Milan needs no introduction. Whatever you think of the city, it will exceed your expectations. Since we live in Athens, we go to Milan all the time. It’s a great place for connections, and we always have a good time.
We’ve been in all seasons and have to admit that we love Milan in winter. Don’t get us wrong, Milan is amazing in summer too. However, it can get too crowded and hot.
The average temperature in Milan in December and January is 40°F (4°C). Temperatures in Milan in February and March average 52°F (10°C). All you need is proper shoes and a coat, and you will have a blast!
Why Visit Milan in Winter
Approximately 9 million tourists visit Milan every year. Can you blame them? Everyone loves Milan! July and August are the most crowded months. We’ve been in the city in summer and couldn’t believe how packed it was.
Lots of tourists visit the city in high season for a couple of days and continue their tour of the country. In fact, there are lots of day trippers too! Come winter, everything changes.
You can enjoy the city at your own pace and with space! No need to queue or elbow yourself to order food or take pictures. We love strolling the boulevards and having coffee or cocktails. Never rushing!
As every experienced traveler knows, fewer people mean lower prices. Since everyone wants to visit the city in summer, prices can go through the roof! Tourists will pay whatever they have to just to be there.
The latter is particularly true regarding hotels. The best hotels in Milan can charge an arm and a leg in high season. They have to lower the prices to attract tourists in winter. Sometimes up to 50%!
The restaurants charge the same all year round. However, you can choose what you want. Shopping is what to do in Milan in winter. The winter sales are from January till March. Shop till you drop!
Things to Do in Milan in Winter
Climb the Milan Cathedral
Of all the things to do in Milan in winter, a visit to the Milan Cathedral is a must. No matter how many temples you’ve seen, this one is in a league of its own.
The massive church took 6 centuries to complete! It’s one of the biggest in the world. The interior is spectacular. In winter, you can see it properly and enjoy the atmosphere. Spend time inside and then go up!
You can get both tickets online here. It includes fast-track access to all of the compounds and discounts. The same price, but no queues. If you don’t want to climb the stairs, there’s a lift for an additional charge.
Admire the Imposing Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
There isn’t a single mall in the world quite like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Even if you are not into shopping, spend some time here. The gallery is an architect’s dream! And a shoppers paradise!
Opened in 1877, it is the oldest shopping arcade in Milan. It’s 4 stories high! Take your time and admire the iconic glass and iron ceiling. Don’t forget to check the mosaic floor.
The best Italian shops line the gallery. We are talking about high-end fashion, jewelry, and art. Our favorite coffee shop in Milan is here. Have cakes and coffee at Pasticceria Marchesi 1824 with the best views ever!
Watch a Concert in La Scala
La Scala di Milano is the most famous opera theatre in the world. Though we are not music experts, every time we are in the city we go to a concert. It’s a magical experience!
The theatre is gorgeous. You won’t believe the quality of the sound! Besides, some of the best musicians in the world play at La Scala. You can see operas, listen to music, and visit a couple of exhibits.
Spend Time in la Pinacoteca di Brera
The best museum in Milan is the Pinacoteca di Brera. Actually, it’s one of the best in Europe. The museum is in the Palazzo Brera, a former Jesuit monastery from 1576. However, the botanical gardens are from 1776.
If you think the building is beautiful, wait till you get inside. The collection goes back to the 13th Century! As you can imagine, it’s got some of Caravaggio’s and Raphael’s best works.
You can spend several hours exploring the museum. The same building homes a library, a science institute, and an observatory. Then be sure to spend some time in the gardens. Official info here.
See the Last Supper
The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most famous paintings of all time. Who hasn’t seen pictures of it? The original one is inside the Santa Maria Delle Grazie compound.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The wealthy Sforza family built the Dominican convent in the 15th Century. Later they wanted to convert the church into a mausoleum and hired Da Vinci to paint a mural.
Entrance to the church is free. The painting is not inside but in a museum next door. It’s impossible to get tickets on the same day. We recommend this guided tour because they do have tickets.
Visit Historic Churches
You could spend weeks visiting all the churches in Milan. And if you are into churches, do so! We believe you should at least visit two: the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore and the Basilica di Sant Ambrogio.
Completed in 379, Sant Ambrogio is one of the oldest churches in Italy. The one we can see today is from the 11th Century. The massive church has painted ceilings and delicate wooden carvings. No entrance fee.
San Lorenzo Maggiore is south. It’s from the 5th Century! The church is in Basilica Park and next to the medieval Ticino Gate. The remains of a Roman amphitheater are two steps away.
Stroll along Milan’s Nicest Park
We love walking around Parco Sempione. The 95-acre (40-hectare) park is just a 20-minute walk from the Cathedral. Tall trees, lakes, and fountains dot the park
Three of the city’s landmarks are in the park: the Sforza’s Castle (Castello Sforzesco), the Arch of Piece, and the Design Museum. The museum exhibits the best Italian design inside the 1930’s Triennale di Milano.
