Fashion city Milan is often overlooked for more romantic or historic Italian cities such as Rome, Florence or Venice. It is however very cheap to fly there from other European cities (Easyjet often has promo fares). Since Italy has been on my bucket list for a long time, Milan seemed like a good and pretty affordable place to start. So, what to do in Milan with kids? Here’s our list of recommendations for the 6 best things to do in Milan (with or without kids).
After I booked our Airbnb apartment for 6 nights I found out that both Rome and Venice are only 3 hours away by train. I’d love to go there, check out these great things to do in Venice! If I’d done some more research before my booking, I would have probably opted to do 2 nights Milan, 3 nights in either Rome or Venice and then one more night in Milan. But hindsight is 20/20, right? So we ended up with 6 nights in Milan. If your kids are a bit older, I think you can easily see the best parts of Milan in about 2 or 3 days. But taking a bit more time is never a bad idea if you travel with a toddler.
City trip with a toddler, a good idea?
A city trip can be quite taxing for a child. Lots of walking and sightseeing is tiring for those little legs. Like everything in life, it’s all about balance. Even with our toddler in tow, we managed to see quite a lot of Milan and he had a great time. He did complain that his feet were a bit sore after the first day, so we ended up carrying him. Obviously this would have been much easier if we had brought a toddler back carrier! On day 3 our little world traveler fell ill and we needed a rest day. We were lucky our Airbnb apartment had a washing machine…. After that we took things even more slowly (good thing we didn’t end up going to Rome, that really would have been too much, funny how things work out, isn’t it). But, despite all this, we could still tick a lot of things to do in Milan off our list.
Visiting Milan with kids
When you visit Italy with kids eating Italian ice cream and Italian pizza have to be on your to-do list. But, is Milan child-friendly? When I first started researching, Milan didn’t seem like a very child-friendly city. Unlike Vienna, which we visited last year, Milan doesn’t have a lot of playgrounds and Milan’s children’s museum Muba didn’t get great reviews. But when I looked a bit further, I discovered some pretty great things to do in Milan with our toddler.
So, what are the best things to do Milan with kids?
Since research for a city trip takes time, and time seems to be a prime commodity now that we have kids, I’ll share our tips for best places to visit in Milan with your kids. Read more to see which things you really shouldn’t miss when you visit Milan, Italy.
1. Duomo di Milano / Milan Cathedral
The Duomo di Milano, the huge cathedral in the heart of Milan, is an incredibly impressive building. It’s huge and abundantly decorated. It took nearly six centuries to finish this Gothic cathedral. Because it took so long to complete, it was built in a great number of contrasting styles. Many people find it ugly because of all these building styles, but I think it just makes it unique. You can visit the church itself for as little as €2, but do you know what’s really cool? You can go up the roof of this massive church, to the terraces! At the time of writing it’s €9 is you take the stairs or €13 if you want to go by elevator.
Of course, we managed to go to Milan the week Pope Francis visited the city. Even though we went to the Duomo the Monday after the weekend he was in Milan, it was still packed. I would have loved to go up to the terraces or even inside the Duomo, but it was too busy and our toddler had little patience. So we gave it a miss. From the outside, the Duomo was really impressive too! Note to self: next time we go on a city trip to Italy, don’t forget to check if the Pope will be visiting!
2. Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli / Indro Montanelli Public Gardens
Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli is a historic city park in the Porta Venezia district (North East of the city center). Established in 1784, it’s the oldest city park in Milan. It’s a lovely green park, with various small playgrounds. At about 172.000m2 there’s enough space to run and play! In the weekends and on sunny afternoons you’ll find the park full of parents with kids, while others are exercising, or just taking a stroll. If you’re visiting Milan with kids, we can recommend spending some time at this park. Take the subway red line M1 to P.ta Venezia or Palestra or one of the many trams that stop near the park (line 1, 9 and 33 for instance).
3. Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano / Natural History Museum Milan
At the edge of Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli near the M1 Palestra stop you’ll find the Natural History Museum of Milan or Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano. The 19th-century building itself is quite impressive and the museum spans two whole floors. It’s huge! The museum displays minerals, fossils, skeletons and a large collection of preserved animals. Not surprising, the dinosaurs were our son’s favourite! Too bad almost all of the information is in Italian. There was a new exhibit about earthquakes however that is bilingual English/Italian. There’s so much to see, we spend about 1,5 hours here with our toddler. Kids under 18 can enter the museum for free, for adults the entrance fee is €5 per person. So this museum is definitely on our list of affordable tourist attractions in Milan.
