Milan may not be as history-rich as Rome and as quaint as a Tuscan village, and as a result it is often overlooked by travelers in Italy. Those that do visit Milan often just check out the same places – the Duomo and Galleria, shopping at Milan’s luxurious boutiques followed by a show at the world-famous Scala theatre.
What if I told you that Milan is a culturally vibrant city with an alternative heart and sights you won’t find anywhere else? Follow my local tips and uncover a different face of this city, away from the crowds and the tourists!
1. Go hunting for street art
Milan has been home to some great street artists for over 20 years, who brightened up the very walls of the city with their colorful works. Some of the best areas for street art hunting are the Isola neighborhood, Corso di Porta Ticinese and the area around Via Watteau, north of the train station. Top tip: visit on Sunday or in the evening as lots of art is on shop shutters, so they can only be viewed when the blinds are shut!
2. Discover Chinatown
Did you know that Milan has its very own Chinatown, and it is over 100 years old? Wander around via Paolo Sarpi to discover Chinese culture in the city and enjoy a bubble tea or a regional Chinese meal. If you’re in town during Chinese New Year, don’t miss the great parade with lion and tiger dances!
3. Is it a cemetery or a museum?
Just down the road from Chinatown you’ll find Cimitero Monumentale, the final place of rest of Milan’s most beloved citizens. The cemetery is free to enter and you can also join free tours every Saturday – or just wander at your own leisure and check out the graves, some of which are real works of art.
4. Vintage Sightseeing
Ditch the expensive open-top buses and catch one of the old trams – these vintage streetcars have been used non-stop to ferry Milanese around the city for nearly 90 years! To board you just need an ordinary €1.50 ticket, valid for 90 minutes. Lines 1, 19 and 23 are especially scenic!
5. Secret Dance Parties
Ditch expensive clubs and join the locals at secret dance parties taking place every week. Location vary – check out the ‘Mazurka Klandestina’ Facebook group to learn of the latest event, or try your luck heading to Palazzo Lombardia near Gioia M2 after midnight on Saturdays.
6. Drink surrounded by Roman Ruins
Milan used to be a Roman city and there are still some ruins scattered across town. The Colonne di San Lorenzo is one of the most famous, and it also happens to be one of the best low-key nightlife destinations. Just sit on a bench and grab a beer from a bottle shop and enjoy the vibe – if you’re lucky, there will be an impromptu street concert.
7. Shop at Markets
If you’re looking for some local food, hard to find wine or designer clothes, head to a local street market instead of an expensive shop! That’s what the locals do. The markets in Via Fauche and Via Papiniano on Tuesday and Saturday are famous for shoes, handbags and cut-price designer clothes, and Via San Marco on Mondays is the go-to place for cashmere sweaters and scarves. You’re sure to find presents for your family and goods to put in your carry-on!
8. Enjoy one of Milan’s parks
Not many people are aware that Milan has lots of beautiful parks. Parco Sempione just behind Sforza Castle is the city’s very own version of Central Park, great for a morning jog or a summertime picnic. Another beautiful place is Giardini di Porta Venezia, that also houses Milan’s Planetarium and Natural History Museum.
This article was written by Margherita Ragg.