A dream destination any time of the year, Milan, Italy is truly magical when you visit during the winter. This is our guide to the best things to do in Milan in winter!
Packed with plenty of things to do, including celebrating the local holidays, indulging in the local cuisine, shopping in one of the world’s biggest fashion capitals, and enjoying the beautiful snow, Milan should be one of your top travel destinations this winter.
Whether you want to taste authentic Italian cuisine for yourself or you want to see the town’s marvelous history, let’s check out our top picks for things to do during winter in Milan.
Did we miss anything essential for a winter trip to Milan? Let us know in the comments!
Winter in Milan Quick Facts
Milan Winter Temperatures
Unfortunately, Milan is not well-known for having the best winter weather. Of course, it goes without saying that the peak season for tourism is spring or summer.
The weather starts to get cold in November and it lasts until approximately February or March.
The average temperature is around 6 C (43 F), but it is possible to see lows around 1 C (34 F).
Does it Snow in Milan?
It’s important to note that Milan is not exactly dry during the winter, so be sure to pack an umbrella and boots!
You can expect there to be around five hours of sunshine every day, too.
Milan doesn’t get too much snow, though, and the snow season tends to last between December and January, with the most average snowfall happening in January.
How to Get to Milan
Depending on where you’re traveling from, it’s possible to get to Milan via plane or train. There are many low-cost European airlines, which have greatly increased the amount of tourism in both Milan and Lombardy.
Several airports in the United States offer direct flights, especially in the big cities. Milan’s three airports are Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP), Milan Linate Airport (LIN), and Bergamo Airport (BGY).
However, if you want to see more of Italy, you should definitely consider heading to Milan via train instead. It takes around 2 hours from Venice and 3 hours from Rome.
Be sure to check out this website for more information on train schedules and prices.
Best Things to Do in Milan in Winter
Get Festive at the Milan Christmas Markets
There are numerous traditional markets dispersed in various regions of Milan at various times during the holiday season, with each market harboring unique characteristics from the other.
In Fiera, the Market Artigiano offers over 300 artisanal vendors from not only every region in Italy but also around the world.
The “Oh Bej Oh Bej!” fair in the Piazza del Castello in Milan, known for being the oldest Christmas market to stand today in the city. Originally held in Sant’Ambrogio, the market carries over 370 vendors of artisan products, craftsmanship, and Ambrosian traditional food and delicacies.
The Piazza Duomo holds a market in a square full of wooden houses where Italian gastronomic products and delicacies can be tasted amongst decorated architecture in the heart of Milan.
Do a Little Christmas Shopping
There is an obvious and endless selection of malls and boutiques to be found in Milan.
The famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the endless boutiques on Quadrilatero d’Oro’s streets are a signature place to start your Christmas shopping adventures in the city with its sales and decorations; however, you do not need to be limited to that!
There are also Christmas markets all around Milan, in its iconic locations as well as in small, cozy villages like Lazzate, outside of the metropolitan area.
The stalls and vendors of the various markets have just about anything you could think of– from toys, antiques, handmade, traditional food, and delicacies, to performances!
The Teatro alla Scala presents a Christmas opera annually, which is an anticipated local tradition.
Party at the Ambrosian Carnival
The Ambrosian Carnival is Milan’s largest festival, always taking place on a Saturday in Milan’s most iconic destinations.
Often centralized in Pizza del Duomo, there is also a parade that routes Palestro, Piazza San Babila, Corso Europa, Piazza Fontana, and Piazza Beccaria showcasing clowns, jugglers, and pantomimes, who perform in their characteristic costumes.
In addition to these street performances, there are concerts, music, and dances by local artists and performers spreading the Christmas joy into every corner of the city.
The seasonal street food during this carnival is also an exhibit of its own– chiacchiere, which is a raved delicacy consisting of crispy strips of dough covered with honey or chocolate.
There’s a reason why the carnival’s secondary name is “Fat Saturday.”
Drink Coffee (and Lots of It!)
Marchesi 1824 is an emblem of Milano’s coffee culture. Family-run for generations since its founding, the cafe has hosted an assortment of freshly baked delicacies, their signature cremini, and other candies along with their coffee.
If you want to experience Milan in one stop, facing the Duomo whilst sipping a classic Milanese spritz or coffee beverage, then the Camparino in the Galleria’s arcade is the ideal location.
Often called a tourist trap, and yet, the quality of the products, service, and location cannot be toppled.
Pavé, known for its excellent baristas and distinguished coffee beverages, is also raved for its fresh bakery and jams; any of their buttery croissants, fruit tarts, and cream-filled brioche rolls with their house-made coffee are a perfect combo to start the day.
Go to the Sant’Ambrogio Festival
The city of Milan hosts a festival in the honor of its patron saint, governor, and bishop, Saint Ambrose.
Markets and stalls with an assortment of various local foods and beverages envelop the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio and its piazza.
There is also a market of artisan, handmade items available for the observers and visitors of the festival in addition to the feast.
Although most businesses and establishments in the city close to honor the feast, many restaurants, bars, and cafes in the center city stay open.
