17 Magical Things to Do in Milan in Winter for an Italian Winter Escape

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While most people think about visiting Milan in the summer or autumn, visiting Milan in winter is a great way to experience some of the city’s best festivals, enjoy the museums and monuments without the crowds, and appreciate the hearty nature of Milan’s cuisine. 

Here are the best things to do during winter in Milan plus tips for what to wear and what to bring with you!

Read next: How to Spend Christmas in Milan

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Things to Do in Milan in Winter

Essential Travel Resources for 2021 & 2022

These are my favorite companies that I use on my travels.

Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.

For road trips and ground transportation, rent a car through Discover Cars.

See also
27 Stunning Places to Visit in September in Europe for a Late Summer Getaway

Find the best city tours, day tours, bus tours, & skip-the-line tickets on GetYourGuide.

For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.

For travel guidebooks to have with you during your trip, I always pick one or two (or five) from Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, Moon Travel Guides, or Fodor’s Travel Guides.

Get reliable travel insurance through World Nomads.

Book an affordable family or romantic photography session on your trip through Flytographer (Use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 25% off your first photoshoot).

The Best Things to Do in Mian in Winter

In no particular order…

Enjoy a city without lines or tourists

Snow falling on a statue of a lion with the Milan Cathedral in the background. The iconic golden statue of the Virgin Mary, Madonnina standing proudly atop the cathedral

If you don’t mind rainy days, constant fog, and cold weather, with some occasional snow from time to time, winter has to be the best time of the year to visit Milan.

It’s much easier to visit museums, parks, churches, and other interesting attractions when the weather is not as favorable as in summer because not only are there fewer tourists, but locals usually hit the ski slopes or simply stay at home more.

In winter, it’s much easier to obtain tickets for everything, and many attractions even offer special off-season prices, more convenient and affordable.

I have an entire list of the best things to do in Milan year-round, but here are my top five Can’t-miss spots that you will still want to see even in winter:

Visit the Duomo

Milan Cathedral roof on sunny day, Italy. Milan Cathedral or Duomo di Milano is top tourist attraction of Milan. Amazing view of old Gothic spires. Nice rooftop terrace of the famous Milan landmark.

Considered one of the most imposing masterpieces of Gothic art in the world, this forest of never-ending spires, mythological creatures, terrifying gargoyles, and saints took over five centuries to be completed.

You can go on a guided tour of the cathedral and the rooftop or you can get a skip-the-line ticket and explore on your own.

Check tour availability and book your tour.

Shop at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Glass dome of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, Italy

Known as the gathering place of Milan, the fantastic Galleria joins through its main passage the Duomo Square and the Scala Square.

See also
27 Seriously Instagrammable Places in Milan: Photo Spots You'll Love!

Inside the gallery, high-end stores share the space with historic Italian shops and restaurants. You can visit on your own or as part of a Milan walking tour.

One of the finest examples of Renaissance in the Lombardy region,  features a magnificent 16-sided lantern, a bright brick facade, and a beautiful portal supported by Corinthian columns.

Check ticket availability and book your tour.

Book a visit to Santa Maria Delle Grazie Church and discover Leonardo’s Last Supper

Last Supper Tour in Milan, Italy

Although the church alone is worth a visit, the main reason to visit is certainly to admire Leonardo’s fresco The Last Supper, which covers one wall of the refectory. The whole complex has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Getting tickets can be a complicated process since tickets sell out (yes, even in winter)! I have an entire guide to how to get tickets to the Last Supper here.

Check ticket availability and book your tour.

Warm up in Milan’s Historic Churches

View of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in which the Fresco of Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper is kept in Milan, with its courtyard

I am obsessed with the churches in Milan, from the bone chapels to the ones displaying Lucretia Borgia’s hair. Exploring these corners of the city is also a great way to stay warm since most of your visit will be indoors!

Check out the remarkable National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo Da Vinci

Over 100.000 different pieces are featured in at the Museo Nazionale Della Scienza e Della Tecnologia Leonardo Da Vinci making it the most important science museum in the country. You can get your tickets ahead of time and even book a private tour.

Check tour availability and book your tour.

Enjoy the Ambrosiano Carnival

Italy - Milan - a beautiful oriental costume for carnival

Maybe not as famous as the Carnival in Rio (Brazil) or the local Carnival in Venice, Milan also has its carnival version, the Carnevali Ambrosiani.

The celebration takes place in February, right before the Lent period, and locals enjoy attending the imposing parade that takes place in the area of Milan’s Duomo.

During the celebration, both adults and kids enjoy wearing masks that have been previously decorated by themselves.

