Off the Beaten Path: 6 Things to do in Milan

A Campari "Spritz"

Try a "spritz" with Campari or Aperol at a local favorite bar

We’re constantly getting asked by people booking our Milan walking tours for other ideas of things to do in Milan. We try to avoid crowds and overly touristy sites. So, we’ve put together this list of six things to do in Milan that are off the beaten path. 

If you'd like to immerse yourself in Italian art, history, and culture prior to visiting Milan, you won't want to miss our Context Learning. Our virtual seminars and courses connect you with passionate experts and scholars excited to share their insider tips and knowledge. You'll be exploring Italy like a local in no time.

1. Palazzo Berri-Meregalli

Built in 1913 by architect Giulio Ulisse Arata, the Palazzo Berri-Meregalli is a fantastically eclectic place—a mishmash of Gothic, Renaissance and Liberty styles adorned with myriad animal sculptures and sprinkled with plenty of weirdness. We love it for it’s pure spirit and nods to the grotesque.

2. Albergo Diurno Venezia

The Albergo Diurno Venezia, built in 1926, was a public spa for Milanese citizens. It’s hot baths and barber shop remind us of life during la dolce vita. Luckily, it’s been perfectly preserved with fine decorations, furniture, and the precious interior Art Deco details. Today it operates as an events venue and hosts design and art exhibits. It is open once a month for visits and is one of our favorite things to do in Milan. For more info check out Atlas Obscura.

3. Tromp l’Oeil at Santa Maria Presso San Satiro

This sumptuously decorated church was designed by the great Renaissance architect Bramante, who left us a wonderful surprise inside—one of a most brilliant “trompe l’oeil” in fresco and stucco that makes the apse look bigger than it is. We suggest entering from Via Torino to better appreciate the perspective illusion, where Bramante created an apparent depth of 9.7 meters in just 97 centimeters of space.

4. Vigna di Leonardo

Among his many talents Leonardo da Vinci was also a wine-maker, and visiting his private vineyard is one of the great things to do in Milan. It is located not far from the Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie, just by the courtyard of Atellani’s house. There, Leonardo received land as a donation from Ludovico Sforza in 1498 and grew Malvasia di Candia grapes. Although the vineyard was sadly forgotten for centuries, it was replanted in 2015 with the same grapes along the original planting rows and is open for visits.

5. Contemporary Art at Hangar Bicocca

When we’re looking for artsy things to do in Milan we head to Hangar Bicocca, a 15,000 square meter space entirely dedicated to innovative contemporary art. The revolving exhibitions are usually thrilling, but we also love the permanent site-specific installation The Seven Heavenly Palaces, by German artist Anselm Kiefer. Furthermore, entrance is free and they run workshops for children, where they can touch and feel contemporary art. This is one of our top suggested things to do in Milan with kids.

6. A Campari at Camparino in Galleria

There are a lot of places to grab a drink in the city, but one of our most relaxing things to do in Milan is grab an aperativo at Camparino in Galleria, located at the entrance to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. We love the bar’s belle époque details: the mosaics, the wrought-iron chandeliers, and the carved bar. It makes us feel like royalty. And, in typical Italian fashion, they’ve been serving drinks here since 1867, counting Verdi and Toscanini among regular patrons. Suggestion: Order a Campari.

Get a comprehensive view with one of Context's tours in Milan or join us virtually for in-depth, scholar-led seminars and courses about Milan.

Other blogs you may be interested in: