Although Milan is often skipped by visitors in Italy, it can be a particularly good city to include on a winter itinerary. Unlike some destinations where major sights are outdoors and therefore rely on good weather to make them palatable, most of Milan’s sights are indoors. Not only that, the city’s proximity to the mountains makes it a good launch point for a skiing trip.
Here are some of the things to do in Milan during the winter months.
Milan’s museums aren’t often over-crowded the way that famous museums in Florence or Rome are, but it’s still nice to visit the museums in Milan during the low tourist season. This is especially true if you’d like to see Leonardo da Vinci’s spectacular “Last Supper” fresco in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church’s refectory. Visits must be booked months in advance, though it can be slightly easier to get a ticket in the winter. Alternately, you can book a guided tour that includes “The Last Supper” to ensure you get your chance to see it.
Other museums worth including on your list are the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Gallery of Modern Art. The Triennale Museum in Milan’s Parco Sempione is another great bet, as it showcases the history of Italian design and has a nice cafe on the main floor – perfect for an after-museum coffee or hot chocolate before heading back out into the city.
Milan is a city of fashion, and there’s plenty of boutique shopping to be done all over the city. Window shopping is a popular pastime even for those who don’t plan to buy anything, but in the winter it’s nice to get a break from the chill by going inside the shops, too.
In the Quadrilatero d’Oro district, you’ll find pedestrian-only streets lined with designer name after designer name – this is the place to shop for brands like Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Armani, and many more. It’s also an excellent spot for people watching, if you like the idea of seeing Milan’s elite do their shopping.
Just off the Piazza del Duomo is the gorgeous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This covered shopping area is another good spot for keeping up your shopping habit in inclement weather. You’ll find high-end clothing, jewelry, and book shops in the Galleria, as well as expensive (and beautiful) restaurants. The Galleria also features some of the city’s best Christmas decorations, so be sure to go in and look up if you’re there in December.
Bargain hunters will want to plan trips to Milan during January, which is when the official winter sales period begins. Shops all over the city (as well as throughout Italy) offer pretty much everything at a steep discount. The deals get better as the month wears on, but the selection dwindles.
Milan’s famous La Scala opera house is fun to visit any time of year, since the in-house museum tour features a peek into the deluxe red velvet-lined theater boxes, but summer tourists will miss out on actually seeing an opera.
La Scala’s season begins in early December, so check the official schedule and you may just get to see an opera in one of the world’s most famous opera houses.
Milan is located near the base of the Alps, so if your idea of the perfect winter getaway includes at least a few days spent on the slopes then that’s another good reason to head for Milan in the winter. Some of the area’s best ski resorts are easy day trips from Milan, including Courmayeur on Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco if you’re on the Italian side) and Belluno.
If you’re planning to spend several days skiing in one place, you might be better off staying there as well – but using Milan as a base gives you a chance to ski a different resort every day, while still enjoying the city’s nightlife as your apres-ski entertainment every night.
As mentioned, Milan is a world-famous fashion city, and its annual “Fashion Week” shows are held during the winter. Men’s Fashion Week is in January, while Women’s Fashion Week is in February. As you might expect, the most famous designer shows sell out quickly, but you can sometimes score tickets to the show of designers who may not be household names (at least not yet).
Keep in mind that hotels during Fashion Week get booked months in advance, so be sure to make your accommodation arrangements ahead of time.