Milan, Italy’s exciting blend of old and new makes it a fun place for adults and kids alike. I’ll share my tips for visiting Milan with children, so that both you and the kids enjoy the city’s world-renowned fashion, art, architecture, music and culture.
Here’s my guide to deciding whether Milan is right for you and your family. I’ll also help you get the most out of Milan while keeping you and the munchkins happy.
I lived in Milan for a year in my early 20s, and have been back countless times since. My most recent visit was with my husband and 2 children.
Here are my tips about:
- Highlights and where it is
- Should I go to Milan with my kids?
- What (and how) to do in Milan with kids: the Duomo, the Galleria, shopping, toy stores, the fashion district, Sforza Castle, Piazza Gae Aulenti, riding trams, soccer games, concerts and more!
- Where to eat and drink near the Duomo
- What to eat and drink in Milan
- How to get around
- Where to stay
- How to get to Milan
- When to visit
I look forward to sharing my take on Milan with you. Andiamo! Let’s go!
Table of Contents
MILAN IN A NUTSHELL
Milan is likely to be the arrival or departure city for your trip to Italy. It’s home to Italy’s 2nd and 3rd busiest airports: Malpensa (MXP) and Bergamo/Ora al Serio (BGY).
Milan is Italy’s richest city, with the largest metropolitan area. But most of the most important sites in the city center are within walking distance of each other!
- is Italy’s finance and business engine
- is forward facing and trendsetting
- Is Italy’s fashion city
- oozes style
- has the hum and buzz of an important major city
- things generally work and are efficient
Before I moved there to study, people assured me I’d like Milan because it’s like New York City . . . um, no. Milan sleeps. It’s not frenetic. After all, it is Italian. It is manageable and has cute neighborhoods. But it also buzzes with the pulse of a modern city.
WHERE IS MILAN
Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region in northeastern Italy.
In Italian Milan is called Milano.
The pronunciation of Milano is: mee-LAH-noh
Listen to how to pronounce Milano here:
SHOULD I GO TO MILAN, ITALY WITH KIDS?
Sì! Yes! If you:
- want to experience modern italy
- like shopping
- like bustling cities
- are arriving or departing from a Milan airport and want to make the most of it
- like walking, since most important sights are within walking distance of each other
- are traveling with babies or older kids that don’t mind walking (not toddlers)
- have a budding fashionista, culture maven or opera singer
Skip it if you:
- hate cities
- have a toddler who hates riding in a stroller
- don’t like walking or taking public transportation
- dream of the Italian countryside
- want to see traditional Italy and quaint ancient villages
- really just want to relax by the pool with a glass of wine
WHAT TO DO IN MILAN WITH KIDS
Here’s my breakdown of the sights and a map so you can prioritize what looks most interesting to you and your children:
DON’T MISS: The Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
For young shopaholics and fashionistas: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Montenapoleone
Fountains, architecture, open space and playgrounds: Sforza Castle and Sempione Park, Piazza Gae Aulenti and BAM park
Transportation fans: Ride a vintage tram
Music lovers: Teatro alla Scala
Sports fans: San Siro Stadium
Art lovers with well behaved kids: Pinacoteca Brera and The Last Supper
Use this handy guide to Italian holidays so you can double check on when things may be closed. Italy celebrates holidays that don’t exist in the US, like May 1 and ferragosto. Throughout the year most museums are closed on Mondays. And remember: Milan’s patron saint day is Sant’Ambrogio on December 7.
VISITING THE DUOMO WITH KIDS
Milan’s major cathedral is a gothic marvel of white marble and gargoyles. If you only have time to see one thing in Milan, this is it.
Even if you don’t have time to go in, make sure you see the Duomo outside from the huge busy square, or piazza, out front (called the Piazza del Duomo). Both inside and outside there is plenty for kids and adults to see and enjoy.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE DUOMO WITH KIDS
- Buy your tickets online in advance, and decide if/how you’d like to climb to the roof (see below)
- Out on the piazza:
- Listen to buskers and watch street performers
- Chase pigeons
- Inside the cathedral there are plenty of treasures to find:
- Do a treasure hunt for scorpions, fish and other figures in the inlaid floor
- Look for stories in the stained glass windows
- Climb the Duomo:
- burn off some steam
- take in city views
- get up close to the gargoyles
BUYING DUOMO TICKETS
Unfortunately you can’t just wander into the Duomo: you now need a ticket to enter. Duomo tickets are for a specific date and entrance time. There are also Fast Track options.
Buy tickets online at the official website: there are family tickets available online only. Children under 5 are free.
