Best things to see in Milan

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!

Cathedral

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.

Parco Sempione

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!

Sforzcesco Castle

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. 

Last Supper

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! 

Navigli

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! 

Handling the Heat: Day Trip to Seville

Being the capital of the Andalucia region, I read online that Seville is one of the country’s most gorgeous places to visit. Okay… I must keep it real with you guys – I really did not agree and think there are much nicer cities to explore in southern Spain. Maybe because it was the last city to visit in our southern Spain road trip and I was comparing it to the other beautiful cities? Or maybe it was because of the summer heat and that Seville is known to be the hottest city in Europe? I have no idea, but i just wasn’t a fan.

HOWEVER – as I always say in this blog, one must judge for themselves before making a decision so here are a few of the cities main attractions you must visit:

Alcazar of Seville

Originally built to serve as a fort in 913, the Royal Palace of Alcazar has gone through many different rulers and historical change. Built by the Moors, it features different architectural styles due to the fact it was built through various time periods i.e. the Moorish, Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance etc. 

There is a section in the Renaissance part of the Cathedral, where you can see where Columbus stood when asking the king and queen for permission to venture into the New World – pretty cool. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best things to do in Seville. 

Seville Cathedral

With a whopping 80 chapels, you can’t really miss this enormous cathedral. In fact, Seville Cathedral is considered to be the largest Gothic cathedral of Europe and third largest in the world. The site was built back in the 1400s and once home to a mosque. The cathedral is home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus as well as the colourful Patio de los Naranios – a courtyard filled with orange trees and fountains. 

Giralda Tower

Sitting right next door to the cathedral, the Giralda Tower is one of the most famous symbols of Seville. It was built by the Moorish people and was the minaret to the mosque that once stood there. The tower has no stairs at all and instead there are 34 ramps that lead to the top of the tower. It was made like this so the muezzin (that led the call to prayer) could ride his horse up the tower instead of walking. 

Visit Plaza de Espana

The very, very rare occasions when i do reminisce of Seville, I always remember the Plaza de Espana because it just looked so immense! It was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition and is created around a semi-circle. The plaza also edges onto a canal and is overlooked by a pretty vast curved palace. 

Maria Luisa Park

This park is situated in the massive plaza de espana. It’s a great place to stroll and sunbathe! 

We then ended the day wandering the cobbled streets and eating the best paella!

Do you have any questions about travelling to Seville that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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Going to the biggest fiesta in Malaga!

With its prime location in Costa del Sol, Malaga is a city that mastered the art of self-reinvention instead of being the sleepy port that it was once famous for. As we were based in Marbella, we took a day trip to Malaga, mainly to experience the annual Feria de Malaga, but also to see the city’s exquisite architecture, delicious food and learn about its history. 

If you’re wondering what to do in Malaga, Spain in one day – then this guide is for you! 

Feria de Malaga

The main reason for going to Malaga was to experience the best and biggest fiesta in town. The Festival of Malaga is the ultimate summer fiesta in the province of Andalucía and takes place in the middle of August each year. The festival dates back to 1487 when Catholic Monarchs Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile triumphally rode into the city to reclaim Malaga as part of Catholic Spain from its Moorish occupants.  We learnt that the Spanish love a good party as it runs for a full seven days and nights.  It kicks off with fireworks and concerts on the beach and then there are energetic daily street parties throughout the city centre. The city comes alive and showcases its vibrant culture in a mix of music, traditional dresses and horses carriages. I loved how the locals dress up in their traditional clothing – especially women walking around in the Flamenco dresses and the men as Vaqueros (Spanish cowboys).

Alcazaba de Malaga

After experiencing some fiesta, we explored the main sites of Malaga. Alcazaba is probably the most well-known tourist attraction of the city. Situated atop some of the city’s highest hills, Alcazaba is a Moorish fortress and palace and was home to the Muslim rulers. It was built in the 11th century atop a former Roman bastion. Whilst walking around, you can see some of the materials used by the Romans, like the columns. I was particularly impressed with how well-preserved and maintained it all was. We walked past courtyards, patios, fountains and beautiful garden. 

It also offers lovely views of Malaga itself from its towers and walls.  

Roman Theatre

After spending so much time on our feet, we decided to do a bit more of a relaxing activity and visit the Roman Theatre, located just below the Alcazaba. Completely free to enter, we viewed the little exhibit in the visitors centre, read the plaques and took a seat within the theatre itself. The Roman Theatre is the oldest site in Malaga and was built in the first century AD by Augustus but was used as a theatre a century later. It was then abandoned for years and was only discovered in 1951, when the building that was built on top was destroyed. Nowadays, many outdoor performances are taking place there. 

Malaga Cathedral 

The cathedral is one of the tallest in Andalucía and can be seen from miles away. It started to be built in the 16th century, on the foundations of the city’s old mosque. The construction lasted for 200 years but then halted due to lack of funding. Consequently, the cathedral was never fully finished and has only one bell tower (two were meant to be built). You can also climb the 200 steps to go up the 87m high tower. We didn’t have time to go up but you can see 360° scenic view from up there.

Gibralfaro Castle 

Another place you must visit in Malaga is the Gibralfaro castle. Its very close to Alcazaba and also offers the best scenic views over the city. The castle was built in the 14th century to protect the Alcazaba. It has a barrack to house soldiers and a lighthouse (Gibal is an Arabic word meaning mountain and Greek word of faro light). On clear days you an even see the Strait of Gibraltar from up there. 

Do you have any questions about travelling to Malaga that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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