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Is Milan Worth Visiting? 10 Reasons to Visit Milan in 2024

Is Milan Worth Visiting
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Planning a trip to Italy and wondering – is Milan worth visiting? In short, yes Milan is absolutely worth visiting; however, it really depends on your Italy trip itinerary.

There are a number of reasons why you won’t want to miss out on what is arguably the most modern city in Italy. From its historical landmarks to the iconic art and architecture, you can easily fill a few days in this city. 

Of course there are regional dishes and amazing restaurants to enjoy. You can visit the home of some of the top fashion houses in the world, and see casual street style that rivals the top fashion magazine spreads. 

We’ve been to Milan too many times to count, and every time we visit, we seem to love it more and more. It may not be quintessential Italy but the city’s museums, excellent food, and local design stores are what keep us coming back.

So, while the answer of yes may be an easy one, let’s look more into the why of it all. Why is Milan such a worthwhile spot to add on to your Italy itinerary? Here are several reasons.

Is Milan Worth Visiting? 

The short and sweet answer: Yes, Milan is totally worth visiting. 

Nonetheless, whether it’s a must-see destination largely depends on your full Italy itinerary. For example, if you’re primarily exploring southern Italy, going to northern Italy just to visit Milan is not really worth it in our opinion.

However, if you’re flying in or out of Milan or spending a good amount of time in north and central Italy, then definitely plan on spending a day or two in the city.

10 Reasons Why Milan is worth visiting

1. Historical Landmarks 

Sforza Castle Milan, Italy
Sforza Castle in Milan

For being such a modern city, Milan has several historical landmarks and each one offers a chance to peek into the city’s past — which starts in about 600 BC, or around 2,500+ years ago. 

For example there is the Sforza Castle — a Medieval fortress built in the 15th century, and Santa Maria della Grazie — a UNESCO World Heritage church where you can see DaVinci’s Last Supper. 

The Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is now a museum but in the 16th century it was a convent for women. The building still stands proud with stunning Renaissance architecture and stunning frescoes. This church is one of our favorite hidden gems in Milan.

And of course there is the famous Duomo — Milan’s cathedral which dominates the city skyline and is a masterpiece, both inside and out, of Gothic architecture and design. It is also the largest cathedral in all of Italy.  

2. Incredible Architecture

Architecture in Milan
Beautiful architecture at the Sforza Castle

A chance to see all of the amazing architecture spread across Milan is reason enough for a trip. The city has an amazing and nearly seamless mix of both modern design and historic buildings and styles.

For example there is the shopping gallery at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which exemplifies 19th-century design and is the oldest such gallery in Italy.

And then there is the more recently developed Vertical Forest. The Vertical Forest is a pair of residential buildings which are a living ecosystem.

They provide space for plants, shrubs, and other greenery which are the equivalent to 30,000 square meters of woodland (about seven and a half acres). This prototype design introduces a more futuristic element to the cityscape. 

The list of incredible architecture is seemingly endless:

  • Milan Duomo – Italy’s largest and most impressive cathedral.
  • Bagatti Valsecchi Museum – housed in a 19th-century mansion, which is a perfect example of the historical and artistic beauty you’ll find repeatedly throughout Milan. 
  • Arco della Pace – The 19th century city gate.
  • The Fondazione Prada — A reimagined factory turned museum with sharp angles and a decidedly modern style.
  • Torre Velasca – A 1960s style modern skyscraper, which though debatably more of an eyesore, is a fascinating conversation starter about the city and its marriage of the old and new. 

3. World-Renowned Art & Museums

Beautiful church in milan, Italy
Frescoes inside of the Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore in Milan

The list of the best places to visit in Milan includes a long list of museums. The city is a haven for art enthusiasts.

There are so many masterpieces and overflowing galleries scattered throughout the city it is enough to keep you busy for days, and certainly reason enough to add Milan to your itinerary. 

You can’t miss renowned masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” or Michelangelo’s “Rondanini Pieta” in the Sforza Castle.

