What To Do In Milan For An Authentic Experience

One of the great challenges of travel is figuring out how to spend your limited time in a place to maximize your experience. Our visit to Milan was an exception to this normal challenge as our stay was guided by our Milanese friend, Camilla. From a week this lovely place touring around with her we really felt like we got an authentic and unique taste of the city. Now we’ll share our highlights so that you have an idea of what to do in Milan to really soak it up.

From our experience some of the best things to do in Milan are off the normal tourist route. While you’ll find a couple of the more mainstream attractions on our list, the purpose of this article is to share the less-well-known destinations that we found to be amazing.

With that said, lets go!

1. Visit The Navigli District

Steeped in charm and exuding a youthful vibe, the Navigli District is not to be missed. This area is full of cool streets punctuated with several canals and is just lovely.

Wander into this district and you’ll find some artsy, more rambunctious aspects than in other parts of the city. This is mainly illustrated by the proliferation of street art in the area.

What To Do In Milan - Go To The Navigli District

When we visited there was an art project where large plastic animals were placed around the canal, hence the snail.

When the weather is nice the canals are lined with people kicking back and having a good time. There’s often music playing and some street performers around as well.

2. Have An Aperitivo

The aperitivo is a really cool part of Italian culture. Aperitivo is essentially a pre-dinner drink and snacks to be enjoyed with friends. It’s sort of like Happy Hour, but there’s more of any emphasis on enjoying the company rather than guzzling alcohol.

The atmosphere is very casual and festive, and something I think visitors should get to experience.

Our aperitivo experience was at a place called El Paso de los Toros, which holds aperitivo every day from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.

3. Go To Parco Sempione

Parco Sempione is located in the historic center of Milan and covers a staggering 386,000 square meters! It is flanked on the north side by the beautiful Arco della Pace (Milan’s version of the Arc de Triomphe) and by the medieval Castello Sforzesco on the south end.

What To Do In Milan - Parco Sempione

Us in front of the Arco della Pace at the north end of the park.

The park itself is a cool hangout spot for locals, and a great place to sneak in a run or some exercise during your stay in Milan.

If you’re interested in going inside Castello Sforzesco, admission is 5 Euro and you’ll get to see works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Pretty cool!

4. Visit The Triennale Museum

The Triennale Museum is actually located within the bounds of Parco Sempione, so if you’re in the neighborhood consider stopping in.

This museum is unlike most other in Italy as it centers around contemporary Italian art and design. The exhibitions change fairly regularly so check to see what’s on exhibit before you make your decision. Overall themes center on things like urban planning, architecture, and industry.

What To Do In Milan - La Triennale di Milano

One piece on exhibit when we visited the Triennale Museum. K had fun with it.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 AM until 8:30 PM. Admission is 15 Euro.

5. Climb To The Top Of The Duomo

This one is what you might expect to see on a list of what to do in Milan, but it’s so belongs on such a list. The Duomo in Milan is really interesting. The space at the top is surprisingly large and offers an excellent view. There are few other places where you can stand on top of a gothic cathedral and look out to see modern architecture.  It was so cool to see that high gothic architecture and skyscrapers should exist so close together.

What To Do In Milan - Climb the Duomo

Gothic architecture in the foreground, skyscrapers in the background.

If you could see what the saints on that side of the cathedral have seen over the last 700 years I’m sure it would be quite the experience.

The terraces are open from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily and there are two types of tickets. If you take the life to the top it’ll cost you 13 Euro, whereas you’ll only pay 9 if you take the stairs. Our preference was for the stairs as it allows  you to see more of the cathedral close up. Another bonus for taking the stairs is the pleasant side effect of burning off some of the Italian food you’re going to eat later!

6. Stop In At Luini For Panzerotti

This is near the top of my list for what to do in Milan because panzerotti is so incredibly good. Panzerotti are delicious little doughy turnovers stuffed with cheese and other toppings. They’re like small calzones, but the dough is really flavorful and has an indescribably delightful texture. Just go get one, you’ll see.

Luini is located pretty close to the Duomo, so you can perhaps use the treat as motivation to climb those stairs!

P.S. — If you’re looking for more food recommendations in Milan, check out this article on the topic.

7. Wander The Brera District

The Brera district is a lovely bohemian neighborhood. It’s home to enchanting architecture, lots of cool restaurants, and just an abundance of beauty. It’s also home to the Brera Academy, a distinguished fine art school.

Go to Gelateria Toldo for a sweet treat, then make your way to the Brera Botanical Garden (it’s free!) to soak up the whole vibe.

Do You Have Any Suggestions For What To Do In Milan?

If you have any other suggestions for what to do in Milan please share by commenting on this article. We would love to hear from you!

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