Things to do in Milan right after moving

Milan offers its residents an endless list of things to enjoy. Read this guide to find out what the best things to do in Milan are.


6 minute read
Updated on 21 Nov 2022

Besides attracting millions of tourists each year, Milan also welcomes thousands of expats. After all, the capital of Italy's Lombardy region is one of the best cities in the country, making a population of over 1.3 million call Milan their home.

If you’re one of those expats moving to Milan soon, you must be wondering “What is there to do in Milan?”. There's plenty to do once you've settled in your new house in Milan:

  1. Explore the neighbourhoods
  2. Visit the cultural hotspots
  3. Visit unusual places that aren't touristy
  4. Discover Milan's nightlife
  5. Find expat groups
  6. Discover places near Milan for daytrips

Explore Milan’s neighborhoods

Regardless of which area of Milan you relocate to, it's good to get familiar with all of the city’s 9 districts as it'll help you get your bearings in the first few weeks. And who knows, it might also help you find a neighbourhood you'd love to live in!

Of the 9 districts, the most notable ones are Navigli, Brera and Porta Venezia.

Things to do in Navigli, Milan

The Navigli district is on the south side of Milan. The area is popular for its canals and buzzing atmosphere in the evenings.

One of the best ways of getting to know the area is to take a boat along the Naviglio Grande canal during the day. Afterwards, go into the district and explore what it has to offer.

By evening, The Navigli neighborhood transforms into a buzzing hotspot for those looking to enjoy a good meal in one of the many restaurants or simply have aperitivo with friends at one of the bars. There're also a number of clubs and live music venues if you're looking for something more lively.

Things to do in Brera, Milan

Brera is a historic neighborhood in Milan. Whether you're interested in art, history, nature, or shopping, there's always something to enjoy in this vibrant district.

One of the things you should check out after moving to Milan is the Pinacoteca di Brera art museum. The museum is one of the most important ones in Italy since it houses renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Raphael.

Another must-see is Palazzo di Brera, an 18th-century palace. This is where you’ll find a breathtaking library and an astronomy observatory.

Brera is also where you’ll find Giardino Botanico. This is a mesmerizing botanical garden that is maintained by the University of Milan. The beautiful gardens are nestled among some of the busiest streets in Milan, yet it’ll make you feel like you’re far away from civilization. Here you’ll find a seemingly endless choice of walking paths surrounded by all types of spectacular plants.

Once you’re done exploring Brera, visit one of the cafes in the area. Brera is popular with its coffee culture, which makes it a great spot to enjoy a warm brew while people watching.

Moleskine Café is a great coffee spot that combines literature with traditional coffee. Stop by and check out this unique cafe.

Things to do in Porta Venezia, Milan

Porta Venezia is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Milan. Whether you're looking to shop, sightsee, or just relax, Porta Venezia certainly has something for you!

Start exploring this district at the Corso Buenos Aires boulevard, one of the most famous streets in the whole of Milan, with many shops for a variety of budgets.

Once you’re there, you’ll find that the Giardini Indro Montanelli park is right under your nose. This is the oldest park in Milan and is filled with secluded spots for you to relax and enjoy the pleasant weather.

Visiting the cultural hotspots in Milan

Technically, Milan is a museum in itself, but there're some special locations around the city that can’t be missed when living there.

One of the most special locations in the whole of Milan is Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, the basilica where Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco “The Last Supper” is. The number of visitors that're allowed every day is limited and you’ll have to book your visit well in advance.

The Duomo cathedral is another notable landmark in Milan. Being the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world, Duomo presents its visitors with an astonishing panoramic view of Milan. Be ready to show this to every friend or family member who comes to visit you in the city.

La Scala is a world-renowned opera house. Even if you’re not a fan of opera, the building itself is a work of art, and there're ballet performances and symphony orchestra concerts taking place on a regular basis. Legend has it that you can’t say that you live in Milan if you haven’t been to La Scala at least once.

These're just some of the cultural hotspots that Milan has to offer. But don't just stop there. To truly know Milan and become a local, try out these unusual spots that only locals know about.

