09:02 PM GMT September 13, 2017
The tennis at the Next Gen ATP Finals will without a doubt be the main attraction during your stay in Milan. But should you have a moment of free time away from the courts, here are 20 things to do in Milan.
1) BRERA, THE ARTSY NEIGHBOURHOOD
There is a neighbourhood in Milan that is considered a small Paris: Brera is the artsy neighbourhood of bohemian elegance, also known as “Milan’s Montmartre”.
Take a stroll through its cobbled streets to mingle with the students of the Academy of Fine Arts, visit the Pinacoteca or take a break from the hectic pace in the Botanical Garden, a green, quiet and incredibly peaceful area in the heart of the city.
Brera hosts a large number of artistic attractions (Pinacoteca di Brera, Palazzo Cusani, Brera Palace, Milan Civic Museum, Minguzzi Museum, the Basilica of San Simpliciano and its Monastery, Church of Santa Maria del Carmine ...) but also a number of markets.
If you are fond of shopping, dive into the traditional Brera Market, where you can find great opportunities for all budgets while snooping through the various stands. To end the day? You must stop by Jamaica, the historic neighbourhood bar, in front of the Pinacoteca, which has seen and made history of Brera and Italian art since 1911. While enjoying your cocktail or eating something at the bistro, you’ll be able to attend exhibitions, events or concerts.
2) FASHION QUADRILATER
Milan is the international capital of fashion and the famous 'quadrilateral' is the place to be if you’re looking for famous brands.
Between the streets of Via Manzoni, Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia, you can find all the best of the Italian style. It’s an extremely crowded area during fashion week. You’ll see dozens of models running from one casting to another with their book in hand. A stroll among the world's best shopping brands, always state-of-the-art, overflowing with elegance and extravagance, is mandatory.
Think of New York’s Fifth Avenue or the Avenue des Champs Elysees in Paris, Via Montenapoleone has nothing on them. But don’t stop at the main streets, get lost in the most hidden ones. Besides fantastic workshops, you’ll find several historic residences and prestigious palaces, such as the Poldi Pezzoli, the Bagatti Valsecchi, Palazzo Morando, which is home to the new Fashion and Costume Museum; the Grand Hotel et de Milan, where important figures like Giuseppe Verdi resided; the church of San Francesco di Paola, the eighteenth-century Palazzo Gallarati Scotti and the Borromeo d'Adda Palace.
3) MILAN’S TRADITION OF HAPPY HOUR
Happy hour is an unmissable holiday treat, a Milanese tradition that has become more and more varied. It may be a quick drink at the fishmonger’s surrounded by boxes of fish, or one featuring a starred chef, from the fusion menu to the one with the typical Milanese menu.
In Italy, happy hour is now an institution: you just need a drink and a buffet, to meet with friends, plan the evening, or have a quick meeting with colleagues to leave behind the long day of work.
Milan is historically the capital of happy hour – a tradition that arose after the First World War – and the homeland of Negroni (a third vermouth, a third Campari, a third gin, a squeezed orange peel, ice) and of the “Sbagliato” (replace the gin with sparkling wine).
The highest concentration of bars is located between Porta Genova and Navigli but the happy hour tradition is celebrated everywhere around the city. And if you want to feel like a local, “ape” is the abbreviation for the word “aperitivo”!
4) MILAN’S VIEW FROM ABOVE: WALKING ON THE ROOFS OF THE CITY
If altitude sickness doesn’t concern you, Milan offers an unparalleled view to admire from above.
A renewed route will allow you to discover Milan’s roofs and admire the city from a breathtaking perspective, from Piazza del Duomo to Milan’s new skyline with the skyscrapers of the City Life and Porta Nuova and the Alps in the background. Start on top of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and walk 250 metres at the same level as the spires of the Duomo.
Few tips before taking off: choose a sunny day to enjoy the full panorama of Milan and you’ll be able to see far away, up to the Alps.
