Planning a trip to Italy for the first time? The below guide shares recommendations for dining, hotels, and sightseeing making for the perfect first timer’s guide to Milan!
Why Milan Should be on Every Italy Bucketlist
While there are plenty of beautiful beaches and mountain terrains to explore throughout Italy, a trip to the bustling metropolis of Milan isn’t one of them. (Spoiler alert: that’s the city’s biggest charm).From Prague, it’s a quick 1 hour 15 minute flight direct through Ryan Air. Starting at 19 Euros, you can find affordable flights to Milan from most major cities. Of course, one could easily travel a couple hours south to the seaside cliffs of Cinque Terre. Oppositely, one could drive a few hours north to the Swiss region of Ticino. However, this guide to Milan pays homage to to all things…Milano. Including gelato…all the gelato.
Even with its gritty exterior, Milan is home to the best of romantic and majestic Italian culture. Art museums, shopping galleries, and historical churches are all for the taking and exploring. Read the guide to Milan below to learn more about where to eat, stay, and sightsee for a 3-day itinerary.
Where to Stay
A two-minute walk from Milan’s Central Train Station, one will discover the Ostello Bello Grande hostel. Here, laughter and piano tunes fill the air, making it easy to see why it’s the top hotel chain in the world according to Hostelworld.com.
The scent of fresh pasta wafts through the air. Glasses filled with complimentary chilled pinot grigio are passed around freely like tiny Christmas gifts. (These are given to all guests upon check-in).
After bags are taken, guests are led around to the lobby where a complimentary Italian family-style buffet awaits.
Food at Ostello Bello Grande
Fresh breads, cheeses, fruits, veggie dips, and a variety of pasta dishes are all made every night. After meaningful conversation with other travelers and multiple rounds of plates, guests are shown to their rooms. The hostel offers numerous options for accommodations. The room assignment is based on whether or not a traveler wants to meet and mingle, or simply enjoy peace-and-quiet.
Accommodation at Ostello Bello Grande
To get the full hostel experience, it is recommended that guests book an 8-bed room or larger with a shared bathroom. However, 6-bed, 4-bed, and private suites that fit up to two people are also available.
The beds are comfortable and the perfect, standard size for one person. Each bed area contains an overhead lamp for nighttime reading and a lock-and-key pull-out bin for storing belongings under the bed (locks are provided by Ostello Bello Grande but guests can also bring their own).
Quiet time in the living quarters begin at 10pm each night. However, the festivities continue for those who want to take advantage of the 24-hour bar or the upstairs rooftop terrace. Strategically placed hammocks provide panoramic views of Milan for weary travelers looking for a cat nap.
Common Areas at Ostello Bello Grande
The hostel offers guests a 24-hour quiet room to read, take a nap, or simply relax. Ostello Bello also provides complimentary snacks in their rooftop kitchen just across the hall. These “snacks” include an assortment of pasta, muffins, cookies, and crackers. Grab a few for a late night nibble or, on the way to the airport, or for a day of exploring!
If privacy is a necessity, it’s best to book a private room at least two to three months ahead of your visit. But, if some slight noise is tolerable, hostels are a safe and affordable option that save travelers money. Also, they are a great way to meet new friends (which is also a good idea!). To book directly, visit https://www.ostellobello.com/hostel/ostello-bello-grande-railway-station-milan/.
P.S. – Always take advantage of the daily buffet breakfast in the lobby. Fuel up on fresh coffee, scrambled eggs, Wien sausages, and pastries before exploring.
Hours: 24 hours
Where to Eat
Empanadas are not a cuisine strictly reserved for Central and South American cultures. As many know, Italy has its own version and they are equally as delicious.
Luini’s is one of the most well-known and historic panzerotti (empanada) joints in Milan. This lunchtime favorite serves up fried and baked pizza dough pockets (yes, stuffed pizza pockets!) Featuring a variety of cheeses and ingredients like salami, local tomatoes, olives, and locally sourced mozzarella, they are a right of passage to Milan.
Arriving right at opening at 10am to avoid the lines is best. However, this small walk-up shop is takeaway only. Because of this, patrons line the block all the way to the Duomo starting just before noon each day. The most tasty panzerotti’s are the “Mozzarella Pomodoro” and sweet panzerotti’s such as the “Ricotta Chocolato.”
Price: $ Empanadas start at 2 Euros each
Hours: Monday 10:00 to 15:00
Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 to 20:00
It’s never a trip to Italy without an afternoon aperitif. Of course, any visit to Milan must include a stop into one of its most infamous cocktail bars: Terrazza Aperol.
Decked out and dazzling, the full restaurant and terrace bar is just steps from the Duomo Cathedral. The decor inside the restaurant itself perfectly reflects the look — and taste — of the cocktail itself. Bubbles and bright shades of orange adorn the walls, furniture, and light fixtures.
Mini sandwiches and paper cones of crispy salted potato chips accompany any cocktail purchase making it the quintessential aperitif experience (the potato chips are fried in sunflower oil for those wondering).
Making a Reservation
Local and global cuisines are also available for lunch and dinner. However, call ahead to make a reservation. During the spring and summer months, the terrace overlooking the Duomo attracts large crowds in the afternoons.
Most popular cocktails: The “Contessa” with Aperol, prosecco, orange juice, and grapefruit juice. Also, the classic “Campari Spritz” with Campari, Cizano prosecco, soda, and fresh fruit is perfect for summer.
**Disclaimer: The photo above was taken in November 2018. The terrace is usually busy, but the day this photo was taken it was raining hard and the height of the tourist season was over. Plan for an extremely packed rooftop if visiting between early May and late October.**
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11:00am – 23:00pm
Saturday 11:00am – 13:00pm
Can’t decide between a burger or sushi for dinner? There is a place that can easily cure an indecisive appetite: Matcha Cafe. One of Milan’s most innovative cafes sits in the heart of the city’s booming international food scene.
Serving up famous powdered Japanese tea, avocado toast, and assorted cakes, it has become well-known spot among locals. It’s unconventional food and beverage menus have continue attracting a number of travelers, too. A favorite of these menus is the “sushi burger”. A rice or avocado bun stuffed with salmon, bib lettuce, and fresh cucumber, it’s a rare savoury treat.
As a bonus, Drizzle with low sodium soy sauce and pair with a matcha Aperol spritz (it’s bright green!). Of course, there are other recommended menu item like the savoury matcha pancakes with lox, chive cream cheese, and fried egg.
Hours: 9:00 am to 23:00pm
Where to Play
Can’t make it to Venice? Don’t worry. Milan’s Naviglio Grande Canal is a solid backup choice. This manmade river spans 50km and makes for a relaxing mid-day stroll.
Bustling with authentic Milanese cuisine (hello, gelato and gazpacho!), it also provides access to Italian artistic culture. Art studios, boutiques with handmade jewellery, and outdoor markets on select days can be seen lining the canal’s banks.
Pro tip: Walking both sides of the canal using the bridges at both ends to cross over the river is best. Make stops at Sabbia D’oro for fresh crab linguini followed by La Gelateria for dessert. The gelato below is from Amarino which is also located on the canal!
A pinnacle of European architecture, the Milan Cathedral, or “Duomo” remains standing tall at more than six centuries old. Unarguably the most beautiful structure in Milan, it is also the fifth largest cathedral in the world. It also contains the most statues (4,235 to be exact!)
Visiting the Duomo’s Rooftop
The most popular attraction at the Duomo is the rooftop, boasting 360 degrees views of Milan. It is accessible by stairs or elevator (for an additional cost). At the top, you can take in the cathedral’s golden spires and views of the snow-peaked Swiss Alps.
Tickets for entry and for rooftop tours are available for purchase ahead of your visit or on site. If purchasing on-site, be prepared to wait at least 10-15 minutes in the que. Getting there 10 minutes before opening to beat the crowds and head straight to the rooftop is recommended.
Price: $ Rooftop tours start a 12 Euros
Hours of Operation: Daily from 9:00am – 7:00pm
Planning A Visit
With so many quality dining, accommodation, and sightseeing options, Milan is the perfect spot for an urban Italy adventure. However, make sure to book air travel and reservations for restaurants and hotels/hostels at least three months from the departure date. For questions or more information regarding this guide to Milan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.