milan duomo

Milan’s Duomo catherdral is a sight to behold. (Photo: Getty Images)


Design, Dining and Rich Traditions Await on a Milan Weekend Escape

Go beyond standard guide book suggestions when planning your trip to Milan. The city offers so much more than fashion shows and dazzling stores: It is the economic capital of Italy, a city where tradition meets innovation and elegant buildings blend with skyscrapers and striking sights. See it for yourself — let’s start the treasure hunt.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Dip Into Design — Historic and Visionary

Standing proud in Piazza del Duomo, the Milan Cathedral is one of the most impressive and articulated gothic buildings in the world. This perch, with 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures decorating its rooftop, is an unforgettable way to kick off the weekend. Later, take in the view from across the street while sipping coffee on a terrace at Rinascente.

If you are looking to experience the city’s contemporary edge, head to CityLife, the architectural playground featuring buildings designed by icons Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and Arata Isozaki. Thanks to their creative visions, this business and residential area has become an artsy destination. Visitors will find The CityLife Shopping District offers fashionable shops, international restaurants and a movie theater.

vertical foreset milan
Look skyward at the Vertical Forest.(Photo: Getty Images)

More than 1,000 trees line the adjacent park, so grab a shared bike or electric scooter to crisscross the expansive lawns and move on to the Vertical Forest. Designed by Boeri studio, Bosco Verticale consists of two residential towers and represents a new model of urban regeneration and design with a strong ecological impact.

After exploring, stop for a glass of wine in Piazza Gae Aulenti, located midway between the historic Isola district and trendy Garibaldi neighborhood. At the foot of the ultra-contemporary plaza rises a public art installation, Egg, a sculpture made of 23 chrome-plated brass pipes that stretch four stories high, where people can listen to the sounds of the city or transmit their own sounds by speaking into them.

From the plaza, you can gaze up at Torre UniCredit, the highest skyscraper in Italy, and then walk to 10 Corso Como, a glamorous café, shop and art gallery popular with locals.

cocktail with green sofa
Sip a tasty cocktail. (Photo: Getty Images)

For dinner, try a local favorite, La Griglia di Varrone. The melt-in-your-mouth grilled meat is a must-eat here.

Later, round out your evening sipping a cocktail overlooking Arco della Pace, the city gate that dominates Corso Sempione, a street dotted with bars and restaurants. Head here around midnight to get the movida, or nightlife, started.

Saturday: Seek Out Decadent Eats and Divine Drinks

Three main elements constitute a traditional breakfast in Italy: espresso, a croissant and juice. Fuel your body and soul with the exquisite options offered at Marlà Pasticceria, a heavenly bakery in the Porta Romana district. Try the croissant with ricotta cheese and chocolate drops or the croissant with Tahitian vanilla cream.

croissants on tray
Treat yourself to bakery delights. (Photo: Getty Images)

Once you’ve had your fill, take a 15-minute walk to Fondazione Prada. Located in a former gin distillery dating back to 1910, this industrial-chic complex is today a cultural center that combines art, design and food. Check out the latest exhibition; then head to Wes Anderson’s Bar Luce for a quick bite or to Ristorante Torre for a proper Italian meal.

Plan an afternoon escape from the city and jump on a train from marvelous Milan Central Station to head to Monza. This elegant city is particularly known for its Formula One motorsport circuit, the Autodromo di Monza.

Besides the “temple of speed,” the city is home to one of the largest enclosed park in Europe, a charming cobblestone center, a royal palace and possibly the best pizza in Northern Italy at Trattoria Caprese — where you should absolutely stop for your evening meal.

After dinner, head back to Milan and sip the experimental cocktails mixed at trendy bar Moebius Milano, an industrial-chic space showcasing, right at the threshold, a 6.5-foot-high concrete bottle, more than 300 liqueurs and spirits on the menu, and seven seats in front of the mixology cinema.

Sunday: Find Art, City Views and Rare Wines

With a name that could be a motto for Italy as a whole, God Save the Food is the beloved brunch spot where Milanese love to tuck into eggs Benedict, potatoes and avocado toast while sitting outside in the artsy Brera district.

brera district milan
Explore the nooks of the Brera District. (Photo: Getty Images)

After breakfast, stroll the streets of this bohemian neighborhood to admire quaint stores selling canvas and paints, artisans shops and cultural sights such as the Pinacoteca di Brera painting gallery. Boasting top-shelf Renaissance and Baroque art by the likes of Caravaggio, Raphael and Bellini, this gem of a collection is rarely on tourists’ radar.

Also relatively unknown is that in the center of Milan stands a massive fortress. The Sforza Castle dates back to the 15th century and is one of the largest in Europe. Throughout history, this stunning complex has played many roles: defensive fortress, ducal residence and military barracks. Today, it houses Milan’s municipal museums and other cultural institutions.

Wander through the courtyards of the fortress and climb its towers to cherish incredible views over the city and the green expanse of nearby Parco Sempione.

Wrap up your weekend at Cantine Isola. Located in the heart of Italy’s oldest and largest Chinatown, this wine bar dates back to 1896 and offers delightful plates of bruschetta served alongside a selection of some 400 wines. Cin-cin!