For the most romantic among you: the right time to start your visit on the roofs of Milan is at sunset, you’ll be able to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city with a great light. From up above the world will be at your feet!
5) PLAYING WITH THE ACOUSTICS OF THE MERCHANTS’ LODGE
Unknown to many Milanese people, this spot is a real treat…
Take a tour of the Merchants’ Lodge, follow these instructions and have fun talking through the walls: Once you arrive at Piazza dei Mercanti, walk to the arcade at the centre of the municipal assembly square. Face the wall in front of one of the columns and tell a friend to stand in the same position, in front of you, facing another column with his shoulders towards you. Now say something, anything.
And here's the magic: you’ll be able to hear each other’s voice directly from the wall, as if you were talking on the phone.
This particular acoustic phenomenon was often used by merchants who wanted to share secret information from one side of the square to another. The legend says it was also used by lovers who wanted to declare their love.
Seeing is believing. Try to whisper your secrets. Your voice will be altered depending on the areas of the square, because of its special acoustics, today, the square is used to host concerts with special sound effects.
6) DISCOVER THE SKYSCRAPERS DISTRICT
Discover the futuristic atmosphere of the Porta Nuova district and admire the skyscrapers that have reshaped Milan’s skyline over the last few years.
With the 2015 Expo, the neighbourhood has undergone great transformations, launching Milan in the architectural future without sacrificing its eco-sustainable side and consecrating the city as a European capital.
From Piazza Gae Aulenti with its water tanks and lights show, walk up to admire the Unicredit Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Italy, the “Vertical Woods” and the Diamond Tower, the glass and steel skyscraper that became the city’s new icon.
The journey doesn’t end here. For the city's enthusiasts, we recommend that you return to the district in 2018 when the new Unipol tower, a spectacular and sustainable 23-floor skyscraper made of 125 metres of wood and glass, will be finished.
It’s no coincidence that in 1910 the futuristic movement arose in Milan, since then the city has never stopped anticipating the future.
7) MILAN’S GOOD “DRAWING ROOM”: VITTORIO EMANUELE II GALLERY AND A BIZARRE TRADITION
Visit the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery, “the drawing room” of Milan, with its luxury boutiques, historic restaurants and unusual traditions.
Let's start with the five things you need to know about the Gallery:
1. It was born from the idea of creating a commercial street that connected Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala.
2. The City Council decided to dedicate the gallery to King Vittorio Emanuele II and the monarch himself laid its first stone on 7 March 1865.
3. The Gallery was made in record time, just three years, but unfortunately its creator Giuseppe Mengoni never saw its end because he fell from the construction scaffolding.
5. The Gallery gained the nickname of “Milan's drawing room”, becoming the centre of the city’s bourgeois life, with its new shops, restaurants and cafes. According to the City Council’s regulations, all stores within the Gallery must have gold-coloured inscriptions on a black background.
Finally, for some good luck you’ll have to follow the tradition of stepping on the mosaic representing the bull and spin around keeping your eyes closed.
Thousands of tourists and locals, superstitious and not, try every day to improve their luck. No harm in trying!
8) THE CHARM OF MILAN’S TRAMS
In Milan, it's easy to get around by public transport. The metro system ensures wide city coverage, but travelling by tram has a unique charm.
You can experience a city heading towards modernity with a means of transport that gives it an ancient flavour and which has always been one of the symbols of it.
The first line, inaugurated in 1876, was Milan-Monza, which had the terminal outside Porta Venezia. But a remarkable fact is that across the world, in San Francisco, you can see the same trams that you find in Milan.
How did they get over there?
In 1983, a show of cars from around the world was hosted by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. The Milan tram was particularly appreciated and from that moment on began the export of cars that still run today on the Castro-Fisherman's Wharf line in San Francisco.
For all the information on the lines and ticket costs for visiting Milan by tram or by public transport go to the ATM website: https://www.atm.it/en/ViaggiaConNoi/TurismoMilano/Pagine/Biglietti.aspx
Have a good trip!
