Travelling to Milan in winter but not sure what to expect? You’ve come to the right place! I was born and raised in Milan and spent 18 years experiencing winter in Milan, as well as a fair few after I moved out.
I know exactly what winter in Milan is like; what sort of weather you can expect, what holidays are on, the best things to do, how to get around and more. I have put all my local Milanese knowledge in this Milan winter guide.
The weather might not be the most favourable, but that doesn’t mean you should visit Milan in winter.
If you’re ready to brave a few grey skies, you can thoroughly enjoy the gothic architecture of Duomo, or the iconic architecture of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, for cheaper prices and with less crowds.
So without further ado, let’s dive in and discover everything you need to know about visiting Milan in winter!
- 1 Weather in Milan in winter
- 2 Milan winter holidays to plan for
- 3 What to pack for winter in Milan
- 4 Best things to do in Milan in winter
- 5 Is winter a good time to visit Milan?
- 6 Where to stay in Milan in winter
Weather in Milan in winter
Spoiler alert: the weather in Milan isn’t exactly great in winter. Travelling to Italy in winter is obviously different from visiting Italy in summer or spring, but that doesn’t say it can’t be great.
Here’s a monthly breakdown of the weather you can expect in Milan in winter.
November weather in Milan
November is when things really start to get colder in Milan. The average temperature is 8.5°C (47°F), so it’s not exactly mild.
It’s quite a wet month, too, with around 12 days on average receiving rainfall throughout the month.
There are 9.5 hours of daylight hours, with only two to three hours of sunshine – that’s because of all the cloud cover. Bring an umbrella.
Weather in December in Milan
Things get even colder towards the end of the year, when average lows start hitting 1°C (34°F), with average highs only teetering towards 7°C (45°F).
Rainfall is slightly less than in November but only slightly. There’s still only around three hours of sunshine per day on average.
On the other hand, it’s a quiet time of year (until Christmas), so if you wrap up warm and bring waterproofs, you should have no trouble enjoying the city and what it has to offer.
Weather in January in Milan
The year starts on the chilly side in Milan. Temperatures drop as low as -1°C (30°F), with average highs only reaching 7°C (45°F). The month starts off cloudy, but towards the end of the month things get a bit sunnier.
But still: there’s a lot of cloud cover and short daylight hours. If you want to visit Milan in January, you should be prepared for cold weather.
February weather in Milan
Spring starts to appear in February, but only towards the end of the month. Average temperatures sit around 6°C (43°F), but can still dip as low as 1°C (34°F).
Sunshine hours are on the increase, with an average of five hours of sunshine expected per day. Rainfall, too, only affects six days out of the month.
Milan winter holidays to plan for
Christmas is the obvious holiday that you might want to plan for on a trip to Milan. This time of year in the city is full of festive fun, with a huge tree in the Piazza Duomo and beautiful lights strung around the city.
If you want to visit this time of year, make sure to book in advance as it can get busy. But Milan has its own way to usher in the Christmas season.
It all kicks off with the Sant’Ambrogio (Feast of St. Ambrose) on 7th December. Sant’Ambrogio is the saint patron of the city, so understandably the Milanese take it as a day off.
Traditionally it’s also the day that Milanese people hang up their Christmas decorations.
Depending on what day the 7th of December falls, Milanese people usually take a few days off before and after this feast day, so some independent shops and eateries may be closed around this time.
What to pack for winter in Milan
It’s a good idea to bring plenty of layers. That way you can stay warm when you’re outside, but strip off a layer or two when you head indoors where there’s heating.
A good pair of shoes, ideally with some level of waterproofing, will help for when you’re strolling around sightseeing or shopping.
Besides clothing, some useful accessories you can pack are a refillable water bottle to refill at the water fountains dotted around the city. Not only does this save money, but it saves on plastic too.
I always suggest also bringing a power bank, so that you can ensure your phone is always charged and ready to go, both to map your way around the city and snap gorgeous photos of it!
Best things to do in Milan in winter
See a show at La Scala
La Scala is Milan’s premier opera house.
Opening its doors in 1778, this famed venue for opera, ballet and classical music has long been a fixture of the city; many greats have performed there, and many have written about it or depicted it in art.
Frankenstein author Mary Shelley wrote about it in 1840.
It’s a must for any music fan. Simply check the official website for the schedule and book something that sounds good to you.
It’s the ideal way to spend a cold evening in Milan; imagine yourself bundled up against the winter chill as you exit the Scala, ready to find somewhere to eat or drink after an unforgettable performance.
See the Christmas lights and markets!
If you’re visiting Milan at Christmas – well, anytime after 7th December – you’ll have a very festive city to explore.
In terms of decorations, there’s a beautiful Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo, as well as a particularly ornate tree at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, amongst others.
Christmas markets are excellent in Milan. The most famous one of these is in Piazza Duomo (the main square in town), but there are others to explore, too.
Piazza Gae Aulenti, for example, is another great place to pick up unique Christmas gifts (think handcrafted wooden toys among other things) and delicious street food. Other such markets dot the city this time of year.
Another particularly famed market is Fiera Obei Obei. This is a traditional Milanese affair held across the Sant’Ambrogio weekend, and takes place next to Castello Sforzesco.
They might not be quite as grand as some of the German Christmas Markets, or others that you can find around Europe in winter, but the markets and decorations in Milan in December are still worth seeing.
You can also visit Rome in winter if you want to see beautiful Christmas decorations, while also taking in the fun Italian festive atmosphere.
Visit the Duomo
Piazza Duomo isn’t just home to Christmas trees and markets; it’s also home to the Duomo itself, aka Milan Cathedral. Milan’s cathedral is the second largest in Europe and the third-largest in the world.
