The famous city, Milan in Italy, you probably want to put it on your itinerary while planning your Italian trip. But is it worth a visit, and what is this city known for except their fashion industry?
Milan is known as the economic heart of Italy. Many headquarters of the financial industry are based in Milan. The city is known for its thriving fashion industry. And some of the world’s famous artworks, such as Da Vinci’s famous painting last supper are on display in Milan. The city offers an unusual mix of historical and modern architecture.
There’s much more to know about this city. In this article, I’ll cover the famous landmarks, the best things to do, the best time to visit, and much more details about Milan. Let’s read on!
Milan History and Facts
Milan has always played a significant role in Italian history. We cover some of the most important facts in the development of the city.
Since the city was founded in 600BC a Celtic civilization called the Insubres, it is known for its wealth and culture. The Romans in 222BC captured Mediolanum (how they called Milan). In 286AD Roman Emperor Diocletian makes Milan the capital of the Western Roman Empire
In the following centuries, the city was a stage of warfare because of its strategic position in Lombardy.
During the first century of the renaissance – 1400 till 1500 – Milan was ruled by the house of Sforza. The Sforza family was of significant influence for the economic and cultural development of Milan, the Lombardy region and Italy as a whole.
Milan became the capital of the Italian republic in 1802. In 1808 Milan’s stock exchanges opened for the first time. 1861 is the year that Milan becomes an official part of the Kingdom of Italy.
During WWII Milan was heavily damaged. After the war, the city snowballed into the modern city that it is today. Is heydays in the 1980s when big fashion houses as Versace and Armani achieved international success. It transferred Milan into one of the four fashion capitals in the world.
- Milan is the 2nd largest city of Italy with 3.3 million inhabitants.
- Holds the 2nd busiest International airport in Italy.
- It is the capital of the Italian province, Lombardy
- The city has two internationally renowned football clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan (Internazionale) sharing the same stadium.
- Milan is relatively small. The total area covers only 70 square miles
- Elevation is only 390ft (120meters) above sea level, even though the city is relatively close to the Dolomites and Austrian Alpes.
- Every street in the city center leads to the dome; the Cathedral of Milan
- The city is known for its excellent cuisine; Milan is the fifth most starred city worldwide by the Michelin’s Guide.
Famous Landmarks and Museums in Milan
Milan has a long and turbulent history. It is interesting to see that despite the city was heavily damaged at the end of WWII; there are still a lot of renowned historical buildings you can visit.
The most famous landmarks in Milan are;
Milan Cathedral (Duomo)
You’ll find this Cathedral at Piazza del Duomo. This Cathedral was for a long time the only heigh building in Milan. Nowadays it shares the skyline with many modern skyscrapers.
The Cathedral is the biggest in Italy, built in typical Gothic style. The fourth-largest in the world, and the third-largest in Europe. St. Peters Cathedral is the largest, and you’ll find this in Vatican City, which is officially an independent state within the city of Rome.
It took over 600 years to complete the Milan Cathedral. The building started in 1368, and the Cathedral officially opened in 1965! The Cathedral is 354 ft high and 302ft wide.
This Cathedral is a must-visit while you’re in Milan. A favorite thing to do while visiting the Cathedral is the climb to the roof. It is safe to walk there. You’ll have a splendid view of the city!
Church of Santa Maria delle Grazia
On the opposite side of the Milan Cathedral, you’ll find a smaller round building, that looks like a church. At first sight, nothing special and if you don’t know any better, you will walk past it. From outside, it seems like just an old church where local people would go.
But don’t let it fool you. When you go inside, you’ll find one of the most magnificent paintings of all time. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci painted on the inside walls of this church. The mural was commissioned by the Duke Ludovic Sforza, as a decoration for the dining room in the church. It took Da Vinci over two years to complete the painting. The painting was completed in 1489, and it counts as one of the first paintings in the early Rennesaince.
The Sforza family had a significant role in the development of Milan. Sforzesco Castle was commissioned by Fransesco Sforza. The castle was built in the 15th century and was at that time one of the biggest fortresses in Europe. You can visit the castle, which holds several museums at the moment.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The oldest active shopping center in Italy. This four-story building, in the middle of the city center, was built in 1865. Named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. The shopping mall was one of the first with a glass ceiling, which became a popular design for modern shopping malls.
Teatro Alla Scala
Italy is the land of the opera, and you’ll find many opera houses in the country. The story of opera house Teatro Alla Scala or La Scala is quite interesting.
Initially, there was another theater in Milan, closeby this place. Teatro Regio Ducato, which was built in 1717 and hosted some huge premieres, such as different plays of Mozart. A fire destroyed the theater in February 1776 after a carnival celebration.
