This month I met up with a group of friends in Milan for a girls’ weekend in the city. Although the weather wasn’t ideal, it didn’t stop us from having a fantastic time! I have heard mixed reviews of Milan, and to be honest it was very different from what I expected; whenever I think of Italian cities, immediately narrow cobbled streets, open markets and quaint local communities come to mind – but Milan is very modern with bustling businesses, designer shops and a big-city vibe that you’d find in places like London and Brussels. Milan ended up being the perfect place for our second annual meetup and if you’re a fan of food and shopping this city is not to be missed!
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Quick tips for Milan
- Where to stay; we stayed near the Milano Centrale train station – it was a good location with easy access to the Caiazzo metro stop. Because we were a big group we ended up using Airbnb to find accommodation and had a great experience at our “luxury rental” – complete with our own elevator (click here for $30 discount)!
- Public transport; speaking of the metro – buy a multi-day pass and use it to travel around the city. We were able to get a 48 hour pass for just €8.25
- Flights; I found super cheap flights (€50 roundtrip with Ryanair) and flew into Malpensa airport (MXP) and out of Bergamo airport (BGY). Both airports are only one hour by bus to the centrale train station.
- Airport transfer; I got cheap bus tickets to and from the airports with Terravision. You can purchase your tickets ahead of time (online for €5) or just board the bus once you arrive and pay cash (€8); keep in mind there are tons of different bus companies to choose from. It might be more convenient to buy your ticket to the center once you arrive at the airport because all of the busses run at different times – I had to wait 20 minutes for my bus to turn up, but could have just used another bus right when I arrived at the airport for example. For the return trip I would suggest getting your ticket ahead of time just to be safe; I almost missed my flight in Rome because all the airport busses were full…I’m never making that mistake again! Get your return ticket online or at the ticket stand outside the centrale train station beforehand.
- Restaurants; depending on where you want to eat you may need to make a reservation. We made reservations for all of our meals in advance.
- Best time of year to visit Milan; in winter the weather in Milan is cold and wet, but considering how cheap the flights were…it was the perfect time for us to go. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong visiting Milan in spring and summer.
Milan is recognized internationally as one of the world’s most important fashion capitals, so it’s no surprise that shopping is one of the best ways to spend your time in this city! You can access some of the main shopping streets (like Via Torino) right off the Piazza del Duomo – and there are several other streets in particular that are known for having tons of designer brand stores. My favorite shops were on Corso di Porta Ticinese because it had local boutiques and vintage shops with unique apparel.
The three attractions we saw in the city were the Castello Sforzesco, the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The castle museum had free entrance after 4:30pm – although we showed up a bit too late to enter (trying to get 7 girls to go somewhere on time proved to be more difficult than we anticipated), but we did enjoy walking around the castle grounds instead. The Duomo and Galleria are located right next to each other, so plan to visit them both on the same day. In the Galleria make sure to spin on the bull’s balls for good luck – and check out some of the fabulous shops! When we went to the Duomo there was a ridiculously long line to enter, so we opted to take photos in the piazza in front instead. I think it would have been nice to go on the roof of the Duomo as well – but the day we went it was foggy and rainy so we decided it wasn’t worth the cost as we probably wouldn’t have had a good view.
Restaurants & bars
Any time you’re in Italy you need to drink as much coffee and eat as much pizza and pasta as humanly possible. Don’t get me wrong…the coffee in Spain is delicious, but there’s something special about Italian coffee! One of the girls in our group is Italian and has friends who live in Milan, so they shared some great recommendations on restaurants and bars for us to enjoy over the weekend. Because we were a group of 7, we opted to make reservations for all of our meals. The restaurants and bars listed below were packed, so even if you’re just two people you may want to consider making a reservation ahead of time.
- illy Caffe – we stopped by the illy Caffe in the Piazza Gae Aulenti for some coffee and snacks. I thoroughly enjoyed my Cappuccino Viennese – and there’s a whole menu full of delicious coffee options. There are also good shops in this area– not to mention easy access from the metro!
- Osteria dei Vecchi Sapori – we made a reservation for this meal (and good thing too because all tables were reserved) and I ordered the ravioli al gorgonzola con porri patate e noci and the tiramisu for dessert. Tons of delicious, authentic dishes and the place was packed with locals.
- Capra e Cavoli – we also made a reservation for this restaurant (again, totally necessary) and booked the brunch round from 11am until 1pm, I believe the second round is from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. This restaurant has super unique decor and is well-known because it was featured on an Italian television show where local restaurants compete – and of course Capra e Cavoli won! You can eat here for lunch and dinner – but I’d recommend the brunch on Saturday and Sunday. It’s not your traditional “brunch” with breakfast food – it’s more of a buffet with tons of delicious lunch dishes. I had no idea what we ate because everything was written in Italian, but it was all good!
- Ginger Cocktail Lab – this was on our list of bars to check out but we didn’t have enough time to go. Our local sources said it is definitely worth going to – and it has great reviews online!
- Loolapaloosa – this bar was fun and service was okay but cocktails were more expensive than I’m used to (€13 for gin and tonic). They do an aperitivo service where you can eat a light dinner and then stay for drinks and dancing. I’d suggest going someplace else beforehand and head here when you’re ready to dance. I’m not sure what the criteria is for working here…but all of the barmen were extremely attractive and well-dressed. Coincidence? I think not.