Best Time to Visit Milan

By: Stefania Lupi, a fashion and design lover living between Hong Kong and Milan.

Edited by: Matthew Wears

One of my favourite characteristics about Milan is that no matter what time of year it is, there is always something interesting happening somewhere in the city. There are so many things to do in Milan all the time that at times it can be a little overwhelming to look for the best time to go for you. Well worry no more, this Milan travel guide is here to give you all of the information on what’s happening in the city all throughout the year, giving you only the relevant details you need to decide when’s the right time to visit for you. I’ll include some essential Milan travel tips, let you in on some of my city’s best hidden gems, and also explain a bit about the varying Milan weather. Hopefully after reading this article, you can decide on what the best time to visit Milan is for you.

Winter

It may shock you that the Milan weather at this time of year is really quite cold. The Lombardy region experiences cold, wet winters because of it’s Northern situation in the country. It also isn’t uncommon to get snow in Milan at this time of year as the temperatures can fall to well below freezing, so make sure you bring a very warm coat! Daylight time is another thing to be aware of, because during the winter months you may only get just over eight hours of sunlight, meaning you have to cram outside activities into a smaller amount of time. Other than at Christmas time, this is perhaps the quietest period of the year so if you can put up with the cooler weather and want a break with fewer tourists, then this is the best time of the year to visit Milan for you.

The city is alive with activity at this time of year and there are so many unique things to do in Milan. Some of the most popular attractions are the many beautiful Christmas markets that are set up in November all the way through until the end of Christmas. The most famous of these is Mercatino di Natale, a traditional Italian market that takes place in the Piazza del Duomo just outside of the stunning Milan Cathedral. The setting right outside one of the city’s most impressive tourist attractions makes this the perfect place to come for a mulled wine and a slice of panettone! If it’s festive souvenirs you’re after then there is no better place than L’Artigiano in Fiera, a dense collection of stalls selling all manner of gifts and crafts. The market is located fourteen kilometres North-East of the city in the town of Rho and usually takes place during the first ten days of December. 

December also sees the beginning of the Opera season at the Scala Theatre, so if you’re interested in watching some of the worlds finest performers performing new material then this is the right time to go. Milan in January is the quietest time of the year, although there are still reasons to visit such as the fashion sales. This is one of my top Milan travel tips, and if you’re interested in picking up a fashion bargain then this definitely a great time to visit! One of the most important dates take place in Milan in February; the world-famous fashion week. It’s a period where some of the biggest names in fashion showcase their upcoming seasons, and although you can’t see the catwalk shows, the showrooms are sometimes open to the public so you can see new collections there. There is such a buzz within the city during this period and it’s one of my favourite times of the year! 

Spring

The Milan weather begins to change during this time and some much needed warmer weather begins to creep in. At the beginning of March the temperature will still be low, but as you move through Spring it begins to reach a very pleasant average of just over twenty degree celsius. With this being said though, Atlantic depressions bring rainfall, and May especially is one of the wettest times of the year. Even still this is one of the best times of the year to visit Milan as the city begins to burst into life again and the must see attractions begin to fill with people. The city’s green spaces begin to blossom and the warmer temperatures during the end of this season mean that you can start to spend days lounging in Sempione park, or dining out in some of the city’s popular districts such as Navigli or Brera. The summertime holiday makers have also not yet arrived so it makes for a slightly quieter experience. 

Springtime in Milan is overshadowed by one major fundamental event; Milan Design Week. It runs from the 9th until the 14th of April 2019 although the dates change every year, and is the largest trade event of it’s kind in the world. The event brings in people from all around the world and experiencing it is one of the most exciting things to do in Milan for anyone who is interested in cutting edge design. Be warned that this is one of the busiest times of the year to visit Milan though, and in 2016 over four-hundred and thirty thousand people alone travelled to the city. Any Milan travel guide would definitely recommend you avoid this period if you don’t like crowds! Or, why not escape the city with a day trip to somewhere nearby such as Pavia, a historic town just South of Milan that is well worth a visit for anyone interested in ancient history and culture. 

Summer 

As we begin to move into the summer period, the city continues to change. Most noticeably the Milan weather begins to get very hot and humid due to city being so far from the sea, and temperatures are frequently over the thirties mark. As well as this there is hardly any wind so any hope of a breeze to cool you in the summer heat is very unlikely! The humidity also causes frequent thunderstorms and although the weather is still mostly sunny, it isn’t uncommon for the sun to be hidden by large grey storm clouds. If you’re visiting during this time one of my top Milan travel tips would be to act like a local and escape to Lake Como for a few days where the weather is much cooler. This also means that the city will contain mostly tourists during the time, especially during Italian summer holidays, as many locals go elsewhere for Summer. 

Summer, especially June, is still a great time to visit the city. During this month there is not yet the full amount of tourists and the weather is not yet at its hottest. My perfect Milan travel itinerary for this time would be to spend days relaxing in Sempione with a book, perhaps headings to one of the amazing museums such as the Natural History Museum or the nearby Pinacoteca di Brera to escape the midday heat. Easily one of the most popular things to do in Milan during summer is to simply enjoy a drink outside alongside some delicious aperitivo. There are so many great spots for this, but Navigli is my favourite because the setting is one of the most beautiful in all of Milan. Enjoy a spritz whilst watching the sun set over the canal side - no Milan travel guide would be complete without doing this at least once.

Summertime is the best time to visit Lake Como because it offers an escape from the hot Milan weather. The most popular way to get there is by train because it sometimes takes just over an hour to get from Milan Central Station and to Varenna, a small Italian town on the edge of the lake that works great as a base to the rest of the lake. Here you will find hotels, restaurants and shops alongside great water sport activities such as kayaking and sailing. From here you can catch a ferry to the beautiful village of Bellagio, a town that is commonly referred to as the jewel of Lake Como. One of the lakes must see attractions is Villa del Balbianello, an incredible collection of terraced gardens that overlook the lake. You can either catch a slow boat across the lake from Bellagio to Lenno and then take the scenic walk along the peninsula, or arrange a tour from Bellagio. 

Autumn

The arrival of fall brings with it cooler weather and unfortunately a whole lot of rain. September remains warm, mostly dry and sees far fewer tourists than other months over Summer so is easily one of the best times of the year to visit Milan. It is warm enough that you can still sit out on the terraces and enjoy some aperitivo during the evening time but not so hot that you have to run for cover at midday! October and November usually have high amounts of rain which can last for extended periods of time, so make sure you pack a waterproof if you’re visiting at this time. If you have a Milan travel itinerary it will be worth having a number of things that you want to see that are indoors such as Hanger Bicocca or Castello Sforzesco so you don’t end up caught in the rain. The city begins to prepare for Christmas again in November and most of the markets open at this time.  

It’s not just the Milan weather that makes this time so great. Another reason that this is best times of year to visit Milan is because there are so many festivals and activities taking place in the city. The second Fashion Week of the year takes place during Autumn, usually either September or October, and is the most important of the year. It is similar to the one held in February except this time showcasing the upcoming trends for spring and summer clothing. One of my favourite things to do in Milan during this time is to visit the Milan Film Festival, an event that shows films from all over the world with tickets as low as five Euros depending on when you visit. Museums and galleries such as the Castello Sforzesco also begin to change their exhibitions for the upcoming seasons, and paying them a visit is always one of the most interesting things to do in Milan for art lovers like me.

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