We have now been to Milan four times during the Christmas and New Years timeframe and know central Milan like the back of our hands! On one trip Saurabh ran from our hotel near Milan Central station to Duomo and back without Google maps – a big feat for a man who is regularly lost in our own city. One thing is for sure – each time I fall more in love with the feeling in the city during the festive season. Here is a list of everything you can do with (and without) kids in and around Milan:
- Christmas Market at the Duomo
This is my most favorite thing to do during the festive season in Milan! Hundreds of stalls selling local crafts, baked goods, specialty kitchen and baking suppliers and local foods line the square around the Duomo. Grab a warm cup of Vin Brule (also known as Mulled Wine or Vin Chaud) or warm cider or hot chocolate from one the friendly vendors and walk around the market to sample local Italian breads, cured meats, pastries, chocolates, and liqueurs. You can also buy cute handmade sweaters, caps, or soft toys for kids – I have more than enough caps and gloves bought from these markets to last me a lifetime! A tad expensive but each piece is handmade and truly unique! Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the Duomo while the kids run around in the square feeding (or chasing) pigeons!
- Window Shopping at Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (and cheap shopping around)
When you are done with the Christmas market or want to be semi indoors walk on over to the Galleria. This is best enjoyed when kids are tired of running around the Duomo Square and you can plop them in the stroller and walk and enjoy some window shopping (Vin Brule in hand) outside the high-end fashion stores inside the Galleria that are a hallmark of Milanese global fashion dominance. When you are done looking, walk over to H&M, Zara, and other affordable shops that lead the way to the Fashion Quarters (Quardilatero Della Moda) – a few parallel streets lined with designer shops.
- Drinks and Dinner at Naviglio Grande
We only discovered this neighborhood on our last visit to Milan and instantly fell in love with the vibe of the area. Walk along the canal and hop into one of the low-key but unique bars in the neighborhood serving delicious cocktails and prosecco. We went to Mag café where my daughter enjoyed the décor (borderline scary birds hanging everywhere) and the free chips that came with our cocktails.
- Fun and Rides at Il Villagio Delle Meraviglie (The Village of Wonders)
A special Christmas fair during the holiday season – this is a lovely place to spend half a day as a family. It has a skating rink, various kid-friendly rides, Santa’s house, live performances and entertainment for kids. You can have brunch here with all the local baked goodies and pastries and my favorite – vin brule! Arya and I absolutely loved this place and did not want to leave!
- Marvel at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (The Last Supper Painting)
The church by itself is not particularly impressive in architecture but it houses one of the greatest masterpieces of art – The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. You need to buy tickets to the church weeks (if not months) in advance to ensure that you get the date and time you want, or you will end up paying an arm and a leg to the tour companies that sell them in the secondary market for 5 times the price! Or worse you may not get to see the painting at all! For art history enthusiasts (or even Dan Brown readers) this is an absolute must-do – to look at the actual painting in the serene environment where it is housed (and not in a museum) is a unique experience.
- Romantic stroll at the Castello Sforzesco
The castle, or course is beautiful and has tremendous history, and houses a couple of museums inside (that we duly skipped) but the large area over which it is spread makes it a beautiful place for a romantic stroll. Complete with fountains and sprawling gardens it makes for a nice afternoon/evening walk – and for the fitness enthusiasts, a beautiful run! We saw several extremely fit locals running around the compound of the palace – and were jealous about the scenery they get to run around every day!
- Culture at La Scala Opera
If you have a willing co-traveler whom to can drag to it – go to La Scala Opera! I haven’t been able to drag my husband to this unfortunately. They have special children’s opera performances during the holiday season that I know are simply divine! Hopefully one day I can drag Saurabh and Arya to the Opera with me!
- Fine Dine at upscale Bars and Restaurants
Milan is home to multiple Michelin star restaurants and amazing bars, and you can do at least 10 trips without repeating bars – but we keep going back to the Bamboo Bar at the Armani Hotel. When we went with Arya we had to plead with them to let the baby in (she was 15 months at the time), and luckily she slept in her car seat (that we placed next to us on the couch) while we enjoyed cocktails and tapas. Nottingham Forrest and Rita’s are other bars highly recommended in Milan
- Hiking on a day trip to Lake Como
This was my favorite part about our last trip to Milan. We did a day trip to the town of Como on Lake Como (you can go to several other quaint towns that line the lake). Como is about an hour by car or train from Milan. We parked the car close to the center and walked to the Como Cathedral (Como Duomo) – the church itself is beautiful and serene and you can enjoy morning coffee or breakfast at one of the cafés that line the square in front of the church. Or if you are Arya you can chase pigeons in the square while the rest of your party enjoys yummy Italian cappuccinos. From the square it’s a short walk to the Lake front which if you go around Christmas also has a small Christmas market! Yay! (Did I tell you I LOVE Christmas markets!) If you face the lake and walk left towards the Resistance Monument you will also see a Giant wheel that you can ride to enjoy an amazing view of the lake. Next, we drove 5 minutes to meet our Airbnb Experiences Host Ricardo at the mall. Ricardo took us on a guided hike to a secret viewing spot that presents a gorgeous view of the Lake and the town of Como. Ricardo took us up and down the relatively easy trail given we had a toddler in the party and the whole walk took about 2.5 hours. I highly recommend this short hike/walk for a unique experience in Como. We walked through the forest and then a small hill – saw memorials to fallen soldiers and enjoyed a view of the Lake from amazing vantage points.
Eating to your hearts content on a day trip to Turin
I know this sounds bizarre as a destination for anyone who is NOT an auto history aficionado (uh… me) – but Turin is actually a great place for foodies (like me) too. The first time we went to Turin (yes we have been there twice!) we parked near the Piazza Castello and walk around the Royal Castle square (skipped the museums). And since we went right around Christmas – guess what… CHRISTMAS MARKET!!! That was the trip we did with my sister and Saurabh’s cousin, and we bought our Secret Santa gifts at the Turin Christmas Market (cheap local liqueur and handmade caps made great gifts under 10 EUR). The second time around, we decided to skip the town center and stay near the foodie Mecca of Eataly. Envisioned by the chef Mario Batali, Eataly is three floors of food heaven. It houses two restaurants and a café inside the indoor market where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, pastas, chocolates, spices, alcohol and much more. Needless to say – we ate every meal possible at Eataly during our 2 day stay in Turin. If you are into cars you can also visit the auto history museum nearby – I was focused on the food!
For additional helpful tips on food while traveling see: Travel Mom’s Guide to Baby Food While Traveling: 4 Key Tips and An Easy Reference Chart
For tips on how to dress baby for the cold winter weather in Milan: How To Take A Tropical Baby to the Alps!
For air travel tips: 11 Things I Do To Make Air Travel With Baby Easier
And if you are still on the fence about traveling with your little one see if this helps: 6 Fears About Traveling with Baby