Said to be of Celtic origin, Milan has just as much culture and history as Italy’s capital but without the emphasis. It is both the fashion and economic capital of Italy. Having been conquered by the Romans in 222BC, both cultures have left their mark on the city.
About Milan, Italy
With a population of approximately 1.3 million people, Milan is steeped in history but in recent times has become both the economic and fashion capital of Italy. This is reflected on the culture felt in the city as experiencing the atmosphere in Italy’s second city is a more modern experience than any other city in Italy.
Originally of Celtic origin, Milan was conquered by the Romans in 222BC. By the 4th and early 5th century Milan had become the capital of the Western Roman Empire and was also the religious capital for Northern Italy.
By the 12th century Milan became a free commune but during this time, and up until the 13th century the city suffered from internal warfare between the rich and the poor and also from hostility received from rival cities. These bad fortunes eventually resulted in the city’s destruction in 1163.
In more recent times, after WWII Milan headed Italy’s national reconstruction. Since then, the city located in the middle of the Po basin has emerged as the country’s financial, commercial and industrial centre. One of the main factors for this is that Milan is at the intersection of many major transportation routes.
Eating Out in Milan, Italy
Going to a restaurant is an occasion for Italians. Restaurants are always packed and getting a table can be tricky, but this is Italy, after all, so you won’t find yourself looking for a table for too long in Milan.
Pizza and pasta, unsurprisingly, are the best meals served in restaurants. They are the country’s native dishes and, even though some tend to think that they could make their own pasta just as well, you haven’t tasted pasta or pizza properly until you have tasted it in Italy. With so many different cultures and nationalities sauntering in and out of the city, you can be rest assured that restaurants dishing out Italy’s national cuisine are of the highest quality.
Large fashion and commercial industries in Milan mean that those visiting don’t always want to eat Italian food. International restaurants are generally of a higher quality and standard here than any other Italian city. Eating Chinese, Thai or any other international cuisine around Italy can sometimes be a bit risky. If you are sick of polishing off pasta and feel somewhat apprehensive about going to an Indian in Milan, don’t worry. Non-Italian restaurants here are the best in the country.
For the widest choice of restaurants venture towards the Navigli or Garibaldi areas of the city. There are loads of restaurants and bars here meaning you can go straight from the restaurant to the pub. Very convenient. The side streets along Corso Buenos Aires also have many restaurants to choose from.
Your overall bill at the end of the night can sometimes be pricy. Pizza and pasta dishes range from €5-€10. Meat can be more expensive. Drinking wine can hike up restaurant bills so steer clear if you are on a tight budget. If drinking water will suffice make sure to ask for tap water (aqua al roubinetto). Also, don’t forget to check your bill for service charges. Restaurants sometimes put a €0.50c to €4 service charge per person on the bill. If they do, it isn’t necessary to tip, making the night that little bit more reasonable.
Fancy a free feed?
Every evening in Milan at around 6pm, bars all over the city leave a table full of finger food and snacks to be devoured at no extra cost. All you have to do is buy a drink! So rather than find a nice restaurant, save yourself anything up to €10 by visiting one of Milan’s bars known for its aperitivo snacks (see below) between 6pm and 9.30pm and get fed for free!
Restaurants in Milan
Via Felice Casati, 5, Milan, Italy
Thin-crusted pizzas are placed in front of you in return for €5 or more. Pasta dishes cost in and around the same.
Open nightly from 7pm-11.30pm.
Via delle Leghe 23, Milan, Italy
Great value restaurant serving both national and international meals with a very relaxed atmosphere. Situated close to the train station.
Average meals €5-€15.
Via Magolfa 15, Milan, Italy
One of Milan’s best value pizza joints situated in a building which was previously a country farmhouse. Situated in the southern part of Milan so eating here is a good way to see some of the city’s outskirts.
Via Palazzo, Reale 5, Milan, Italy
One of the very first Chinese restaurants in Milan serving good quality food at affordable prices.
Via Barrachini 9, Milan, Italy
Nice self-service eaterie for pastas or salads in the afternoon. Quite cheap with salads from €3 to pastas costing €4.
