on 20th-century art in Italy and Milan in particular.

Parks and green areas in Milan

Milan is home to 54 parks, covering an area of approximately 14,681,400 square meters. Most of the parks, such as the Parco Sempione and the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli in Porta Venezia or the Parco delle Cave, have walking paths, lovely ponds and green areas for picnics. Some even have sports fields and fitness trails.

The recent BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi di Milano) is a lovely park in the Isola district, near Garibaldi, with wildflowers and new species of trees. It is a pleasant place to walk around and take a break by eating in the picnic areas.

Many of Milan's green spaces have dog-friendly areas; check with the municipality. These include the Indro Montanelli Park, the Bosco in Città and the Parco Verga, to name but a few.

Milan is also home to a number of renovated farms (cascine), such as the cascina Caldera, a 16th-century farmhouse with a riding school, stables and a pig and poultry farm. Many educational activities are organized for adults and children. Some cascina's also offer the possibility of staying in their structure, with breakfast featuring farm products. This is a good opportunity to spend a weekend with the family, for example.

Cascina transformed into agriturismo in the surroundings of Milan are other must-sees:

  • Cascina Pietrasanta
  • Cascina Caremma
  • La Barcella

Still in Lombardy but further away from Milan:

  • Agriturismo Ferdy
  • La Fiorida
  • Solimago Dimora Storica (organic agriturismo that also caters for vegetarians and vegans)
  • Corte Reginella
  • Tenuta dell'Annunziata

Walking around Milan

Milan is the ideal city to go for a walk or a guided tour. It is a city that is best discovered on foot because its districts are very different in terms of history and architecture. For example, if you start from the Duomo, cross the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, and pass in front of La Scala, you will arrive in Brera, one of the most famous districts of Milan. It is also the district of the arts, as it is home to the Accademia di Belle Arti and the Pinacoteca, where you can contemplate some of the most important religious paintings in the world. The area is also full of traditional and modern antique shops. The Brera district is also known as the city's design hub, with many design brands calling it home.

Almost inseparable from Brera is the Fashion Quadrilateral, a concentration of high fashion with chic boutiques, hotels and bars located in some iconic streets: via Montenapoleone, via della Spiga, via Gesù, etc.

Once you leave Brera, you can explore Sempione Park, the green lung of the center of Milan, where the magnificent Sforzesco Castle stands – one of the city's main symbols.

Another walk to do is along the Navigli, the canals of Milan, and up towards the city, passing by the San Lorenzo and Porta Ticinese columns. The Navigli is also perfect for jogging or cycling over many kilometers. You can then leave the city to discover the countryside. The Navigli, which owe their construction to the great Leonardo da Vinci, are integral to Milan's history. By taking the Naviglio Martesana cycle paths, you can, for example, reach the Adda River, which flows into Lake Como. From the Naviglio Pavese, you can reach the city of Pavia and the Naviglio Grande; from there, you can head to the Parco Ticino national park.

You can also explore the small district of the Cinque Vie (where you can even find remains of the Roman era) or the Garibaldi district with its futuristic Bosco Verticale towers covered in vegetation.

Sports in Milan

Milan offers quality sports facilities for all its inhabitants, regardless of their level.

In addition to the numerous sports halls, it is possible to do sports in sports complexes, for example, at the Cambini Fossati Centre, Iseo, or Procida. All these facilities are managed by the municipality of Milan – a complete list is available on the MilanoSport website: water sports, tennis, volleyball, gym classes, fitness, yoga, etc. Thanks to its sports facilities, Milan offers the possibility of doing sports in the neighborhood without having to travel many kilometers, in particular public swimming pools. You can also find gyms open to group classes in most neighborhoods.

Indoor football is also very popular in Milan, both for children and adults. To play calcetto with friends, you can rent a pitch, for example, at the Play More complex, the Centro sportivo Catozzi or the Centro sportivo La Salle.

There is also the Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro) stadium, where you can watch football matches, the Allianz Cloud and the Arena Civica, which can hold 30,000 spectators for sports events, concerts and other shows.

You can also go canoeing at the Canottieri Olona, a rowing club that also offers the possibility of doing land sports or enjoying a swimming pool. Water skiing, canoeing, rowing, sailing and land sports such as beach volleyball are available at the Idroscalo, an ideal place to relax on hot days. You can benefit from its deckchairs, parasols and beach chairs.

If you like to ski, you should know that Milan is a city at the foot of the mountains, so it is easy to plan a weekend without traveling too far. Pila and Piani di Bobbio resorts can be reached in about an hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes.

Shopping in Milan

As the fashion capital of the world, shopping is one of Milan's biggest attractions. For high luxury brands, head to Via della Spiga, via Montenapoleone, and, more generally, the Fashion Quadrilateral, home to D&G, Prada and Marni, etc., or explore the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

For the high-street brands, head for Via Torino, Corso Vercelli and Corso Buenos Aires.

But Milan is, above all, a city of small independent shops. In every district, you will find unique clothing and accessory shops. Just wander around, and you'll be sure to find treasures!

Traditionally, shops in Milan are open from Monday to Sunday (except for some small boutiques).

Theatres and music in Milan

Milan is full of theatres and concert halls, the most famous being the Teatro alla Scala. This is one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world and has hosted some of the best singers, composers and opera musicians in Italy.

The Brera district is also home to several intimate venues offering opera and cabaret performances. The Teatro Manzoni, for example, is one of the most renowned of these.

Also in the center, the Strehler Theatre, the Carcano Theatre and the Piccolo Teatro are references on the Milanese cultural scene.

If you like musical performances, the Arcimboldi Theatre offers a rich program of live shows, including musicals, plays and opera.

Nightlife in Milan

In Milan, aperitifs start around 6.30 pm, and all bars offer light snacks to accompany your drink before dinner. Table service or buffet style, you will be served olives, small toasts, focaccia, savory puff pastry bites, or grilled vegetables. Some of the aperitifs are so hearty that you can even make a dinner out of them.

There are many bars in all parts of the city to suit all tastes. Among the areas where you can find nice bars:

  • Sempione, near the Arco della Pace
  • Garibaldi with Corso Como, then towards Moscova and Brera,
  • Isola, with bars like the Deus Café or the Blue Note for a jazz concert
  • Porta Venezia with bars such as Pesa Pubblica, Eppol or wine bars such as Bicerin or Vino al Vino,
  • Cinque Vie, in a maze of small streets, shops and bars,
  • Navigli and Colonne di San Lorenzo are popular places for young night owls.

Things to do around Milan

The lakes of northern Italy are no more than an hour and a half from Milan. Lake Como, in particular, is famous for its beautiful scenery and luxurious villas standing proudly on its shores. Other lakes, such as Iseo, with its Franciacorta region, are famous for wine, or Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. Milan is also close to many other beautiful cities such as Pavia and Bergamo, Piacenza and Cremona. Destinations such as Venice, Genoa and Turin can also be reached easily and quickly by train.

You can also go hiking and admire the breathtaking mountain range in the Valtellina and Val Camonica. Skiing enthusiasts will be delighted to hit the slopes in Piani di Bobbio, Pila, Valsassina and Tinale, Bormio and Livigno.

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