Read next: 10 Magical Festivals in Milan to Put on Your Italy Bucket List!

See also
25 Hilarious Venice Puns & Jokes for Perfect Instagram Captions

Experience the Arts & Culture Scene

La Scala opera house, The most famous italian theatre in milan

If you’re looking for something to do in Milan at night when it is cold out, you’re in luck! Winter is the best period in Milan to spend your evening at the opera, a ballet, or orchestra performance.

The famous Teatro alla Scala publishes its winter program and tickets go on sale.

There’s no better moment to enjoy unique masterpieces thought and written by the best Italian composers of all times, such as Verdi, Puccini, or Rossini.

You can either book a guided visit, buy a ticket to enjoy a night of ballet, or even admire the pieces exhibited in its Museo Teatrale, the theater’s museum.

Check tour availability and book your tour.

Hit the Slopes

Italy - Milan - Skyway 360° Courmayeur - Italy winter season. Monte Bianco on the Italian side of Mont Blanc massif. Station intermedie connect city of Courmayeur to Pointe Helbronner 3,466 m

Probably one of the favorite things to do in winter for Milan locals is to pack their ski gear and head to one of the many ski resorts in the area.

The people from the Lombardy region are very keen on winter sports, including skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing (alpinism), to name just a few.

Milan is located in a favorable location when it comes to winter sports. Several excellent resorts can be reached after a short car ride from the city center, and which have activities especially for beginners and advanced skiers as well as for families with little skiers.

One of the best-known and probably the most visited ski region is Courmayeur.

There are runs for every level but what makes Courmayeur famous are the challenging runs for advanced skiers.

Other very popular ski resorts in the region include Madonna di Campiglio and Belluno.

Attend the Sant’Ambrogio Festival

Italy - Milan -  The Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, one of the most ancient churches in Milan. Patron saint of Milan, Italy.

Patron saint of the city, Saint Ambrose is a saint to whom most Milanese are devoted. December is the month when the saint is honored not only in the famous Basilica of San Ambrogio but everywhere in Milan and the Lombardy region.

One of Milan’s most important festivals, it is famous for the huge quantity of street food you can taste in every corner of Milan.

Artisans craft and sell their art in public parks while street artists offer free performances including dancing, music, and theater.

Experience the magic of snow in Milan

Italy - Milan - Peace Arch covered with snow in Sempione park, Milan, Italy.

Snow is not as common in the center of Milan as one might imagine, although it might be possible to experience the occasional snowflake while wandering the city during winter.

If you’re lucky enough to visit on one of those rare snowy days, head directly to the Navigli to admire the magic landscape of the snow falling on the beautiful canals of Milan.

If the temperatures are really low for long enough, the surface of the channels freezes forming a fantastic iced mirror that, at night, reflects the lights of bars and cafeterias, creating a magic atmosphere.

Visit a Food Fair

Italy - Milan - Cooking pasta and mussels in the street food festival

Winter is the perfect season to attend one of the many festivals that take place in Milan.

While summer is a great moment to visit because the city is virtually empty; in winter, the city comes alive with a unique collection of festivals and fun opportunities to learn about the local culture.

Starting in November, when the weather starts to get chilly in town, the magnificent Expo dei Sapori takes place in the huge exhibition center of Fiera Milano.

Completely devoted to representing Italian flavors and cuisine, the Expo dei Sapori is a great opportunity to taste unique Italian food and wines.

If you aren’t in town during a food fair, don’t worry. Besides eating Milan cuisine in the city’s fabulous restaurants. You can also go on a guided food tour of the city to learn about Milanese traditional food.

See also
The Best Quotes about Florence, Italy

Check tour availability and book your tour.

Indulge in Hot Chocolate!

Italy - Milan - Chocolate heaven in Turin - sampling Bicerin, a traditional drink made of espresso, hot chocolate and milk with a peace of hazelnut cake topped with hot chocolate

Nothing like cold weather to slowly sip a cup of hot chocolate while reading a book or simply looking at the world go by through a window.

Choose one of the many traditional cafes along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, or even around Duomo Square, and order a traditional cup of hot chocolate.

It usually comes with a gigantic whipped cream topping and some chocolate flakes on top that melt with the heat of the beverage.

Order a local pastry to go with it, and you’ll be enjoying one of the most pleasant activities you can do on a cold day in Milan.

Shop for Quality Winter Clothes

Middle age woman walking and enjoy in shopping .Colored photo in milan

Good quality winter clothes are easy to find everywhere in Milan during the cold season. Elegant coats, warm pashminas and scarves, suits, and sweaters, but also gloves, hats, and all kinds of fantastic knitwear can be seen and picked from the windows of Milan’s best shops and boutiques.

