When you think of Milan, you think of culture, fashion and shopping.
These ‘grown-up things’ may make you wonder whether this city would be as fun for your kids too. Well, Milan definitely delivers – your kids will enjoy the unique sights and attractions it has to offer, and I don’t just mean the fabulous gelato that Italians are credited with introducing to the rest of Europe.
Milan is one of the most popular Italian destinations and is the second largest city in Italy after Rome, Italy’s capital. It is the perfect hub for exploring northern Italy with its picturesque lakes, towering Alps, as well as the Adriatic coast in the east and the Ligurian coast in the west of Italy.
While there are several locations of interest within the city, four in particular are sure to keep your kids engaged and offer a great cultural experience that they can share with their friends and classmates back home.
4 Fun Things To Do in Milan, Italy with Kids
1. The Duomo Square (Piazza del Duomo)
The large white marble facade of the Milan Cathedral is hard to miss. Even if your kids have the attention span of a goldfish, there are enough statues and gargoyles here to capture their attention. The gothic-style cathedral has 135 gargoyles, 3,400 statues and 700 figures – so expect a lot of ‘look at this/check out that one’ and many ‘wows’ from your children.
Pause at the main entrance to see the sundial on the floor. Sun rays from an aperture in the opposite wall strike the clock, illuminating the bronze tongue on June 21, the first day of summer, and the meridian on December 21, the winter solstice. The sundial was placed by astronomers in 1768 and is astoundingly precise, so much so that it is used to regulate clocks all over the city.
Once inside the church (you can get in for free), the stained glass windows and tall vaults – the highest of any church in the world – captivate you. Get your cameras ready to capture the wonderful details on the statues. If you spot your youngest getting restless, a game of ‘I spy’ is highly recommended.
A trip to the Duomo is incomplete without heading up to the roof on an elevator. For this, you will need to purchase tickets, and they are worth the money. You are treated to sweeping vistas of the city, a clear view of the gold-colored statue of the Virgin Mary atop the cathedral’s highest spire, and on a clear day, the snow-capped peaks of the Alps.
2. Hop-on Hop-off Bus
The advantage of a sightseeing tour of Milan on a hop-on hop-off bus is that you can get down as many times as you wish at a spot you want to explore in person AND your kids don’t have to walk around too much.
Tickets cover you for 24 hours or 48 hours, and usually offer three routes covering all of Milan’s major attractions. It is a flexible option that gives you the freedom to choose what you or your kids would like to see. The open-air double-decker bus offers a comfortable and peaceful experience, which is useful if your little ones tend to feel stressed out in crowded tourist areas.
Among the main attractions the city’s hop-on hop-off buses cover:
- Sforza Castello
- Corso Como
- Porta Venezia
- San Siro
- Stazione Centrale
On-board, you will be listening to the commentary (which is multi-lingual, btw) via headsets, and there is also special commentary for kids in English, Italian and Spanish.
Most hop-on hop-off bus tours offer free Wi-Fi, so you can always look up restaurants nearby or get reviews of places on your phone to decide where you want to get down. If you’re amongst friendly company, your kids can make some new friends and interact with people from various countries among whom these tours are often very popular.
3. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Museum
If your children are too young to know who one of mankind’s most admired polymaths and geniuses is, a visit to the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci – or simply Leonardo Da Vinci’s Museum – is a good introduction. Dedicated to Da Vinci, this is Italy’s largest museum of science and technology dating back to 1953.
The museum offers an interactive experience delivered through a knowledgeable guide. Each area of the museum covers a specific topic such as nature, transportation, energy and technology to name some. Kids are particularly impressed by the old steam trains, aeroplanes and an actual submarine. A number of Da Vinci’s drawings of car models and ‘flying machines’ are also on display.
Intensely educational, with teaching material for children, and hands-on interaction and multimedia, the museum is a must-visit for older kids aged 11 and above. Da Vinci was a true Renaissance Man whose artistic capability was only matched by his technological ingenuity – it would be a pity if youngsters were to discover him only later on in their lives. Meanwhile, if your kids are already aware of him, they’re sure to relish the prospect of getting up and close with his inventions.
4. Lake Como
What would kids possibly do at Lake Como, with its charming cobblestone stairways, plush boutique stores and pretty villas with flower boxes?
Well, the thrill of an electric boat or ferry ride should set the scene for a fun adventure in this glamourous location, and a long time residence of George Clooney. Como’s public boats ferry you to major points of interest in the quickest time. As the roads here are very narrow, water trips are favored over overland drives.
Where there is water, there must be water sports: your kids can enjoy water skiing, surfing, kayaking and jumping up and down water trampolines.
Many areas have cycle tracks, so you can consider cycling along the edge of the lake. Head to San Primo for road biking and mountain biking adventures. Older kids will have a blast at Jungle Raider, a playground offering zip lining, canoeing and tree climbing.
When in Como, make some time for local pizzerias and gelato shops. Waiters at restaurants dote on kids, so your little ones are sure to feel cared for and nab a free treat or two!
The Cadorna and central station are the two main stations that operate trains running from Milan to Como. Do check for timings and destinations online in advance to avoid confusions or delays.
When it’s time to say goodbye to Milan, everyone leaves with a heavy heart. Your kids’ relationship with this lovely city doesn’t have to end with ‘grazie’ (thank you) but begin with ‘alla prossima volta’ (until next time).
Guest post: Anna Kay is an avid traveler and photographer, editor and social media manager at MedCruiseGuide.com.