10 Things to Do in Milan at Christmas

Want to experience Milan's Christmas traditions like a local? I propose you some activities to do while watching breathtaking icy landscapes.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

10 Things to Do in Milan at Christmas

Christmas in Milan | ©Ralf Steinberger

Milan is an excellent tourist option for Christmas, as it offers entertainment plans for adults and children. In addition, there are free cultural activities, beautiful places for winter shopping and a colorful atmosphere to enjoy.

If you are wondering what to see and do in Milan during the Christmas season, keep in mind that you will be able to experience the traditions of the Milanese up close by going to the Piazza Duomo for the Christmas tree lighting, skating on the ice rinks set up in the city, participating in an excursion from Milan to the Swiss Alps and visiting the canals of Navigli, among other activities.

1. Attend the tree lighting in Milan's Piazza del Duomo

Christmas in Milan| ©Luca Libralato
Christmas in Milan| ©Luca Libralato

If you are in Milan on December 5, you have a mandatory appointment in Piazza del Duomo, as the traditional Christmas tree lighting takes place every year. This is an event full of color and joy that gives way to the lighting of all the streets of the city.

The imposing Christmas tree will surprise you with its snow-covered branches, the hundreds of ornaments hanging and the brightness of the lights. Undoubtedly, a true visual spectacle that you should note among the 10 things to see and do in Milan's Duomo Square at Christmas.

In addition, a flea market is set up in the surrounding area that day for you to taste sweets and Italian street food. You can also buy souvenirs, Christmas items and winter clothes. And while you are in the area, I recommend you to book a guided tour of the Duomo of Milan which is really the protagonist of the square.

Book your guided tour of the Duomo of Milan

2. Climb the Torre Branca to see the Christmas lights from another perspective

View from the Branca Tower| ©Andrey Salikov
View from the Branca Tower| ©Andrey Salikov

A few minutes away from the Castle of Milan, in the old town of the city, you will find the Sempione Park and, inside it, the Branca Tower, from which you will get an amazing overview of the city and the Christmas lights if you go up to its steel terrace.

When you reach the tower you will have to take an elevator that will allow you to travel through the inner part of the 91-meter high structure. Once at the highest point of the Torre Branca, that is, on the top platform, you will enjoy a privileged view of Milan:

  • You will see in detail the Piazza Duomo.
  • You will identify the monumental San Sirio stadium in the distance.
  • You will see the skyscrapers and modern buildings of the Porta Nuova district, covered with Christmas lights.
  • On the horizon you will contemplate the imposing Swiss Alps.

Practical information

  • Where: Sempione Park in Viale Luigi Camoens, 2.
  • When: Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Also, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 to 14:00 hours, 14:30 to 19:30 hours and 21:30 to 00:00 hours. All these schedules usually change according to weather conditions.
  • Price: 5 euros. The entrance to the Sempione Park is free.
  • Duration: the visit lasts about 5 minutes.
  • Recommendation: I recommend you also book tickets to the Sforzesco Castle in Milan as it is very close.

Book tickets to the Sforzesco Castle of Milan

3. Taste the traditional Christmas desserts

Panettone| ©N i c o l a
Panettone| ©N i c o l a

If you are in Milan during the month of December, you must try the traditional Christmas desserts. This is an activity that you can do on your own, by getting on one of the best tourist buses with free stops or by booking a gastronomic tour in Milan. I recommend:

  • Panettone, which is a Milanese sweet that dates back to about 1400.
  • Torrone di Cremona or nougat, whose oldest representative brand in Milan is Rivoltini.
  • Chocolate, which is another sweet that can not miss on the Christmas table of the Milanese. You will find chocolates, tablets and any variant of this exquisite ingredient.
  • Dried fruits are also a sweet that the Milanese crave for every Christmas.

In Milan you will find dozens of pastry shops where you can try the above mentioned sweets. However, there are businesses with a tradition of more than 200 years such as Pasticceria Cova, Vergani family pastry shop and Sant Ambroeus confectionery, among many others.

Book a gastronomic tour in Milan

4. Enjoy the Christmas atmosphere of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Lights in the Galleria| ©Franco Dal Molin
Lights in the Galleria| ©Franco Dal Molin

In the city center you will find the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which, during the month of December, offers a unique Christmas atmosphere thanks to its huge tree, lights and decorations.

It is a good option if you do not know what to see and do in Milan in 4 days, as it offers a perfect setting to take pictures and enjoy an afternoon of luxury shopping and exquisite flavors. In addition, you will also find bookstores, the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum and the Prada Observatory.

You can even climb to the roof of the gallery to enjoy a vibrant view of the city. This activity usually takes place on Saturdays and Sundays between 12:00 and 21:00. To do so, you will have to pay approximately 12 euros. But you can also visit this gallery when booking a guided tour of Milan, as it is one of the stops on the itinerary.

Practical information

  • Where: between Piazza Duomo and Piazza della Scala.
  • When: Monday to Friday 24 hours a day.
  • Price: free admission.

Book a guided tour of Milan

5. Visit the canals of Navigli

Navigli by night| ©Groume
Navigli by night| ©Groume

Booking a tour of the canals of Navigli in December is an activity that you can not fail to incorporate into the things to do in Milan at night, because with this visit you can enjoy the colorful Christmas atmosphere that the European city has for you.

You will see a blanket of lights on the canals, giving you a beautiful view, ideal for you to take some pictures. Also, you will see the picturesque markets where you will find a great display of Christmas products and a myriad of handicrafts, antiques and street food.

In addition to strolling along the iconic canals and buy souvenirs at the Christmas markets, you can enter any bar or restaurant in this district to enjoy the aperitif hour from 19:00 hours.

