Lying at the foot of the Alps, with a cultural feel somewhere inbetween Swiss and Italian, Italy’s second-largest city is a thriving metropolis that combines ancient architecture with modern artistic designs.
While most commonly known as a centre for fashion, finance and art, Milan is an exciting city with plenty of highlights, including great museums, churches, restaurants, and bars; notable attractions include the Duomo di Milano, an impressive Opera House, and a striking castle.
Milan has many identities; this is a city where skyscrapers sit next to historic palaces, and business deals go down by canals designed by Leonardo da Vinci. It is a mecca for designer shopping, a foodie paradise, and an open air museum of Italian design throughout the ages.
Milan is a diverse and varied city, but regardless of your reason for visiting, there are several tips you need to know before you arrive.
Things to Know Before Visiting Milan
#1 Know the Best Way of Getting to Milan
Flying to Milan is the best travel option for visitors, though it’s important to keep in mind that three major airports serve the city. The three airports are as follows:
Linate airport is not the largest airport, but at only five miles away, it is the closest to Milan centre. And it has excellent city transport connections.
Malpensa airport is the largest of Milan’s airports, but it is eighteen miles away. However, there is a regular shuttle service to Milan centre, that takes about an hour.
The third airport is Bergamo, which is also about an hour’s drive away from the city centre. This airport only handles budget airlines, whereas the other two handle a range of airlines with business and first-class flight options.
If you are looking for a low-cost business or first-class flight, there are several companies like Business Class Experts that offer very reasonable prices.
#2 Know How to Get Around Milan
Milan is a large city, but it is relatively small when it comes to getting around, and the city’s main tourist attractions can be found within a compact area that is very easy to explore on foot.
If you want to get around Milan via public transport, your options are train, Metro, bus or tram networks, and you can buy tickets at any café that features a big “T” sign; which stands for “Tabbacchi cafés”.
You can also purchase tickets at Metro stations and newspaper stands. A public transport ticket allows you to use any city transport as many times as you want within ninety minutes.
RicaricaMI railcards are also available, and this is a great way to be eco friendly, and save purchasing paper tickets. Like the London Oystercard, this is a rechargeable card that gives you access to the metro, buses and trams, and you can top it up as you go.
Additionally, you can find comfortable and inexpensive taxis throughout Milan quite easily.
#3 Avoid Eating Out During Siesta
Once you arrive in Milan, there are a couple of local particularities to be aware of, especially being that Milan doesn’t adhere to the same beat as other parts of Italy.
Restaurants, clubs and boutiques here tend to stick to strict opening times, and you won’t usually be able to get lunch between 2.00 p.m. and 4.00 p.m., as this is the traditional siesta time for locals.
Furthermore, Milanese people are very punctual. Therefore, if you book a table at a restaurant, it is advisable to get there on the dot.
#4 Know Which Coffee to Drink
Unlike the strong taste of Italian espresso that dominates much of the country’s coffee-drinking habits, the Milanese typically drink large coffees with added water. And, they only drink milk based coffee in the morning.
To blend in with the locals, make sure you don’t order a cappuccino after 11 am – Italians are convinced that drinking anything with milk after the morning will hurt their digestion, but that said, there is never a right or wrong time for an espresso.
The Italian way of drinking coffee is very quick – they drink it standing at the bar counter, and have paid and left within 2 minutes. And there’s no sipping allowed – the local way is to gulp it!
The coffee shop culture / atmosphere is well worth taking in, so feel free to sit at a table and enjoy the experience. However do keep in mind that the minute you sit, your bill is likely to double, which is why locals tend to drink standing.
Also, don’t add sugar, and don’t take your coffee to go.
Italians don’t do it!
#5 Know Where to Find the Best Nightlife
The Duomo area is one of the most popular nightlife spots, but for the hipper side of Milanese nightlife, head out to neighbourhoods like Porta Venezia, Isola or Navigli.
These stylish districts are less expensive than Duomo, and you will find fewer tourists there. Head to any of those three districts for an authentic and fun time at bars, clubs and restaurants.
Before you go out, make sure you’ve taken part in the pre dinner tradition of aperitivo; cocktails come served with free appetizers, which can often be enough to act as a dinner substitute.