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10 Things to Do in Milan at Christmas

Experience Milan's Christmas traditions like a local. Do some shopping, taste the local gastronomy and walk through the city's natural spaces while observing breathtaking icy landscapes.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 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 lighting of the Christmas tree, 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 lighting of the imposing Christmas tree 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 lighting of the Christmas tree 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.

Once you are in the Duomo, you will be amazed by the imposing Christmas tree: its branches covered with snow, 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.

In addition, that day you will get a flea market in the vicinity to taste sweets and Italian street food. You can also buy souvenirs, Christmas items and winter clothing.

Book your guided tour of the Milan Duomo

2. Celebrate the traditions of the Milanese and 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, their patron saint and protector. In addition, with this celebration they officially welcome Christmas.

Join this traditional activity and enjoy the atmosphere of celebration through the colorful streets of Milan and the warmth transmitted by its inhabitants.

You should go to the Basilica of San Ambroglio and walk around it, where you will find a number of street stalls. You will find:

  • Antiques and handicrafts.
  • Gastronomy with the best traditional taste of Milan.
  • Sweets and a variety of drinks, including the famous vin brulé spiced wine.

Also, during this celebration you can enjoy the fair Oh Bej! Oh Bej! fair, which starts on December 5 and ends on December 8. There you will see Christmas decorations, toys for the little ones, flowers and countless souvenirs. Also, you will get handmade objects, cookies and some delicacies characteristic of the winter season.

Practical information

  • Where: Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, 15.
  • When: The celebration takes place on December 7 every year, from 10:00 am until about 11:00 pm.
  • Price: Free of charge.

3. Enjoy the Christmas lights all over Milan from above: Climb the Branca Tower in Sempione Park

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

Just a few minutes away from the Milan Castle in the old city center is the Sempione Park and, inside it, the Branca Tower, from which you will get an amazing overview of the city. Climb up to this steel terrace and enjoy the Christmas lights of the whole city.

When you reach the tower you will take an elevator that will allow you to travel inside the 91 meters high structure. You will live an unforgettable experience in which the protagonists are the winter weather and the blanket of lights over the city.

Once at the highest point of the Torre Branca, that is, on the upper 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.

This tour lasts approximately 5 minutes and is ideal for the Christmas season. So, if you don't knowwhat to see and do in Milan in 2 days, you could incorporate this activity into your tour of the old town.

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 tend to change according to weather conditions, so you should check them beforehand.
  • Price: The average price of the entrance to the Torre Branca is 5 euros. On the other hand, the entrance to the Sempione Park is free.

4. Enjoy the Christmas scene of the fashion quadrilateral in December and get to know the most sophisticated stores in Milan

Inside the Galleria| ©Jorge Láscar
Inside the Galleria| ©Jorge Láscar

If you visit Milan in December you must walk 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 find a large number of fashion houses and boutiques of renowned 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. Also, the architectural style of the buildings will capture your attention.

Undoubtedly, the Fashion Quadrilateral, formed by the streets Via Alessandro Manzoni, Via Montenapoleone, Via Sant'Andrea and Via della Spiga, is a good choice if you do not know what to see and do in Milan in 3 days. A must-see Christmas destination for high-end couture enthusiasts and lovers of the Christmas atmosphere.

5. Glide over the ice rink in Piazza Gae Aulenti and see the most modern architectural complex in Milan

Piazza Gae Aulenti at Christmas time| ©Vittorio Cera
Piazza Gae Aulenti at Christmas time| ©Vittorio Cera

If you want to have fun on ice during your visit to Milan, you will have to head to Piazza Gae Aulenti in the Porta Nuova district. There, you will find a fabulous rink 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, 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 will also enjoy a colorful visual spectacle, thanks to the fountains' Solar Tree lighting system, which uses the energy accumulated during daylight hours.

6. During your visit to Milan, try the city's 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 should take a tour of some of the city's pastry shops and try the traditional Christmas desserts. This is an activity that you can do on your own or by getting on one of the best tourist buses with free stops.

