.What could I possibly say about Milan that hasn’t already been beautifully expressed? Among the most popular destinations in Italy, this northern hub welcomes visitors in the millions, each year. However, a visit to the city during the holiday season offers something truly unique. From special events, live music and the famed Milan Christmas markets, it really is a most magical time of year to visit Milan, Italy.
Milan Airport to the City
I arrived by air from Paris into Malpensa Airport, one of two airports in the city. Milan Linate is closer to the city centre (just 11km away), but depending on where you are flying from and where you going from this airport you should decide the best arrival spot for your visit. Malpensa Airport is 51km from the city centre and the primary hub for major airlines arriving from all directions.
Malpensa has two terminals. Most flights will arrive at terminal 1 unless you are travelling on a low-cost airline. It takes about 50 minutes to get from Malpensa Airport to Milan.
- Train from Malpensa to Milan: There are two trains from Malpensa Airport to Milan centre, the Malpensa Express and the Trenitalia
- Bus from Malpensa to Milan: You can also take the Autostradale bus which is slightly cheaper and operates between 6 am and 12.30 am.
- You can download the map of the public transport system ready for arrival here.
- Transfers are another more comfortable, yet more expensive option. You should pre-book your car before arriving in Milan. Blacklane offers zero-emissions transfers.
- A taxi is a more expensive option with a fixed price of about 95 euros.
How to Spend the Holidays in Milan
From the end of November, until the first week of January of each year, the city of Milan hosts its Christmas program and the itinerary of events and things to do and see in Milan is robust. On this list for how to spend the holidays in Milan are Christmas lights and grand trees, traditional events, live concerts and shows, craft and the famed Milan Christmas markets. There are also tastings of local Panettone and plenty of holiday cheer for the entire family.
Milan Christmas Markets
There are many Milan Christmas markets. For lovers of traditional crafts in a centuries-old tradition with special products, sweets, handicrafts and glasses of vin brulé (hot mulled wine) you should visit Fiera Degli Oh Bej Oh Bej with its stalls stretching along the walls of Sforza Castle, this market usually takes place the first week of December.
Another early December market is L’Artigiano in Fiera. This great fair, which takes place on Piazza Duomo is dedicated to Italian and international crafts, the perfect place to shop for a very unique Italian-made gift.
The Piazza Gae Aulenti and Piazza Duca d’Aosta Milan Christmas markets last from early December until early January and are where you’ll find traditional holiday gifts and souvenirs to take home.
Witness the lighting of the Tree in Piazza del Duomo
Black Friday marks the beginning of this holiday season with the lighting of the tree in Piazza del Duomo, and this event sets everything in motion for the weeks to come. The lights go up and are turned on, all over Milan thanks to the Luci a Milano (Lights in Milan) project. From Piazza Della Scala and the Vittorio Emanuele gallery vault to the outskirts of the city, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful holiday scenes to see in your lifetime.
Enjoy Some Holiday Music
Of course, this holiday backdrop wouldn’t be complete without a soundtrack to go with it, and thanks to the city and many committed partners there is music to see and hear throughout Milan for Christmas. An exceptional soundtrack brightens up the walks from the Quadrilatero Della Moda area (the Fashion District of Milan) to Navigli, among small shops, traditional craft and holiday markets and buildings that host free exhibitions as well as Christmas Villages.
The music program begins with the Musical Advent Calendar and then continues with the Premiere at La Scala Theatre. Thanks to the Prima Diffusa initiative, it is possible to enjoy the premiere from various theatres and public places, including Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, where it is screened live and for free.
The Christmas concert series at La Scala Theatre and the Auditorium will take place many evenings during the holiday season, culminating with the Christmas and New Year’s concerts for the public. Also on your list should be the traditional Christmas concert in the Cathedral each year.
Try Some Delicious Panettone
If panettone is one of your favourite Italian treats you are in luck with a holiday visit to Milan, not only does this delicious cake have a long and beloved history in Milan, but it holds a serious place in holiday activities in Milan.
In 2018, the famous maître chocolatier Davide Comaschi covered a Christmas panettone in chocolate and this giant panettone was on display at Galleria Vittorio Emanuela II.
Competing with big cakes in the past this panettone made it into the Guinness World Records as the “largest artistic panettone in the world,” at one and a half meters tall, with a diameter of 115 centimetres and a weight of 332.2 kilos. It was enormous and a lot of fun to watch the excitement of the actual weighing and celebrating of this big, decadent endeavour.
Visit the Palazzo Marino (City Hall)
One of my favourite things about my holiday trip to Milan was a visit to Palazzo Marino (the City Hall) where the city hosts a view of its Christmas gift to the citizens of Milan every year. Usually an art piece on loan from a gallery or museum, the city shares this gift with free, intimate viewings of the artwork to the public for the months of December and January.
Visit the Famed Art Museums
Be sure to check into Palazzo Reale, there was a Picasso exhibition when I visited, also Mudec Museo Delle Culture which hosted the art of Banksy when I visited.
The Galleria d’Arte Moderna the modern art of Milan is always an interesting stop. Also on my list is Castello Sforzesco, where I saw “Vesperbild: The Origins of Michelangelo’s Pieta.”
