With endless museums, restaurants, and landmarks worth checking off your bucket list, there’s really no bad time of year to go to Milan.
Even if you visit Milan in winter when the weather isn’t its best, there are plenty of indoor activities to keep your trip exciting and cozy.
Most of Milan’s key landmarks are concentrated in the (relatively) small city center — making it easy to move from sight to sight on your Milan itinerary without spending too long out in the cold, damp Milan winter.
And if the weather is simply too bad for walking, that’s no problem either — Milan’s wonderful public transportation easily brings you from place to place.
From the stunning fresco of the Last Supper tucked away in a small church to the towering spires of the Duomo and the views of the city from up on its terrace, winter is no reason to postpone a trip to Milan.
Here are our 15 favorite things to do in Milan in winter!
Milan in Winter: 15 Best Things to Do!
Explore the Christmas markets in Piazza Duomo.
If you’re visiting Milan between late November and early January, it’ll be practically impossible to miss the Christmas markets in the main square, Piazza Duomo.
All around the Duomo of Milan, you’ll find dozens of wooden huts selling anything and everything Christmas-related, from tree decorations to nativity cribs and Epiphany stockings for the Befana (celebrated on the 6th of January).
There will also be plenty of food, drinks, and sweets to enjoy, as well as workshop activities and entertainment for kids and adults.
Warm up with some vin brulé and eat roasted chestnuts while wandering around the colorful huts and stands, all right under the impressive Milan Cathedral.
Check out the Christmas lights along the Navigli.
The most beautiful Christmas lights in Milan have to be those along the Navigli canals.
The Navigli neighborhood in the south of Milan is a popular nightlife area that, during the holiday season, becomes the scene of the Darsena Christmas Village.
While the Christmas Village is popular for children, the area becomes positively magical with Christmas decorations, and it’s a sight to see no matter how old you are.
The lights are usually on from early December to the beginning of January.
Stroll along the canal, admire the lovely lights, and check out the stands selling food, drinks, sweets, and Christmas decorations.
Don’t worry, even if you don’t manage to visit during the holiday season, the area is still beautiful without the Christmas magic!
Go shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
What better way to escape the rain and cold of Milan in winter than by going shopping?
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is right by the Duomo, and it boasts a great variety of shops, ranging from high-end fashion brands to streetwear stores.
There are also several cafés and restaurants perfect to take a seat at if you need a break from all the shopping!
Even if you don’t plan on shopping, it’s worth stopping in to visit the beautiful gallery, which also happens to be the oldest active shopping gallery in Italy.
Take in the whole magnificent building, and don’t forget to look up at the impressive glass dome and down at the beautiful mosaic floor!
While you’re in the gallery, you can’t pass up the chance to perform a… strange… good luck ritual on the bull portrayed on the mosaic tile floor.
According to legend, placing your right heel on the bulls’ balls (yes, you read that correctly!) and spinning three times will bring you good luck.
It’s at least worth a try, right?
Discover the Duomo with fewer crowds.
While the winter in Milan has some disadvantages, fewer crowds is not one of them!
In fact, why not take advantage of the winter season to pay a visit to the Duomo — the most visited attraction in Milan will be far emptier during this period.
While it’s impressive from the exterior with its marble facade, Gothic spires, and ornate sculpturework, the interior brings things to new levels of impressiveness.
Inside, you’ll find classic artworks, a crypt with the remains of old Italian saints, and the ruins of a Christian baptistry that dates back more than two millennia!
Note that you have to buy a ticket that includes all of the above, like this one, as some tickets are a la carte.
While the weather may not be the best, you should still buy a ticket that allows you access to the rooftop terrace (so long as it’s open — it does occasionally close for bad weather).
You can walk atop the cathedral between its spires and sculptures, with a 360-degree panoramic view of Milan like no other.
If you want to visit the terrace, you can opt for either the elevator (pricier) or the stairs (cheaper) option.
|➜ Book the complete Duomo ticket (interior, all museums & terrace), the terrace-only option, or the interior-only option.|
➜ Book the Duomo ticket + terraces + guided tour option here.
Watch an opera show at La Scala.
A show at Milan’s main opera theater is a great way to spend a winter evening. Once the show starts, you’ll forget all about the cold!