During the tour you will be able to taste:

  • 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, bars and any variant of this exquisite ingredient.
  • Nuts, which, although mostly prepared with products (walnuts, almonds, figs, hazelnuts, etc.) from different parts of the world, are also a sweet that the Milanese crave every Christmas.

Certainly in Milan you will find dozens of pastry shops where you can try the above mentioned sweets during your Christmas visit.

However, there are businesses with a tradition of more than 200 years such as Pasticceria Cova, Vergani family tradition pastry shop, Sant Ambroeus confectionery, among many others.

7. Enjoy the Christmas atmosphere of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II while eating, shopping or visiting its museums

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.

A good option if you do not know what to see and do in Milan in 4 days, as it offers you a perfect setting to take pictures and enjoy a whole afternoon.

In addition, this emblematic building of more than 2700 square meters houses several commercial spaces for you to eat, make seasonal purchases and much more. For example, you will find:

  • Fashion stores belonging to houses such as Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada, among others.
  • Restaurants, cafes and bakeries with Christmas sweets. Also, places to try a good appetizer.
  • Bookstores with history in the city, such as Rizzoli and Bocca.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci Museum and the Prada Observatory, which you can access by paying an entrance fee starting at 10 euros.

Also, you can climb to the roof of the gallery to enjoy a vibrant view of the city, covered by Christmas lights. This activity usually takes place on Saturdaysand Sundays between 12:00 and 21:00. To do so, you will have to pay an entrance fee of approximately 12 euros.

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

8. Enjoy the Christmas atmosphere of the Navigli canals in December: lights, picturesque flea markets and much more

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

Touring the canals of Navigli in December is an activity that you can not fail to incorporate into the 10 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. You will also see the picturesque markets, where you will find a great display of Christmas products and an endless number of handicrafts, antiques and street food.

In addition to strolling along the emblematic canals and buying souvenirs at the Christmas markets, you can enter any bar or restaurant in this district and enjoy the aperitif hour from 7:00 p.m.

In each of these places you will find exquisite drinks, a varied buffet with Italian dishes and a true Christmas atmosphere with decorations, lights and music.

9. Visit the Leolandia theme park and experience a different Christmas adventure with the little ones of the house

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

If you are in Milan with your children you can go to the Leolandia theme park, which, during the month of December offers Christmas activities for the little ones.

In addition, you will enjoy several attractions typical of the park and 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 kids.

You will have to board a bus and travel 40 kilometers from Milan to Capriate San Gervasio, where Leolandia Park is located.

In this way, both you and the little ones can begin to stroll through the available attractions and themed areas: pirate ship, little train, roller coaster, aquarium, orchard, reptile house and Italy in miniature, among others.

There are also food stands and areas to sit and rest. However, the biggest attraction at this time of the year is the skating rink, which is available for the whole family. Also, the colorful Christmas tree and the foam rain will capture your attention.

Practical information

  • Where: Via Vittorio Veneto, 52.
  • When: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. 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.

10. Take a scenic train ride from Milan to the Swiss Alps and enjoy an unforgettable alpine landscape

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

On your trip through Milan you must travel by train to the Swiss Alps and enjoy one of the most beautiful alpine landscapes. This is the scenic route of the famous Bernina Express red train, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

During the journey, you will see imposing glacial lakes, majestic snow-capped mountains and a 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. You will have plenty of time to take in the architecture, admire the snowy landscape and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee or Swiss chocolate before returning.

Practical information

  • Where: The tour runs from Tirano to St. Moritz.
  • When: Every day of the week.
  • Price: 40 euros (approx.)

Book your excursion from Milan to the Swiss Alps

Tourist flow 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, that is to say, the traffic 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.

  • Wear three layers of clothing (one close-fitting, the second a little loose and the last one loose-fitting). In this way, you will stay warm and control the moisture generated by sweating.
  • Use accessories for the head, neck and hands, which allow you to protect from the cold the areas that the clothing does not cover. Ideally, you should 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.