10 Things to Do in Milan in Winter

Enjoy Christmas, New Year and the fashion week and take the opportunity to discover the Swiss Alps on a Unesco heritage train. All at low season prices.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

12 min read

10 Things to Do in Milan in Winter

Milan in Winter | ©Luca Cattaneo

Milan is a city that, despite the low temperatures of the winter season, does not stop its tourist activities. On the contrary, you will find plenty of things to do outdoors, whether it is walking the streets of the city, visiting historical sites or joining one of the tours and excursions to discover the natural wonders of this region. The important thing is that you will always have something to see and do in Milan during your visit.

Certainly, this is usually the tourist destination of hundreds of people, who enjoy walking on a blanket of snow, while admiring the architectural beauty of the Italian city, taste its gastronomy and live the local traditions. For this reason, we present you some of the activities that you can't miss during your visit to Milan in winter.

1. Enjoy Christmas in Milan: Tour the city while visiting the street markets and fairs

Christmas markets in the Piazza Duomo| ©Claudio e Lucia
Christmas markets in the Piazza Duomo| ©Claudio e Lucia

The beginning of the cold season in Milan coincides with the beginning of Christmas, so the month of December is one of the best opportunities for sightseeing in the city. You will find street markets and fairs to buy Christmas decorations, souvenirs, handicrafts, antiques and much more.

You can walk through the streets of the city and head to Piazza Duomo. There you will find a majestic Christmas tree, which will capture your attention immediately due to its large size and lighting. Also, in the surroundings you will find some markets with many interesting objects and products.

Another option is the Christmas fair O'Bej O'Bej that, for a month (from December 7 to January 7), brings together an average of 400 artisans in the vicinity of the historic Sforzesco Castle.

Also, if you find yourself in Milan during the last and first month of the year, you will have to go to the Pagano district, where the Banco di Garabombo takes place. This is an innovative exhibition that offers locals and tourists a host of eco-sustainable products.

But, if you have gone to Milan with children and want to provide them with fun, then your must-see destination is Porta Venezie, as this district annually hosts the Villaggio delle Meraviglie flea market. You will find souvenirs, food, a skating rink and Christmas attractions for children.

Practical info

  • Hours: The markets and fairs are open every day from the first week of December until the first week of January. You only have to go from 10:00 to 21:00 hours.
  • Price: Admission to the markets and fairs in Milan is free.

Book a guided tour of Milan

2. Don't miss out on the winter sales in Milan and add designer clothes to your closet!

Taking advantage of the sales| ©Sam Lion
Taking advantage of the sales| ©Sam Lion

During your stay in Milan during the winter, don't miss the incredible sale season in stores and boutiques all over the city. You will get clothes from renowned designers, shoes, bags and accessories. All of them at an incredible price. So you can add new pieces to your closet.

You should know that the winter sale is scheduled for the months of January and February, being the first of them the most recommended. This is because there is more variety in clothing and products. However, in the second month of the year prices are even more favorable.

You can visit stores of renowned brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Versace, Armani, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, among others.

Just go to the city center and you will find the Quadrilatero della Moda, formed by Montenapoleone, Della Spiga, Manzoni and Sant'Andrea streets. Enter this district and you will find fashion, an atmosphere full of elegance and fascinating architecture.

You should take a stroll along Corso Buenos Aires and Corso Vittorio Emanuele or, if you wish, go to the shopping malls located on the outskirts of the Italian city.

You also have the option of shopping in smaller stores that, although they do not sell world famous brands, offer quality products.

3. Time to glide on the ice rinks of Milan, there is no age limit!

Milan Skating Rink| ©Ralf Steinberger
Milan Skating Rink| ©Ralf Steinberger

In Milan, ice skating is quite a popular activity during the winter season. No matter if you are a kid or an adult, the rinks are waiting for you. So, think no more about what to see and do in Milan in 2 days and incorporate this visit to your list of activities, I assure you that you won't regret it!

You can head to Mediolanum Forum, Piazza Gae Aulenti or Piazza Primo Maggio. At any of these points you will find beautiful skating rinks that, for a price of less than 10 euros, will allow you to live a fun experience that you will hardly forget. All you have to do is rent skates outside the rink, put them on and start gliding across the icy surface.

Remember that it doesn't matter if you are not a professional skater, you can always glide at your own pace. Likewise, if it's your first time on ice and you feel a little scared, you can take advantage of the winter scenery and lighting to take some souvenir photos.

Practical information

  • Address: Mediolanum Forum, located in Via Giuseppe di Vittorio; Piazza Gae Aulenti in Porta Nuova and Piazza Primo Maggio in Sesto San Giovanni.
  • Hours: The ice rinks are usually open from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
  • Price: The average ticket price is from 10 euros.