You can spend days discovering Castello Sforzesco. The Duke of Milan built this masterpiece in the 15th Century. Today, it homes 9 Museums. The Egyptian one is amazing. Michelangelo’s last work is in the Rondani Museum.
Explore Contemporary Architecture
We are architects ourselves so we love Milan contemporary architecture. Our favorite towers are the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), near Milano Garibaldi. Plants cover the two towers that preside over Biblioteca degli Alberi Park. The entire area is worth it!
The best modern architecture in Milan is on The Piazza Gae Aulenti, next to the Garibaldi Train Station. The plaza itself looks like a futuristic garden. Enjoy a cocktail or coffee while you people watch.
From the square, you can see the Unicredit Tower. It’s the tallest building in Italy. Look for the Diamond Tower, Pirelli Tower, and the Solea Residential Towers. If you didn’t have enough of skyscrapers go to the CityLife district.
Get Lost in Porta Venezia Neighborhood
Our favorite neighborhood in Milan is Porta Venezia, a 20 minute walk south of the Cathedral. Go to Indro Montanelli Gardens. The Milan Natural History Museum is in the park. The planetarium from the 1930s is in front.
The Modern Art Gallery from the 18th Century looks stunning in the Villa Belgijoso Gardens. Walk along Venezia Street admiring the palaces. Our favorites are Castiglioni, Buonarroti, and Serbelloni. Look for pink flamingoes inside the impressive Villa Invernizzi.
Green plants cover the Villa Mozart, on Mozart Street. The Palazzo Fidia is in front. Even if you are not into shopping, walk around Via Monte Napoleone. The most luxurious shops in the world dot this area.
Have Lunch or Dinner in Chinatown
As much as we like Italian food, we always eat in Chinatown. The quarter is half an hour walking north from the old town. You will know you are there when you see lanterns hanging from the lamp posts.
There are all types of eateries, including street stalls. Walk along pedestrian Paolo Sarpi Street and find the restaurant you like. Our favorite restaurant is Yuebinblou. For drinks, go to La Chiesseta, a former 18th Century Church.
One of the city’s best cultural venues is in Chinatown. The Fabbrica del Vapore is a former train factory turned art center. It’s got a theatre, several halls, and a cinema. The onsite bar is fantastic!
Where to Stay in Milan
Our favorite hotel in Milan is the Milano Castello, a couple of blocks from the Cathedral. The hotel has a garden and a gym. The plush rooms are big. Book the suite with a terrace to enjoy great views.
If you have the money to splash, do so at the Hotel Principe di Savoia. The top floor spa is fabulous. The indoor pool has frescoes! You get unparallel luxury, impeccable service, and Italian class.
Our final recommendation goes to Hotel Mentana, close to La Scala. Considering its class and location, it’s great value for money. The plush rooms are comfy, and the complimentary breakfast is delicious.
Moving Around Milan
The best way of moving around Milan is walking. Most of the city’s attractions are in the center. That’s why it’s the best place to stay in Milan. You can walk everywhere and enjoy the vibe.
Winter in Milan is perfect for walking too. Grab an umbrella, proper shoes, and a coat. Another brilliant idea is biking. We do not advise biking in the center. It’s better to tie your bike and walk about.
The city has a public bike-sharing program. Info here. Milan has a public transportation system with buses, trams, and a metro. You can go literally everywhere in no time. There are signs everywhere. Ask around, and you’ll be kindly helped.
Christmas in Milan
You won’t believe how beautiful Milan looks from November to January. Christmas lights and trees decorate the streets. The fancy shops and boutiques prop up their windows, and everyone is happy.
From November 25 to January 6, a colorful market takes over the main plaza. You have over 60 stalls to discover. There’s live music, games for kids, chocolate, and tons of good energy.
You can ice skate in Milan in winter too. There are several ice rinks but our favorite is in Gae Aulenti square. Another great rink is at the Montanelli Gardens. Locals skate in the Bagni Misteriosi, half an hour south of the Duomo.
If you have extra time, you have a lot of places to discover this winter near Milan. The entire region is stunning! We recommend going to Parma, only 75 miles (120 km) south of Milan.
To our amazement, not many people visit Parma. Spend a night and you’ll have it all to yourself. From there, you can continue to Modena and Bologna. The train from Parma to Bologna takes 1 hour.
If you are looking for an under the radar destination, we recommend Bassano de Grappa, 140 miles (230 km) east of Milan. The journey is an attraction in itself so be sure to grab a window seat.
Food & Drinks
You won’t have trouble eating and drinking in Milan. Actually, we have trouble not eating and drinking in Milan. During high season, it’s almost impossible to have a cocktail in the main plaza. In winter, you can!
Our favorite cocktail bar is Camparino in Galleria. The elegant bar and restaurant is in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle. The ceilings have frescoes and the views will take your breath away.
To eat with the best views over the city, go to The Roof Milano, two blocks from the Duomo. You can have lunch, dinner, and cocktails. It’s a great place to watch a killer sunset.