10 Must Do Things in Milan at Night - Recommended by a Local

By Emily Saylor An American currently living her own Italian adventure in Milan.

|Edited by Matthew Wears


It is no secret that Milan’s rich historical value and forward-thinking design scene make it without doubt one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. As well as this, there are so many great bars and restaurants in the city, but there is sometimes a common misconception that there isn’t much besides going out for food and drinks to do in Milan at night. Well, I’m here to tell you that this just isn’t true. Since the turn of the century, the city has modernized greatly and now contains a great selection of unique experiences to take part in all year round. Alongside this, Milan’s nightlife continues to be some of the most extravagant and exciting on the continent. I want to celebrate this, and ultimately showcase some of the many lively and exciting things to do in Milan during night time, to show you that there’s more to life than aperitivo - although this is certainly where you should always start each and every night in Milan!

Have a night at the Scala Theatre

In terms of having a unique experience in Milan at night, it doesn’t get much more special than visiting the Scala Theatre. Located at the Piazza della Scala square opposite the Palazzo Marino, Milan’s city hall, the theatre is considered one of the most prestigious ballet and opera theatres anywhere in the world, and even just seeing the inside of the magnificent multi-tiered hall is a sight to behold. Because this is one of the more exclusive things to do in Milan at night, if you do want a night at the ballet, you’ll be paying premium prices - sometimes of over one-hundred Euros for tickets - especially for the more sought-after events. There are sometimes some tickets available on the door, but they will be more expensive, so book as far in advance as possible. Book your tickets at the box office, which is open from Monday to Saturday from 10.30 am to 6 pm and on Sundays from 12 noon to 6 pm. This is a real jewel in the crown of Milan nightlife, and even if you’re just spending one or two days in Milan it’s worth checking the website to see what’s on. And if you do choose to indulge in one glorious night at the Scala, make sure you dress appropriately - no trainers or jeans. 

Go for a night out in Brera District

Once this area of Milan was the creative hub of the entire city, filled with inspired writers, painters and sculptures hoping to make a name for themselves. Now, it’s been transformed into the center of Milan’s fashion and design industries, housing many high-end shops and design boutiques. It also just so happens to be one of the most exciting and luxurious places to go in Milan at night. World-class restaurants and bars spill out onto the sidewalk underneath some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. Have an afternoon spritz in the incredibly stylish Emporio Armani Caffè, located on the 7th floor of the Armani Hotel. Dinner is served Tuesday to Saturday from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, and dress code is smart. You could also enjoy some amazing aperitivo in Fioraio Bianchi Caffè on Via Montebello, a part restaurant part flower shop that’s one of the most unique places to eat in the city. But spending an evening here is not the cheapest of things to do in Milan at night, so if you’re traveling on a shoestring, it wouldn’t be your first choice. 

Get city views at Torre Branca

(photo credit: milanoevents.it)

Spending a day lounging around in the city’s historic Sempione park is already one of the most popular free things to do in Milan. The park contains countless sights that should be high on anyone’s itinerary, but one of the best is the Torre Branca viewing platform. This is a steel structure that stands over one-hundred meters high, making it one of the highest points in all of Milan. What makes it truly unique is that it is open until midnight most nights, making it the best place to come for those looking for some great Milan night-time sightseeing. Choose to come up during sunset or even when it’s dark to see all of the city’s famous landmarks illuminated below. There is just a small fee of four Euros, and then you can take the elevator all the way to the top for some amazing city views. This is one of my favorite ways to round of a busy day of sightseeing! Torre Branca is closed on Mondays, and each day has slightly varying opening and closing times, so check the website on your chosen day to make sure you’re not caught out. 

Explore the Porta Nuova district

Extensive amounts of regeneration have turned this neighborhood from an industrial landscape which was once occupied nearly entirely by factories and workshops, into one of the top tourist attractions in Milan, featuring some of the most daring architecture in the city. Walking around this area at night is one of my favorite things to do in Milan because there is always such a buzz in the air and the buildings just look so spectacular. Highlights include the Unicredit Tower which is Milan’s tallest building, or the now iconic Bosco Verticale, a stunning skyscraper near Milano Porta Garibaldi railway station that has greenery overhanging from every balcony to make it into one huge vertical garden. There are also many bars and restaurants in this area, especially in the Piazza Gae Aulenti area within the Unicredit tower complex. Here you will find a footbridge that connects the square to the lively Corso Como. The district has become an important part of Milan nightlife, so make sure you stop for a drink one night during your trip. 

