22 Epic Hidden Gems and Non Touristy Things to Do in Milan, Italy

From lesser-known museums to the locals’ beloved cafes to quirky corners you can only discover when exploring the city on foot, I’m here to introduce you to the most incredible hidden gems and non touristy things to do in Milan.

Your bucket list and itinerary surely already include places like the Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Castello Sforzesco, Parco Sempione, and Pinacoteca di Brera, so here are 20+ attractions and activities that will help you experience Milan off the beaten path.

*I try to keep the information on this blog as updated as possible, but I still recommend consulting the latest prices, opening hours, and other details on each site’s official website.

*This post may contain affiliate links from which I earn a commission (for more info, read my disclosure). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Hidden gems in Milan Italy: 22 secret spots, unusual places, and non touristy things to do in Milan Italy


Looking for day trips from Milan? Check out these highly-rated tours:

1. Lake Como day tour: A visit to the towns of Como, Bellagio, and Varenna

2. Lake Garda and Verona day tour

3. St. Moritz (Switzerland) day tour with a ride on the Bernina Express train

Still haven’t booked your accommodation in Milan? Here are some highly-rated options:

1. Cà Bèla – Porta Romana (where I stayed)

2. Santarella Guest House

3. Aparthotel Dei Mercanti
(a stone’s throw away from the Duomo)

4. Torino48 Guesthouse (a rare find in Milan in terms of price vs location)



HIDDEN GEMS AND NON TOURISTY THINGS TO DO IN MILAN, ITALY

TAKE OUT-OF-THE-BOX TOURS

You can always opt for a classic free walking tour of the city, but if you’re looking for alternative things to do in Milan, consider taking an unconventional one. Some highly-rated options include:

VISIT LEONARDO’S VINEYARD AT CASA DEGLI ATELLANI

Right across from the UNESCO-listed Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper mural, you’ll find an enchanting 15th-century Renaissance gem.

Casa degli Atellani is a house gifted by Ludovico Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan during that time, to the Atellani family, whose members were his courtiers.

A few years later, the Duke granted Leonardo da Vinci the small vineyard in the house’s gardens.

Still used as a residence today, Casa degli Atellani is only partially open to the public, but you’ll get to see the lovely frescoes of the Zodiac Room, the study/library, and of course, the gardens and da Vinci’s vineyard.

I visited in winter in the afternoon, and it was a bit too dark, so I recommend coming in the morning to fully enjoy this landmark.

Both independent visits (with a digital audioguide) and guided tours take place at specific hours, so be sure to book your ticket in advance.

Casa Degli Atellani, a historic house in Milan
A ruin at Leonardo's Vineyard in Milan
Fescoes of Casa Degli Atellani

LOOK FOR THE CHIUSE DI LEONARDO DA VINCI

In the Middle Ages, because Milan had no natural waterways, a network of artificial canals was built to connect the Lombardian city to nearby rivers.

The problem was that there were inevitable height differences between the canals, solved by a system of lifts for boats.

In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci, who was not only a painter but also a brilliant engineer (to name a couple of his professions), came up with a new solution.

Using unique hydraulic technology and wooden locks & doors, he allowed the boats to overcome the height differences without needing the lifts.

A few of these doors and locks can still be seen today in Via San Marco, a beautiful street in the area of Porta Nuova (known for the duo of buildings called Bosco Verticale – Vertical Forest).

DON’T OVERLOOK THE ANCIENT LAVOIR OF NAVIGLI

I’ve heard mixed opinions about Milan’s canal district, Navigli, but I personally enjoyed roaming it, even on a cloudy day.

A unique little spot in Navigi you might not notice is the Ancient Lavoir (called Vicolo dei Lavandai/Alleyway of the Washermen) – the old public washhouse, which was in use until the 1950s.

Along with the flower shop next to it, I Fiori Nella Rete, you’ve got yourself one adorable corner.

You can also take a guided tour of the Navigli district.

I Fiori Nella Rete flower shop in Milan
Ancient Lavoir of the Navigli district in Milan

START YOUR DAY AT ONE OF THE PRETTIEST HIDDEN GEMS IN MILAN: THE GUASTALLA GARDENS

The Guastalla Gardens (Giardini della Guastalla) might be overlooked by most international travelers, but those who choose to spend some time here will be rewarded with magical scenery.

Founded in 1555 by the Paola Ludovica Torelli, Countess of Guastalla, this park is one of the oldest in Milan, having only been open to the public since the 1930s.

With a Baroque-style pond, statues, and more than a dozen different plant species, these gardens are small yet utterly beautiful and tranquil, perfect for a morning stroll.

Guastalla Gardens in Milan

ADMIRE THE SINAGOGA CENTRALE

Right next to the Guastalla Gardens, you’ll see the Central Synagogue of Milan, the most beautiful one in the city.

Originally designed by architect Luca Beltrami and reconstructed after WWII, it was built at the end of the 19th century after the unification of Italy when Jews were finally allowed to live in Milan.

To take a tour inside, you need to contact visite@rabbinato-milano.it, but even just marveling at its stunning exteriors is worth it.

