Milan, Italy - Global Storybook

A Spontaneous Weekend Trip to Milan – Visiting The Top Sights

Zsófia Albert

Zsófia Albert

Zsófia Albert is the Contributing Editor at Global Storybook (Hungary).
You can read more about Zsófi here.
Zsófia Albert

Let me tell you a secret.  Whenever I’m feeling bored or that serious case of wanderlust gets me, I’m browsing for cheap flights.  It’s usually happening on our low cost airline, Wizzair’s website; sometimes they offer ridiculously good deals – if you’re lucky enough you can get a return ticket for the price of a dinner.  I’m just picking whatever destination is the cheapest, where I haven’t been yet and bam… the planning phase of my next trip is already happening!

That’s how I ended up in Milan this September.  The dates were perfect for a weekend getaway: flight leaving on Saturday’s early morning, returning on Sunday late in the evening, and the price was cheaper than my airport transfer to the city center.

Those two full days seemed to be perfectly enough to stroll around the Italian fashion capital and explore all the “must see” places it offers.  If you’re planning to spend a few days in this gorgeous city too, read on – here are the top things to do in Milan.

Visit the Duomo di Milano

Yes, yes, super obvious and super cliché, as the famous Duomo is the center of tourist activity in Milan.  Missing out a visit to the fifth largest cathedral of the world would be a big mistake though: not just the interior of this Gothic church is gorgeous and breathtaking, it’s worth to climb up to the roof too!

You can reach the top by elevator or climbing the stairs, and you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the city from above.  If you think all those spires look impressive from the ground, you’ll be thrilled to walk around them and marvel their super detailed architecture from up close.

I recommend you go early in the morning to avoid the crowds, otherwise you’ll end up spending precious hours queuing for tickets and the security check.  I arrived Sunday morning at 8 am, nobody was in front of me at the cash desk, I was amongst the first ones to climb up to the roof and even had the opportunity to make a few nice photos of the cathedral without the annoying hordes of tourists (see the cover photo).


duomo rooftop

  Spin on the bull’s balls

There is more to the world’s most beautiful mall, Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, than shopping in Prada and Lois Vuitton.  If you’re done taking selfies and admiring its gorgeous glass ceilings and steel structure, take a look at the floors too!

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The tile floor at the center of “il salotto di Milano” bears the insignia of four prominent northern Italian cities.  The bull represents Turin, and for some reason the tradition developed that spinning on the bull’s balls (to be more exact on the hole at the place of the balls) is giving the spinner good luck.

This Milanese tradition is not just for tourists, either.  If you stop for a moment to watch passersby, you’ll notice people who do a twirl on the balls while in mid-conversation, then just keep walking and talking to their companions.  The fact that the Galleria is right next door to the Duomo means you can swing by for a spin and get yourself a little Italian good luck even if you’re on a tight schedule.

bull's balls

the famous bull and his missing balls

Spend a few minutes with da Vinci’s Last Supper

Another well-known entry on my list is paying a visit to Leonardo’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper” at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.  The only problem is that getting tickets to see the famous fresco can be incredibly difficult and definitely requires planning well ahead.

They limit the number of people in the room at a time, which in turn limits the numbers of tickets they can sell in a day… you can see where this is going.  So it’s not uncommon that they are sold out months in advance, and the poor spontaneous tourists, like me, have to postpone this must-see until the next visit.  I managed to find its less known, urban copy though, and I can assure you, it’s almost the same thing. 🙂

Milan, ItalyVisit the museum at La Scala

This world famous theater is must if you’re an opera lover!  Unfortunately tickets can be very hard (and expensive) to come by, so here’s a trick how to get inside anyway.  The visit to the museum comes with a peek inside the theatre: at the end of the tour you’ll be able to walk in one of the beautiful theatre boxes and look out over the stage, as long as there isn’t a performance or a practice going on.

You can pretend for a moment that you’re one of the Milanese elite, fanning yourself as you listen to some splendid aria, all these without paying the high price of an opera ticket.

la scalaDiscover the Navigli district and the canals

Canals?  In Milan?  Yes, you’ve read that just right.  Okay, don’t expect anything like in Venice or Amsterdam, but there are two (count them, two) canals in the city, one of them designed by none other than Leonardo da Vinci himself.  In such a concrete-filled city they certainly are an unexpected thing to come upon, and in my opinion they also bring some exciting color and difference to the city’s face.

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The Navigli district was my favorite with its cute shops, small art galleries and charming restaurants.  Originally a working-class neighborhood, it is now a stylish urban enclave, particularly popular for its nightlife.  So if you happen to find it too quiet during the day, just come back after dark.


Escape to Milan’s parks

Strolling around all day in a busy city like Milan, chances are good that at some point you’ll need a break from all the noise and traffic and concrete.  Luckily, there are a couple of good sized, beautiful parks in the city center, where you can escape from all the hustle and bustle, get some rest and relax a bit.  Parco Sempione, sprawling around and behind the imposing Castello Sforzesco is the easiest for most tourists to take advantage of.

After exploring all the museums inside the castle, take the time to walk in the surrounding park, too.  There is always something to happen, from open-air concerts to marathons and yoga classes.  Oh, and another reason I returned several times… there is free wifi in the park!

To the northeast of the historic city center Giardini Pubblici is much quieter, with less tourists and more locals walking around.  Its lovely atmosphere with the hundred years old trees will definitely steal your heart.

parco sempione

Do an aperitivo crawl

Aperitivo is the practice of enjoying a drink or two with friends or colleagues between work and dinner.  It can be found in multiple Italian cities but Milanese perfected this tradition to the top.  You’ll find several aperitivo bars around the city, the best ones overflow with people and convivial atmosphere, because it’s not just about the drinks.  By simply purchasing a drink you can enjoy the full buffet for no extra charge.

Some places have a better spread than others; sometimes extensive all-you-can-eat buffets are laid out.  The drinks may be a bit more expensive than normally, but the nibble ons are free of charge – and for a traveler on a budget that’s kinda great deal.  Hang out, have a cocktail or a glass of wine, do some people-watching and let the oh-so-Milan style overflow you!


All Photo Copyrights © 2016 Zsófia Albert

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