The neoclassical Teatro alla Scala was founded at the end of the 18th century and is one of the most famous opera and ballet theaters in the world. Renowned composers such as Verdi and Puccini performed there.
The theater has over 3,000 seats in a grandiose setting, gilded with the typical balconies and red velvet curtains of the 18th century.
Despite all the glamour and its prestigious reputation, you can catch a show at La Scala at very affordable prices, starting from only 12€!
While the theater is best known for its opera and ballet performances, they also occasionally have classical musical concerts as well.
If you’re not really in the mood for a show, you can take a one-hour guided tour of the building.
There’s also a theater museum where you can learn about the building’s history as well as seeing temporary exhibits about different artistic themes (such as ballet, opera, etc.).
|➜ Book your guided tour of the theater here.|
➜ Book tickets to shows on their website here.
Go for aperitivo, dinner, or cocktails in the hip area around Arco della Pace.
When in Milan — whether in winter or summer — you simply have to do as the Milanese do and enjoy an aperitivo!
For that, there is no better place than the area near Arco della Pace.
Several streets converge into the round Piazza Sempione, famous for the triumphal arch.
On each of these streets, you’ll find many bars and restaurants that fill up with people in the early evening and stay crowded and lively well into the nighttime hours.
This is one of the trendiest spots in Milan, not just for aperitivo, but also for dinner, late-night drinks, and live music.
Try Deseo or BanghraBar for aperitivo, then discover international cuisines like Indian at Tara or Japanese at Copacabana Temakeria.
After dinner, drink a cocktail at Dazi Milano and catch some live music at Jazz Cafè Milano.
Admire the beautiful art collection of the Pinacoteca di Brera.
When you’re in Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera is the place to go to admire a world-class beautiful art collection.
The gallery houses gorgeous paintings by famous artists, including Tintoretto, Rubens, Titian, and Caravaggio.
The most famous one, however, is The Kiss by Francesco Hayez.
On the third Thursday of every month, the art gallery hosts the Brera/Musica project, exploring the relationship between music and the visual arts.
Every month, it features a different concert accompanied by an artwork present in the Pinacoteca, which serves as inspiration for the musicians.
If you happen to be in Milan on the first Sunday of the month, entrance to the art gallery is free!
|➜ Book your tickets to the Pinacoteca online here!|
Visit Castello Sforzesco without the usual crowds.
Another great tourist attraction in Milan is Castello Sforzesco.
Gray, rainy winter days are the perfect opportunity to visit everything this place has to offer!
Even better, the 15th-century castle is right in Milan city center, less than 15 minutes walking from Piazza Duomo, so it’s super accessible.
The massive castle houses several museums and archives, including the Musical Instruments Museum, the Pinacoteca, the Museum of Ancient Art, and the Archaeological Museum, which includes an Egyptian section.
You can easily spend an entire day at the castle visiting all the museums.
The best thing is that the entry ticket is valid for all the museums and permanent exhibitions — not a bad deal!
You can spend a little more and get an audio guide ticket — helpful, as the site is so large!
|➜ Book your entry ticket + audio guide to the castle here!|
Admire The Last Supper at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
I’ll be honest: getting to see Leonardo’s masterpiece The Last Supper in person is not that easy, especially if you happen to be in Milan during the peak season.
(That’s why we have a full guide on how to visit the Last Supper!)
However, in winter, you may find it easier to get your hands on a ticket for the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
As well as housing Leonardo’s iconic masterpiece, the Dominican convent is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, so make sure to add it to your list of places to see in Milan.
While you can enter the church for free, getting into the room with The Last Supper takes a ticket that must be booked online.
Once you’ve decided to plan a trip to Milan, making a reservation for this place should be the first thing you do.
The tickets become available up to three months in advance, but they typically sell quickly, even during the winter season.
That said, even if the official tickets are sold out on the church’s website, you can still often snag last-minute tickets by taking a guided tour — there are 1-hour and 3-hour walking tours available.
Plan accordingly, so you don’t miss the chance to see this impressive fresco mural while in Milan!
|➜ Book your one-hour guided tour of the Last Supper here!|
➜ Book your three-hour guided tour of downtown Milan including the Last Supper here!
Try the traditional ossobuco alla Milanese.
Nothing says Milanese cuisine like the classic ossobuco alla Milanese (braised veal shanks), made even better with a side of risotto alla Milanese.