4. Make the most of your stay in Milan in winter: attend two major fashion events held annually

Fashion Show| ©Gabriel
Fashion Show| ©Gabriel

If you are a lover of design, trends and fashion, you can't miss your visit to the Italian city during the winter period. Attend two of the most important events of men's and women's fashion, where the autumn-winter collections are presented.

The calendar for the presentation of the autumn-winter collection usually takes place during January and February, in the women's and men's categories. Thus, it is expected that you can see more than 100 fashion shows at the Milan fashion week.

You will have the honor of observing haute couture garments, belonging to famous firms: Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Armani, among others. Likewise, you will not be able to take your eyes off the coats, sweaters, jackets, suits, pants, shirts and winter accessories, presented by the emerging talent of the country with international projection.

In addition, while attending all these parades you will have the opportunity to admire the architectural beauty of the city.

This is because the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana holds the events in various iconic sites of the city such as Piazza della Scala, the Bocconi University, the Fondazione Prada and the Quadrilatero d'Oro.

Practical information

  • How to attend: Attendance to this pair of events is by invitation only, meaning that you must register on the site of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion. There, you must meet certain requirements that certify that you are a blogger, photographer, stylist, fashion journalist, among others.
  • Price: The events of the autumn-winter fashion week are free of charge.

5. Taste the traditional Milanese gastronomy in winter and warm up with a delicious drink

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

On your trip to Milan during the winter season, nothing better than venturing out to enjoy its gastronomy accompanied by an exquisite wine. In addition, you can warm up with a cup of coffee or bubbly chocolate. For this, you will have at your disposal restaurants, bars, pastry shops and cafes, located in the different districts of the city.

Start your gastronomic tour in the paticcerias of the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle. There, you will get a delicious panettone, which is a dessert originated in Milan, traditionally used in the Christmas feast in many countries around the world. Also, if you have the opportunity you should visit Viale Coni Zugna street, where you will find pastry shops and cafes with a delicious espresso.

If you pass through Porta Ticinese, Navigli, Milan's Chinatown or the Arco della Pace area, you will come across a number of restaurants and bars, where after 7 p.m. and until 8 p.m. you will find a variety of snacks.

Also, if you want to eat the traditional Milanese stuffed potatoes, you will have to go to the Naviglio Grande neighborhood. But, if you are interested in wines, the obligatory stop is in Via Corsico, where you will find the most important wine production cellars and some places where you can taste the beverages.

Definitely, the gastronomic options in this Italian city are varied. You just have to know how to choose the place where you will eat and, thus, you will not only enjoy real delicatessen with the tradition of Milan, but you will also be able to do it observing a wonderful view of the city.

Book a gastronomic tour of Milan

6. Bernina Express: the ideal winter route between Milan and Switzerland

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

If you have decided to visit Milan during the winter months, it is because you are a lover of snowy landscapes and enjoy the cold characteristic of the season. Therefore, you should venture on the famous Bernina Express railway route, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

This way, you can travel from the Italian city to Switzerland and admire all the natural beauty that this region has to offer.

To start this excursion from Milan to the Swiss Alps you must travel by bus to Tirano, the closest city to the border between Italy and Switzerland.

From there you will depart aboard the so-called little red train, from whose cars you will have an unparalleled view of the Bernina Pass, Lake Como and finally the Swiss Alps.

Upon arriving in the town of San Moritz, you will get off the emblematic train to begin the tour through the elegant streets of the aforementioned place, drink a cup of Swiss chocolate and taste the local gastronomy. All this, while you admire the majesty of the glacial lakes and imposing mountains.

Practical information

  • Where: You will be able to board a bus at the Milan train station in Piazza Duca d'Aosta and upon arrival in Tirano connect with the Bernina Express.
  • Duration: The transfer from Milan to Tirano takes 2 hours and 15 minutes, while the journey on the Bernina Express to San Moritz takes about 4 hours.
  • Price: The ticket for the bus from Milan to Tirano costs approximately 12 euros. On the other hand, the average ticket price for the Bernina Express is 40 Euros.

Book your excursion to the Swiss Alps from Milan

7. Opera, Ballet and winter recitals at the Teatro alla Scala

Teatro alla Scala| ©Jean-Christophe BENOIST
Teatro alla Scala| ©Jean-Christophe BENOIST

The Museo Teatrale alla Scala is a must-see destination among the 10 things to do in Milan in December, as this is the month when the theater season starts.

You will enjoy opera, ballet and theater, in the only historical site in the city dedicated to these genres. The halls of the Museo Teatrale alla Scala are an indescribable combination of architectural beauty and history, dating back more than four centuries.