9) MILAN’S NEW DARSENA: THE PLACE TO BE
The new Darsena, the ancient port of Milan, is located between Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese. It was inaugurated in 2015 following the requalification of the area for the Expo and became the best place to enjoy Milan’s nightlife.
Very crowded during weekends, it’s the perfect place for a walk and a drink, and is also easily reachable by public transport: you can take the M2 metro green line and get off at Porta Genova, or take tram number 9 that from the Central Station always arrives at Porta Genova.
If you’re fond of walking, you can easily reach this area by foot from the central Duomo square in just 15 minutes. Perfect for walks along the waterways, street food enthusiasts here can indulge between food trucks and all kinds of bars.
10) FALL FOLIAGE COLORS IN PARCO SEMPIONE
More than a city park, Parco Sempione is one of the most beautiful and most cherished parks by the Milanese.
There are so many reasons: it’s the city’s green heart in a perfect English style; it’s the venue of many events and concerts and it’s right next to the Castello Sforzesco.
Although it cannot be compared to Central Park or Hyde Park in terms of size, it is definitely a magical place in Milan for history, culture and must-attend events.
Just take a walk or relax on the grass to recharge your batteries and let Parco Sempione enter your best memories of Milan. But if you want to go exploring, you can admire the Park’s Tower (former Tower Littoria), the Arc of Peace, the palace of Art, the monument dedicated to Napoleon III, the Arena and the Aquarium, the Castello Sforzesco, the Civic Arena, the Giò Ponti Tower and the municipal library.
During autumn the Park offers one of the most beautiful 'foliage' ever. Its avenues are covered by shades ranging from yellow of the leaves to brown of the chestnuts, to the orange colored shrubberies, a must-see to enjoy walking or by bicycle to appreciate the fairytale atmosphere.
11) ‘URBAN’ ITINERARIES DISCOVERING MILAN’S STREET ART
Admire the beautiful Milan in all its colors! Walk around the city and take a tour to discover the artworks of great contemporary street artists that have redesigned Milan’s walls.
Some great Italian artists contributed to Milan’s color palette giving the city amazing street art pieces.
Some of the names not to be missed? Here's some advice!
• The great red Millo heart in Via Morosini, "WallArt" of the three superstars of Milan’s street art PAO, Ivan and the Orticanoodles duo in Corso di Porta Romana.
• In Via Termopili the work of one of the most mysterious street artists in the world: Felipe Cardeña depicting Antinoo's face (the young Greek favoured by Emperor Adriano) immersed in a floral backdrop, a little further on, the dynamic figure of a four-armed Superman, a mix of classical culture and pop art.
• The Italian artist Blue, who painted the wall of the PAC in via Palestro and the outside of the community centres Cox 18 (via Conchetta) and Leoncavallo (via Watteau).
A different side of Milan, full of color.
12) BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE TEATRO ALLA SCALA
The Teatro alla Scala in Milan, as we know, is one of the major attractions and one of the most prestigious theatres in the world.
The Theatre offers the extraordinary opportunity for a visit behind the scenes to discover the majesty of its stage, the royal stage, the theatrical setting and the secrets of the prompter’s box and the iconic Ansaldo Laboratories, the ateliers where craftsmen produce the scenography, costumes, wigs and every other element that is on stage during opera and ballet performances.
To familiarize yourself with the theme, you can also pay a visit to the theatre laboratories, today reunited with the former industrial site of Ansaldo's steel mills in Milan.
An impressive 20,000 square-metre structure, divided into three wings where you can admire most of the handcrafting of the scenic installations – scenography, sculpture, thermoforming, carpentry, mechanical workshop, sculpture assembly, tailoring, costume processing, laundry. More than 60,000 costumes are kept in the space, which also includes the choir’s rehearsal studios and the stage area.