Unusual things to do in Milan

Milan is much more than just traffic, frantic rhythms, shopping, and fancy clubs. It preserves wonderful and still little known places along the historic streets. There're the places that mostly locals know of.

Idroscalo di Milano

Just outside the city centre, you’ll find the place where locals come to relax and enjoy: Idroscalo di Milano. Idroscalo is one of the biggest parks in Italy and was once a seaport. Today, there’re lots of water bodies that allow for plenty of water sports, such as water skiing, rowing, sailing, or swimming.

The park also has gardens where you can picnic or barbeque, bike paths for cycling, and trails for running or skating. On the west side of the lake, there’s "The Children's Village", a large playground where kids can have fun on tubes, slides, bridges and walkways!

In front of Idroscalo, you’ll find Europark Idrasco Milano. This amazing amusement park has free entry and many attractions for children and adults of all ages. If you want to go on rides, you’ll need to purchase a ticket. Go on Tuesdays and Thursdays when all rides cost €1!

Cimitero Monumentale

If visiting a cemetery isn't a thing you would do, you'll have to reconsider it in Milan.

The Monumental Cemetery is actually a massive open-air museum, spanning over 250,000 square meters. Walking around this cemetery will give you the impression of walking through an otherworldly city, complete with streets and squares, artistic graves, and detailed sculptures and statues. There’s even an ossuary and a necropolis.

Quartiere Giardino

This small oasis of colourful houses near the centre of Milan resembles the neighbourhood Burano in Venice or Notting Hill in London.

This district is a symbol of Milan's industrial and working-class heritage. In 1889, a housing cooperative decided to build a human-scale neighbourhood to house the many workers in the area, also known as the "Rainbow Quarter".

In addition, if you love furnishings and design, you shouldn’t miss Penelope Market in Via Melloni. Inside, you can get lost among the various types of design furniture, such as coloured velvet sofas, gold mirrors, ceramic vases, leather clothes and vintage jewellery.

Prepare to be transported back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, because there’s something for everyone in this vintage paradise!

Enjoying Milan’s vibrant nightlife

When it comes to the nightlife in Milan, every neighborhood has something unique to offer.

If you’re looking for a trendy and sophisticated setting, then Porta Garibaldi, Corso Como, or Brera are the perfect areas for you to hang out in after dark.

If you want to immerse yourself in a crowd of young and hip people, then Navigli and Isola are where you want to be.

Or maybe you’re after a queer experience? Then make sure to swing by the Via Lecco street in Porta Venezia.

Find your local expat community

It would make sense for this point to come first, right? Wrong! The expat communities are always going to be there for you and the most valuable thing you can do is take a deep dive and mingle with the locals first.

With that said, there’s a seemingly endless list of expat communities in Milan ranging from origin country-specific ones all the way to generic ones.

A good starting point in your quest for finding your expat community in Milan would be the “Expats in Milano” Facebook group. With more than 10,000 members this group can be the starting point of a great friendship!

Some other, more specific, expat communities in Milan include:

  • The Benvenuto Club of Milan is an international women-only community that has been around since 1967.
  • The American Expat Association of Milan (AEAM) is a great resource for Americans living in the city, and they host a variety of events and activities throughout the year.
  • The British Expat Association of Milan (BEAM) is a great resource for Brits living in the city, and they offer a variety of events and activities throughout the year.

Taking a weekend trip outside of Milan

There’s only one thing left to do once you’re done exploring Milan and its metropolitan area — Explore Lombardy, one of the most popular regions in Italy.

Milan is located in an excellent spot in Lombardy, close to many beautiful neighbouring countries, such as Switzerland, and amazing Italian cities, such as Como, Garda, Bergamo and so on.

And thanks to the Milan’s convenient public transport system, it’s easy to arrange unforgettable day trips from Milan.

All in all, Milan offers its residents with an endless array of options for quality leisure time. You can be certain there’ll always be new things popping up regardless of how well you think you know the city.

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