There is also Andrea Mantegna’s 16th century “The Lamentation Over The Dead Christ” in Palazzo Brera and “Pietro Rossi” — a political piece (though the topic is debated) — by Francesco Hayez. The list goes on.

In terms of museums, the list is also extensive. There’s the Museo del Novecento which showcases 20th-century Italian art, and the Pinacoteca di Brera houses which has an impressive collection of Italian Renaissance pieces.

The Prada Foundation, founded by the iconic fashion house, combines contemporary art with innovative architecture. 

Where art meets science there is the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology. As you can see, you will have more than enough museums to see to make Milan more than worthwhile. 

4. Italy’s Fashion Capital

galleria vittorio emanuele ii in milan, italy
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Milan stands proudly as Italy’s fashion capital, and it’s also considered to be amongst the top three fashion cities worldwide — beat out only by New York City and Paris.

So if shopping is on your Italy to do list, or if you want to get some seriously top notch people watching in, don’t skip Milan.

If you visit in either February or September you can see flashes of one of the most prestigious fashion weeks in the world. And as home to renowned designers like Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and more, the fashion shows are next level (as is the shopping all year round).

5. Fantastic Shopping

Designer clothing store MIlan, Italy
La Double J store in Milan
Ginori Ceramics store milan
Ginori 1735 in Milan

Milan’s reputation as a design and fashion hub extends to its shopping scene and you can explore these luxury brand’s boutiques throughout the city. Along the Via Monte Napoleone you’ll find high-end fashion houses like Prada, Bottega, and Dolce & Gabbana.

In Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II there are more options such as Gucci, Armani, and Versace. 

When looking at what Milan is known for, you’ll likely come across the Brera district. This district also offers a unique shopping experience with its local design stores, showcasing the creativity of smaller and lesser-known, but still world class, Milanese artisans.

In Brera you can find smaller, more local clothing brands, but also other shops selling products like stationery or home goods. 

One of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon in Milan, is to wander through the Brera district and popping into store that catch our eye. The artisanal and local design scene here is unique and high quality.

6. Delicious Culinary Scene

Risotto alla milanese in milan, italy
Risotta alla Milanese from Trattoria Masuelli San Marco

The food scene in Milan is easily one of the best in Italy. It is an amazing fusion of traditional Italian flavors and modern culinary innovation.

Some of the best local dishes include:

  • Risotto alla Milanese – a rich, saffron-infused risotto (our personal favorite)
  • Ossobuco – braised veal
  • Cotoletta alla Milanese – breaded veal, more or less a Milanese version of a schnitzel. 

Here are some of our favorite restaurants in Milan:

Marchesi 1824 Milan, Italy
Marchesi 1824 in Milan

Beyond dining out, you can also explore the vibrant food markets, such as the weekly Valvassori Peroni food Market. Or even gourmet shops with amazing selections to snack on or bring home as souvenirs. Check out the extensive gourmet selection at Peck, for example. 

From cozy cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants, the Milan food scene is topnotch and just one more reason to visit the beautiful Italian city. 

7. Vibrant Nightlife & Entertainment

Milan comes alive after dark with its vibrant nightlife and entertainment options — with an impressive array ranging from the very classy to the slightly rowdy. 

La Scala Opera House, which some consider to be the pinnacle of opera houses worldwide, puts on performances throughout the year. From ballets to operas to a variety of symphonic and orchestral concerts, this is a venue not to be skipped over. 

Beyond that, there are a huge number of bars, clubs, and theaters that cater to various tastes all throughout the city. The Navigli district, with its picturesque canals, offers a romantic setting for an evening aperitivo — a cherished Italian tradition. Or you could head to Brera for a laid-back but lively evening atmosphere. 

8. Amazing Day Trips

day trips from Verona
Verona, Italy day trip from Milan

While there is so much to see in Milan itself, the city also serves as a perfect base for day trips to other cities and attractions throughout the region. 

