How to celebrate Christmas like a real Milanese?
The city of Milan is much more than just a center for commerce, fashion, and events. Indeed, Milan is known as the “City of Christmas” as well. The holiday season in Milan, the capital of Lombardy, is one of the most exciting times to visit the city since it is full of surprises and opportunities. At Christmastime, Milan transforms into a vibrant city full with markets, festivals, shows, and decorations. Milan at Christmas is not only a sight to behold, but also the ideal time and place to enjoy some holiday shopping. Milan, one of the world’s most famous shopping destinations, transforms into a winter wonderland filled with kilometers of designer stores, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and outdoor markets. But if shopping isn’t your thing, you can still celebrate the New Year like a local by attending midnight Mass at the Duomo.
It’s natural to be curious about how to spend Christmas Eve in Milan if you find yourself there in December. Milan’s holiday season is commonly associated with Catholic festivities. The city’s patron saint’s day and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception kick off the celebrations in the second week of December. Milan celebrates Sant’Ambrogio on the seventh of December, although the rest of the country observes the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the eighth. The Milanese are able to take advantage of a short vacation thanks to the two consecutive days of festivities. When a holiday occurs at the start or end of the week, Italians enjoy what they term “il ponte,” or “the bridge,” a magical extended weekend.
Planning on spending the holidays or New Year’s in Milan? Here is our guide to spending the holiday season in Milan, covering everything from Christmas markets to holiday museum hours.
Visit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
One of Milan’s most recognizable landmarks, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. During the holiday season, this elegant Italian destination puts on its best display, making it a must-see for stunning holiday photos and a shopper’s paradise. Under the dome, the Swarovski Tree stands tall and proud each holiday season, adorned with over 10,000 ornaments and more than 35,000 lights.
Guests can also visit the Duomo Tree, located in the middle of Piazza Duomo just outside the Galleria, to see another lovely (although somewhat less magnificent) Christmas tree.
Enjoy authentic Italian cuisine at the Duomo Food Stands
One of Milan’s most popular Christmas markets can be found next to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, spanning a few meters along the pedestrian path and continuing into the square behind the Duomo. Stroll around this quaint Christmas market lined with wooden huts selling freshly prepared Christmas fare (including some well-known Milanese delicacies like panettone) and other classic Italian winter fare like smoked cold cuts, jams, bakery products, and chocolates.
You name it, and we’ve probably got it: roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, and ginger-bread. Additionally, you can get unique handmade Christmas decorations here at reasonable costs.
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Explore Milan’s Christmas Village at the Navigli
The Navigli is one of our favorite places to spend the day or evening in Milan, and we often recommend it to anybody who ask us about our favorite places to visit in Italy’s fashion city. Everyone, no matter their age, will have a wonderful time in the dockyards of the so-called Navigli Grandi, or Darsena, over the holiday season.
There’s a spectacular Christmas tree right on the river, and the whole place takes on the look of a charming holiday village. Younger crowds have no issue waiting in line to see Santa, and they have a great time mingling with their peers and skating around the rink.
Attending a Christmas Concert at Teatro alla Scala
The commencement of the winter season is marked with the annual Christmas Concert at the Teatro alla Scala, Italy’s most famous opera house (and one of the best in Europe). This performance typically takes place the two evenings prior to Christmas Eve. Their orchestra and chorus will be performing, and those who cannot attend the event in person can watch it on TV a few days later.
Make sure to get your tickets in early on the theater’s website if you want to go to the spectacular gala.
Visit the Milanese Christmas Markets: Oh Bej!
The oldest of Milan’s Christmas markets is held at Piazza Castello and the surrounding region during the first week of December. Over 350 booths sell everything from antiques to books to handmade jewelry to flowers and more, making it a must-visit for Milanese every December.
Delicious local specialties such as roasted chestnuts, corn on the cob, spicy sausages, smoked meat, pancakes with Nutella, and cotton candy can be sampled at the festival as well.
Enjoy a Gospel Night
This holiday season is the perfect time to experience the magic of Milan’s Blue Note, one of the city’s most famous and popular music halls, where Italians have been enjoying their evenings for decades. Every year, hundreds of residents flock to the Blue Note so they can enjoy the Angels in Harlem Gospel Choir perform on the club’s stage during the week leading up to Christmas. You can choose to reserve only the concert ticket, add a glass of champagne for a midnight toast, or even book a beautiful and delectable multi-course supper, all depending on your budget.
Self-guided tours of Vox City’s Milan, or a number of pre-designed itineraries, make it easy to explore Italy’s historical and cultural landmarks at your own pace.
Eat a slice of Panettone
For the Milanese, panettone is the dessert of choice at Christmas. The history of candied fruit and raisin desserts can be traced back to the early 1600s. The panettone is a huge loaf of bread that is let to rise for several hours. In 1919, Angelo Motta made a significant change to traditional panettone by giving it its distinctive tall dome form and a recognizable light consistency achieved by allowing the dough to rise three times, for over 20 hours, before baking.
The best panettone can be found in a traditional Milanese pastry store; it should be soft and flavorful, but not too dry. Therefore, Panettone is consumed all through the holiday season, and on important occasions such as Christmas and New Year’s Day, it is traditionally served with a mascarpone cream that is the end of all creams.
Vox City’s audio commentary will fill in the gaps in your knowledge of this beautiful Italian city’s rich past. Take a break from sightseeing to enjoy one of Milan’s many restaurants, bars, or shopping areas. Use the Vox City app to find your favorite sights and the best spots for photography in Milan, and then plan your next steps for exploring Vox City-style whenever you’re ready.