What should I see in Milan?

Q: What are the best things to do and places to see in Milan, Italy? How can I make the most of the city?

A:

Here are the Milan hot spots I loved and some tips on how to maximize your visit to Italy’s most opulent city.

Milan is one of the coolest, trendiest, most fashion-oriented, high flying places in Italy. Definitely pre-plan your wardrobe down to every accessory and outfit, because the sexy Italian style in Milan has no room for grunginess, as I found out when I tried sporting my ripped jeans and plain cardigan (much to my dismay I got quizzical “Where on earth did that girl buy those clothes” looks.) Check out this post I wrote right after I got back from Milan.

The Milan Duomo, also known as the Milan Cathederal is a must-see. You can get there on the metro (less than 2 euro per ride) and entrance to the duomo is free. Its breathtaking Gothic architecture will blow your mind the second you see it. It is huge and totally worth a look inside, even if you aren’t a museum or art person. If you want, you can pay a small fee and climb one of the steeple towers to get a sweet view of the city. Be sure to have your shoulders and knees covered when you try to go in, and they have guards at the entrances who will check your bags for weapons etc. The Italians don’t mess around. No flash photography (I got yelled at by a church proctor).

Coincidentally, the duomo is right next to this gorgeous outdoor Milan mall with every designer label from Gucci to Valentino. Stroll around, window shop and enjoy the atmosphere. For a cheap lunch there are often sandwich vendors that will make you a ham and cheese for a few euro, or  if you’re feeling a bit classier, grab a table at one of the restaurants on the duomo square. Be ware, there is often an expensive charge to sit and eat your meal, so be sure you know the cost up front. Even a 2 euro cup of coffee can turn into a 10 euro cup if you choose to sit.

Check out the McDonald’s inside the mall. Its the nicest one I’ve ever been in.

Castle Sforza is within walking distance and was home to the Duke of Milan and his family for years until the Italian Heritage Center took it over and turned it into a museum. I wouldn’t pay the fee for the museum section unless you absolutely love statues, but you can walk around the grounds for free and it’s really a beautiful building. Leonardo DaVinci did a lot of the “interior decorating” for this place back in his day. Plus there are some cool street performers in this area.

Watch out for the African guys who will try to grab your hand and tie a handmade bracelet around it. They will try to “show” it to you, and the second it’s on, they’ll demand 5 euro payment, no excuses. Definitely just say no grazie, everytime a stranger approaches you. Also watch your bags, even though Milan is a classy city, there are still lots of professional pick pockets that will work in teams of two.

Since Milan is so upscale, be prepared to spend lots of money on cover fees for clubs. I would buy wine or beer at a local supermarket and plan to not buy any drinks inside (they can run as high as 20 euro) and cover fees can be outrageous (as high as 30 and 40 euro) on Saturday nights. Also, Italian men will drop big $$ and try to buy you drinks like crazy, but there are huge expectations of American women (amplify American bars by a thousand) so I’d just pre-game before, steer clear of that (no matter how tempting) and stick with your girl friend all night.

The touristy places (like the Piazza del Duomo–the square by the Cathederal) will have club promoters passing out leaflets for their respective bars. Sometimes when you get these leaflets you can get free entrance or deals on shots etc. Also dress way, way, WAY up when you go out. None of the Syracuse legging-style, or American Apparel dresses will fly here. If you leave the house thinking, “Jeese, I am way overdressed and these heels are going to kill me,” you look perfect. Trust me.

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