It also took a very long time to build: starting in 1386, the final touches were finished in 1965. That’s six centuries of construction!
It’s an ornate, imposing structure on the outside and doesn’t lack any wow factor on the inside, either.
As well as lapping up the sprawling Gothic glory of the Duomo’s soaring columns, check out its stained glass windows and the sea of geometric floor tiles.
For epic views across the Milan skyline, you can even head up onto the rooftop for a fee. Note that if it has snowed or rained recently, rooftop access may not be allowed due to ice.
Enjoy a traditional Milanese aperitivo
Milanese people are used to the weather, so the cold, rainy evenings that characterise the city in winter don’t stop them from having a good time.
You’ll still see locals out having a good time enjoying an aperitivo – or apericena as they call it here.
Thankfully, most places have indoor seating. If they also have outdoor seating, it will most often come with heaters in winter. To find the most buzzing, atmospheric aperitivo spots, head to districts such as Arco della Pace or Brera.
The latter is a warren of cobblestone lanes with dozens of bars and eateries (for some retro charm, try N’Ombra de Vin). Elsewhere, the canal district of Navigli may be very cold in winter, but that doesn’t stop Milanese people.
This trendy district is awash with cool bars and chic eateries that make for a perfect aperitivo spot. Cosy up with the locals and enjoy.
See the sights (minus the crowds)
That’s right. Except for the Sant’Ambrogio weekend, and the Christmas period (which is when Milanese people whip themselves up into a frenzy of Christmas shopping), Milan is relatively free of crowds in winter.
And that means you’ll get to see its top sights without having hordes of tourists to deal with. As well as the Duomo I mentioned earlier, one of the other top spots in Milan is the Castello Sforzesco.
Built between 1360 and 1499, this mediaeval fortress was once home to the noble Sforza family and is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Still imposing to this day, it’s a must-visit on any Italy itinerary.
Another important landmark is the Arco della Pace – a 19th-century triumphal arch that is situated on the site of the former ancient Roman walls of the city.
For something more commercial but also impossibly elegant, you should make a beeline to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. The oldest shopping mall in the country, it’s well known for its stylish decor.
Built between 1865 and 1867, this four-storey glass-domed shopping arcade is the place to come for shopping, eating and generally just lapping up the opulence.
Visit a museum
There are many museums in Milan. And when the temperature really drops, these places are great spots to warm up and get a good dose of culture.
One of the most famous is La Triennale, a design and art museum in Parco Sempione.
To learn about one of Italy’s greats, go to the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. Or to see his The Last Supper, head to the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. For more art, head to Brera Art Gallery. The list goes on!
The queue for seeing The Last Supper can get huge, especially during holiday periods, so make sure to purchase your queue jump ticket online beforehand!
Shop til you drop
Milan is an international fashion capital, so it’s no wonder that the city boasts a whole lot of shopping streets for those who love to shop.
The main areas to hit up are Corso Buenos Aires, featuring over 350 shops; Via Torino which connects Piazza Duomo with Navigli; and Via Monte Napoleone, a decidedly upscale shopping area with high-end brand outlets.
Taste the delicious local cuisine
Milanese food is perfect for winter. The rich risotto Milanese is a hearty option to warm you up on a cold day.
There’s also Cotoletta alla Milanese – breaded and fried veal (or sirloin) cutlets sure to tempt you into more than one sampling.
And if you’re here for Christmas, you must try panettone. This Christmas cake is ubiquitous around Italy, but the sweet treat is originally from Milan.
Ski in the Alps
Had enough of the city? Well, if you like skiing, it’s easy to escape for a day on the slopes. It’s a short drive to the mountains, where you will find some of the best ski resorts in Italy.
If you’re staying long enough (i.e. more than a week), then getting out to the Alps is a must – especially if you’re already a keen skier.
It can be a great way to combine more than one type of experience in your Italy itinerary!
Is winter a good time to visit Milan?
Absolutely. If you don’t mind bad weather, by which I mean cold and rainy, then it’s great! It’s a city after all, and has plenty to see, do, eat and buy come rain or shine.
The bonus? It’s cheaper and there are far fewer tourists. All you’ll need is warm clothing, a nice coat and always carry an umbrella.
Where to stay in Milan in winter
There are lots of great places to stay in Milan, regardless of the season.
Maybe in winter you’ll want to stay somewhere more central, to reduce the amount of time spent outside travelling to places in the city, or maybe somewhere with a view, so you can snuggle up on the couch and still admire the beautiful sights of Milan.
Whatever your preference, I have listed below a few places to stay in Milan for every budget.
Budget: Ostello Bello – There are two hostels of this chain around Milan and both are good budget options, with a lively atmosphere, spacious dorms and convenient central locations, perfect for exploring Milan by night!
Mid-range: Ibis Milano Centro – Part of the Ibis chain, this is a good mid-range hotel, with a guaranteed standard of room set up and a great central location.
Luxury: Galleria Vik Milano – If you’re looking to splurge a bit, this is the place to do so. Located in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, it couldn’t get any more central than this, with stunning views over the galleria just outside your window.
Final thoughts on visiting Milan in winter
There you have it, a local’s guide to travelling to Milan in winter! Have you been to Milan before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
Growing up I wasn’t a fan of Milanese winter, but in hindsight I can see that it’s actually a pretty good time to visit the city. Milan isn’t as famous as Rome, Cinque Terre, Venice or Florence, but it’s still worth a visit.
As long as you’re ready for the bad weather, you’ll still be able to make the most of this beautiful city, with the added bonus of cheaper prices and less crowds!
Milan in winter is still a gorgeous city, which offers plenty of choice. I hope you will find this guide useful in planning your perfect winter trip to Milan! If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments below!
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