You can also go to the ticket office (Piazza Duomo 14/A): it’s outside the Duomo and across the street on the south side (on the right as you’re facing the Duomo’s facade). The ticket office is open everyday from 9am to 6pm (closed on Christmas).
Bring along a lightweight scarf or long sleeve shirt in summer!
There are many rules for visiting the Duomo, including no bare shoulders or knees allowed. On our recent visit, guards outside were enforcing this rule and denying entry to scores of people: handily, there was a vending machine with lightweight body coverings in the ticket office.
CLIMBING THE DUOMO
From the roof, the Duomo offers incredible views of the piazza and the rooftops of Milan.
If you’d like to climb up and see the spires and gargoyles up close, you must buy a ticket. Tickets are for a specific date and entrance time.
To climb or not to climb? Luckily they’ve made it easy if you’ve got tired kids in tow: you can opt either to take the stairs up, or the elevator! Choose in advance when buying your tickets.
Keep in mind that if you bring your stroller, you must keep it folded the entire time. You must climb the stairs back down regardless of how you get up to the roof.
Chances are you may find yourself in need of a bathroom while at the Duomo. There are public bathrooms outside on the southwest corner (to the right as you face the facade) but be warned entry costs 2 euros (on our recent visit).
GALLERIA VITTORIO EMANUELE II WITH KIDS
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is right next to the Duomo, and another must-see that’s fun for kids as well as adults.
La Galleria– as the locals call it– is Italy’s oldest shopping arcade (built in 1877). It’s a feast for the eyes, with an elaborate mosaic floor, soaring iron and glass ceilings, frescoes, elegant cafés, and fancy stores like Prada and Gucci.
is the perfect place to soak in Milan’s trademark sophistication. First you just have to smoosh your way through the throngs of tourists and influencers taking selfies– make sure you keep your kids close so you don’t lose sight of each other.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE GALLERIA WITH KIDS
Take them to the bull! My kids get a kick out of it (and a giggle).
The most famous of the Galleria’s floor mosaics is the toro, or bull. Dig your heel into its testicles and spin around three times for good luck, local tradition says. So many people have dug in over the years that there is a groove worn into where the bull’s poor family jewels should be!
EATING AND DRINKING NEAR BY THE DUOMO AND THE GALLERIA
When you’re in Milan chances are you’ll find yourself in the Duomo area looking for a place to eat, have a drink or get a gelato.
Feeling fancy and don’t mind paying a premium for a meal or coffee? If you think your kids will appreciate it, head to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You’ll also find high prices along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the shopping street which runs from the Duomo to Piazza San Babila.
Allergic to extravagant pricing? Is it unfun going to restaurants with your kids? Do like the locals do and have your snack or gelato standing up.
For example, at Vanilla Gelati Italiani, tucked away behind the Duomo on Via Pattari 2, you can order decent gelato at the counter and eat it on the go, which costs less than their table menu.
Luini (Via Santa Radegonda 16) is a Milan institution for panzerotti (which are like fried pizza pockets). It’s cheap and delicious, just be prepared for the long lines. Antica Pizza Fritta da Zia Esterina Sorbillo (Via Agnello 19) serves fried pizza to go.
Tired of paying a fortune for water? Keep an eye out for the water fountain right at the Duomo’s northeast corner by the lift access, where you can fill up your water bottle and drink for free.
Read more about What to Eat in Milan.
SHOPPING IN MILAN WITH KIDS: IL CORSO
The street packed with shops that runs northeast from the Duomo to Piazza San Babila is called Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, but locals call it simply Il Corso. This is where to go shopping, people watching, parade around in your finest, and go window shopping.
You’ll find all the major Italian (and many international) chains, smaller shops, cafés and restaurants. Explore the streets leading off the Corso as well.
On my most recent trip I saw a surprising number of little girls dressed up for an outing, going with their mothers into clothing and makeup stores.
TIPS FOR SHOPPING ON CORSO VITTORIO EMANUELE WITH KIDS
Shopping with kids can be tricky: as in, you may want to actively avoid it (we did for years). Tantrums and the gimmies can make taking kids into stores extremely unpleasant.
You may prefer to skip the Corso altogether, or simply walk right down the middle of the street and tell your kids firmly that you’re going to stick to window shopping.
If you decide to take the plunge and go into toy stores, I recommend:
- Nano Bleu: this local toy store is hidden away off Piazza San Carlo along the Corso. It’s been around since 1949 and has 3 floors! Not only do they have Italian train sets, there are toy Italian police cars, Ferraris and Fiats too.
- The Lego store in Piazza San Babila has two floors and a Lego version of the Duomo!
Corso Vittorio Emanuele is great in wet weather or unrelenting hot sun, because it’s lined with porticoes. The porticoes will keep you dry from the rain, and offer shade from the sun.
