Being the international capital of fashion, it’s no great wonder Milan is as trendy as it is busy. Bustling with commuters, eager-eyed tourists, and a whole load of families, the historic city is one of the highlights of Western Europe. Should you ever get the chance to explore its narrow roads and open piazzas, here’s everything you need to know beforehand.
Getting Around the City
From the moment you set foot in the central hub of the city, you’ll note there’s much to see in this cosmopolitan paradise. As in most major cities, it’s easy enough to see the central sights by foot, especially once you’ve sipped your freshly brewed morning espresso and are feeling a little energetic. And yet, that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of other ways to get around.
The Classic Tram
Perhaps one of the most popular is the old-fashioned tram service; the cars which run along these lines are models dating back to the 1920s, 1950s, and 1970s, each with their own style and personality. It’s well worth hopping aboard if you’re a lover of eras past. A single ticket will cost you just €1.50 and, if you’re planning to make a day of it, you can get yourself a day rider for €4.50. The trams run through the center, and there’s an altogether romantic feel about riding along the rickety tracks.
Of course, there’s also the Milan metro (i.e. underground) service, if you’d like something a little faster and more convenient. Getting your head wrapped around the red, green, and yellow lines needn’t take too much time and you can buy the tickets at any given station. It may be worth checking out the map or downloading it on your smartphone before you set off.
Eating and Drinking
Fine cuisine is a huge part of Italian culture. You can drop hundreds on a single meal; but what if you just don’t have the funds to dine out each night? Luckily, there are some cheaper alternatives. Heading out in the early evening to eat, drink, and be merry is a wise choice.
This strip is one of the main eating and drinking areas. While the city has something of a name for being overpriced, you can dine here for under €10. Most of the bars here offer a “cocktail and buffet” deal. That means that for around €8-€9, you can get yourself a cocktail of your choice (mojito, please!) along with an all-you-can-eat buffet experience. Whilst the food selection can by no means be called fine dining, it’s certainly eclectic. From pasta and pizza to fish dishes, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re in the mood to walk whilst you eat, though, there is an array of options available to you. The street food scene in Milan is small and yet worth seeking out for yourself. For under €5, you can get your hands on a focaccia slice loaded with all the freshest and tastiest Italian ingredients. This is the daily food of choice for many locals, who you will see walking as they tuck into the delicious snack. Afterward, for dessert, you can pick up some of the most delectable gelato in the world on almost every street.
Points of Interest
You’ll never once have trouble filling your time in fair Milan. From the endless shopping streets to the quaint and authentic cafe-bars, you can hardly pack everything into just one weekend. There is a handful of places that you simply cannot miss — from buildings that will steal your breath to places you can unwind in peace.
While there are, of course, a great many streets packed with high-end stores, it’s worth taking a walk up Della Spiga. The cobbled walkway is bursting with designer stores and boutiques, in which you can see the finest alla moda pieces of the season. Highlights include Gio Moretti and Maison Margiela. Regardless of whether you have the cash to buy these pieces or otherwise, just gazing at each of the designer pieces is a treat unto itself.
The most iconic building in Milan is doubtless Duomo Cathedral. The Gothic structure looms over the piazza of the same name, its spires branching off into the skyline. If there’s one must-see attraction while you wander the city streets, this is it. As you reach the square, you’ll find it packed with tourists snapping pictures and gawping at the wondrous building. It took almost six centuries to complete and wasn’t entirely finished until the mid-1960s. The finished product is an awe-inspiring piece of architecture that you don’t want to miss.
Not so far from the cathedral is the Castello Sforzesco, which dates back to the Renaissance Era in Italy and was once a fully functioning defensive building. With stunning courtyards and many corridors to explore, you can easily lose hours inside the gates of this attraction. What’s more, the place holds a very precious piece of artwork — Michelangelo’s Pietà Rondanini. The sculpture was never finished by the late great artist, but is still worth taking a look at… if only to say that you have.
Walk through the castle’s courtyard and gates, and you’ll find a wide open green space in the center of the city. Parco Sempione is Milan’s main public park and, hence, a place where you may wish to unwind, read a book, and perhaps even have a picnic too. Head here during peak times, and you’ll see that it’s filled with makeshift market stalls and vendors selling everything from clothes to art. Take the time to stroll around the grand area, stopping now and then to listen and watch the buskers here. The space is also home to the Arco della Pace, of which you’re certain to want to take a few pictures. Go ahead: get snap happy.