From Milan you can reach the breathtaking scenery of Lake Como in less than an hour by train, the charming streets of Lugano, Switzerland in just over an hour by either car or train, or you could be relaxing by the shores of Lake Garda in just less than an hour by train.

There’s even the option to visit the romantic, Shakespearean city of Verona which is just over an hour’s ride on the train, and makes for one our favorite Milan day trips.

If you prefer to stick to the cities, you can reach both Turin and Bologna on a short train ride from Milan.

9. Aperitivo by the Canals

Navigli Canals in Milan
Navigli Canals in Milan

A trip to Italy is not complete before experiencing the tradition of aperitivo at least once. What started in the 14th century as a medicinal way to increase appetites has turned into a beloved tradition. 

Aperitivo is a pre-dinner ritual that combines a light drink, usually a cocktail such as a Vermouth or an Aperol, and an appetizer, or small dish such as a cheese or meat board, some crackers or bread, and olives. 

It is a tradition that is done just right in Milan with the perfect setting along the Navigli canals. The city of Milan was once encircled by canals, there are now just two left. And they still provide the most perfect, picturesque backdrop for your daily aperitivo.

10. Modern Italian Experience

One final reason to answer is Milan worth visiting — the city stands in stark contrast with the majority of other Italian cities and therefore offers a rather unique Italian experience thanks to its modernity. 

While Italy is often associated with its ancient history — and that association is not wrong. Unlike Rome or Florence, Milan showcases a more cosmopolitan side of the country with contemporary amenities and modern architecture. 

If you’re embarking on a full Italian itinerary, not only is Milan unmissable, but it will also offer an amazing opposition to the other ancient cities you’ll visit. Embrace that sleek and sophisticated ambiance that defines Milan’s modern Italian experience.

5 Things to know before you go: Milan Travel Tips

Ancient ruins in Milan
Ancient ruins we discovered while walking around Milan

Book in Advance

There are many attractions you’ll not want to miss out during your trip to Milan. However, a few of them are so popular that you need to make sure to book your ticket in advance.

Both the iconic artwork The Last Supper and access to the rooftop terrace of the Duomo should be booked as soon as you have your plans finalized. 

Tickets for The Last Supper go on sale every three months. For example, in December you can buy tickets for February, March, and April. Visits are time slotted and last just 15 minutes. Reserve a guided tour of The Last Supper here.

For the Duomo rooftop tickets are more readily available, but should be booked at least a few days in advance, and further out in the high season of summer. Reserve your Milan Duomo tickets here.

Avoid Fashion Week 

If your goal is to visit Milan during fashion week, then of course go for it! But if you’re not interested in the possibility of glimpsing a model or a celeb, and you don’t have a ticket to an event, then these are weeks best to be avoided. 

While Milan Fashion Week is an internationally celebrated event, it can significantly impact your travel experience and will clog up many of the best things to do in Milan.

The city becomes overrun with fashion enthusiasts of all kinds, leading to increased crowds and higher prices for accommodation, dining, and entertainment. 

For a more relaxed trip (on which you can still see plenty of top tier fashion!), definitely plan to visit outside of fashion week dates. 

Reserve Restaurants 

Popular restaurants in Milan tend to fill up quickly, especially during peak hours. It’s a good idea to make a booking for dinner about a week in advance. But sooner is always better.

So if you get a recommendation or find a spot you want to try out the following day, see if you can make a booking then and there — 24 hours in advance you’ll have a better chance than walking up and asking to be seated.

And, if you’re too late for a dinner booking, see if you can be slotted in for lunch, these seatings are often easier to snag. 

Peak Season is Expensive

Peak tourist season in Milan runs from June through September. And it’s not only more expensive, it’s also a whole lot busier!

It’s understandable why though, the weather in the city is very pleasant making walking around and sight seeing both very enjoyable activities. But it comes with some downsides — higher prices and increased crowds.

Accommodation, flights, and entry to the main attractions sell out quicker.

If you’re looking to save on costs, have a flexible schedule, and prefer a quieter experience, consider planning your visit during shoulder seasons — spring (April to May) or fall (October) are really nice times to visit. You’ll still enjoy nice weather while avoiding the peak season expenses and crowds.

