The big trip

A weekend in Milan

Everything you need to know for a city break in Italy’s fashion capital

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Why you should visit Milan 

Less showy than Rome or Venice, Milan packs quite a punch when you look beneath the surface. At first this northern Italian cultural stronghold can seem a little low on charm, but invest just a few days and the city's boutiques, bars, brilliant eats and Leonardo da Vinci paintings will soon have you utterly smitten. 

Milan is everything you want from a city, said Antonia Windsor in The Times. It has “historical clout” in its art galleries, gothic cathedral and world-famous opera houses, and yet “it’s full of the buzz of the new”. Ignore the “naysayers” who’ll tell you Milan is one of the uglier Italian cities, “there is beauty on every corner”. 

Well known for its annual fashion weeks, “marvellous” Milan is objectively one of Europe’s most stylish cities, said Time Out. Here you can shop “until you can shop no more” and, yes, “you will have to look the part”.

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The Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) by Leonardo da Vinci

MB_Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Top attractions: things to see and do

Da Vinci’s Milano

Leonardo da Vinci lived in Milan for two decades and his sumptuously vivid fresco The Last Supper occupies one wall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery. Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan offers guests a private viewing of Da Vinci’s masterpiece.

Visitors can also see Leonardo’s statue in Piazza della Scala while the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana museum is home to the Codex Atlanticus, the largest collection of Da Vinci’s writings and drawings.

Famous buildings 

Il Duomo di Milano is one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. Walk among its rooftop spires during the day for views as far as the Alps. The Duomo cathedral and the Piazza del Duomo are “easily the best thing to check out when you’re in Milan”, said The Savvy Backpacker. “We recommend visiting at night since the Duomo Cathedral and the surrounding building are beautifully illuminated.” 

The iconic Teatro alla Scala is Milan’s most famous opera house. Inaugurated on 3 August 1778, “most of the greatest singers of the past 200 years have appeared here”, said Classic FM

Shopping and fashion

From Il Duomo, the covered Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II leads into the Quadrilatero della Moda, where Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada et al all have emporiums (which explains why the Milanese are so dauntingly well dressed). Visit in winter for incredible sales.

Museums and galleries 

On the first Sunday of each month, all of Milan’s civic museums offer free admission, said Time Out. “Though they tend to be more crowded then, it’s still a good chance to squeeze in some more culture without spending a cent.” 

The Pinacoteca di Brera is “the Milan museum”, said Lonely Planet. It’s “just as fundamental to the city as the little Madonna statue on top of the Duomo”. Other must-visit museums include Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (“best for Renaissance art), Museo del Novecento (“best for modern art”), and Triennale di Milano (“best for design lovers”). 

Sport 

Milan is home to two world-famous football teams – newly-crowned champions AC Milan and their city rivals Inter, who both play in Italy’s Serie A. In 2026 Milano-Cortina will host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The Giuseppe Meazza San Siro Stadium will be the location for the Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony.

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Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan

Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan

The Dorchester Collection

Hotels and accommodation: where to stay 

“Grand old dame” Hotel Principe di Savoia is picked out by The Times for being a “Milanese institution”. This hotel in the bustling Piazza della Repubblica area first opened its doors in the late 1920s and remains an impressively grand spectacle.

The Mandarin Oriental takes top spot on the best Milan hotels list in both The Telegraph and Condé Nast Traveller. Occupying four former bank buildings in the elegant Brera central district, the hotel boasts a vast spa and pool, Antonio Guida’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant Seta and a bustling bar, where cool Milanese come to socialise.

As well as the Mandarin Oriental, other hotels to be given a 9/10 rating on The Telegraph include Ostello Bello, Palazzo Segreti, Park Hyatt Milan, LaFavia Milano and Senato Hotel Milano.  

