When my best friend messaged me asking if I wanted to go with her to Milan the following week, with only flights to pay for, I couldn’t resist. Whilst Milan had never been top of my list, it seemed like an opportunity too good to miss.
One of the great things about Milan is you really don’t need very long at all to see this beautiful city. If you’re living in Europe getting a flight there is cheap and easy. I felt like it was quite a small city, with a great, easy to understand metro system. It’s easy to ‘do’ Milan in a day or two and still get a lot out of it.
Before I go on, you may notice that there aren’t corresponding photos for everything, and maybe some of the photos aren’t that high quality. This is because unfortunately, on my final evening in Milan, my camera got stolen. I have used some of the photos that I took on my iPhone instead, or photos that my friend Abbi took on her iPhone. I will come back to having my camera stolen later.
So what is there to see or do in Milan?
7 things to do in Milan…
- The Duomo
The Cathedral is, without a doubt, absolutely stunning. It really does take your breath away. I don’t need to write much about it, it’s just worth seeing for yourself.
2. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
This shopping centre is right next to the Duomo so you can see both at the same time. Whether you like shopping or not, you have to go inside this shopping centre just to marvel at the beautiful architecture. This is the oldest shopping mall in Milan and it is a work of art. As can be expected, it also contains some high-end Italian brands such as Prada, Gucci and Versace.
3. Enjoy drinks on the rooftop bars
There are two brilliant bars that are worth visiting near the Duomo. Due to their location they are a bit more expensive than other bars in Milan, but worth going to just for one drink to soak up the ambiance. Il Bar is on the top floor of a department store called La Rinascente. here you can enjoy some gorgeous cocktails or a coffee and soak up the Italian sun. I had a cocktail called ‘7th Floor’ which contained vodka, triple sec, lychee liquor, and pomegranate juice. It was gorgeous!
In the early evening, head to Terrazza Aperol for an Aperol Spritz and an aperitivo. An Aperitivo is a tradition in Milan – you pay for your drink and get free nibbles handed out. Aperol Spritz is a drink enjoyed all over Milan – an orange liquor with prosecco and ice. This bar is in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. I’d recommend getting there early as it does get busy.
4. Enjoy dinner and drinks by the Naviglio Grande
The Naviglio Grande, also known as the Navigli, is a great area teaming with bars and restaurants right by the canal. Theres a great atmosphere in the evening and despite what people say, I didn’t think it was expensive at all. We went to a restaurant called Seafood and Pizza and I literally had the best margarita pizza of my life, and it only cost just over 5 euro!
5. Go for drinks near Colonne de San Lorenzo.
This area is right by the university so there are lots of students and young people and a great atmosphere. There are plenty of bars and cafes, as well as some incredible columns – a relic to when the Romans ruled. It’s only a 10 minute walk from the Duomo and is definitely worth checking out.
6. Wander around the Brera District
I don’t know what I was expecting when we went to the Brera district. I had read it was once the area where artists and bohemians hung out, so I thought that vibe would still be present. Instead, it was filled with expensive boutiques and a massive Gucci store, so maybe not! It definitely felt like a ‘higher end’ district and was very busy. Even so it’s still worth visiting for a coffee, a bite to eat and a wander. The Brera district is made up of lots of small alleys and roads winding between gorgeous Italian buildings. We enjoyed a panini and a glass of pinot grigio whilst people watching here. Again, it is very close to the centre and is easy to get to.
7. Visit the Fondazione Prada
If you like contemporary art this gallery is a must visit. I would even say coming here was a highlight of my trip. I did take a lot of photos of the gallery but obviously I don’t have them anymore. This gallery is close to a metro stop but seems like its in the middle of nowhere. This is because it is in what used to be an industrial warehouse. Now this space has been transformed into a spacious, modern, avante-garde gallery containing works which are fascinating and disturbing. As well as some pretty freaky works of art, there was also a fascinating exhibition about art, ownership, and fraud. Within this was a genuine painting which had once been owned by Hitler, as well as a lot of other pieces of art which had a lot of history to them.
Another reason to visit this gallery – the cafe attached, Bar Luce, was designed by Wes Anderson! It is a design buffs dream.
Doing Milan on a budget.
These things can all be done in a couple of days easily. Milan has a great metro system which I found really easy to use, but many of the main attractions in the city are close to each other and within walking distance.
There is a misconception that Milan is expensive, I really didn’t think this was true. Whilst I’m sure some parts of the city are, it’s definitely do-able on the cheap. The most expensive parts, obviously, are the flights and accommodation. However, when booked in advance, flights with budget airlines such as EasyJet are very cheap – I paid £123 return but bare in mind I booked this a week before we flew! If I booked it in advance I’m sure it would have been much cheaper. In terms of accommodation, we stayed in an Air B’n’B apartment outside of the city but near a metro station, which definitely would cut down costs and also means that you can cook your own food and have more space. We had a Carrefour supermarket near us and found the food and wine to be cheap, and the food was extremely fresh and tasted great.
I found getting around and activities cheap too. A metro pass for 72 hours is €8.25 and for 24 hours is €4.50, or for a one way pass it is €1.50. We got a bus from Milan Malpenza airport which only cost €14 for an open return ticket.
When it came to activities, most things, such as seeing the cathedral, were free. The main thing we really enjoyed was food and drinks, but even this did not break the bank for us. Like I said, drinks in the rooftop bars near the cathedral were a lot dearer. When you have a drink a bit further away from the city centre, such as near the Navigli or near Colonne de San Lorenzo, the prices drop dramatically. So if you’re thinking of going to this city but are worried about your budget, don’t be! Milan is not only doable on the cheap, but it is really enjoyable too.
The Stolen Camera
Now, back to my camera. I took my DSLR with me so that I could take beautiful photos for this blog. Sadly, it was stolen on our final evening whilst enjoying a prosecco by the Navigli. Like a lot of cities around the world, Milan is rife with pickpockets. I was told this but to be honest, it didn’t really sink in. I thought well, so is London, Paris and Ho Chi Minh City and I have been fine in all of these places because I watched myself, and this will be the same. I guess I was a little bit too sure of myself. I had my camera bag in between my legs but this was not enough. The truth is pickpockets are usually pros at what they do. They are extremely clever about it and even the most vigilant of us can be victims. I know what happened was not my fault. I was not careless with my stuff. But it’s made me realise that sometimes simply being ‘not careless’ is not enough. I should have kept the camera across my body or wrapped it around my leg so it could not just be taken from me. It’s a hard way to learn this lesson, but at least I know for the future that in reality I need to be extra vigilant.
Milan does have pickpockets, it has people who target tourists and see people with certain items and they go for it. But this is not a reason to worry or to not go somewhere. Everywhere where there is a high concentration of tourists or people in general, there will be pickpockets. It’s just important to make sure we don’t become their next targets by being extra careful with our stuff. I thought I was sensible because I had a handbag which folded in on itself, making it basically impossible for anyone to get into it apart from me. It didn’t occur to me that someone might steal my camera bag from right under my nose whilst I was having a drink. I would always have my guard up while walking around or on the metro, but I let my guard down when I sat down at a bar and clearly, pickpockets can strike at all times. So learn from my mistakes and take good care of your stuff. Go the extra mile even if it seems a little bit crazy to do so.
What do you think of Milan? Is there anything I didn’t mention that you’d add to your list? Have you ever experienced pickpocketing in a tourist hot spot? Let me know in the comments.