4. Historic trams in Milan
Milan has awesome old trams that are used for regular public transport. Mau had read something about this and we decided this would be a great way to see some more of the city, while staying off our feet for a bit. We searched online and came across TraMilano HopOn HopOff. It looked great, but we thought €15 pp was a bit much. So we researched a bit more and found out that the old trams are actually used in regular public transport. No need to book a special hop-on-hop-off Milan experience! You can just buy a 24h urban day pass for €4,50 and you can take any tram you want, all day long. Just check a map of the tram lines and ride the tram as long as you feel like. That seemed like a much better deal! We were lucky that line 1, which stopped near our Airbnb apartment, was one of those old carriages. Kids travel for free on Milan’s public transport, but they need to be accompanied by an adult who has a valid ticket. You can find out more about tickets for the Milan subway on the ATM Milano website.
5. Castello Sforzesco / Sforzesco Castle
Sforzesco Castle is huge and very impressive. There are numerous historical museums inside this medieval fortress, such as the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Museum of Ancient Art, the Archeological Museum and the Antique Furniture & Wooden Sculpture Museum. For €5 you can access all museums. We decided not to go in with our toddler but wandered around the castle grounds and courtyards instead. This was impressive enough (and free). Parco Sempione, which is right next to the castle, is nice to include when you visit the castle. Apparently, there is a kid’s playground in the park, but we didn’t see it.
6. Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Technologia Leonardo da Vinci – Science and Technology Museum Milan
This museum is the largest science and technology museum in Italy. It’s dedicated to Renaissance painter and scientist Leonardo da Vinci, who did much of his best work in Milan. You wouldn’t know it from the unattractive look of the 16th-century monastery where the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Technologia is housed, but it holds many treasures. The museum has a collection of 16.000 technical-scientific and artistic objects, representing the history of Italian science from the 19th century to the present day. From a large gallery with Da Vinci’s drawings and 130 scaled models based on his sketches to exhibits about communication and computers, energy production, iron and steel industry and even space travel. It has large sections on transport (by road, ship, plane or train) as well. A huge ship, part of a cruise liner and a racing catamaran are inside the water transport building and the rail transport building holds a collection of 21 locomotives and carriages. Numerous airplanes hang from the ceilings and there’s a full size helicopter inside. Outside in the garden you can see Italy’s military submarine, Enrico Toti.
We decided to leave this museum until the very last day. We only had the morning to explore and it wasn’t enough. This museum is huge! And to take it all in you need A LOT more time. If your kids are a bit older you can easily spend a whole day here. For our toddler, a few hours were enough though.
Other cool things to do in Milan for you and your kids
- Visit ‘Temple of Soccer’ San Siro Stadium, where F.C. Inter and A.C. Milan play their home matches.
- Race enthousiasts can visit Autrodroma Nazionale Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix (Gran Premio d’Italia)
- A little outside of Milan you’ll find Parco della Preistoria di Rivolta d’Adda, a prehistoric park with live size dinosaurs
- For the 2016/2017 season Teatro alla Scala offers two operas and five concerts specifically for kids, as part of the project Great Performances for Children (Grandi Spettacoli per Piccoli).
- If your kids are into art a visit to iconic Da Vinci’s Last Supper should be on the menu. It’s recommended that you book your tickets at least two months in advance. The convent in which is located isn’t built to accommodate crowds and only 20-25 people are allowed to enter at a time, in blocks of 15 minutes. Be sure to dress appropriately.
City trip Milan with kids, yes or no?
So, what’s our verdict? Should you visit Milan and more specifically, should you visit Milan with kids? The answer is a definite yes! Although I would most likely pick Berlin or Vienna over Milan as city to live in, a lot of tourist attractions in Milan are very suitable for kids. There’s a great park with playgrounds, the old trams are awesome, there’s a huge castle and we’ve seen at least two very cool museums… what’s not to like. On top of that Italian food is a hit with most kids, so you can’t really go wrong.