By attending the recitals, you will not only be treated to a unique spectacle, featuring prodigies of the famous melodrama and dance genre. You will also have the opportunity to admire the delicate ornaments inside the building, as well as oil paintings depicting the evolution of opera and ballet.

Practical information about the Swiss Alps

  • Where: The Teatro alla Scala is located via Filodrammatici 2 Milano.
  • Hours: Recitals at the Teatro alla Scala are usually held between 20:00 and 21:00.
  • Price: The average ticket price for the recitals is from 70 euros.

Book your visit to the Teatro alla Scala

8. Be dazzled by the natural beauty of Lake Como and its picturesque surrounding villages

Lake Como and Snowy Alps| ©Giuliana
Lake Como and Snowy Alps| ©Giuliana

Lake Como, considered the third largest lake in Europe, attracts annually a large number of tourists who, like you, want to enjoy its dazzling natural beauty.

Join one of the excursions to Lake Como from Milan and see the characteristic alpine scenery of the region while touring the picturesque surrounding villages.

Once in the town of Como you will get plenty of activities to have fun and spend an unforgettable day:

  • Walk along the shores of the lake while detailing the fragile layer of ice formed on the surface of the water. In addition, you will find the boats paralyzed and covered with snow waiting for the change of season.
  • Climb the Voltiano Lighthouse and get a beautiful panoramic view of the lake. You can also catch a glimpse of the famous Swiss Alps on the horizon.
  • Take a funicular ride from the town of Brunate and when you reach the viewpoint you can enjoy the scenery even more.

Depending on the time you have, you can walk through the surrounding villages to admire the predominant Renaissance architecture and even stay for a night. In this way, you will not only enjoy the alpine and panoramic view of the lake, but also taste the local gastronomy and interact with the locals.

Book your excursion to Lake Como from Milan

9. Ambrosian Carnivals: celebrate a historical-religious festival of the Milanese people

Ambrosiano Carnival| ©Amanda Milan
Ambrosiano Carnival| ©Amanda Milan

Although the dates may vary from one year to another, a very attractive plan if you go to Milan during the months of February or March is to participate in the Ambrosian Carnivals. It is a historical-religious celebration, held in honor of St. Ambrose and valued by all Milanese.

During your tour of Milan at this time, you will see a picturesque atmosphere in Piazza Duomo and in the surrounding districts. In addition, you will be able to have fun with the series of activities organized by the locals and city leaders:

  • Street performances.
  • Dance shows.
  • Musical concerts.
  • Parades with colorful costumes.

You will find on your way several street food stalls, crafts and antiques. Therefore, you will have the opportunity to taste some typical foods of the season, such as chiacchiere, a fried dough lightly coated with refined sugar. You can also buy a souvenir of your visit to Milan in these markets.

10. Attend the free New Year's Eve concert and celebrate the arrival of a new year in Piazza Duomo

New Year in Piazza Duomo| ©AndreasC
New Year in Piazza Duomo| ©AndreasC

If you are in Milan on New Year's Eve you can't miss the traditional New Year's Eve concert, held in Piazza Duomo. This is a free event, where you can enjoy the performance of Italian singer-songwriters and international guests. In addition, the atmosphere is complemented by classical music and some sets by a DJ.

When you approach the Piazza Duomo and its surroundings, you will get a panoramic view full of color and excitement. Hundreds of Milanese and tourists gathered, stalls with typical food of the celebration, wines and other beverages to taste.

Definitely, a good plan for you to spend the winter in Milan is to welcome the year in its bosom. Therefore, you should not omit this concert during your stay in the city and incorporate it among the 10 things to see and do in Milan's Duomo Square, you will not regret it!

Practical info

  • Where: Piazza Duomo in the historical area of the city of Milan.
  • Hours: From 9:00 p.m. onwards.
  • Price: The activities are free.

Book tickets to the Duomo in Milan

Winter in Milan

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

Winter in Milan begins around December 22 and lasts until March 21. During this time, temperatures can range from -1 to 9 degrees Celsius, with some precipitation. Also, snowfalls are recorded, so sometimes the temperature can drop to negative levels.

Another peculiarity of the winter season in the city of Milan is that the days are much shorter compared to other times of the year. This is due to the late sunrise in winter. Therefore, each day begins at approximately 8:00 a.m. and by 5:00 p.m. there is no more sunlight around.

Prices in Milan during the winter

Money in Euros| ©Pixabay
Money in Euros| ©Pixabay

When talking about prices during the winter in Milan there are significant differences. In the month of December some activities, tours, excursions and transfers between the airport and Milan, usually have a high value. This is due to the moderate influx of tourists during the Christmas period.

On the other hand, January and February are recorded as low season months and, therefore, are days of great discounts in all stores and tourist attractions in the Italian city. For this reason, lovers of cold weather find winter to be the best time to visit Milan from an economic point of view.