Milan is a world-famous fashion city with insanely expensive boutiques, posh hotels, and exclusive restaurants. It is difficult to spend a nice family weekend there without spending a fortune. But we did it.
Dynamic, fast, with roads choked with traffic, smelling like good perfumes Milan, compared to the rest of Italy, is a city from a different planet. Residents of the capital of Lombardy look at the rest of Italians with a mixture of irritation and superiority. Milanesi walks faster, speaks and arranges business quicker. The prices are higher, and taxi drivers and waiters in restaurants are more ruthless than anywhere on the Mediterranean. But if you stay alert and considerate, then Milan can be a fantastic place for a family city-break.
5 must-see attractions in Milan
Duomo di Milano
INFO: Duomo di Milano; Piazza dell Duomo; metro red line, station Duomo. Ticket for the roof and interior €12 (steps) or €16 (elevator) the price includes cathedral’s museum and St. Charles Borromeo crypt
The Milan’s white marble cathedral is an architectural wonder, and visiting the roof of the temple – pledged with sculptures and decorative pinnacles (there are a total of 3,400, of which 2,200 on the facade of the temple) – is the biggest attraction of Milan. Tickets are bought at the ticket office on the south side of the building. You will recognize this place when You’ll see a long queue of Japanese tours on the street. You have the right to the priority queue while traveling with the child. The price of the ticket covers also an interesting museum in a cash register building and the crypt of St. Charles Borromeo at the main altar.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
INFO: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II; Piazza dell Duomo; metro red line, station Duomo. You can visit this gorgeous gallery for free, You have to pay only if You’ll decide to visit the observation deck with a view of the cathedral (entrance from Silvio Pelico St. 2)
This beautiful shopping mall from 1877 connects the Cathedral Square with the Della Scala Square, which is home to the famous La Scala opera house. The spacious interior is the address of prestigious boutiques and Tourist Information as well (at the entrance from the opera side). On the floor of the gallery look for the mosaics depicting the coats of arms of Italian cities. Tradition demands to step on the genitals of the bull in the coat of arms of Torino – Milan’s biggest rival in Northern Italy. On the western side of the gallery, there is a small street Silvio Pelico, where under the No. 2 you will find a lift, which you will get to the observation deck on the roof of the building. It is worth going there for the sunset with a view of the cathedral.
The Last Supper of Leonarda da Vinci
INFO: The museum is located at the church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie; red metro line, Cadorna or Conciliazione station; admission €10
One of the most famous works of Leonardo da Vinci was painted on the wall of the refectory in the cluster next to the church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. Today, it is one of the absolutely iconic works of European culture. Although popularity does not go hand in hand with accessibility. Visiting the refectory with Leonardo’s work takes place in small, max 30-person groups let into the room every 15 minutes. Tickets must be booked at least two weeks in advance. You can also count on luck and try to queue up before seven in the morning. At this time, tickets may be returned by tourists who have changed their trip plans.
Michelangelo’s Pietà in Castello Sforzesco
INFO: Castello Sforzesco; Piazza Castello; red metro line, station Cairoli Castello; admission: €5 or free one hour before closing
The last work of Michelangelo is visionary, although considered unfinished by many art historians. Pietà is an extremely beautiful sculpture giving a strong emotional impression and in a style that is more suitable to 20th-century expressionism than to the harmony of the Renaissance. You will see it in the Sforza Castle museum (Castello Sforzesco), which itself is also an interesting place and a tourist “must see”. Every day for an hour before closing (that is from 4:30 PM), and on Tuesdays from as early as 2:00 PM, the admission to the museum is free. Our 4-year-old son was delighted with pietà and the treasure hunt in the castle.
INFO: yellow metro line, station Montenapoleone
The main street of the Fashion District. The largest boutiques of world-famous designers have their prestigious headquarters here, and each of the shop windows is a work of art. A twenty-minute walk will familiarize you with the latest trends and will either delight you or make you laugh. But it will certainly allow you to move freely in fashion discussions throughout the season. Buying anything in stores at via Montenapoleone misses the goal – you get the same much cheaper in outlets.
5 tips to spend cheap family time in Milan
Choose a metro instead of a taxi
Do you know all the horror stories about Milan taxi drivers? It’s all true. Instead of fighting with the mafia worse than the Sicilian one, buy a daily ticket for €4.5 and move around the city instantly, using the excellent metro network. You can plan your visit so that all further attractions can be seen in the first afternoon, and the second day after breakfast, on the same ticket go to the center and continue to move on foot.
Shop in outlets
The famous Fashion District around via Montenapoleone must be visited like a museum. And it’s the best to visit on the first day. Then, when you buy the same clothes from big brands in an outlet by 70% cheaper, Your mood will definitely improve. The largest outlets are far away from the city, almost halfway to Genova. Although buses run to them from the center of Milan, this is a day trip and not the best idea for a family with a child. Therefore, visit one of the outlets in the center, there is a dozen of them near Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Find hotel near the train station
A football match at San Siro, or maybe some international trade fair or a particularly interesting premiere in the La Scala opera? For Milan hoteliers, every opportunity is good to raise the price at least twice. But instead of looking for a room in a strict historical center, it is better to live in the area of the monumental Stazione Centrale, the largest train station in Italy, the pride of Benito “Duce” Mussollini. Every time while in Milan, we rent a room in an apartment in an old Milanese tenement house for €40, right next to shops, restaurants and a metro station, moments from the station, from where we have cheap and convenient connections to Bergamo and Malpensa airports. The money saved on expensive hotels we are able to spend much better.
Drink your coffee at the counter
Where else can You save Your money? For example, we do not like to pay famous Italian coperti. It’s an obligatory payment of €1-2, added to the bill to all guests who’ll incautiously seat at a cafe table, to have the morning coffee and a croissant or toast with mozzarella. Wrong! Except for naive tourists, nobody in Milan sits comfortably over coffee. It’s not Paris. Here you drink a black, strong espresso on your feet, at the counter, and instead of paying €6 for a croissant, you buy a sweet roll in the bakery or in small supermarkets, run most often by emigrants from the Middle East.
Deal with the siesta time
For Italians, the afternoon meal is sanctity. Because here siesta is strictly observed like Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. Restaurants close around 1.30 PM and before they open their doors after 6 PM, you will die of hunger, and nobody will care. Unless you treat yourself to delicious, Italian gelati. The best ice cream in the city is at the Le Tre Gazelle pastry shop near the cathedral, on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. A portion of two flavors for 3 euros has the same calories as a solid two-course dinner with dessert. Our son recommends a pistachio-vanilla set.
If you REALLY get hungry during the siesta time, go to Brera. This artistic and tourist district has its own rules. You can eat here even when the rest of Milan is lifeless. Unfortunately – in tourist prices and tourist atmosphere.
We have our own Milan discovery, which we always come back to – an inexpensive, non-tourist pizzeria at the Caiazzo metro station. Only locals come here, the delicious pizza costs €5-8, there is cheap house wine, and they count coperti from the table, not like in tourist restaurants from every person.