Get out of the touristy areas

While the well-known landmarks are absolutely worth visiting in Milan, the city’s true beauty extends beyond its highlights and the touristy districts. Be sure to take the time to simply explore the city’s streets.

Put away the map and discover some hidden gems of the local areas. 

Stepping away from the tourist-packed zones allows you to experience the authentic, local side of Milan — wander through charming cobblestone streets, visit neighborhood cafes, and engage with the city’s diverse communities to truly appreciate Milan’s unique character.

Best Time to Visit Milan? 

canals in milan, italy
Canals in Milan

If you’re wondering when to visit Milan, ultimately the answer will come down to your itinerary and availability. But if you have flexibility, the best time to visit is during the shoulder seasons. These are in the spring time — from March to May and in autumn — from October to November. 

Both periods offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds than the peak months of summer. With fewer crowds you can also expect easier bookings and lower prices. 

If you really want a quiet, local experience with little to no tourist crowds, November to March, the true off season, is the perfect time to visit Milan.

We’ve often visit Milan in the late fall (October – December) and this is one of our favorite times to visit. The weather may be cloudy, but it’s less busy and is more enjoyable overall.

How many days in Milan is enough? 

The ideal amount of time to spend in Milan is two full days. This allows you a good amount of time to explore the city’s main attractions thoroughly. You’ll have time to visit iconic landmarks such as the Duomo, Sforza Castle, and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. 

However, if your schedule is tight, a single day in Milan could work — though you’ll want to aim to spend the full day here (early morning and late evening).

Suggested Milan 1 & 2 Day Itineraries

Milan Duomo
Milan Duomo

1-Day Milan Itinerary

  • Morning: Breakfast at Marchesi, Milan Duomo, and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
  • Afternoon: See Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” Sforza Castle, Parco Sempione
  • Evening: Aperitivo at Navigli canals and dinner at a local restaurant

2-Day Milan Itinerary

Follow the 1-day itinerary for your first day in Milan and the itinerary below for your second day.

  • Morning: Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore and Pinacoteca di Brera
  • Afternoon: Wander around the Brera district, shop along Via Monte Napoleone, and go to the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum
  • Evening: Aperitivo and dinner at a local restaurant

Is Milan Worth Visiting: FAQ

Parco Sempione Milan
Parco Sempione in Milan

Is Milan or Florence better? 

Milan and Florence offer distinctly different experiences. Milan is a modern city known for its high-end fashion houses, while Florence is a much more historical city, renowned for its Renaissance art.

The answer to which is better depends fully on personal preferences — do you want a modern urban break or to spend time exploring historical culture? If you have to choose between the two, then Florence is a must.

Is Rome or Milan better? 

Rome is an ancient city with a vast amount of history and iconic landmarks — it is also the largest of all Italian cities, at more than double the population of Milan.

Milan though is still a large city, it’s actually Italy’s second largest, so you will get a big city experience either way. Milan though is a lot more modern and focused on the contemporary — so which is better will depend on what you’re looking for.

Is Milan or Venice better?

Both Milan and Venice offer a somewhat romantic vibe, Venice really leans into that vibe with gondolas and a slower pace. While Milan is focused on an elegant sophistication driving it forward through architecture, design, and fashion. So if you’re still wondering why visit Milan — it’s for the style and edge of the city. 

What are the cons of visiting Milan? 

One of the only cons you might be able to fault Milan with is that it is more expensive than other comparable cities in Italy.

That being said, you’ll also find less history than spots like Rome or Florence, so if that’s what you’re after, this could also be seen as a con. The large city also has a fairly fast-pace about it so it’s not a spot for a laidback, quiet break. 

Is Milan a walkable city? 

Milan is a relatively walkable city, especially throughout the center, where major attractions are concentrated. However, the extensive public transportation system is also quite efficient for exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods and getting out from the center.

More Information for your Trip to Italy

ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE

Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.

Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.

Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.

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