I visited Milan in mid-February, during Milan Fashion Week 2020 and the a few days before the travel ban for coronavirus. It was a birthday treat for my mum as she loves European city getaways with the family.
I never suspected a thing during my time in Italy. Everyone was out as normal, right up to the day of my departure. I only understood the gravity of the situation the day before we were about to depart. All of the famous monuments, restaurants, bars and cafes were shut because of the Covid-19. When we went from pharmacy to pharmacy to try and find face masks, everything was either shut or sold out.
The fashion capital of Italy is full of lovely little cobblestone streets, amazing churches, great restaurants and the best shopping places in Europe. You can discover the city by foot which is great as the monuments and iconic locations are not far from each other. You could also take the reliable tram service around the city if you need to.
There are three airports in Milan – Malpensa, Bergamo and Linate. Malpensa is by far Milan’s most popular airport, Linate is closest to the city and Bergamo is a train ride away from central Milan.
We spent 4 full days in Milan but with two day-trips – one to Lake Como and the other to Bergamo. Watch our travel video here:
Along with attending a fashion show, here are a few of the top things to see and do in Milan!
You can’t miss Milan’s magnificent Duomo. The cathedral is gothic and majestic. You can also visit inside the cathedral and go up to the top for spectacular panoramic views. With over 3,500 statues, 135 spirals and 5 bronze doors, it’s not surprising that it looks 500 years to complete the Duomo. I believe entrance is 9 euros if you walk up and 13 euros if you use the lift. We were planning on going up the cathedral but unfortunately due to the coronavirus, it was the first day the government ordered it all to close.
Beware there are lots of pigeons all over the square – it doesn’t help when your parents are feeding them bread while you’re trying to run away from them :l The entire square was flooded with people, as expected. We really enjoyed walking around the square, entering the shops and tasting local food in the area.
If you wanted some good views of the cathedral without being in the cathedral – you could try going into Terrazza Aperol which is right next to it. We actually went to the 7th floor of La Rinasente shopping Centre which has free entrance and you can just order coffee/lunch to sit on the terrace.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This is one of the most beautiful shopping centres in the world with all of the top luxury Italian designers you can imagine – from Prada, Gucci and Armarni. The galleria opened in 1877 and is named after the first king of united Italy and is built in a classic neo-renaissance style with marble, iron and glass. The architecture is impressive and it combines wall paintings, mosaic floors and high glass ceiling. I was just mermerised whilst walking around the shopping centre. If you want a more affordable shopping option, try going to via Montenapoleone, one of the most famous streets for shopping.
There are exorbitant restaurants and bars but I wouldn’t recommend going in them as they’re overpriced and you can probably find better food elsewhere.
On the left-hand side of the Galleria, you’ll find a small crowd around a mosaic bull on the floor. It’s a Milanese tradition to spin on the bull’s balls three times with your heels – so much that the bulls but are periodically retiled – nice.
Go to Italy’s ONLY starbucks
We came here as my sister read about it online and wanted to try out their coffee. The Milan Starbucks Reserve Roastery is the only roastery in Europe, and one of only five into the World. Its also Europe’s largest Starbucks being 2400 metre squares, found in Milan’s Piazza Cordusio, minutes away from the Duomo. We walked here from the Duomo to Sforzcesco Castle. It was so beautiful inside and so i’m not surprised it was labelled by the company itself as “the most beautiful Starbucks in the world”.
we enjoyed a coffee from here and it was SOO good. There’s 115 different types of coffee blends to choose from but no Frappuccinos frappuccinoas Italians are very specific with their coffees.
This wonderful park is Milan’s best park by far and a great place you can laze on the grass and have a picnic. It is home to the Sforzesco Castle, an aquarium, a design and art museum, Branca Tower and a few bars and cafes.
Make sure to head over to the Arco della Pace (the big arch at the far end of the park) for some people watching and for aperitivo. It was actually when we were sitting here we realised the seriousness of Covid-19 as my sister got a call from her summer job saying that the Italian group from Verona whom she was meant to be looking after are no longer allowed out the country. My sister, not wanting to tell them she’s in Milan tried subtly ask her if anyone was currently allowed to leave the country. We were starting to worry about not being able to get back home!
Built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, the castle now houses 12 museums and a vast archives of artefacts. This impressive building used to be the home of Milan’s rulers in the 15th century and the one of the largest citadels in Europes in the 16th century. Leonarda da Vinci also lived here for a while, working on the Last Supper and some of his Codexes.
The castle entrance is free, but admission to all of the museums costs 10 euros. We just walked around the castle, looking at the imposing towers and moat all around it.
This Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece resides in the church of Santa Maria della Grazie. The painting is well preserved and historians still hasn’t resolved all of its mysteries (does the spilled salt in front of Judas symbolize his betrayal?). We didn’t get a chance to see this because it was closed due to the Coronavirus – but If you do get the chance to check it – I definitely recommend you doing so, but book in advance!
This canal district is so beautiful, especially in the evening where the locals come out for their aperitivo. There are plenty of bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants to go along the canal and has a lively atmosphere. Don’t go too late as places get full very quickly. Every last Sunday of the month there is a huge vintage market named Navigli Grande Antique Market, where you can find second hand items of all kinds.
On the way from the Duomo to Navigli, walk via Pizza AM for a snack/dinner – the pizzas there are sooo good!