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Enjoy an Aperol Spritz overlooking Piazza Duomo

Enjoy an Aperol Spritz overlooking Piazza Duomo

Alex Rotenberg/Alamy Stock Photo

Restaurants and aperitivo hour: where to eat and drink

Milan’s gastro scene is particularly strong in two areas – fine dining and cheap eats. Try the risotto alla Milanese served with saffron and bone marrow at Ratana, which offers daring twists on classic local dishes. The city offers Italy’s best pizza scene outside Naples: Pizza AM has a great selection of high-quality slices.

When it comes to culinary prowess, Milan packs a huge and varied punch, with charming family-run trattorias and chic ultra-modern Michelin star joints dotted across the city in equal measure. For a taste of gorgeous home-cooked food, try Il Solferino in the city’s Brera district, where delicate white-truffle-tinged pasta dishes complement the traditional “Milanese” veal cutlet. 

For the height of haute cuisine, head to Acanto at Hotel Principe di Savoia. This is an atmospheric food-lover’s heaven overseen by chef Alessandro Buffolino, who offers a menu of old-school Italian-style dishes with innovative modern twists.

Michelin-starred restaurants

There are 15 restaurants in Milan which hold a Michelin star. Top of the menu is Enrico Bartolini al Mudec, which has three. An “elegant, contemporary” restaurant on the third floor of the Museo delle Culture, it offers an original location and attentive, solicitous service. “The apparent simplicity of the menu sets the tone for a concert of dishes which feature extraordinary soloists backed by choirs of ingredients and variations on the same theme,” said Michelin Guide Italia

Aperitivo hour…

A pre-meal drink specifically meant to whet your appetite, the style of your aperitivo will depend on where you are, said Walks of Italy. Milan is, “hands-down, the best place for an aperitivo in Italy”. The bars are buzzing and the selection of food and drinks for aperitivo is “excellent”.

Aperitivo are taken oh-so seriously here. Located within the district of Citta Studi, Bar Basso is said to have invented the “Negroni Sbagliato” – a Milanese negroni with prosecco in place of gin. While in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the Campari-owned Il Camparino serves 19th-century-style offerings.

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Milan Metro and traditional tram

Milan Metro and traditional tram

Robert Harding/Alamy Stock Photo

Transport: how to get there

Airports 

Milan is served by three international airports – Malpensa, Linate and nearby Bergamo Orio al Serio. Malpensa (MXP) is the largest and handles the most long-haul international flights, said TripSavvy. Linate (LIN) is “closest to the city centre and serves mostly flights from within Italy”, while Bergamo (BGY) is located “well outside Milan but is a busy hub for flights going to and from other points in Europe and the UK”.

Trains 

Milano Centrale is the second-largest station in Italy, said ItaliaRail. From here you can get regular daily services to cities throughout the country as well as European destinations. 

Metro and trams

Milan’s Metro subway system has four lines: M1 (red), M2 (green), M3 (yellow), and M5 (lilac). The M4 (blue) is under construction. The city’s tram system has been around since 1876, “although at that time they were horse-drawn”, said IntroducingMilan.com. “Even today some of the trams in circulation are relics, more than 80 years old.” There are 18 tram lines that run until past midnight – a longer schedule compared to the Metro and local buses. 

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The bull mosaic in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan

The bull mosaic in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan

Andrey Omelyanchuk/Alamy Stock Photo

What the locals say…

Stepping on the bull’s balls…

Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II you’ll find a mosaic tile of a Turin bull – and most likely will see someone spinning on the bull’s testicular region. “Tradition states that if you firmly plant your right heel on the bull’s balls and rotate counter clockwise three times it will bring you good luck or increased fertility,” said Italiansrus.com. “Like throwing a coin in Rome's Trevi fountain to ensure your return to Rome it is all believed that rotating on the bull’s balls will ensure your return to Milan.” 

Visit the district of Navigli 

Luca Finardi, general manager at the Mandarin Oriental Milan hotel, recommends a visit to the boho, canal-lined Navigli district. “It’s perfect for a stroll during the day,” he said. “But it gives its best at night, when locals fill the bars and restaurants. Every last Sunday of the month there’s a traditional flea market along the towpaths.”

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