Teatro Regio Ducato was a place where wealthy Milanese people came together, so after the fire, they all opted for a new theater. A new theater was built nearby at a square where originally the church Santa Maria alla Scala was located. The theater is named after the church.
The new theater, Teatro Alla Scala, opened in 1778. The theater still illuminated with – over a thousand – oil lamps at that time. To prevent destroying by fire again, they made particular areas with hundreds of buckets with water, in case of a fire. The oil lamps were replaced in 1883 with electric lights.
During WWII, the theater was one of the buildings that were heavily damaged. After the war, the building was rebuilt and reopened in 1946. Today it is still one of the most famous opera houses worldwide.
Museums in Milan
Besides visiting the famous historical buildings, Milan holds several museums which are fascinating to visit. Sforza Castle holds several museums which you can visit. In Sforza castle you’ll find the following museums:
- Museum of Ancient Art
- Musical instruments museum
- Egyptian Museum
- Archaeological Museum of Milan
- Applied Arts collection
- Antique furniture and wooden sculpture museum
- The museum of Rondanini Pietà – where you can find the last sculpture made by Michelangelo before he passed away.
A few other museums which we can recommend during your visit to Milan are;
Leonardo da Vinci’s National Science and Technology Museum
It is the largest science and technology museum in Italy, opened in 1958 and dedicated to Leonarda da Vinci. The museum holds the most significant collection in the world of machine models which are created according to the drawings and designs of Leonardo da Vinci.
With over 16 thousand objects, it gives you a great impression of how technology and science developed over time.
Brera Pinacoteca (a hidden gem)
It is a museum you probably never heard of. This art gallery is perhaps one of the least known in Europe but has a very delicate and rich collection. It covers over 400 hundred different works in the period of 14th until the 20th century. Mostly the work of Italian painters though, but it is interesting to see centuries-old masterpieces.
The fashion capital of the world. But where can you find the best fashion in Milan? Milan’s fashion is found all over the city, but the best places to go shopping are the centers Galleria Vittoria Emmanuelle II and Quadrilaterod Della Moda.
Both areas are known as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. But you’ll find flagship stores from the world’s biggest fashion brands here. Armani, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace are only a few of the biggest brands that are located in this area.
Several times a year there are different fashion events held in the city, but the official Milan’s Fashion Week only held two times a year. A great event to visit when you’re into fashion and want to learn the newest trends.
Typical Food in Milan
Italy is renowned for its cuisine. With famous pasta’s, pizza’s, and sophisticated recipes. The typical Italian recipes are one of the most copied worldwide.
In Milan, the typical food is a bit different than in the central part of Italy. It is a bit the same as in Sicily (check out our article about typical Sicilian Food), the kitchen is greatly influenced by many different civilizations over time.
Sure, you’ll find the typical Italian pizza’s and pasta’s in Milan. Typical Milanese recipes are based on (risotto) rice than pasta. Let’s find out what food the Milanese are famous for.
Risotto Alla Milanese
This recipe is the signature dish of the Milanese cuisine. A very simple risotto but creamy and full of taste. Influenced by the Arabs who brought the rice and saffron to Sicily, which later spread all over Italy.
Risotto Alla Milanese feels a bit like a pasta carbonara, because of its creamy style, but actually, you can’t compare the two. Where a traditional carbonara is made with eggs, cheese, and some aged ham, the risotto alla Milanese is a vegetarian dish. Risotto rice simmered in butter, with saffron, and grated cheese.
Cotolleta alla Milanese
Milan is closeby the Austrian border, and the Austrian kitchen is known for its Wiener Schnitzel. A Cotelleta is almost the same as the famous Wiener Schnitzel. A slightly thicker piece of meat, but also crunchy with breadcrumbs. More often, the cotolleta still has a bone on the side, which makes the most significant difference comparing to the Wiener Schnitzel.
Do you love the typical Italian Minestrone as much as I do? It is excellent for a light lunch or as a starter with dinner. But everywhere in Italy, this soup is made with pasta, the Milanese use rice instead of pasta.
A small village close to Milan is called Gorgonzola, and this is where the world-famous blue cheese is originated. This cheese comes in many variations, but initially, there were only two versions, a creamy and sweet Gorgonzola, and a spicy one. The cheese is made of unskimmed cow milk
Ossobuco is not your typical beef steak, but probably one of the most tender ones you’ll ever eat (if your not a vegetarian). This dish is different than a regular steak because it still has a bone in the middle. Which makes the meat soft and full of taste. Often slowly cooked, medium-rare gives you the best tender taste. A unique Milanese recipe which perfectly combines with the Milanese risotto.