The piazza is turned into a pedestrian zone and thus the city inaugurates special feast hours, in which the city’s metro system provides an alternative schedule for the convenience of the people.
Take a Gourmet Food Tour of Milan
Milan’s fashion and luxury prestige is augmented by its gourmet food.
The best way to experience the most significant and renowned specialties in the city without breaking the bank would be through a food tour.
Not only will the tour guide lecture you about the historical background of the food, but you will correspondingly tour the historical birthplace of each dish in question.
The fresh, refined ingredients of the local cuisine will offer you cured meats, cheeses, tastings of their most notable wines, and tastings of their variations of gourmet pizza and pasta.
Watch them prepare desserts right before your eyes, like some cannoncini, before washing it down with some espresso coffee.
A fully arranged culinary experience around the stunning city!
Discover Milan’s Best Hot Chocolate
Take a break from the endless markets and shopping centers and warm up your body with some hot chocolate!
If you’re near Brera, stop by the Di Viole Di Liquirizia, a cozy cupcake shop with a beautiful view of the city, and look at their diverse beverage menu, but note– it is raved to have the best hot chocolate in Milan.
Near the Duomo, Lavazza Coffee Design is an excellent option to warm up those freezing fingers after taking pictures of the beautiful piazza.
Near Piazza San Gregorio, you will find the sanctuary of everything chocolate in Cioccolatitaliani.
Have you ever tried hot chocolate and strawberries together? They offer an excellent, comforting dessert to sip on during breaks between shopping sprees!
Visit the Natural History Museum of Milan
The Natural History Museum of Milan, founded in 1838, showcases collections donated by naturalist Giuseppe de Cristoforis that he had gathered from all over the world, which was then merged with Giorgio Jan’s collections, to create five permanent sections of displays.
The paleontology section showcases various fossils of prehistoric organisms such as dinosaurs.
The invertebrate zoology section presents displays of insects, mollusks, and arthropods, and the vertebrate zoology section includes displays of mammals, birds, fish, and amphibians in relationship to their environment and biodiversity.
The mineralogy section presents the largest collection of minerals from all over the world, and finally, the Natural History of Man offers a concentration on the origins and evolution of humans in various respective environments around the world.
See the Last Supper Painting
One of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings, and one of the most well-known paintings in the world, would be his masterpiece, the Last Supper.
The mural was painted in the ancient monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and is a treasure of the Italian and Milanese Renaissance.
It is referenced not only by the art and religious communities but also in pop culture and movies.
There are tours offered for the iconic mural, in which the guide will explain the story behind why Da Vinci chose to draw this specific scene, the specific painting techniques used for the painting, and the secrets of his life.
Learning about his intriguing role in the Renaissance can take you down a rabbit hole of theories!
Attend Milan Fashion Week
Milan being the fashion capital of Italy isn’t news, yet the annual fashion week held in the city is anticipated more and more every year.
As the home of some of the most famous fashion brands, including Giorgio Armani, Missoni, Prada, Versace, and Moschino, the inhabitants of the city are often rated as the best dressed worldwide in general.
However, when Fashion Week comes along, depending on the year and time of the year, Milan hosts a broad medley of seasonal clothing, in which the Milanese citizens take seriously and present themselves, or attend the events and showcases, not only in their fashion culture but also their Milanese livelihood.
Go Ice Skating
It’s no secret that Milan transforms into a winter wonderland during the winter months, its already stunning cultural architecture and cityscape augmented with lights and decorations.
To enjoy the scenery and winter culture to its full potential, Milan opens a number of ice skating rinks around the city.
The Darsena Christmas Village perhaps has the most magical presentation centralized within the traditional Christmas market of the city.
The floating ice rink attracts people from even outside of Milan! The rink in Piazza Gae Aulenti is in the heart of Milan’s modern district, surrounded by a skyline of skyscrapers.
Another rink can be found in one of the most popular shopping centers, Il Centro, welcoming visitors to a 350-square-meter rink.
Go Shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The majestic arched entrance of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the rest of its pillared exterior are enhanced by the grand Christmas decorations for the winter season.
In the center of the lavish palace-like structure, underneath the huge, domed ceiling covered in mosaics and paintings, sits a giant, illuminated Christmas tree.
The beauty of the structure is worthy of a visit, let alone the Christmas spirit in addition to it during the winter season. Walking through the Galleria, you will find high-end, luxury brands, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.
Whether or not you actually plan on buying something or sitting down for a coffee is not a problem because the picturesque presentation of the Galleria attracts visitors alone.
The view from the inside towards the piazza is yet another beauty to behold!
Visit the Beautiful Duomo di Milano
The Duomo di Milano is the largest church in Italy, the second largest in Europe, and the third largest in the world.
The cathedral’s construction began in 1386 and took almost six centuries to complete.
There are tickets for touring not only the inside of the structure but also the rooftop of the cathedral– an opportunity you should definitely not pass up on!
The rooftop view of the city and the minor details on every single curve and divet of the church and its numerous towers will leave your mouth gaping open.