6. Take a trip to the Swiss Alps from Milan

Swiss Alps| ©Daniel Lobo
Swiss Alps| ©Daniel Lobo

When you book your excursion from Milan to the Swiss Alps, you can enjoy some of the most beautiful alpine scenery by taking the scenic route on the famous Bernina Express red train, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the journey, you will see stunning glacial lakes, majestic snow-capped mountains and natural beauty that is hard to describe. You will also pass through the Bernina Pass, which is located at an altitude of 2250 meters above sea level, until you reach the elegant town of St Moritz.

You will get off the famous little red train to explore the town and have plenty of time to take in the architecture, admire the snowy scenery and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee or Swiss chocolate before heading back.

Practical information

  • Where: from Tirano to St. Moritz.
  • When: every day of the week.
  • Price: 120 euros (approx.)

Book your excursion from Milan to the Swiss Alps

7. Join the festival of San Ambroglio

San Ambroglio Festival| ©Groume
San Ambroglio Festival| ©Groume

December 7 is a very important date for the Milanese, as they celebrate St. Ambroglio who is their patron saint and protector. In addition, with this celebration they officially welcome Christmas.

To join this traditional activity you should go to the Basilica of San Ambroglio and walk around it, where you will find a series of street st alls selling antiques, handicrafts, gastronomy, sweets and a variety of drinks, including the famous spiced wine vin brulé.

During this celebration you can also enjoy the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! and its open-air market, which also begins on December 7 and ends the following Sunday. There you will see Christmas decorations, toys for the little ones, flowers and endless souvenirs.

Practical information

  • Where: Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, 15.
  • When: from 10:00 am until approximately 11:00 pm.
  • Price: free.

8. Enjoy the Christmas scene of the fashion quadrilateral

Inside the Gallery| ©Jorge Láscar
Inside the Gallery| ©Jorge Láscar

If you visit Milan in the month of December, you must stroll through the famous Fashion Quadrilateral, as this district combines the architectural beauty of its buildings with a picturesque Christmas scene worth admiring.

In this area you will see a large number of fashion houses and boutiques of well-known brands: Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Gucci Cavalli, Prada, among others. In addition, you will find several hairdressers and some luxury cafes.

You will be surprised with the Christmas lighting of the streets and decoration of the store windows, in which, in addition, you will see exhibited garments and accessories of the season. You will also be amazed by the architectural style of the buildings as you pass by.

9. Glide over the ice rink in Piazza Gae Aulenti

Piazza Gae Aulenti at Christmastime| ©Vittorio Cera
Piazza Gae Aulenti at Christmastime| ©Vittorio Cera

If you're in Milan for more than three days and want to have fun, head to Piazza Gae Aulenti in the Porta Nuova district. There, you will find a fabulous track and a nice Christmas atmosphere. On the way to the square you will also see the most modern architectural complex in the city.

You will see more than 25 buildings around Piazza Gae Aulenti, built during the 21st century as part of the reconstruction of the city. These include the famous Vertical Forest, the Unicredit skyscraper by Cesare Pelli and the glass building that serves as the headquarters for the Feltrinelli Foundation, among others.

Once at the skating rink, you can rent a pair of skates and glide across the surface. You'll also enjoy a colorful visual spectacle thanks to the fountains' Solar Tree lighting system, which uses the energy accumulated during the day.

10. Visit Leolandia theme park with the little ones at home

Christmas in Leolandia| ©Leonardo
Christmas in Leolandia| ©Leonardo

If you are in Milan for more than two days with your children you can go to the Leolandia theme park which, during the month of December, offers Christmas activities for the little ones (such as the skating rink) in addition to its usual areas such as the pirate ship, the little train, the roller coaster...

In addition, you will enjoy an atmosphere full of lights, artificial snow and decorations in keeping with the season. These are reasons enough for you to include this adventure among the things to do in Milan with children.

You will have to get on a bus and travel 40 kilometers from Milan to Capriate San Gervasio, where the Leolandia park is located.

Practical information

  • Where: Via Vittorio Veneto, 52.
  • When: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00. However, these hours change in low season and you should check on the official website.
  • Price: the average ticket price is 39 euros. Adults over 65 years old and children with a height of 90 to 119 centimeters, have a discount. Therefore, they pay approximately 34 euros.

Tourist inflow in Milan at Christmas time

Christmas lights and decorations| ©Dan Gold
Christmas lights and decorations| ©Dan Gold

The number of tourists in Milan during the Christmas season is in the intermediate range, i.e. the number of people in the streets is moderate. This is due to the winter weather characteristic of the month of December.

However, lovers of icy landscapes see in Milan a mandatory tourist destination to appreciate the beauty of its natural landscapes under a blanket of snow. Likewise, this time of year is perfect for walking quietly through the streets and queuing to enter the city's attractions without crowds.

How to protect yourself from the cold in Milan at Christmas?

New Year's Eve in Piazza Duomo| ©AndreasC
New Year's Eve in Piazza Duomo| ©AndreasC

During the Christmas period temperatures in the city of Milan can drop to 1°C, so you will need to keep warm throughout your stay. Be sure to wear winter clothing to conserve body heat for longer and keep these tips in mind:

  • Wear three layers of clothing (one close-fitting, the second a little loose and the last loose-fitting). This way, you will stay warm and control the humidity generated by sweating.
  • Use accessories for the head, neck and hands that allow you to protect from the cold the areas that the clothing does not cover. Ideally, wear a hat with ear muffs, a scarf and gloves.
  • Do not forget to wear winter shoes. Remember that this type of footwear will provide a good level of traction on the snow, preventing you from slipping unexpectedly when moving.