Find surprising things to do in Milan

written by Greg Dickinson
updated 1/10/2022
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Find things to do in Milan that go beyond fashion and designer glamour. Discover the city's awesome architecture and parks, ride around on bikes, hop trams and sail its canals. Milan is amazing, take a look. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Italy your essential guide for visiting Italy .

Marvel at awesome architecture

Milan’s architecture is incredible and ranges from truly ancient to thoroughly contemporary.

Italy's tallest building, the 2012 UniCredit Tower is one of the city's newer architectural stars, but no building is more famous than the remarkable Duomo cathedral - except perhaps iconic La Scala Milan opera house.

Even shopping is architecturally significant at The Galleria, one of the oldest and grandest malls in the world. And for gleaming modernity, you want the 21st century Porta Nuova business district or Stefano Boeri’s Vertical Forest.

Unsurprisingly, Milan's architectural greats are as popular as they are impressive, so book ahead for all the major sites. And if you want to visit the opera without queuing, think about taking a La Scala tour.

A tour of the Duomo rooftop is one of the best things to do in Milan

Find things to do in Milan by bike

Milan is a very walkable city, but think creatively about getting about here too. The city's vintage 1920's trams are charming. Or you could borrow a BikeMi and cycle Montanelli Gardens and peaceful Sempione Park.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Italy or Italy Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Italy expert.

Roam the bohemian Navigli Quarter

Head southwest in Milan to explore the bohemian Navigli district. Partially designed by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci, this is the canal quarter and back in the day it was one of the city's main trade routes.

Take a guided Navigli canal cruise to find out more about the waterways which historically transported marble between Genoa and Milan. Then visit Navigli's Sunday flea market or come any time for canal-side cafés, restaurants and bars.

Head to Navigli for things to do in Milan at night © Sergey Dzyuba/Shutterstock

Toast aperitivo for hours

Aperitivo is a custom all over Italy, but the tradition of early evening drinks and free snacks is taken to another level in Milan. Here aperitivo hour tends to run on for a few hours, usually starting at 6pm and ending about 9pm.

For the liveliest atmosphere, most innovative food and a focus on classic cocktails, try Milan's Isola district. And if you can't bear to tear yourself away from after aperitivo, think about staying at BePlace Apartments in Isola.

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Take a day trip to the lakes

When in Milan you must visit the lakes to the north of the city. Lake Garda is the largest lake in all of Italy, but Lake Como is probably the most famous thanks to its celebrity connections and romantic lake towns like Bellagio

For a quieter, more tourist-light experience, head to slightly less visited Lake Maggiore. Or go extremely low-key and discover, almost secret, Lake Orta. If time is short, think about taking a tour of Lake Como from Milan.

Gazing at lakes is one of a few free things to do in Milan

Ready to travel to Italy? Find out about the best time to go and the best places to see and things to do in Italy. For inspiration use the Italy itineraries from The Rough Guide to Italy and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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written by Greg Dickinson
updated 1/10/2022
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