Milan is a dynamic and progressive city. While not as much of a tourist attraction as Rome or Florence, Milan is home to expats from across the globe, thanks to its bustling commercial centres.
With its multicultural and fashion-conscious character, residents live a stylish and attractive lifestyle in Milan.
The Milanese take appearances very seriously, spending a small fortune on snazzy designer clothes and drinks in trendy cafés. This luxurious way of life comes at a price, though, as Milan is among the world’s most expensive cities and has the highest cost of living in Italy.
Shopping in Milan
Shoppers will revel in the sheer variety of stores in Milan. In particular, expats should diarise the end-of-season sales, when the city becomes a bargain hunter's dream for a few weeks each January and July.
Expats can stroll along the boutique-lined streets of the famed Quadrilatero della moda fashion district, popping into high-end designer shops like Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton and Versace – or just admire the gorgeous window displays.
For those on a budget, the Navigli District boasts a selection of high-end boutiques, antique shops and restaurants at more affordable prices. For big-name labels at a good price, also try the outlet stores around the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and look out for shops selling end-of-season returns, catwalk cast-offs and second-hand outfits.
A shopping spree can be combined with a historical excursion at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a glass-roofed arcade near the Duomo that opened in 1877. It’s one of the world’s oldest shopping malls and home to Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores as well as Prada’s flagship store.
There are numerous stores for everyday shopping in the city, including independent stores and popular supermarket chains (supermercato), such as Carrefour and Conad.
Eating out in Milan
Milan’s vibrant restaurant scene will have the taste buds watering, and there is plenty of variety to suit any foodie’s appetite.
Milan’s historic centre boasts most of its fine-dining options, including many excellent Italian restaurants that offer local specialities like risotto Milanese (saffron risotto). Other foodie areas include Brera and the Navigli District.
Milan is also famous for its heritage coffeehouses, some of which have been operating since the early 19th century. Famous coffee spots can be found throughout the city.
Nightlife in Milan
Of course, along with the trendy restaurants and high-end fashion expats will find an animated nightlife. Milan is overall a safe city and expats can enjoy a night out on the town in this vibey, cosmopolitan city. There is something for everyone - ranging from a relaxed, social atmosphere in Colonne di San Lorenzo to the glitz and glamour of clubs in Corso Como.
Entertainment in Milan
Milan is a cosmopolitan city full of youth who never run out of things to do for entertainment. Still, there is something for everyone in the city. La Scala, for example, is a world-famous opera house where expats can go to watch many theatre performances while the Teatro Litta is an old, Baroque-style performing arts theatre offering many shows to entertain locals and foreigners alike.
Sports and outdoor activities in Milan
Even though it isn’t known for an abundance of green spaces and parks, expats can nevertheless enjoy outdoor activities in Milan.
Apart from swimming pools, walking trails through parks, and picnic spots within the city limits, there are some thrilling mountain biking routes and a few good golf courses just outside of town. The Le Rovedine Golf Club, for example, has excellent facilities, good restaurants and a gorgeous view.
As with many European cities, Milan is football crazy. AC Milan and Inter Milan are its biggest and most popular clubs, both of which play at San Siro stadium. Their rivalry is among football’s most famous and a must-see match between the two, known locally as the Derby della Madonnina, takes place at least twice a year.
Milan is also ideally located for expats to take advantage of northern Italy’s beaches and fantastic skiing on the Alps. The Courmayeur ski resort is a popular weekend getaway for well-heeled Italians. It’s just two hours from Milan by car, while the Swiss resort of St Moritz is a three-hour drive away.
►For an overview of the city, read Moving to Milan
►Looking for something to do with the whole family? Find out about child-friendly activities in Kids in Milan
"The nightlife in Milan is very entertaining, and it’s a good way of meeting new people. I’d also recommend going to happy hours, which is where people meet after work." Read Alice's interview to see her experiences of lifestyle in Milan.
"Socializing is big in Italy - even at work. Expect to go to take a coffee break at the local cafe with your colleagues every day at 10am. And expect to eat lunch with them as well." Diana talks about work culture and lifestyle in her expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Milan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Milan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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