The Essential Guide to Visiting Milan in Winter

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by Hope Brotherton


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Milan is the capital city of the northern region of Lombardy. It’s a busy and bubbling city packed with juxtaposing architecture, mesmerising and immersive culture as well as world-class shopping. No matter the season, this city is worth visiting – even if you’re planning to head to Milan in winter.

The Lombardy capital’s energetic atmosphere doesn’t change in the winter. Instead, the chill in the air, the glow from the sun and the twinkling Christmas markets only add to the city’s energy. Be sure to wrap up warm and stop for an Italian hot chocolate as you wander through the magic of Milan’s Christmas markets.

If you’re after a winter city break, then put Milan at the top of your list. Our guide will cover all the essential information you’ll need about visiting Milan in the winter including a list of the best things to do around Milan specifically during the wintertime.

Milan in Winter Weather

A Milan winter is cold. From December to February, temperatures will reach a maximum of 10°C (50°F) during the day. Overnight temperatures will drop down to around 2°C (35°F) or even lower.

Because of its more northern location, definitely expect Milan to be a bit colder than Florence or Rome in winter. This means to make you include a warm coat, gloves and a hat when you pack for winter in Milan.

By and large, Milan doesn’t get too much snow. The majority of Milan’s snowfall will happen during January with a few rainy days to be expected too.

Lombardy’s capital is a tourist hotspot, and the same still stands for the winter months. In December, Milan will be busy. It’s packed with hordes of tourists enjoying the Christmas markets.

However, Milan’s tourist season drops off somewhat in January and February, but there’s still plenty to do in Milan at the start of the new year.

Milan's Duomo in winter
Milan’s iconic Duomo in winter

Which Month to Visit Milan in Winter?

Now you’ve got an idea of what a trip to Milan will be like in the winter, you’ll be deciding when the best time is to holiday there.

Winter in Milan typically covers three months: December, January and February. Each of these months offers something a little different for the throngs of tourists who arrive into the city.

Milan in December

Milan in December is magical, but, oh boy, it is cold too. You can expect daytime temperatures to reach around 7°C (44°F).

Even though it’ll be cold, it won’t rain too often. Throughout the month of December, you can expect around five days of rain. That being said, make sure you bring an umbrella or a waterproof jacket just in case.

A trip to Milan in December is synonymous with Christmas. While the Christmas markets are truly magical and the Piazza del Duomo is all decked out, you’ll need to pop another date in your December diary. December 7 marks the Saint Ambrogio celebrations.

Saint Ambrogio is Milan’s patron saint. To celebrate their patron, the entire city shuts down for one day. As the city comes to a halt, a Christmas market makes its appearance around Castello Sforzesco. Expect lots of local food stalls and colourful arts and crafts stalls in this part of Milan.

And the celebrations don’t end there either, the day after the Saint Ambrogio celebrations marks the start of the ballet and opera season at La Scala, so if you’re visiting make sure to nab some tickets.

La Scala
La Scala

Milan in January

Like December, Milan in January is bracingly cold. But unlike December, it’s not packed with tourists. After the end of the holidays, Milan returns to its working routes.

While the Christmas markets have been packed away for another year, there is one main reason to visit this fashion capital: the sales.

The Milanese are a stylish bunch and their January sales are the perfect time to update your wardrobe with some Italian flair. Head to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II or Piazza Gae Aulenti to grab an item or two in the designer sales.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Milan in February

As we creep into the year, the temperatures lift and Spring starts to feel like it is just around the corner. Milan in February means a maximum temperature of around 10°C (50°F) – and the temperature could climb even higher if you’re lucky.

While Lent and Easter may be around the corner, there is always something to celebrate or a festival to enjoy in Italy.

On 24 February, the Carnevale Ambrosiano festival returns to the city with a bang. The festival typically starts one week before the Venice carnival. However, these dates do change from year to year, so be sure to stay in the loop.

The festivities surround Milan’s formidable cathedral. The square comes alive with street performances, music, concerts, dances and pantomimes too. This carnival will be sure to get you into the festival spirit.

February is also a great time to visit to beat the crowds. So if you are keen to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper without hordes of tourists around, this may be the month to do this.

What to Wear in Milan During Winter

With the temperature being extremely low, you’ll need to bring plenty of layers to keep your toes nice and toasty.

The locals in Milan are extremely stylish, so you’ll want to blend in with them as you walk down the chic streets of the Brera district. In Italy, fluffy puffer jackets are very much on trend. If you have one, bring it with you. If you don’t have one, use this trip to grab one.

While it may sound obvious, make sure to bring your winter accessories too. You’ll want to pack a warm woollen hat, a pair of gloves, and a thick scarf. Make sure to bring some winter boots, and thick socks or tights.

These winter accessories will be obvious items to pack but remember to bring your sunglasses too. The winter sun in Milan is fierce, so you’ll need your sunnies to see.  

Christmas shopping in Milan
Christmas shopping in Milan

Things to do in Milan in Winter

There is always something going on in the Lombardy capital do it’s great to get to Milan in the winter season. But in the winter months, you’ll want to add a seasonal activity to your Milan itinerary.

There are plenty of things to do in Milan during winter but be sure to squeeze in something festive for a city break to remember.

While you can visit the Duomo (pre-book tickets here), see the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie and indulge in local cuisine (you can book a food tour here) at any time of year, there are some things that make winter particularly special to visit.