Best time to visit Milan
A city trip to Milan is excellent all year round. But during the winter months, temperatures can be very low, and there’s a lot of rainfall.
The best time to visit Milan, and enjoy the city to the fullest will be during the months May, June, and September. The temperatures and rainfall on average are most favorable during these months.
November is a month we don’t recommend for a visit to Milan. During this month there are many days of rainfall with an average of 4 inches (102 mm) this month, and low temperatures. Not the best month for a city trip.
July, August, as well as April and October, are also favorable months to visit. However, during July and August, it is the tourist peak season. The city will be bustling, and also it gets quite hot during these months. Temperatures on average in July and August will be 84.2F (29 degrees celsius), which are more favorable for a trip along the beautiful Italian coast then a city trip.
The Amalfi coast is a coastline which you’ll find in Northern Italy and which is perfect to combine with a city trip to Milan. You can find all the information about the Amalfi coast in this article I wrote.
Average temperatures in Milan
|Minimum – Maximum
|28.6F – 40F
|-1.8 – 4.4
|32.2F – 46.8F
|0 – 8.2
|37.9F – 55.8F
|3.3 – 13.2
|44.6F – 63.5F
|7 – 17.5
|52.2F – 71.4F
|11.2 – 21.8
|15 – 26
|63F – 84F
|17.2 – 28.8
|63F – 84F
|17.2 – 28.8
|13.5 – 24.2
|47.1F – 65.8F
|8.3 – 18.7
|38.5F – 50.4F
|3.6 – 10.2
|30.4F – 41.7F
|-0.8 – 5.3
Important events in Milan
Milan is also known for its big events, of course, the yearly different Fashion Weeks which are held in June and September are very popular to visit. When you want to attend a fashion week, make sure to book this in advance. Hotels and accommodations are often fully booked months before the fashion week. Check out our recommendations on how to plan your trip.
Milan’s International Film Festival is also a great festival to attend, which takes place in September or October.
When you’re a foodie like me, you would love to visit Milan during the Milan Food Festival. The festival held in May or June, where the typical Milanese food and renowned chefs are celebrated.
How to Get there
Milan is easy to reach. The city has the 2nd busiest airport of Italy which serves over 24 million tourists every year. Malpensa airport (Airport code: MXP) located 50 kilometers east of the city center. The airport is very quick to reach with a metro connection which leaves every 30 minutes from the city to the airport and visa Versa. The trip takes around 51 minutes.
When you don’t fly into Milan, the city is also easy to reach whit other forms of transport. Italy is well connected via an extensive train network. It is straightforward to catch a train from major cities like Florence, Rome, and Venice to Milan. It depends on from where your traveling, your traveltime will take several hours to reach the city.
Traveling by car is a great thing to do in Italy. The Italians are known as crazy drivers, but when you pay attention to the road, it is not as bad as many people say. Inside the cities, it can be a bit overwhelming because it tends to be very busy. But traveling by car from one city to the other is a great thing to do.
The roads in Italy are good on average, and the countryside is stunning. The main highways which lead to Milan city are A58, A7, and A50/E35. You can read our guide on how to get around Italy.
From Venice, it is only a 3hour drive, and from Rome, it will take you up to 6hours. But you can plan a stopover in Florence or take the coastal road and visit the Amalfi coast first.
Getting to Milan from other countries in Europe
Milan is closeby the Italian border, so it is easy to reach to cities from its neighboring countries. The border with France is only 3 hours by car. Switzerland’s border crossing around 1 hour, and Austria around 3 to 4 hours driving.
How to Get around
Milan is world-famous, but the city itself is not that big. It is easy to walk around the city center to visit all the famous landmarks. And when you’re tired of walking the city has a perfect metro and bus network that connect the most important places. An unlimited public transport card for 24 hours costs around € 4,50. For 48 hours you’ll pay about € 8,50.
It is also fun to rent a bicycle and explore the city while riding a bike. Milan has an easy bike-sharing program for € 6 per week.
How many days to spend in Milan?
Milan is a great city to visit. For many travelers, it is the place where they’ll arrive for their trip, or leave Italy to go back home or somewhere else. Unless you’re visiting an event like the fashion week, spending two days in Milan is enough. It is also possible to explore the cities highlights in 1 day.
But when you have the time we recommend planning two days for the city. It is more relaxed in that way, and you don’t have to rush through the beautiful landmarks and museums.
Are you spending more time in Italy? Italy has a lot to offer, and you probably are looking for more information about this beautiful country. Check out our different Italian articles, where we cover different city guides, beautiful road trips and much more interesting facts about Italy!