Central Synagogue of Milan
Non touristy places in Milan – Sinagoga Centrale

CHECK OUT THE FONTANA DEI TRITONI

Milan is home to more than 70 fountains, and one worth seeing is the Fontana dei Tritoni.

Almost 100 years old, it resembles a temple, depicting two tritons holding a large shell, as well as two women – one representing “savings” holding a rounded piggy bank, and the other representing “charity” holding a fruit basket.

The unusual fountain is situated only two minutes from Via Brera or Gallerie d’Italia, so go check it out.

DISCOVER COOL CONCEPT STORES

Being a fashion capital, Milan is obviously known for its shops, with both internationally famous luxury brands and high-end local boutiques dominating the city’s streets.

What got me excited about visiting Milan was knowing that it’s also home to some exceptionally cool concept stores, some of which sell not only clothes but also perfumes, home decor accessories, and more.

A popular one is 10 Corso Como (which is definitely worth visiting), but since you’re looking for the hidden gems of Milan, I have to say that my favorite is the colorful Pop-Art-style Seletti, which isn’t big but is utterly photogenic.

Other spots to check out are La DoubleJ, Wait and See, and Fornasetti. They’re brilliantly decorated, making you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.

Seletti, a colorful store in Milano
Seletti
The colorful shops of Seletti in Milano Italy
Seletti

VISIT THE CRIPTA DI SAN GIOVANNI IN CONCA

Originally built roughly 1500 years ago, the Basilica of San Giovanni in Conca is steeped in history.

It served, throughout the years, as the private church of the Visconti dynasty (ruler of Milan in the 13th-15th centuries), a monastery of the Carmelite order, and a Waldensian temple.

After so many remodelings and demolitions, it’s pretty remarkable to know that parts of it survived, even if these are only the apse and the intact underground crypt, which you can now visit free of charge.

Be sure to consult the latest opening dates and hours.

GO STREET ART HUNTING

Beautiful street art always puts a smile on my face, so even though I haven’t seen a whole lot of it in Milan (because it’s scattered around the city), it’s worth looking for if you love it as much as I do.

You’ll find murals:

  • On Via Giuseppe Balzaretti 4, adorning the facades of the headquarters of the picture-based Toiletpaper magazine
  • On Corso Garibaldi 111 (this is the Gucci mural, which changes from time to time)
  • At the Giardino delle Culture
  • On Via Brembo, as you walk towards Fondazione Prada
  • In Milan’s Chinatown

Further away from the center, the area of Ortica is like an open-air museum with lots of colorful murals (check out the local project’s IG account).

Gucci mural in Milano

BE INTRIGUED BY THE L.O.V.E. SCULPTURE

If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Milan, the L.O.V.E sculpture should be on your radar.

Located at Piazza degli Affari in front of Palazzo Mezzanotte (which houses the Italian Stock Exchange) stands a bizarre statue with a name that means Libertà, Odio, Vendetta, and Eternità – Freedom, Hatred, Vengence, and Eternity.

By taking the Fascist salute and cutting off four fingers, the artist created a hand giving the middle finger, making a statement against the far-right movement.

PHOTOGRAPH UNIQUE HISTORIC BUILDINGS

From Baroque to Renaissance to Art Nouveau, the architecture in Milan is diverse and intriguing, providing plenty of unique and offbeat photo spots.

A stone’s throw away from La Scala opera house (Teatro alla Scala), you’ll see the 16th-century Casa degli Omenoni, known for the 8 man sculptures adorning its facade.

At the Porta Monforte neighborhood stands Casa Campanini, with its female statues and floral decorations. On Corso Garibaldi, you’ll find the beautiful Teatro Fossati.

Continue north to the area of Porta Venezia, home to gems such as Palazzo Berri Meregalli, Casa Guazzoni, Casa Galimberti, and Piazza Eleonora Duse.

If you appreciate northern Italian architecture as much as I do, you’re in for a treat.

Casa degli Omenoni in MIlan
A beautiful yellow house in Milan
Teatro Fossati
Teatro Fossati

ENJOY THE MERCATO AGRICOLO IL BUONO IN TAVOLA

When searching for places only locals go to, look for small neighborhood markets.

Each Tuesday in Piazza Sant’Eustorgio (near Navigli), takes place the Mercato Agricolo Il Buono in Tavola, in which you’ll find agricultural products (like fruit, cheeses, honey, and wines) from the region of Lombardy.

It’s a tiny market with only a few stalls, but if you’re already planning on exploring the area, you can add it to your itinerary.

STUFF YOUR FACE AT TRATTORIA MILANESE

In such a big city (and especially since it’s a tourist favorite), there are hundreds of places to eat. Covering almost every budget and cuisine, it’s not surprising that many of them are tourist traps (or just not that good).

That’s why I was thrilled to find Trattoria Milanese (Via Santa Marta, 11), a traditional restaurant established in 1933.

Hidden in a quiet alley in the historic center, it’s a perfect place to devour local dishes such as Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron), Risotto al Salto, polenta, and other delicacies.

The menu also offers some non-regional dishes and plenty of vegetarian options.

I don’t know if the restaurant is busy year-round as it was when I visited in December, but I still recommend making a reservation.