On a cold winter evening, this heartwarming dish feels even more indulgent and delicious, the perfect way to nourish body and soul after a long day of sightseeing.
Most Italian restaurants in Milan will serve this traditional dish, from down-to-earth trattorias to fancy restaurants.
While you may notice some differences from place to place, whatever restaurant you choose, you can’t go wrong.
Some of the most popular places for Ossobuco alla Milanese are Antica Trattoria della Pesa, Trattoria Milanese, Al Matarel, El Barbapedana, and Osteria Del Binari.
Relax at the thermal baths QC Terme Milano.
This upscale day spa just outside Milan’s city center is a gorgeous place to relax in the thermal pools or enjoy a massage.
The thermal baths are built on the spot of an old tram depot, and you’ll get the chance to relax in a charming old tram repurposed into a unique steam room.
Where else can you experience that?
Entry prices vary depending on how much time you want to spend in the spa, but they all include access to all wellness activities, as well as towels, bath robes, and slippers.
If you opt for the evening entrance, you’ll also get an aperitivo!
Several massage options are available, from couples’ to facial to anti-stress back massages.
Enjoy the vibes of Milano Fashion Week.
Of course, if you’re visiting Milan in the winter, you probably already know that Milano Fashion Week is the most awaited event of the winter, not just in Milan but in all of Italy!
Although getting a ticket for the high-end fashion shows may be a bit complicated since they are invitation-only, there are plenty of related events happening all around the city that you’ll have a much easier time getting into!
You could watch minor fashion shows from emerging designers, attend temporary exhibitions dedicated to the fashion world, or just bundle up and watch the catwalks on the maxi screens that are usually installed in Piazza San Babila.
If you really want to get your hands on a ticket for a fashion show, do some research in advance, as some charity organizations sell tickets at an auction.
The exact dates of Milan Fashion Week change every year, but the autumn/winter event is usually at the end of February.
Attend the Sant’Ambrogio Festival.
The celebration of the patron saint of Milan, Sant’Ambrogio, is an extremely important festivity in the city.
On the 7th of December, locals head to the mass at the Church of Sant’Ambrogio, but that’s just the beginning of the celebration.
The patron saint’s festival includes a traditional Christmas market in front of Castello Sforzesco, where you’ll find hundreds of stands selling artisan works, sweets, food, and drinks.
The market is known as “Fiera degli Oh Bej! Oh Bej!”.
The name dates back to 1510 when an envoy from Rome brought several gifts and sweets to Milan.
According to tradition, when they saw the gifts, the locals shouted “Oh Bej!” to express their surprise and delight.
The Sant’Ambrogio Festival also marks the inauguration of the opera season at La Scala.
Since 1778, every year on the 7th of December, the theater sees the opening of a new show!
Go ice skating in Indro Montanelli Garden.
Although snow in Milan is uncommon, many artificial ice rinks are set up all over the city during the Christmas period.
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a cold afternoon in Milan, put on your warmest coat and check out the ice rink at Indro Montanelli Garden.
From the end of November to the beginning of December, the park in the center of Milan becomes the setting of the charming Villaggio delle Meraviglie (Village of Maravels).
The Christmas village offers many activities, shows, and attractions, mainly for kids, but adults will absolutely find more than enough Christmas spirit to enjoy as well!
Learn about the genius of Leonardo at the interactive museum Leonardo3.
Another spot to escape the cold and rain of Milan winters is the recently opened Leonardo3 interactive museum.
Just outside of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Leonardo3 explores the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, focusing on his inventions.
In the museum, you’ll be able to see working models of Leonardo’s machines, as well as digitized restorations of his famous paintings.
The uniqueness of the museum lies in the hundreds of interactive 3D reconstructions and multimedia elements that bring Leonardo’s genius to life.
Through interacting with these exhibits, you’ll get hands-on insight about just how brilliant and transformative of a thinker da Vinci was.
You can book the tickets for the museum online or buy them directly at the entrance of the museum.
Roxana is a Romanian-born freelance travel writer who has lived in Italy for over 15 years. She has a Master’s in Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Film Studies. Her mission is to find hidden gems, even in the most popular travel destinations, and to inspire people to explore new places and cultures with the same curiosity! When she is not traveling, writing, or planning her next trip, she is either binge-watching TV shows or reading books.