VISITING MILAN’S FASHION DISTRICT WITH KIDS
Unless your kid is an aspiring fashionista or loves seeing glitz and fancy things, this is another Milan greatest hit that you may wish to skip.
Milan’s fashion district– Montenapoleone– is the city’s fanciest neighborhood. It was fun for my family on our last visit, if only because we stuck out like bedraggled sore thumbs and put surprised smiles on the serious doormen’s faces.
Milan’s fashion district is also called the Quadrilatero della Moda (Fashion Quadrilateral), or the Quad d’Oro (Golden Quad). Via Monte Napoleone is the heart of it, but there are also Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Gesù and Via Bigli to explore. You’ll find boutiques of the world’s biggest fashion names like Fendi, Prada, Versace, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton.
If you’re there to actually go shopping, I’m happy for you. My children would be like bulls in a china shop. Thankfully, if you’re just curious to see what Milan’s haute couture is all about, gazing in the shop windows from the sidewalk with your kids is free.
SFORZA CASTLE AND SEMPIONE PARK
Castello Sforzesco is a real castle right in the center of Milan! It dates back to the 1300s and is in Parco Sempione, the city center’s biggest park.
The Sforza Castle houses a surprising number of museums. There is the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco with works by Mantegna, Titian, Canaletto and Tintoretto; and the Rondanini Pietà Museum with Michelangelo’s last sculpture. The museums are closed on Mondays.
TIPS FOR VISITING SFORZA CASTLE AND SEMPIONE PARK WITH KIDS
First thing first: enjoy the glorious fountain in front of the castle.
In my opinion, with kids it’s best to visit the castle from the outside, especially because walking the grounds is free. Then let the kids loose and walk around in the park.
Make your way to the playground at the north end of Parco Sempione: there are play structures, some rides (like a little train), and even shade!
PIAZZA GAE AULENTI AND BAM PARK
Piazza Gae Aulenti is a modern development with large green spaces and a nice playground nearby. It’s a chance to see the new, forward looking face of Milan and let the kids run around.
Located near Garibaldi train station and trendy Corso Como, Piazza Gae Aulenti is a raised, round plaza flanked by new skyscrapers and towering modern buildings, as well as shops and places to eat. It was completed in 2012.
There is a lot for kids and adults to see: great views of the Vertical Forest skyscraper (Bosco Verticale), fountains, and an interactive art installation with golden trumpets called Egg by Alberto Garutti.
The Piazza Gae Aulenti complex leads out into the expansive rolling green lawns of BAM park (Biblioteca degli Alberi, or Tree Library). There’s a playground surrounded by weeping willow trees, with plenty of benches and a water fountain.
It was a great discovery for my family when we went this year. My kids loved running around and playing freely in all the open space. My husband and I liked getting away from the crowds and seeing a different, cutting edge side of Milan.
RIDE A VINTAGE TRAM
Sometimes we adults are jaded about getting around on public transportation, and forget that it can be a real adventure for kids!
Milan’s public metro, tram and bus system is extensive and can be a lot of fun for children. Especially the trams!
Take a step back in time and ride one of the city’s trademark trams from the early 1900s which are still in use on tram lines 1, 5 and 10.
Tram Line 1 winds its way along many of Milan’s most important tourist areas, including Sempione Park, Sforza Castle, Teatro alla Scala and Piazza Duomo (and near Central Station). You can either ride the tram for the fun of riding it, or use Line 1 strategically to get from Sempione Park to Piazza del Duomo, for example.
One adult ticket– valid for 90 minutes– costs just 2.20 euros (on our recent visit). Children under 14 years old ride for free!
The ATM app will come in handy to check routes and buy tickets, or you can go contactless. Just check here for details about where and when you need to tap out.
SAN SIRO: SEE A SOCCER GAME OR A CONCERT
Is your kid a big soccer fan? Seeing a soccer match is an exciting Italian rite of passage!
Calcio, or soccer, is the sport in Italy. Milan has not one but two Serie A soccer teams: AC Milan and Inter Milan. Both teams play at San Siro, Italy’s biggest stadium.
San Siro is one of the largest stadiums in Europe, and can seat over 80,000 people. As we discovered in July 2023, San Siro even has views of the Milan skyline from up in the nosebleed seats.
Die hard fans won’t want to miss the San Siro stadium museum and take a tour.
San Siro is also a concert venue. Italian stars like Laura Pausini and Vasco Rossi, and world-famous artists like Bruce Springsteen, U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform there on their European tours. Tickets are often less expensive in Italy than at major venues in the US, for example.