However, if you want to save some money and still get a few good bargains, you can do so right after Christmas, when price tags are reduced and the sale season begins.

If you want to dig into Milan’s shopping and fashion culture, you can go on a Private Fashion & Shopping Walking Tour.

Check tour availability and book your tour.

Discover Sormani Library

Italy - Milan - Palazzo Sormani Libarary

Winter is a perfect time of the year to enjoy some quality time on your own. I cannot picture any more perfect picture than an afternoon spent exploring the shelves and book titles in any of Milan’s ancient libraries.

Sormani is a unique library with an elegant and cozy atmosphere where you can spend hours perusing ancient manuscripts and books.

The Sormani Library treasures over 650,000 books and magazines from all times and it’s open to the public. It’s located close to the Duomo and nothing beats the experience of a visit to this quiet but exiting retreat in town.

Go Christmas Shopping

Fun Christmas trip to Milan, Italy. happy modern traveller woman in the front of Duomo in Milan, Italy with Christmas tree and gift looking into the distance

There’s no more magic season in northern Italy than Christmas. Milan is a great place to find unique Christmas decorations right before the holidays or immediately after, a real bargain for those buying decorations for next year’s celebration.

Head to La Rinascente Store, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele to buy some of the most beautiful Christmas decorations you will find of the market.

If you’re on a budget, instead, peruse the stalls in the different Christmas markets that take place all over town and find the prettiest decors at a bargain.

Attend the Milan Fashion Week

Italy - Milan - Milan Fashion Week

One of the top events of every season for fashion lovers takes place every year in Milan.

Starting from January with Men’s Fashion Week, designers present new proposals and ideas for the upcoming fall. Women will love to visit in February, instead, when the attention is devoted to them through the Women’s Fashion Week.

During this period, the city is full of celebrities while the most important fashion designers in Europe and all over the world present their unique collections ranging from classic styles to more extravagant looks.

Although getting a ticket to the most prestigious fashion shows are hard to get, it’s easier and more affordable to get passes to attend fashion shows hosted by new designers.

In these shows, the atmosphere and the dress code are certainly more relaxed and are a great opportunity to have a preview of the upcoming trends.

Ice Skating for Everyone!

Funny teenagers girls and boy skating outdoor, ice rink

Ice rinks are a thing in Milan in winter.

People of all ages meet and have fun hanging out in one of the many ice rinks that can be found in town.

The most popular of all is the one mounted in the Piazza del Duomo, although it is not as big as you would expect it’s the one that young people prefer.

Another famous spot is the Darsena Ski Rank as well as Palazzo della Regione Ski Rank.

The entrance fee is quite affordable (from 5 to 8 euros), and it’s also possible to buy chocolate snacks and hot drinks too.

What to Wear for Winter in Milan

Italy - Milan - Winter Selfies in Milan

Consider this a mini Milan winter packing list. These are the items you will want to walk around Milan. If you plan on going skiing, also make sure to pack your ski attire and ski gear.

See also
27 Marvelous Things to Do in Milan, Lombardy's Sophisticated Capital

Women’s Milan Winter Attire

Here’s what women should bring. 

A Winter Coat: You need that can handle the cold like this North Face parka

Thermal Layers: This ultra-lightweight down layer is one of my new favorite winter travel obsessions.

It’s great because you can wear it on its own when you need a quick layer of warmth, but you can also wear it under your coat when it’s really cold outside!

It packs down very small, so it’s not like traveling with a bulky coat. Instead, it’s a handy warm layer to pull out whenever you need it.

Shoes: Upgrade your regular city boots to a waterproof version.

Socks: Upgrade your socks to thick, warm wool socks.

Gloves: In Milan, you’ll be doing a lot of navigating on your smartphone, especially when you need to use public transit.

I found it incredibly annoying to have to take my gloves off every few minutes, so I upgraded to tech-friendly gloves like these. They’re also clutch for using your phone to take pictures in the cold.

Winter Scarf: You want a thick knit scarf that you can pull up and cover your face when necessary.

Leggings: You’ll want to be covered from head to toe when you’re outside.

Regular leggings are great for late autumn, but for winter swap them for leggings that are lined with fleece for extra warmth. You can wear them under dresses or even slip them under your jeans.

Hat: A fleece-lined knit cap will keep you warm, and you’ll fit right in with the locals.

Men’s Milan Winter Attire

Here is what I suggest men wear in winter. Just like with women, this is good for walking around the city, but make sure to pack your ski clothes and gear if you’ll be doing activities in the snow.