Milan’s Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets in Milan are, to put it simply, perfectly picturesque. There are several markets dotted across the city with solo vendors appearing outside museums and other tourist hotspots too.

While a visit to any of the Christmas markets would be magical, you’ll want to tick the bigger and bolder ones off your bucket list.

On a visit to Milan, you’ll struggle to miss Piazza Duomo and in December you’ll be even harder pushed to miss Mercatino di Natale – the square’s Christmas market.

It’s the busiest Christmas market in the city, so keep a firm hold of your possessions or plan ahead to avoid large crowds. This market has over 60 wooden huts selling homemade Christmas decorations, sweet treats and other festive trinkets.

On your winter trip to Milan, visit the city’s oldest Christmas market outside Castello Sforzesco. Known as ‘O Bej, O Bej’ by the locals, the name of the market literally means ‘oh how wonderful’, and they’re not wrong.

Each year dozens of wooden stalls line the surroundings of the castle. This market’s offering is slightly more versatile too with antiques and children’s toys also being sold here.

Other Christmas markets include Darsena Christmas Village and the artisan market at Rho Fiera.

Christmas lights at Navigli
Christmas lights at Navigli

Milan Duomo

A trip to Milan wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the city’s famous cathedral. Milan’s Duomo stands tall in Piazza del Duomo.

In the winter, an enormous Christmas tree is erected just outside the cathedral. The tree is decorated with baubles and fairy lights. Head to the Duomo first thing in the morning to catch a glimpse of the square before it becomes too busy.

During December, the best time to climb the stairs to the cathedral’s roof is arguably at sunset. The light orange hues in the sky will give you goosebumps.

For a bit of warmth, be sure to head inside the cathedral. You can pre-book tickets here to visit the rooftops, museum and other exhibitions.

Christmas time at the Duomo
Christmas time at the Duomo

Go Skiing in Courmayeur

While there are several day trips from Milan in winter you can enjoy, when you’re this close to the Italian Alps, it would be rude not to visit.

Courmayeur is Italy’s best all-round ski resort. This charming village sits in the northwest of Italy. It boasts stunning views of the world-famous Mont Blanc. As well as hitting the slopes for a spot of skiing or snowboarding, you can pamper yourself at a spa or tuck into a sumptuous dinner at a mountain hut.

The popular resort village can be reached as a day trip from Milan too. There are several ways to arrive in Courmayeur from Milan to fill your lungs with the fresh mountain air.

Arguably the easiest way to arrive at Courmayeur is to find a provider for an organised day excursion from Milan.

You’ll be able to sit back and relax as your guide organises everything for you. That being said, these day trips are more expensive than other options.

If you want to keep the costs down, then make your own way to Courmayeur with several transport options available to you. The first is to hire a car. The drive will take just over two hours, so make sure you’re comfortable driving on Italian roads. You can browse options on Rentalcars.com here.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving, there are some public transport options available too. Flixbus offers a couple of buses a day from Milan to Courmayeur. So you’ll be able to have a good few hours to spend exploring Courmayeur. You can browse schedules here.

Courmayeur
Courmayeur

Day Trip to Lago Maggiore

Many holidaymakers flock to the Italian lakes of Como, Garda and Maggiore in the summer, but these lakes are often overlooked in the winter months by tourists. That being said, Lago Maggiore provides the perfect day trip from Milan.

Lago Maggiore keeps its charm in the winter months. Make sure to head to Stresa, a resort town on the lake. While it’s a lot quieter in the winter months, a walk along the promenade provides a refreshing stroll compared to the streets of Milan.

In Stresa jump on the cableway, which connects Lago Maggiore to Mount Mattarone. Not only does this mountain provide astonishing views, but it’s also a great spot for winter sports too. Here, you can hit the slopes for a spot of skiing or a little bit of snowshoeing.

The easiest way to get from Milan to Lago Maggiore is by hiring a car or booking a guided tour here in advance.

The drive to Lago Maggiore will take 90 minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, you can arrive to Lago Maggiore on the train. However, you’ll need to take two trains and the journey will take several hours. You can browse schedules here.

Lago Maggiore
Lago Maggiore

Where to Stay in Milan

Lancaster Hotel – For those after a mid-range option, this classic hotel in Milan’s city centre is an excellent option. They have a number of lovely rooms on offer and a buffet breakfast is included each morning. Click here to check availability

Castello Guest House Milano – If you’re after a luxury option, then this hotel is a great choice. Centrally located, they have a number of plush rooms available and are situated within easy walking distance of all of Milan’s top attractions. Click here to check availability

Quo Milano Hostel – This centrally-located hostel is one of the highest-rated in Milan. Perfect for budget or solo travellers who want to meet fellow travellers, they offer both private and dorm rooms with social common areas. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Milan!

Whether you’ve spent your trip enjoying the magic of Milan in the winter, or managed to squeeze in a day trip for a spot of skiing, you’ll have made the most of the winter break in Lombardy’s capital city.

Milan in the winter will be cold, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t have a lot of fun. It’ll be a winter adventure that you’ll never forget.

Are you considering visiting Milan in winter? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Hope is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Birmingham, England, she is passionate about budget-friendly travel and incorporating greener and more eco-friendly travel into her adventures. She keeps returning to Italy but loves to travel around any European country.

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