GO TO AN OPERA AT LA SCALA
If you have an aspiring opera singer or classical music fan in your family, Teatro della Scala is a must.
Teatro della Scala opera house is Italy’s most famous and esteemed theater. Its season of operas, classical music concerts and ballets opens on December 7, or the feast of Saint Ambrose, Milan’s patron saint.
La Scala hosts some of the world’s most esteemed musicians. It is also just an exciting place to go. There are six lush tiers of gold decorations and red velvet, and the audience gets dressed to the nines. It is a place for impeccably-mannered children (what I call unicorns), not noisy and rambunctious rugrats.
You can book tickets in advance online at the official website. If you can’t score tickets, you can take a tour or visit the theater museum.
PINACOTECA BRERA AND DA VINCI’S THE LAST SUPPER
These are two very important art sights in Milan that I have not done yet with my children. However, you may decide they are a good fit for you and your kids!
The Brera Painting Gallery, Pinacoteca Brera, houses masterpieces by Rafael, Caravaggio, Piero della Francesca, Francesco Hayez, Tintoretto and Modigliani, among others.
If you only have time to visit one art museum in Milan, this is it. Buy your Brera card and book your visit online at the official site. It is closed on Mondays.
Pinacoteca Brera sits in Milan’s artists’ quarter: the quaint Brera neighborhood: The Brera is also home to the esteemed Brera Art Academy. This trendy area is a pleasure to walk around, with small streets, restaurants, cafés, contemporary art galleries, and independent small shops.
THE LAST SUPPER
The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci’s renowned fresco, is called Il Cenacolo in Italian. It is in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie convent (a UNESCO World Heritage site), in west central Milan.
However, visiting the Last Supper isn’t something you can just do on a whim. You must reserve tickets for a specific date and time, and can do so online at the official ticket site. Be aware that tickets sell out quickly, and new tickets are released a few months in advance every three months.
Essential tip: If seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper is essential for you, make sure to book in advance. You may need to plan your trip to Milan around Last Supper availability.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK IN MILAN
Fashion is king in Milan, and that goes for food as well. Milan is the place to keep up with food trends, find food from all over the world (hard to do elsewhere in Italy), and be dazzled by great decor too.
Pasta bianca= the superhero dish that’s not on the menu! Most restaurants will be happy to make it for you, and it’s a lifesaver when eating out with kids in Italy.
Pasta bianca means white pasta, and is plain pasta without any sauce. Pasta all’olio is pasta with olive oil, and pasta al burro is pasta with butter. Yes, even some Italian kids are picky eaters!
If you and your family have a craving for non-Italian food, Milan is the easiest place to find it. International cuisine can be found all over the city.
Milan is home to local specialties that have become popular all over Italy and the world. Keep an eye out for:
- Risotto alla milanese (Risotto allo zafferano): saffron risotto
- Cotoletta alla milanese: breaded, fried veal cutlet
- Osso buco: braised veal shank
Italy’s most famous Christmas cake, panettone, is from Milan. You can find industrial versions all over the country in grocery stores. Look for an artisanal one in a local bakery to try the real deal.
GETTING AROUND MILAN
Just don’t do it.
Even though Milan is a huge city, most of the city’s main sites are within walking distance from each other. In fact, all of the important attractions I’ve recommended here are concentrated in the center, within a 10-20 minute walk from the Duomo.
Exceptions are The Last Supper (a 25-minute walk from the Duomo), Piazza Gae Aulenti (a 40-minute walk from the Duomo), and San Siro stadium (take the metro for this one).
Milan’s metro (subway) system is extensive and will take you close to most of the places you want to go. However, to get around the city center near the Duomo, usually it’s easier and more direct just to walk. And you get to see more of the city too.
I like using the Milan metro for going long distances. ATM, Milan’s public transport company, even has an app now to help you get around. You can buy tickets on the app or go contactless, by using your credit card to pay as you go directly at the turnstiles.
Remember, children under 14 years old ride for free!
TRAMS AND BUSES
I am a huge fan of Milan’s trams and buses. Back when I lived in Milan I used them to learn the lay of the land and understand the city’s layout. The routes spread out over the city like veins and arteries, and there’s almost always a bus or tram to hop on within a block or two.
The ATM app will come in handy to check routes and buy tickets, or you can go contactless, just check here for details about where and when you need to tap out.
There are plenty of taxis in Milan, but you can’t hail one on the street. Either:
- Go to a taxi stand. Here’s a map of Milan’s taxi stands: they’re located outside of train stations and near major attractions
- Call for a taxi:, (+39) 026969, (+39) 028585, (+39) 5353 and (+39) 024040 are just a few of the local cab companies
- Order a cab an app like Apptaxi or Intaxi
Taxis are white, and there is a minimum fare price. If you call for a taxi, just be aware that the meter starts running once it’s on its way to you (not when you get in).
