Milan has long held a position as a major fashion and design capital, with a rich history that stretches back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. If you’re a world traveler, here is what to see and do next time you’re in the city.
Fashion and Design
Today, many of the world’s leading Italian fashion houses are based in Milan, including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Moncler, Prada, and Versace. Then there are the countless individual boutiques, haute couture stores, and bespoke tailors throughout the city.
For anyone who is looking to upgrade their wardrobe or treat themselves to the latest trends, there is no better shopping destination. For the hardcore fashionistas, time your trip to coincide with Milan Fashion Week, held twice a year in February/March and September/October.
Where to go: Two of the most famous shopping districts in Milan are the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II at the Piazza del Duomo and the Quadrilatero della Moda—these districts are also where you’ll find all the leading fashion houses. Other popular shopping streets include Corso Buenos Aires and Via Dante.
Art and Culture
Milan is responsible for around 10 percent of all visitors to museums, galleries, and cultural sites across Italy. Given the city and country’s rich and varied history, it will be of little surprise to learn that Milan has numerous galleries and museums dedicated to different eras and periods.
Gothic art and architecture from the Middle Ages, works from the Baroque period in the 17th and 18th centuries, and Futurism, a 20th-century art movement of which Milan was at the epicenter, are all represented in various exhibitions and galleries, with the work of history’s most famous artists including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo on display.
For performing arts, there are few more important destinations than Milan. Teatro alla Scala—one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world—has hosted the premieres of the most iconic operas in history, while the Milan Symphony Orchestra and Milan Conservatory continue to attract the world’s best musical talents.
Where to go: In regard to art galleries, the Pinacoteca di Brera houses priceless works by Caravaggio and Raphael, while the Brera Academy is known for its Baroque-era pieces. For more modern works of art, check out the Modern Art Gallery. Then there is the Santa Maria delle Grazie, home of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. To enjoy world-class performing arts, including opera and ballet, then an evening at Teatro alla Scala is a must.
Milan dates all the way back to 400 BCE, when it was founded by the Celtic Insubres. In 222 BCE the city was conquered by the Romans. Since then, Milan has continued to play a central role in the history and cultural development of Italy, and there are various places to visit to gain a deeper understanding of Milanese history. Tourists can pay a visit to sites spanning the Middle Ages, the Duchy of Milan era, the Napoleon years, and up to the 20th century and the modern day.
Given Milan’s relationship with art, much of its history can be learned through the many art galleries, but there are also various other museums and exhibitions to visit, while the iconic Gothic architecture around the city lends itself to Milan’s history.
Where to go: The first visit should be to Duomo di Milano—the location of the famous Milan Cathedral, the Gothic-style cathedral which took nearly six centuries to complete. Also make time to explore the 14th-century Sforzesco Castle, where a museum complex boasts many different collections of historical artifacts, statues, and ancient art. Other museums to consider when in Milan include the Natural History Museum of Milan, the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology, and the Archeological Museum.
Could Milan even be considered an Italian city without having a world-class food scene? While Rome and Napoli are arguably more famous for Italian classics like pizza and pasta, Milan has emerged as the fine-dining capital of Italy. Indeed, the region of Lombardy has more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in Italy—18, in fact.
That desire to deliver mouthwatering cuisine is not restricted to the wallet-busting restaurants, though. Countless cafes, pizzerias, and seafood joints offer delicious food across the city. Your best bet is to wander the side streets of Milan and simply enter whichever restaurant takes your fancy. Wherever you choose, you will not be disappointed.
Where to go: For those with cash to spare and a refined palette to entertain, Milan is home to four 2-star Michelin restaurants: Enrico Bartolini al Mudec, Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, Seta by Antonio Guida, and Vun. For the best pizzas in Milan, Pizza AM, Da Michele, and Spontini are all popular venues, while seafood lovers will want to check out Langosteria. For classic Italian dishes, La Madonnina, Al Matarel, and La Libera are all great choices.