Spend a night in a Christmas market

Obviously this is very dependent on the time of year that you visit, but for me this is one of the most magical things to do in Milan at night.. There’s nothing more special than exploring one of the city’s many magical Christmas Markets and then ending the night sipping on mulled wine and a slice of traditional Milanese Panettone. Due to the city’s northern location the temperature can drop to freezing around December, making it feel even more festive! There are many markets around the city but the most popular one is Mercatino di Natale which takes place in the Piazza del Duomo. The market opens daily from 29 November 2019 to 6 January 2020 (excluding 25th December), and the opening ceremony will take place on 28 November 2019. The location underneath the spectacular Milan Cathedral makes this one of the most picturesque markets anywhere in Europe. Here you can find many stalls selling crafts, Christmas gifts and delicious seasonal food and drinks. 

Do an evening tour of Milan Duomo

A visit to Milan Cathedral is probably the most popular things for tourists to do anywhere in Milan. The building dates all the way back to the fourteenth century and is one of the most important historical sites in the city. Already one of the most beautiful buildings in Milan, it takes on an even more magical aura when statues and spires are illuminated at night. You can book tickets online, but entrance tickets for just the Duomo Museum and the Archaeological Area are only available for purchase from the ticket offices. You can also book an evening rooftop tour of the Duomo which will give you some of the very best views of some of Milan’s most famous landmarks as well as enable you to learn some of the fascinating history behind the building itself. There are options to book individual or group tours of up to 25 people. This is a must for those seeking some of the most unique Milan night sightseeing experiences.

Go to an outdoor cinema

(photo credit: cinematograph.it)

Milan offers a few great outdoor cinema options but Cinema Bianchini is truly special. Their aim is to create cinemas in some of the most interesting and unique spaces in the city. Their most famous location is on top of the roof of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which offers some incredible views of the Milan Cathedral and the Galleria itself. Unfortunately, like many outdoor cinemas across Italy this is only open in the summer months so be sure to check the website for the upcoming summer dates. It isn’t all bad news though, as Bianchini has opened a winter pop-up cinema on a boat that floats in the canals of the Navigli neighborhood. This was open only until the 6th of January 2019 and there is no confirmation if it will return next year, but I’m sure that Bianchini will continue to innovate so keep track of their updates!

Nottingham Forest Bar

(photo credit: timeout)

Nottingham Forest is a popular bar which is recognized around the world as being one of the very best cocktail bars. Locals and visitors can never resist, and their ambition and creativity makes for some of the most exquisite flavored cocktails you’ll probably ever have tasted. The bar has over forty years of experience in mixology and has a hugely varied menu that contains drinks that have been brought back from travels far across the globe. The décor follows this trend and items from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean can all be seen hanging around the tiny bar space. It is located just over one-kilometer east of Milan Cathedral, and if you want to experience the very best of Milan nightlife, then a visit is nothing less than obligatory. The bar can, however, get very busy so make sure you come down early to avoid a queue. They are open from 6pm to 2am most nights but are closed on Mondays.

Go for some late-night ice cream

When it comes to trying exquisite gelato, it’s no surprise that Milan has more than a few places I could recommend. The city has an incredible selection of ice-cream shops both new and old, and the best thing is that they’re all open until late in the evening. One of the best is La Bottega del Gelato Cardelli, located near the Porta Nuovo district and open until 10PM, making it a perfect option for a sweet snack at the end of a long day of shopping. Another gelateria which I’d recommend is located in the far south-west of the city, but well worth the trip. It’s called La Gelateria Della Musica, and is a unique spot where all of the ice creams are named after songs or musicians. Their flavors are seasonal, so don’t arrive with a fixed idea in your head of what you’d like to try. 

Enjoy aperitivo in Navigli

In the south west of the city lies the increasingly popular area known as Navigli. This is a series of canals that were designed by the great Leonardo da Vinci on a visit to Milan, which unsurprisingly makes for one of the most picturesque places in the entire city. The area has become popular with independent design shops as well as many great restaurants and bars. So it’s common, or compulsory depending on your personal point of view, for anyone going out in Milan at night to start in this area for aperitivo. A traditional Italian custom which was born in Milan and then spread throughout Italy, aperitivo consists of sharing small plates alongside drinks. Some of the areas best places to eat and drink are UGO Cocktail Bar located on the Niviglio Grande, or for a more authentic restaurant experience try Trattoria Madonnina in via Gentilino. Even if you only have one or two days in Milan, aperitivo on the Navigli is a must! 

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