The Uber app works in Italy but not the same way that it does in the US. It connects you to licensed local taxis and NCC (a car with a driver, or noleggio con conducente), and is also very controversial. In my opinion it makes sense to do like the locals and use one of the local taxi options above.
WHERE TO STAY
Milan accommodation runs the wide gamut from decadently luxurious hotels to simple hostels. There is something for every budget (almost– Milan isn’t cheap), and style: over the years I’ve stayed in 5 star hotels, basic B&Bs, and cozy apartment rentals in Milan.
Whatever your budget, my personal preference is to stay away from the Duomo area in a residential neighborhood in order to get a feel of the city’s everyday life. Just a few metro stops out, there are little family owned businesses instead of big flagship and chain stores. I like giving myself and my family a chance to wind down and regroup.
I recommend picking a neighborhood with easy tram or metro service to the center. Every neighborhood has a fruit and vegetable store, bakery, local restaurants, and coffee bars where the owners know the local regulars. Some ideas: off of Via Cenisio, Corso Vercelli or Corso Buenos Aires (an important shopping street).
There is plenty of affordable accommodation near the Central Station. I lived a couple blocks northwest of the station. It’s generally safe, but keep in mind it’s not a great idea to walk around the station area late at night.
HOW TO GET TO MILAN
The Milan area has 3 international airports:
Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) is 49 km northwest of Milan. To get to the center of Milan:
- The Malpensa Express train leaves every 30 minutes to Milan Centrale station (approximately 1 hr ride).
- Four bus companies run service to Milan’s Central train station, leaving every 20 minutes. (approximately 1 hr ride, subject to traffic)
- Taxis from Malpensa airport to the center of Milan have a fixed flat rate that is now over 100 euros (see the taxi section above)
Milan Bergamo Airport (BGY) is in Ora al Serio, 45 km from Milan. The most direct ways to get to the center of Milan are:
- Terravision bus, which runs about every 30 minutes (50 minute ride)
- Orio shuttle bus to Milan Central station, which runs every 30 minutes (50 minute ride, subject to traffic)
- By taxi: there isn’t a flat rate, so the ride can cost well over 80 euros
Milan Linate Airport (LIN) is just 7 km east of Milan. The most direct ways to get to the center of Milan are:
- By metro: take the M4 subway line to San Babila
- Linate Shuttle bus to Milan Central station, which runs every hour (25 minute ride, subject to traffic)
- By taxi: there isn’t a flat rate, the ride costs approximately 30-40 euros.
Milan has direct service from Venice, Florence, and Rome, on high speed trains to Milano Centrale station, the main train station. It’s Europe’s second largest station, busy with trains coming in from far and wide.
Wherever you’ll be arriving from, in Italy you have two railway companies to choose from:
- Trenitalia, the Italian state train company that runs to towns big and small. It offers both regular (i.e. slow) regional trains, and high speed service. The high speed trains are called Frecciarossa, Frecciargento and Frecciabianca.
- Italo is a private railway company that offers high speed service to major and strategic cities only.
Read my guide to the Milan Train Station.
I don’t recommend driving into Milan. Milan has a great public transportation system: I say take advantage of it!
Parking is expensive and a pain. Driving means negotiating traffic, trying to stay out of ZTL zones (areas closed to general traffic), dealing with one way streets, and sharing the road with trams.
WHEN TO VISIT MILAN WITH KIDS
If you’re flying in or out of Milan, I recommend taking an extra day to explore the city, no matter what time of year! In fact, many people end up visiting Milan when they’re on their way to or back from other Italian destinations.
Spring (March and April) and fall (September and October) are good times to visit Italy in general, and Milan is no exception! The summer hordes have gone home, and it usually isn’t too cold.
Milan is a world fashion capital: keep in mind that the women’s fashion weeks are held every year in February or March and September or October, while men’s fashion weeks are in January and June. This affects hotel prices and availability.
If you and your family don’t mind the cold, December is also a great time to visit. Milan’s patron saint day, Sant’Ambrogio (Saint Ambrose), is on December 7th, and kicks off the city’s Christmas festivities. The Duomo area is donned with lights and decorations, the shops get all decked out, and Christmas markets pop up (like Oh bej! Oh bej!).
Milan is a fun place in December, but make sure to bundle up. In winter, fog descends on the city and it gets cold. I’ve faced my share of New England winters but the cold of Milan got under my skin and in my bones when I lived there. Pack warm– and stylish– clothes!