Via Santa Radegonda 14, Milan, Italy
Try out pizza in one of the first pizzerias to open in Milan. Once you taste the pizzas here you will see that they have been making pizzas for generations.
Via Torti, Navigli, Milan, Italy
Located just off Conca del Navigilo, this chic bar is a great place to start a night out. Each evening at 6pm over twenty plates packed with everything from nachos to sausages are placed along its marble counter. Thankfully it isn’t until 9pm that they are removed, by which time you should be full as a tank.
Open daily from 12 noon-2am.
Via Brera 23, Brera, Milan, Italy
Something of a Milanese institution, Bar Brera in the charming Brera district is one of the city’s best known aperitivo bars. Its wooden décor is particularly engaging, making it difficult to leave after one or two glasses of wine and aperitivo snacks from the impressive buffet.
Open daily from 9am-2am.
Piazzale Generale Cantore, Milan, Italy
This seafood restaurant is a very relaxing place to eat with seating in a garden room.
Via Bassano Porrone 6, Milan, Italy
Fast and efficient restaurant with an Italian menu. If you feel like treating yourself go for the chef’s lobster which is extremely good.
Via Palermo 5, Milan, Italy
Enjoy pizzas as they are cooked the way they are meant to be – in a wood buring oven.
Corso Como 10, Milan, Italy
Not only are the (very tasty) Italian and international meals served here at reasonable prices, the restaurant is located beside an art gallery, music room, boutique and a bookstore. Definitely worth a look.
Transport in Milan, Italy
By air: The city’s main airport Malpensa is situated 50km from the city. A bus service leaving every 20 minutes between 5.20am-10.30pm connects the airport to Stazione Centrale and costs €6-€7 approx. The bus takes one hour. The Malpensa Express train leaves every 30 minutes between 6.30am-1.30am and takes 40 minutes.
Milan’s other airport is Linate and is only 7km from the city centre. Airport buses connect the airport with Piazza Luigi di Savoia on the east side of Stazione Centrale. It’s a twenty minute journey and buses leave every twenty minutes between 5.40am-7pm and then every 30 minutes between 7pm-9pm. Milan’s suburban bus service run by ATM serves Linate Airport every ten minutes between 5.30am-midnight. This journey won’t cost more than €1.
By train: The majority of domestic and international trains pull into Stazione Centrale. This station is served by Milan’s metro station so getting to the city centre is quite easy using the MM2 and MM3 lines.
By bus: Buses arrive into Piazza Castello which is in front of the Castello Sforzesco.
By metro: Milan’s metro system is the easiest to use and also the most efficient way to get around the city. 3 lines (MM1, MM2 and MM3) operate through the city between 6am-12am. Tickets are bought at most newsstands and bars. A standard single ticket for €1 can be used over 75 minutes as many times as you want on a bus or tram, but only once on the subway.
By bus or tram: Buses and trams operate through more of the city than the metro. There will be instances where the bus or tram will be the only way to get to your destination.
By taxi: The best ways to get taxis are by either ringing one or getting one at one of the city’s taxi ranks found at different places around the city. Hailing them on the street isn’t as easy as other European cities.
Things To See in Milan, Italy
Sightseeing around Milan is a breath of fresh air in comparison to Italy’s other popular destinations. Due to the millions of visitors they get every year, walking around Venice’s streets can be a chore sometimes, as is finding a place to relax in Rome. Although you will find thousands of tourists, particularly during the summer, the streets aren’t as full here.
Another of Milan’s advantages is that, as well as the endless cathedrals and museums from Medieval and Renaissance times, modern art and culture is more prominent here. There are only so many churches, fountains and statues you can visit before sightseeing begins to get tiresome. This city still has endless museums, churches and cathedrals to visit, but unlike other Italian cities it also has a unique fashion culture and modern art museums.