A Winter Coat: You need that can handle the cold like this North Face parka.

See also
17 Marvelous Things to Eat in Milan: Food & Drinks Not to Miss!

Wool Baselayer: You’ll want an extra boost of warmth under your shirt as a wool baselayer.

Shoes: Upgrade your regular city boots to a waterproof version.

Socks: Upgrade your socks to thick, warm wool socks.

Gloves:  Upgrade to tech-friendly gloves like these so you can use your smartphone for pics and to help navigate.

Winter Scarf: You want a thick knit scarf that you can pull up and cover your face when necessary

Hat: A fleece-lined knit cap will keep you warm, and you’ll fit right in with the locals.

5 Things to Bring with You to Italy

Greece - Crete - Stephanie Luggage

The Lonely Planet Italy guidebook or the Rick Steves Italy guidebook for your trip. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you arrive in Italy, or you’ll find them overpriced.

I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.

An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use an Italian sim card while here to help navigate the trains.

Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS system, and general travel genie.

A Camera since Rome is super photogenic. I use a mix of my Nikon D810 and my  Samsung8 smartphone these days. (Though many of these pics in this post were on my old Nikon D40).

A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc).

My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Italy because it has many anti-theft features.

Italy is the only country in the world where I’ve almost been the victim of a pickpocket!

The Pacsafe Citysafe also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.

See also
27 of the Best Wine Countries in the World for Your Bucket List!

More Italy Travel Resources

I love Italy! Here are all my Italy resources to help you plan your trip, organized by destination.

Italy Country Guides

Italy - Rome - Stephanie at the Baths of Caracalla

Before you leave for your trip, enjoy these books about Italy and beautiful Italy quotes to help get you inspired!

Florence

Duomo,Di,Firenze,The,Florence,Cathedral,Santa,Maria,Del,Fiore

This magical Rennaisance capital belongs on everyone’s Italy bucket list. Check out the best things to do in Florence and these beautiful quotes about Florence.

Milan

Italy - Milan - The Last Supper - Stephanie Selfie

I adore Milan! I’m *this close* to calling it my favorite city in Italy.

While here, make sure to enjoy the best things to do in Milan, what to eat in Milan, and what to do in Milan at night! And don’t skip any of the best Milan hidden gems!

Only plan on being here for a few days? Check out my three-day Milan itinerary.

Make sure to go on a Tour of the Last Supper (and buy your tickets early!). When you’re done, check out these other beautiful Milan historic churches.

If you want to get out of the city, here are the best day trips from Milan and how to visit Lake Como from the city.

Headed to Milan from late November through early March? Check out the best things to do in Milan in winter and what to do in Milan at Christmas.

Once you’re here, use these quotes about Milan for your Instagram captions!

Finally, before you arrive, check to see if there’s a special Milan festival happening while you’ll be in the city!

Rome

Italy - Rome - Stephanie at a Museum in Rome

Rome was the first European city I ever visited, and it stole my heart! While here, make sure to see the Roman Forum.

Looking for a history-themed day trip from Rome? You can visit Ostia Antica! (Not sure if Ostia Antica is right for you? Here’s how to choose between Ostia Antica or Pompeii).

Venice

Italy - Venice - Stephanie on a Vaporetto

Venice is absolutely beautiful. Use these beautiful quotes about Venice for your picture captions.

See also
101 Italy Quotes & Dreamy Italy Instagram Captions

Naples & the Amalfi Coast

Cup of fresh espresso coffee in a cafe with view on Vesuvius mount in Naples, Campania, Southern Italy

Headed to Naples? Here’s the perfect one-day-in-Naples itinerary.

You can enjoy these beautiful quotes about the Amalfi coast to inspire your trip!

Italy is Included in These Round-Ups

Italy - Stephanie - Battle of Cannae
Italy is beautiful, no matter which region you’re in!

The Most Beautiful Beaches in the Mediterranean

The Best Books to Read on Vacation

The Most Beautiful Castles in the World

The Best Wine Countries in the World

Where to Go in Europe in September

The Most Underrated Cities in Europe

The Best Opera Houses in Europe

1001 Ideas for Travel Tattoos

Before You Leave for Italy – Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

Make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road.

I use World Nomads for my long trips to Europe, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities (like Rome, Milan, Venice…ahem) where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.

Italy is the only country I’ve been to (out of almost seventy) where I’ve had someone try to pick my pocket!

I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them.  If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.

Get a Travel Insurance quote for your trip.

Pin this Guide to What to Do in Winter in Milan for Your Trip!

Things to Do in Milan in Winter

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