13) TRENDY AND LOW-COST SHOPPING IN MILAN
Apart from the shops in Via Montenapoleone, the city is also a mecca for low-cost and trendy shopping, loved by youngsters. The best spots for young fashionistas are the arcades from Piazza Duomo to San Babila, Via Torino, always crowded with youngsters, and the Porta Ticinese area, headquarters of fashionable and affordable boutiques.
14) RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE: A SUPERB DISH
A great classic of the milanese cuisine, especially when combined with a very tasty veal ossobuco, the risotto alla Milanese is perhaps the recipe that most represents Milan’s rich cuisine with its gold colour that makes it unique.
An exquisite flavour for a superb recipe made with the most typical ingredients of the traditional Lombard cuisine: butter, beef marrow, onion, topped with soup and saffron. Between history and tradition, the risotto alla milanese, the risòt giald, is a true delicacy!
15) PANETTONE ALL YEAR LONG? IN MILAN YOU CAN
Panettone is a type of sweet bread loaf of the Lombard tradition, during the Christmas holidays, in Italy it’s by far the most popular dessert. Milan is the town where panettone originated, you can find it all year round!
Its original recipe, dating from more than 500 years ago, featuring raisins, candied orange peelings, candied cedar and natural baking powder made this dessert a piece of Italian gastronomy exported all over the world. The one handcrafted in Milan is superb, so why relegate it only to the holidays when in the city you can find it all year round?
16) THE MILANESE CUTLET AND THE ‘ELEPHANT EAR’
Never leave Milan without having tasted the famous “Cotoletta alla Milanese”.
But, beware, not all slices of fried meat can bear the title of real Milan cutlet! The best ones are about three inches high with the longest bone, however, some prefer the "elephant ears" version, which is sliced thin. Its extravagant name is due to the final shape of the cutlet that resembles the ears of an elephant!
17) NAVIGLI AND MOVIDA MILANESE
Milan is famous for its vibrant nightlife, from the trendy clubs in Corso Como, near the Garibaldi Station, to the bars in the Navigli area, near Porta Ticinese, it offers a wide range of options. Milan’s nightlife sees new openings every year without neglecting the 'great classics', from the San Lorenzo Columns to the clubs in Viale Monte Nero and Piazzale Susa. In Milan at night time it’s impossible to get bored!
18) MILAN: THE KINGDOM OF DESIGN BETWEEN FURNITURE FAIR, FUORISALONE AND CREATIVITY
Milan is recognised internationally as the capital of fashion but we can’t deny that it is also the capital of design. In Milan, creativity is constant and you sense it at every step, including the great events of the Milan Design Week, Furniture Fair and 'Fuorisalone', the satellite event hosted in the Brera area, which year by year draws more and more enthusiasts thanks to social events hosted in special locations, themed itineraries and exhibitions in unusual and fascinating spots of the city.
19) THE UNDERGROUND SIDE OF MILAN WITH ITS SKATEPARKS
Hooded sweatshirt, baggy jeans and skate under their feet. Skateboarders in Milan are almost part of the urban landscape. Training here is not a problem and skate parks offer perfect ramps for those who want to try out some tricks. The top spots? Piazza Duca d'Aosta is the main meeting place for skateboarders, the Lambro Park "LamBrooklyn" skate park with its 400-square-foot park, "GratoBowl" in Gratosoglio neighborhood and Travaglia Park.
20) A DAY TRIP: ‘THAT BRANCH OF LAKE COMO’
“That branch of lake Como, which extends towards the south, is enclosed by two unbroken chains of mountains”, these are the words used by Manzoni to describe one of the Milanese favourite spots for a getaway from the city in his novel The Betrothed.
Perfect for a day trip, the charming Lake Como enchants for its majestic villas, romantic villages, hidden beaches and mountains. The ideal is to go on a boat trip, the view from the centre of the lake is impressive, even the Hollywood stars are fond of Lake Como and have chosen it as their 'buen retiro'.