The Piazza del Duomo is where Milan’s heart lies and this square is seldom quiet. All walks of life pass through this area at any time of the day. Watch the local kids hanging out discussing their most recent shopping sprees, avoiding the rushing office workers billowing from the metro station. In the middle of all these are hundreds of tour guides selecting their prey. The Duomo is the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and one of Italy’s most spectacular, ornamented with 135 pinnacles and over 200 marble statues. Looking over the square, or piazza, from on top of the highest pinnacle is a statue of Madonna.
From the square treat yourself to some designer clothes, and if can’t provide the funding for them, a quick stroll down the premier shopping streets for some window shopping is a must. The Via Montenapoleone and the Via della Spiga are the best places to do this. If you feel the need to buy something after teasing yourself with some extremely expensive clothes, look a bit further and you should come across some bargains.
Before you leave Milan don’t forget to visit the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Leonardo da Vinci’s infamous painting ‘The Last Supper’ is housed here.
Italy’s oldest gothic building
Attractions in Milan
Via San Vittore 21, Milan, Italy
Born on 15th April, 1452, this museum is dedicated to da Vinci’s work and ideas, some of which were truly remarkable considering when he lived.
Open Tues-Fri 9.30am-4.50pm. Sat & Sun 9.30am-6.20pm; admission €6.20. Closed Mondays.
Between Via Daniele and Corso Porta Venezia, Northeast of city centre, Milan, Italy
Public gardens lined with with trees and great when looking to get away from the city streets.
Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Italy
Milan’s, and arguably Italy’s most impressive cathedral will have you enthralled for hours. Begun in 1386, building wasn’t complete until 1813. This cathedral is constructed from white marble and is one of Milan’s most visited attractions. After gazing at the décor inside the cathedral, relax in Piazza del Duomo outside. If after being inside the cathedral you still want to learn more about the Duomo, visit Museo del Duomo which chronicles the six centuries the cathedral was built over.
The museum is open Tues-Sun 9.30am-5.30pm; admission free.
Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie 2, Milan, Italy
Crowds gather here every day to see Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work, The Last Supper was painted over a four-year period. Da Vinci’s most famous work had undergo had to undergo extreme restoration in order to be viewed by the public again so don’t leave Milan without seeing it.
Open Tues-Sun; admission €7.
Via Brera 2, Milan, Italy
To see the work of some of Milan’s impressionists and sculpturists pay this gallery a visit. Good to see some of the local’s work.
Via Brera 28, Milan, Italy
This gallery is located in the old Monastery of the Humiliated Monks. Founded in 1803 during the Napoleonic Period, the museum is home to masterpieces by Raphael and Pierro della Francesca.
Open 9am-9pm Tues-Fri, until 11.40pm on Sat and until 8pm on Sun; admission €7.
Via Pontaccio, Milan, Italy
This castle situated in the Parco Sempione makes a change from visiting the churches and museums. The central tower, Torre del Filarete, dominates the area.
Via Senato; Corso Venezia;, Via Montenapoleone;, Milan, Italy
If you are on a tight budget you mightn’t be able to splurge out on some of Prada and Gucci’s latest designs, but window shopping is free! All the biggest names in designer fashion have branches here, renting out some of the most expensive real estate in Europe.
Via Palestro 16, In the Villa Reale, Milan, Italy
This museum dedicated to late 19th century and 20th century is worth a visit and a nice change from looking at old churches and museums.
Open 9am-5.30pm Tues-Sun. Closed Mondays.
Via Carducci 14, Milan, Italy
One of Milan’s more unusual museums documents different ways in which to torture human beings. One of the gorier methods is a device which was used to tear victims’ limbs from their body. Not for the squeamish.
Open Mon-Sat 10am-7.30pm.
Entertainment in Milan, Italy
It’s the centre for Italy’s financial, commercial and fashion industries. So it isn’t surprising that Milan’s natives take a lot of pride in their appearance. After putting so much effort into how they look, they like strutting their stuff. What better time to do than at night?
Milan does have the exclusive bars and clubs that you’d expect, but as Italy’s second city, it also has bars and clubs to suit everyone’s tastes.