No visit to Milan is complete without a visit to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, be sure to take extra time for Da Vinci’s Vineyard too, the self-guided tour is short, sweet, interesting and informative.
Go Ice Skating at Villaggio Delle Meraviglie
Be sure to visit Villaggio Delle Meraviglie, a Christmas Village with a traditional double ice skating rink, traditional holiday markets and the Santa Clause House where children can hand deliver their letters directly to Santa himself.
Where to Stay in Milan
Galleria Vik Milano
When you visit Milan for Christmas you want to be as close as possible to the most beautiful holiday things in the city. A stay at Galleria Vik Milano is the exact place to be.
Located inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest shopping mall in the world and the centre of the Universe in Milan on any day but especially the days surrounding Christmas. I could see the sparkling Christmas tree covered in Swarovski crystal ornaments from my window that opened to the world of the interior hallway, and a walk to the Duomo was just five minutes away.
There are only 24 rooms in total, and each room feels like a private apartment rather than a hotel room. The suite included designer furnishings, hand-painted vaulted ceilings, grand pianos and mezzanine levels for a very luxurious and spacious feel. Galleria Vik Milano is the only hotel inside this iconic 19th-century mall, making it a unique, luxurious and convenient place to stay.
Where to Eat in Milan
The perfect lunch spot in Milan is at Drogherie Milanesi, this open concept dining experience is light-filled and offers every authentic Milan dish you could be craving. We met here to catch our breath and drop into the city, on arrival into the city. It is a delicious welcome on any day.
Another great lunch spot in Milan, with the extra treat of viewing The Last Supper and a secret garden, is Da Vinci’s Vineyard tucked within the lush gardens of the Casa degli Atellani. Expect a light lunch here and a transient crowd, and the gift shop is the perfect spot to grab a last-minute holiday gift for the art-lover on your list.
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Ponte Rosso, a traditional trattoria with many authentic dishes and a robust wine list. The ambience is cozy and everything was delicious.
Christmas in Lake Como
A day trip from Milan to Lake Como is a perfect escape from the city. It is also so spectacular that you will want to make plans to extend your stay on the lake.
The entire Lake Como area, including 14 municipalities join forces every year to make spending Christmas in Lake Como special. In Como, you can find a Christmas carousel. There’s also a huge 16-metre high fir Christmas tree called The Great Christmas Tree that is lit in a ceremony each year. There are a traditional Christmas market, an ice skating rink and even a special Città dei Balocchi Train that takes citizens and guests on a tour of the city centre and surrounding streets.
How to Get to Lake Como from Milan
Getting from Milan to Lake Como is very easy. I travelled by private car in just under two hours.
The average travel time from Milan to Lake Como via train is 33 minutes. Trains operate daily from 7 am until the last one at 7 pm.
How to Spend Christmas in Lake Como
The Magic Light Festival
Of course, there are lights and lots of them. The Magic Light Festival happens in Lake Como with beautiful light in all colours washing the entire town and all of its historical buildings.
This initiative to light up the town has spread and one of my very favourite activities from my last visit is thanks to the spectacular Lake Como Christmas Light Il piu bel Presepe del mondo.
This project creates a modern nativity scene in lights by lighting up various traditional churches, monuments, corners of town, bridges and other areas around Como.
Lake Como Christmas Lights Cruise
I spent one night in Lake Como during my visit and loved the Lake Como Christmas Light evening cruise. It was a spectacular way to see the area during the holidays, by water.
This three-hour lake cruise is designed to depart from Como and take you to the little village of Argengno for an hour of exploration.
Along the way, by the light of the moon and quiet lake waters, guests can spot Cernobbio, Moltrasio, Torno, Laglio and Nesso by their holiday display of lights which is a unique way to see Como. There are more than 40 beautifully illuminated locations to see from the water during this cruise.
The stop in Argengno includes perusing a very local holiday market, and sipping and nibbling on local wine and snacks from the village. It was one of the most unique, and beautiful travel experiences I have ever had.
Where to Stay in Lake Como
If you are able to stay overnight, try to book your accommodation early. As with the summer season, Christmas in Lake Como can get busy.
I recommend a decadent suite stay at the boutique Lake Como hotel, Albergo Terminus. The lovingly restored 19th-century palazzo with Liberty-style sits in the heart of Como and overlooks the lake.
It also offers easy walks in any direction to the Duomo, numerous Roman, medieval and modern monuments as well as quick access to the lake and downtown restaurants and activities. The holiday market just out the front door from this hotel made the stay extra perfect.
During Christmas time, Italy sparkles; literally. Spending Christmas in Lake Como and Milan is such a unique way to experience all that the holidays entail; in postcard-perfect scenes, rich with Italian traditions.
The Fit Traveller was a guest of Tourism Milan for this trip. As always, our opinions, images and words are independently our own.
Pat Bailey is a certified Bhakti Yoga Teacher, published poet, writer and entrepreneur with a passion for exploring the globe. Pat is also the founder of The Hell Yes Life, where she has created her own branding academy helping to elevate brands and students through authentic and intuitive coaching.