Inside, statues, shrines, and sanctuaries made of marble, gold, and other precious materials are elegantly arranged throughout the edifice.
The artists and designers made sure every space on this building was carved, engrained, or decorated!
Go Skiing Near Milan
Courmayeur is an internationally renowned ski destination with over 100 km of ski slopes suitable for all levels.
Its landscape includes Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Central Europe, a treat for thrill seekers.
Breuil-Cervina has an even larger area of 200 km of ski slopes and sits in the Alps between Italy and Switzerland. It has a range of routes and difficulty levels that can be explored all throughout the day.
Sestriere is even larger than the previous, with its Vialetta holding over 400 km of slopes, thus hosting Alpine Ski World Cup on numerous occasions.
It offers an illuminated Olympic track, allowing visitors to ski at night. All three locations offer a wide array of relaxational facilities, spas, restaurants, and exciting nightlife to close the trip.
An abandoned industrial factory was transformed and redeveloped into an exhibition space and museum.
The Mudec is the result, which showcases over 7,000 items– including arts, crafts, musical instruments, and fabrics– from all over the world to provide a representation of the various world cultures and diversity.
The Castello Sforzesco’s non-European finds and collections have all been donated to the museum, along with the collections from explorations, travels, and missions of noble Milanese families made in the colonial era.
Collections of art and culture from the Near East, Far East, Africa, and American continents have their heritage on permanent display. Every few months, there are also temporary exhibitions and events highlighted at the museum.
Eat (Lots of!) Pizza
Gino Sorbillo hails from Naples from a family of pizzaiolo going back many generations.
His Lievito Madre pizza parlor is near the Duomo and emphasizes the use of high-quality ingredients. The menu has around a dozen pizzas, some with unique, regional ingredients, and are proportionally large in size.
Starita is a well-known pizzeria in the Naples area, serving for over 100 years. Its Milan location opened off of Corso Sempione a few years ago and is popular with even the locals.
Berberè has numerous locations dispersed around Milan and is known for making its crusts out of sourdough. Each parlor has its own unique charm and raved selections on its menus, and will warm your stomach as you meander around the city.
Get Romantic on Valentine’s Day in Milan
Milan is a special place to celebrate Valentine’s day. Home to gourmet cuisine and an exceptional dining experience, a stunning city with beautiful architecture, endless shopping centers, and boutiques, there is a plethora of directions to take to have a memorable San Valentino with your partner.
Sightseeing the city on an open tour bus, before exchanging flowers or chocolates prior to heading out to dinner, catching the sunset on the top of Milano’s many terraces– or even perhaps the rooftop of the Duomo – and ending the night at a luxurious spa sounds like the perfect celebration.
If you need help, perhaps select from one of the many Palazzos and piazzas in Milan to start your planning!
Day Trip on the Bernina Train to St. Moritz
Take a train ride through the magical countryside of the Swiss Alps aboard the Bernina train.
The train ride begins in the town of Tirano in the Valtellina region after a scenic two-and-a-half-hour ride through the Maloja route, the journey will end at the luxurious St. Moritz resort.
On the way, glaciers as high as 2,256 meters above sea level can be seen, as the Bernina Red Train is one of the highest railways across the Alps.
Just make sure you have your passport with you, as you will be entering Switzerland!
To reach Tirano from Milan, you can take a guided tour bus, which can be taken back to Milan at the end, making the voyage a total of 12 hours.
Enjoy a La Scala Show
It was opened in 1778 and hosts its own chorus, opera, ballet, Orchestra, and Filarmonica. The red velvet interior of the seating and the golden engravings on the ceiling and stage is a representation of neoclassical architecture and design.
The theater also serves as a museum, with historical archives and temporary, rotating exhibitions.
The stunning marble pillars and floors, complemented by the seemingly endless statues of important musical figures and artists elegantly organized throughout La Scala, in addition to the luxuriously pattern-stained walls are worth exhibiting alone, let alone their additional seasonal features and performances.
It’s in a known location also; the theater is about a three-minute walk away from the Galleria.
Go Back in Time at the Sforzesco Castle
Aside from the impressive architecture of the Sforzesco Castle, it also holds numerous museums within it: the museum of ancient art, Museum of Decorative Art, Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Museum of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Museum of Furniture and Wooden Sculptures, Museum of Musical Instruments, the Rondanini-Michaelangelo Museum, the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, and the Vinciana Collection Body.
It also holds a number of archives and libraries, like the Trivulziana Library and Historical Civic Archive, the Archaeological and Numismatic Library, and the Art Library.
The tour of the castle itself is free, however, each museum and some of the libraries require their own ticket; there are passes available that grant access to all museums, archives, and libraries together, in a certain time frame.
Where to Stay in Milan
If you’re looking for the top places to stay in Milan during winter, here are some of our favorites!
- casaBase (budget-friendly option!)
- Naviglio81 (mid-range – I stayed here!)
- Armani Hotel Milano (luxury option)
Did we miss any amazing things to do in Milan in winter? Let us know your favorite Milan winter tips in the comments! Thanks.
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