If it’s a bar you are looking for, try and find one with a happy hour. This phenomenon has lifted off in Milan and makes going out in Italy’s most fashionable city affordable and more fun than expected. The only disadvantages with happy hours are that going out that early can mean your night starts very early and you mightn’t have the stamina to last until the clubs.
Clubs are hard to find here. You have to explore different areas to find a club that isn’t too pretentious. Naturally, you may come across clubs where the bouncers will stop you from entering, but as always keep on searching and you should find just what you are looking for.
The best place to explore Milan’s nightlife is around the Navigli district just south of the city centre. Here there are all types of bars, nightclubs and cafés to choose from. And if you feel like checking out what Italy’s live bands sound like, there are a selection of bars in the area with live bands.
One part of the city always connected to Milan’s nightlife is Corso Como in Girabaldi, Milan’s other main area for letting your hair down. Even though it is the area where most of the top hotels, designer clothes shops, bars and clubs are located, there are clubs there which you will be able to wander into and mingle with some of Milan’s beautiful people. Just leave the trainers at home and take five minutes to iron your top and jeans and you’ll be fine.
Entertainments in Milan
Alzaia Naviglio Grande 34, Navigli, Milan, Italy
If a quiet glass of wine is all you’re yearning, and not a tray full of beers, Luca & Andrea is the perfect spot. Friendly staff will quiz you to see what type of wine tickles your fancy before bringing it to your table.
Open daily from 12 noon-2am.
Corso Como, Milan, Italy
Situated in one of the city’s most exclusive areas when it comes to nightlife, this bar/club has more to than high fashion and models. Keep an eye out for the barmen’s acrobatics behind the counter.
Corso Como, Milan, Italy
Just up the road from Hollywood, this club doesn’t get is packed but is just as trendy. All the televisions on the walls can be distracting though. Dancing spills out on to the streets during the summer which is great fun.
Open Tues-Sun 8pm-late; admission €10-€15.
Viale Col di Lana, Milan, Italy
This bar is quieter to most of the ones you will come across in Milan but there is a good atmosphere. Cuban singers entertain the larger crowds at the weekend.
Via Solferino 56, Garibaldi, Milan, Italy
An old bar that brews its own beer. Excellent happy hour, that actually runs for three (6pm-9pm). There are two floors here, with a basement downstairs serving various pastas.
Via Carducci, Milan, Italy
Twenties-style decorated bar that can get extremely busy at the weekends. Serves until the early hours of the morning. Serves food during the day too.
Via San Marco 20, Milan, Italy
Bar located close to the Brera Palace that is popular with tourists. Definitely worth a visit on Mondays when happy hour runs from 6pm-midnight.
Closed on Sundays.
Via Ascanio Sforzo, Milan, Italy
Great bar for catching live bands. Most outfits frequenting this venue play mostly blues and rock music.
Viale Card, Milan, Italy
Live music venue playing host to cover bands travelling through Europe to a totally mixed crowd.
Open daily 10.30pm-4am; admission €5-€10.
Viale Gorizia 8, Milan, Italy
Don’t let the name deceive you – this bar isn’t really a café, nor is it full of people from Milan’s fashion industry. Primarily, this is a restaurant serving top quality Indian food. At night time the emphasis turns to the bar where a very lively atmosphere is created by the trendy crowd.
Closed on Mondays.
Via Ascanio Sforza 41, Navigli, Milan, Italy
If the taste of beer is beginning to get tiresome and you need something to pep you up somewhat, check out this bar. Cocktails on its extensive menu start at €6. If this is a little pricey, the pints of German beer for €4 will suit. One thing that everyone should like are the friendly staff and laid-back tunes.
Open nightly from 6pm-2am.
Corso Como 15, Milan, Italy
Full of models during the model season (which is anytime really), this club is full of Milan’s elite. Playing all types of music from commercial to house, this club should be paid a visit if you get the chance.
Open Thurs-Sun 10pm-3am; admission €10-€15.