Pasta at  Trattoria Milanese in Milano
Pasta with porcini mushrooms at Trattoria Milanese

CHECK OUT CASA 770 (LA CASA DEL RABBINO)

Milan hides all kinds of curious spots, so here’s an extra quirky one for you.

In WWII, the Admor (spiritual leader) of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement fled from Europe to the U.S. and lived in a house at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York. That’s where he also based the World Headquarters of Chabad.

After his death, his son-in-law (also known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe) expanded the movement tremendously, founding synagogues, schools, and health centers worldwide.

In homage to the Rebbe’s father-in-law, replicas of the house in Brooklyn were built across the globe, including one in Milan, the only one in Europe (that’s why Casa 770 is also known as The Rabbi’s House).

If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind (well, almost) secret places in Milan, you can’t miss this New York-inspired building.

GRAB A CUP OF COFFEE AT LESSER-KNOWN CAFES

Italian cafes and pasticcerias are my kinds of paradise. Some are elegant, and some are cozy, and the coffee & pastries rarely disappoint.

As much as I like trying iconic historic establishments (even though they are mentioned in every travel guide), I also love coming across neighborhood cafes only the locals know.

A few charming spots to check out in Milan are Pasticceria Adolfo Stefanelli, Fiuri Milano – Flowers and Coffee, Dolci Memela, and Disigu@l Caffè (which was located near my accommodation in the area of Porta Romana).

coffee and a pastry at d
Disigual Caffe in Porta Romana, Milan
Disigu@l Caffè

VISIT THE BAGNI MISTERIOSI

Translating to Mysterious Baths, the unique complex of Bagni Misteriosi consists of two public swimming pools, a 20th-century theatre, and even a restaurant.

In the summer, it’s possible to buy tickets to go for a swim and enjoy an aperitivo, while in the winter (when I visited Milan), it hosts Christmas markets and shows, and a part of it transforms into an ice skating rink.

You can see what’s on the agenda on the official website.

VISIT THE COURTYARD AND MUSEUM OF BAGATTI VALSECCHI

Housing pieces of Renaissance art and decorative arts collected by the Barons Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum is not as famous as other museums in Milan.

Located in the Fashion District (Quadrilatero della Moda) in the brothers’ luxurious family home, what caught my eye was actually the courtyard near the entrance to the museum.

From the Renaissance-style statues to the decorated well to the artistic pebbled floor, every detail makes it one of the most beautiful hidden places in Milan.

Statues near the entrance to the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in Milan
The hidden courtyard near the entrance to the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in Milan

VISIT PALAZZO MORANDO

Not too far from the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, you can visit a 16th-century palazzo that now houses Milan’s municipal Collection of Fashion and Costume.

Not many of the city’s historic palazzos are open to the public, so wandering through this landmark is a true privilege. Plus, it is completely free of charge and makes a great indoor activity in Milan!

LOOK FOR HIDDEN ART GALLERIES

Milan is such a wonderful destination for art lovers, with world-class museums such as Pinacoteca di Brera, Gallerie d’Italia, and GAM – Galleria d’Arte Moderna.

That said, you’ll also find small yet surprising independent art galleries and studios dotting the city. Along the Naviglio Grande (one of the canals in Navigli) and inside its hidden courtyards are several little galleries and shops like Pisati da Milano.

Other can be found in the neighborhoods of Brera and Porta Garibaldi, including Massimo Meda and Fabbrica Eos.

Small paintings for sale in Milano

ADMIRE SOME LESSER-KNOWN CHURCHES

From the Duomo to Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore to Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, Milan is home to plenty of famous historic cathedrals and churches.

But if you wander freely through the city’s neighborhoods (my favorite activity), you’ll stumble upon other architectural gems, including Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli, Chiesa Parrocchiale di Santa Maria Segreta, and Santuario di Santa Maria dei Miracoli presso San Celso.

If you’re looking for extremely bizarre spots, visit San Bernardino alle Ossa (in Piazza Santo Stefano), which has a small chapel adorned with bones and skulls. This was also the place that inspired the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) in Evora, a famous landmark in Portugal.

DISCOVER THE CUTEST BOOKSHOPS

Even if you’re not an avid reader, you have to admit that bookshops are full of magic.

Some have become attractions for travelers from all over the world, including Livraria Lello in Porto, El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, and Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice.

In the heart of the center, you’ll find Libreria Bocca dal 1775, which was originally established in Turin, and after having five different locations, this historic bookshop finally found its last home in Milan.

Within a 10-minute walk, you can get to Taschen, a unique place where books meet art, photography, and design, not just because of the decor but also because of the types of books you’ll find there and the mini art gallery on the second floor.



OTHER MILAN & ITALY GUIDES AND TRAVEL TIPS

If you loved these secret spots in Milan, read more about Italy and its northern regions:

Apart from experiencing Milan off the beaten track, you can also discover these:

About Or Amir

Hey, I'm Or! I'm a passionate traveler with a severe coffee, chocolate, and pastry addiction (or any other carb for that matter). Obsessed with anything Spain-related, I'm always planning my next trip (and the excitement alone can bring tears to my eyes, not that it's difficult to make me cry).

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