Known for centuries as the fashion capital of the world, Milan is also famous for art and, of course, football (that may be soccer to you). Although it isn’t often counted among the most kid-friendly of Italian destinations, it has all of the makings of a memorable family city break, with a lively combination of history and culture plus easy access to nearby airports.
A short stay in Milan pairs well with a visit to the Piemonte or the Lakes Region, both nearby. Here’s our three-day guide, complete with must-see sights and some latitude to pick what interests your family.
One of the biggest churches in the world, frosted with spires and sculptures, Milan’s Duomo is the centerpiece of the city. Entrance is free (there is a fee if you want to climb or take the elevator to the roof), but guards do monitor for appropriate dress — be sure to have shoulders and knees covered. Keep an eye out for the massive stained-glass windows. Afterward, lunch (and queue) at Luini like a local; try the panzerotti, a specialty of fried pastry filled with tomato and oozing cheese.
TIP: If you are game for another, more intimate, church, go around the corner to Santa Maria presso San Satiro to see architect Bramante’s trick-of-the-eye effect that makes this compact holy space seem much deeper than it is.
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In the afternoon, wander and marvel at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest shopping arcade in the world and and certainly one of the most glamorous. It was named in honor of the first king of the United Kingdom of Italy. Locals rave about the gelato at nearby Cioccolati Italiani, which features warm chocolate in the bottom of your cone.
Round out the day with a visit to La Scala, Milan’s famed opera house north of the Duomo, dating back to 1778. You can take a tour or attend a children’s opera performance or family concert, each with reduced pricing for children ages 6 to 18.
Choose your itinerary for the day based on what appeals most. If you’re art lovers and have your hearts set on seeing Da Vinci’s Last Supper, it is located in the tiny Basilica Santa Maria delle Grazie. You must book well in advance (two months ahead is suggested), as there is very limited access.
Fancy learning more about Da Vinci’s connection to Milan? Check out Leonardo’s Vineyard. They also offer an option to tour the vineyard and pay an extra fee for access to the Last Supper if you aren’t able to score advance tickets.
For soccer fanatics, Milan is home to not one but two massive clubs, AC Milan and FC Inter. The stadium, San Siro, is a world-famous temple of soccer. Take the tour, which offers visitors access to the dressing rooms, stands and even a walk through the player tunnel to the pitch.
If you have hardcore fashion-loving teens, consider a 30-minute trip outside the center of Milan to the Dolce & Gabbana outlet. More centrally located, Palazzo Morandi was once the Renaissance home of Milanese noble families and now showcases the former Museum of Milan fashion collection. There is also Armani Silos, which offers occasional guided tours spanning the history of the Armani label. Make sure to check the website in advance for this one.
Spend the morning at Sforzesco Castle in the sprawling Parco Sempione. The first castle on this site was built in the 1300s, but the current version was commissioned by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, in the 15th century. The castle contains Michelangelo’s final and uncompleted sculpture, the Pieta Rondanini, and frescoes by Da Vinci. It also hosts international art exhibits and events, including Milan Fashion Week.
Afterward, roam around the massive green spaces of Parco Sempione. Budding track stars may want to burn off some steam on the track at Arena Civica, a sporting arena built in 1807, open daily to the public. Don’t miss Arco della Pace, the dramatic marble-arch topped with winged chariots built to celebrate Napoleon’s victories.
The adjacent Brera neighborhood is known as the fashion and design center of Milan. Bustling with restaurants, shops and art galleries, it is also home to the National Library, the Astronomical Museum and the Botanical Gardens.
TIP: Keep an eye out for Gusella, a specialty shop that has been outfitting Milan’s fashionable children since 1932. There’s also the hip, design-forward 10 Corso Como, a bookshop, café and gallery started by Vogue Italia‘s editor and since replicated in a few other cities across the globe.
As you plan, note that many attractions and restaurants in Milan are closed on Sundays.
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