General Info about Milan, Italy
All that US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand nationals require to stay as a tourist in the city for a period of up to ninety days is a valid passport. It is almost impossible to extend you stay beyond this amount of time unless you leave the country and re-enter it once again. EU residents are free to travel and work in the country with a valid passport but it is extremely difficult for other nationalities to obtain a working visa. Citizens of all other countries should check with the Italian embassy in your home country to see what the requirements for your particular nationality.
The currency used in Italy is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
The principal language in Rome is Italian but English, French and German are also widely spoken, particularly in the major tourist areas.
Due to its northern location in Italy, Milan isn’t as warm as other cities, but still gets quite hot. The best time to visit is either in spring or autumn. In summer it gets very hot and humid with temperatures remaining in the nineties for days on end. These high temperatures begin in May and can last until as late as October.
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement. Before you travel you should collect an E111 form from your local social security office. This form may also be obtained in post offices also. Australia’s Medicare system also has a reciprocal health-care agreement with Italy.
In case of an emergency call 118. The city’s public hospital Ospedale Maggiore Polinico is at Via Francesco Sforza.
It is advised that you take out travel insurance before going. You can now purchase travel insurance on Youthhostelmilan.com. Click here for further details.
Milan is located in the Central European Time (CET) zone which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and six ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Shops in Milan are generally open from 9.00am until 1.00pm and from 3.30pm until 7.30pm from Monday to Saturday. Most still remained closed on Sundays although this is beginning to change. As this is the fashion capital of Italy, many shops don’t close between 1pm-3pm.
Government Offices are open from 8.30am until 2.00pm but they do open until 5.00pm in the major cities. Museums are open from 9.00am until 7.00pm, some close between 1.00pm and 3.00pm and all are shut on Sunday and Monday.
Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday between 8.35am and 1.35pm and again from 3.00pm to 4.00pm. In some of the larger cities, however, they do not close for lunch.
The main APT tourist office in the city is at 11 Via Marconi 1 in the Piazza del Duomo, open from 8.15am until 7.00pm from Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays and until 5pm on Sundays. There is another branch at Stazione Centrale. Staff in both offices will be able to provide you with whatever information you should need while you are staying from bus timetables to private tours and they also speak English which will probably be a big help for a lot of you.
There is a value added tax included in the price of all goods in Italy but the good news is that for all non EU residents, this is something which you can get back after you leave the country. This rebate only applies, however, if the item purchased cost more than €155. If this is the case, you need to fill in a form in the shop where you buy the item, have it stamped at customs and return it to the shop within sixty days. Following this your refund will be issued by cheque or to your credit card. At major airports and border crossings there are facilities which will provide you with an immediate cash refund.
While traveller’s cheques are widely accepted, there are some places which will refuse to do so. Therefore, it is advised that you change them into euro as soon as you arrive in Italy. For all currency exchange, banks are generally the most reliable and offer the best rates. There are also exchange offices at all major airports and train stations whose opening hours are usually more convenient but the commission is more expensive.
Electricity in Italy is 220V, 50 Hz but in some places including Milan, 125V is still used.
To call Milan from abroad you first dial 00, followed by 39 which is the country code for Italy, the local area code (0)2 and the local number. If you wish to call abroad from Milan again you dial 00, followed by the international calling code for your particular country and then the local number. It is worth noting that you also need to drop the first zero from the local area code for both types of call.
Public telephones are widely available throughout the city. Most telephones will now only accept phonecards. These cards come in various denominations, €2.58, €5.16 etc. and these can be purchased at newsstands, tobacco shops or from vending machines in Telecom centres.
The main post office is at Via Cordusio 4, off Via Dante. Its opening hours are between 8am-7pm from Mon-Fri and from 9.30am-1pm on Saturdays.
While a service charge of between 15 and 18% is included in all restaurant bills, it is customary to leave a small tip if the service merits it. Between 5 and 10% of the total is sufficient. If you are in a café or a bar where the service charge is not included you should tip between 10 and 15%. Taxi drivers are usually given 10% of the fare and tour guides and drivers should be given about 15% of the total cost of the tour price.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Italy they take place on January 1st and 6th, Easter Monday, April 25th, May 1st, August 15th, November 1st and December 8th, 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.