The Definitive Milan Checklist
You might suspect that a visit to Milan is viable only for those who have money to burn and a superior attitude. However, those restricted to a budget will find plenty to do in Milan. Many of the cultural attractions are free to enjoy and you can always root out a bargain meal if you look in the right neighbourhood. There are designer shops and swanky bars if you like that thing, but Milan will surprise you with its locals enjoying a good bargain at the market and friendly venues that encourage good conversation and unpretentious dancing!
Milan’s nightlife might not be what you’d expect. It’s not all flashy bars with guest lists, strict dress codes and over-priced cocktails. Whilst indeed you can find places like this to see-and-be-seen in Milan, the city’s locals prefer to start a night with a tasty meal in a cosy and fun venue with plenty of wine and music to help along the conversation and dancing.
Happy hour starts at 6pm or 7pm and goes on till 9.30pm. In Milan this time is known as aperitivo, the the highlight of the evening, with everyone getting into the spirit of things early.
A great place to start your evening is the Navigli area. Famed for its two canals, here you can admire the nightlife and restaurant lights from one of the lively bars that line the waterways.
Top bars and clubs:
· Go back to where it all began with a visit to Zucca in Galleria on the corner of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II shopping arcade – in 1860 this was where the famous Italian drink Campari made its debut.
· For the best dancing, head over to the Rolling Stone nightclub. Perhaps Milan’s most famous club, Rolling Stone is the home of live rock during the week and plays the best dance music over the weekend.
· In Navigli there’s a lots of great bars to pick from, including the Cadenhead’s Whisky Bar, the intimate café-come-bar El Brellin and right down of the waterfront visitors should check out Birreria La Fontanella.
Free things to do
Milan’s exclusive reputation often means people write it off as a destination to avoid visiting if you’re on a tight budget. However, there are many exciting cultural attractions you can visit for free in Milan to get a real sense of the city’s character.
Top free attractions:
- Believe it or not, the shopping centres in Milan are some of the best places to see the city’s exquisite architecture. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Milan’s oldest shopping arcade and is an incredible building with long stretches of marble floors, intricate stone facades and balconies all contributing to the grand atmosphere. The most stunning element of the building through is its immense glass dome ceiling – definitely worth a visit even if your budget won’t stretch to buying anything here; the photos of the building will make a great souvenir.
- Escape the chilly winter weather with a visit to the famous Milan Duomo – the city’s iconic cathedral. Entry is free (although a tour of the Treasury costs €1).
- Milan is best known for da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” but it’s free to visit the artist’s other great artwork, the Leonardo da Vinci Horse. This enormous horse sculpture is the world’s biggest bronze horse statue and is based on designs Leonardo made in the late 15th century.
With magnificent shopping arcades, established markets and futuristic malls, whether you are a collector of high fashion or prefer to root out vintage treasures, the shops in Milan provide something to suit all tastes.
- The Armani superstore on Via Manzoni has everything you need to turn your home into a mini Armani universe, with Armani outlets for jeans, furniture, art, books and even flowers.
- If the price tags of the uber-expensive designer stores make your eyes water, take a trip to Fidenza Village. This outlet shopping village has a number of designer labels at cut prices.
- The Mercatone del Naviglio Grande monthly market takes place along the canals in Navigli on the last Sunday of each month (save July). The atmosphere is hectic but exciting and you’ll find independent stalls selling home wares, furniture and unique antiques.
If you prefer delights of the culinary kind, Milan offers plenty of markets and delis to satisfy curious foodies.
Top places for foodies:
- Stop for lunch at La Vineria, a bar-come-shop which provides welcome relief from some of the jam-packed cafes in the Navigli area. La Vineria sells olive oil and wine on tap as well as offering guests platters of cold meats, cheese and breadsticks for only six euros!
- North of Corso Magenta, Mercato Comunale is Milan’s biggest daily fresh food market. The market is held undercover in Piazza Wagner and the market is an explosion of noise and colour. The stalls are filled with local produce, from fruits, flowers and vegetables to smoked meats, cheeses, fresh seafood and pastas of all shapes.
- Peck, a multi-storey delicatessen on Via Spadari, is something of an institution in Milan. It’s the best place in the city to find a massive choice of cured meats, cheeses and plenty of oils and vinegars to take home as a reminder of your Italian visit. On the first floor you’ll find a café where you either relax over a coffee or cocktail or indulge in a platter of cheese or cold cooked meats. The lower floor is a wine lover’s paradise with hundreds of bottles from local and international estates.
- For shoppers with a sweet-tooth, L’Antica Arte del Dolce on Via Anfossi is a favourite for anyone needing a sugar fix. Translated as ‘The Ancient Art of Sweet’, the shop’s shelves of biscuits, chocolates, cakes, jams and tarts tempt in passers-by, with everything being made fresh in store by skilled pastry chefs. Try something safe and traditional or opt for something a bit more left-field such as their aubergine and chocolate mousse.
Flights to Milan only take an hour and forty minutes from London City Airport, starting at under £170 for a return ticket. Short on time? Discover more attractions in Milan with a 24 hour itinerary guide to the city’s best restaurants and other attractions.