I know everyone who reads my blog isn’t quite as lucky as me, being able to travel the world on a whim. Most people, my friends and family included, have a very different style of travel to me and many have requested I write more posts aimed at them. Ask and you shall receive, my friends! To satisfy your needs, I have decided to start a new series on my blog entitled “City breaks to….” and plan on writing short guides to many of my favourite cities around the world. A perfect city break in my eyes would be to beautiful Cinque Terre. Wow.
The first in this series concentrates on city breaks to Milan….as it is one of the top shopping destinations in Europe and could prove to be the perfect escape this winter either to stock up on gifts before Christmas or to go crazy in the post-holiday sales! If you’re looking for a beach break rather than a city break, nothing beats beautiful Puglia on the coast.
Getting to Milan
The quickest way to get to Milan for most Europeans is probably to fly. Return flights from Dublin start from as little as €82 while flights from other European destinations, such as Germany, can be bought for as little as €13 return!
It should be noted that there three airports serving Milan. Orio Al Serio (better known as Bergamo) is located 50km east of the city and can be a little bit difficult to get to than the other two airports. There are no direct train services but there are two buses which serve Milan’s central bus station, which can take up to 90 minutes to get from the airport to the city centre. Malpense (the main airport) is located 50km north west of the city but thanks to excellent public transfer options, you can be in the city centre in less than 30 minutes. Finally Linate is a great little city airport, located just a 7km from downtown Milan and with lots of cheap transport options to get you to the city centre in minutes.
Where to stay in Milan
If there is one thing Milan is famous for, and one thing that puts many visitors off this magnificent city, it’s how expensive it is. While food and taxis are one thing, accomodation in this city can be extortionate. Like most European cities, however, there are always cheaper options hiding just around the corner from those luxurious 5 star palaces….you just need to know where to look!
Unless you have more money than you know what to do with (and if you do, PM me!), you should stay far away from the Brera and Montenapoleone areas which are full of well heeled fashionistas and exclusive designer boutiques with no price tags! If you are looking to stay in a bustling student district, check into the Citta Studi area or if you would rather stay within walking distance of Milan’s main tourist attractions, check into the centre of Milan close to the Quadrilatero shopping district.
Milan has a great variety of good hotels suited for a tourists’ budget so just be sure to shop around online before you go ahead and book the first place you see.
Getting around Milan
As previously stated, Milan scares off a lot of people thanks to its ridiculously high prices. While renting a car can be tricky and hailing taxis all day will empty your bank account fairly fast, it should be noted that the city has some of the cheapest and most efficient transport systems in Europe.
You can purchase a single ticket for just €1.50, and these are valid for up to 90 minutes and can be used on the underground, the trains and the buses. Other options include buying a 24 hour transport pass for €4.50 or a booklet of 10 tickets for €13.80.
Another option is to sign up to Milan’s bike sharing programme, which costs just €2.50 per day or €6.00 per week which you pay for using your credit card. You will be given a username and password which you must use each time you need to rent a bike over the 24 hour or one week period. While this is definitely an easy way to get around and super cheap, it might not be the best in the middle of Winter or when the weather turns bad.
Top things to do in Milan
If you are searching for city breaks to Milan, no doubt the first thing you’re looking for is interesting things to do and places to see. Milan has no shortage of incredible museums and ancient sights to photograph, and as with all Italian cities, the food is sure to keep you occupied for a while when not running from site to site!
Visit the Duomo
The Duomo (meaning Cathedral in Italian) is Milan’s most famous building and the 5th-largest church in the world. It took over five centuries to complete and it wasn’t until Napoleon Bonaparte was about to be crowned King of Italy in 1805 that the final touches to the Facade were completed. For the best view if the city, take the stairs to the top and enjoy a spectacular panorama view of Milan. The cathedral is situated in the most central part of Milan, with all the main streets radiating or circling it, making it the perfect starting point for any sightseeing tour of Central Milan.
Do an art tour
Milan is home to many of the most famous paintings in the world, including Leonadro di Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’, which is housed in the monastery next to the Santa Maria Del Grazie church. Tickets are always sold out so be sure to book tickets for your visit in advance. To catch a glimpse of some of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, head to the Castello Sforzesco which is also home to the Museum of Ancient Art. For more modern art pieces, turn up at the Novecento art museum close to the Duomo one or two hours before closing and you can get in for free. Otherwise you will only have to fork out about €5 which won’t exactly break the bank!
Once you have got your fill of art, history and culture, it’s time to get down to business and explore one of the premier shopping destinations in the world. Even if you are on a budget and don’t believe you will ever be able to afford crocodile skin shoes for €2,000, even just window shopping and admiring the incredible style of the locals can be entertainment enough. If you are looking for big name brands and haute couture, the only place to be is Quadrilatero d’Oro, meaning ‘rectangle of gold’ in Italian.
If high street labels with a smaller price tag are what you are after, then corso di Porta Ticinese and Brera are the shopping districts for you. If you want the big name brands, but don’t want the accompanying price tags, you can try make your way to the many outlet stores which sell last seasons designs at a huge reduction. These can be found close to corso Vittorio Emanuele II.
Eat your way around the city
Last, but certainly not least, one of the most fun things to do in Milan is to simply not do anything at all. Milan is a great city to just sit outside restaurants or Cafes, sipping on some really good coffee and watching the world go by. You can also try to eat like a local, eating small bites in a variety of restaurants in just one evening. Start your food-crawl in Taglio, a restaurant, workshop, cheese emporium and cocktail bar serving up the best Milanese dishes and delicious, freshly baked bread from their in-house bakery. Later on head over to Trattoria da Abele, one of the most popular trattoria’s in town where the cutting board full of Italian delicacies is always a good choice. Finish off your evening in the family-owned Latteria San Marco, an institution in Milan which has been around since 1965.
Between all that mouth-watering Italian food, a glimpse at all that exquisite Italian art and your fill of ancient history and culture, a city break to Milan this Winter should be enough to cure anyone’s winter blues!