Christmas in Milan (And New Year’s, Too): What You Have to Know

Christmas Milan duomo tree
Milan at Christmas and New Year's

Christmas in Milan means a beautiful tree at the Piazza del Duomo! Photo by Adriano Castelli.

Christmas in Milan isn’t just beautiful—it’s the perfect place and season to get some shopping done! One of the world’s most renowned shopping destinations, Milan lights up during the holidays with miles of designer stores, unique boutiques and outdoor markets, making it the perfect destination for getting through your Christmas list.

But even if you’re not the biggest shopping fan, there’s plenty to do and see, from midnight Mass at the Duomo to ringing in the New Year like a true Milanese.

Coming to Milan for Christmas or New Year’s? From Christmas markets to holiday museum hours, here’s our guide to enjoying Christmas in Milan!

Christmas markets in Milan

Christmas officially kicks off on December 7, better known as the local holiday that celebrates St. Ambrogio, Milan’s patron saint. The season always opens with the “O Bej, O Bej” Christmas market (which means “oh how nice!” in Milanese dialect). As they have for centuries, every year, hundreds of stands set up in front of Castello Sforzesco, selling everything from local delicacies like panettone (a sweet Christmas bread) to handmade goods.

Not enough holiday shopping for you? Get lost in the thousands of stands at the Artigiano in Fiera, which takes place at the Rho Fiera Exhibition Center during the first 10 days of December.

(For more, check out our post on 10 of the best Christmas markets in Italy!).

More Christmas shopping in Milan

At Christmas, Milan's window displays are even more stunning!

At Christmas, Milan’s window displays are even more stunning! Photo by Paolo Bona

If you’ve missed the markets, no worries: Milan has plenty of other shopping opportunities. Take a stroll down one of Milan’s most stylish streets, like Via Monte Napoleone or Corso Buenos Aires, to admire the decked-out windows and browse the latest fashions. (For more, check out our guide on where to shop in Milan!). But don’t expect to find many deals: While some chains offer holiday sales, most major discounts start the second week of January.

Christmas in Milan

Festive lights at Milan’s Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

The prettiest Christmas decorations in Milan

As the sun goes down, the lights go up. Come Christmas, colorful lights dazzle the city’s architecture and piazzas—even the trams!

Our favorite spots to experience the festive decorations include the Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo, the dazzling dome in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the majestic Castello Sforzesco. Or head up the Torre Branca in Parco Sempione for a panoramic view of all of Milan’s Christmas lights at once. (More on the Torre Branca in our post on Milan’s Parco Sempione!).

Holiday hours for Milan’s churches and museums

Milan is home to some of the most acclaimed art in the world, from its Gothic Duomo to elegant opera house, Renaissance masterpieces to avant-garde design. If you’re coming over Christmas, be aware that some of these sites close over the holidays, particularly on December 25 and January 1.

Here’s a cheat sheet to what’s open, when:

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper: Closed on Mondays, December 25 and January 1. For more details, don’t miss our guide to making the most out of visiting the Last Supper!
Duomo Terrace, for an up-close look at the Cathedral and for breathtaking views of the city: Closed Dec. 25.
Museo del Novecentofor 20th-century art: Open every day.
Castello Sforzesco, Milan’s famed 15th-century castle: Open every day, but its museums close on Mondays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
Triennale, for contemporary art and design: Closed on Mondays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
Pinacoteca di Brera, a museum with a large, excellent collection of Renaissance paintings: Closed on Mondays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
Palazzo Realea royal palace with temporary exhibits: Open from 9:30am to 2:30pm on Dec. 24 and 31, 2:30pm to 7:30pm on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
La Scala, the world-famous opera house: La Scala has many performances scheduled throughout the holiday season. Tickets usually sell out quickly, so make sure to book well ahead of time!

Last Supper Painting

Keep it in mind: Milan’s Last Supper is closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day!

Holiday hours for Milan’s stores, restaurants, and public transport

Most stores and restaurants close down on Christmas, even the huge Rinascente department store. A handful are open, but when it comes to dining on Christmas Eve and Day, make your reservations in advance; some of our favorite spots open for holiday meals are Il Luogo di Aimo e NadiaAl Garghet and Antica Hostaria della Lanterna.

Want to get out of the city for the holidays? Milan’s central location makes it easy to reach both the lakes (Lago Maggiore and Lake Como) and the Alps (like Valtellina and Courmayeur) in less than two hours! Trains and public transportation do run on Christmas Day, but service may be limited. Check out our guide to public transport in Milan before planning your trip.

Celebrating Christmas like the Milanese do (including midnight Mass)

Panettone, a tasty Christmas tradition in Milan

Panettone, a tasty Christmas tradition in Milan

In preparation for Christmas Day, Italians usually enjoy a multiple-course fish dinner with family, followed by midnight Mass.

The vigil Mass at the Duomo with the Archbishop begins at 11:30pm, but arrive at least two hours earlier to snag a spot in the church. Other popular midnight Mass and Christmas Day services are celebrated at the churches of Sant’Ambrogio and Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Christmas Mass in English is sometimes available at Chiesa Santa Maria del Carmine, but is not scheduled every year.

Panettone—a sweet Christmas bread with candied fruit—originated in Milan and is a staple across Italy at Christmas. It’s often given as a gift and served at dessert. We love the panettone from Marchesi and Peck, but be prepared to wait in line! (Don’t miss our post on panettone and Italy’s other Christmas cakes!).

How to celebrate the New Year in Milan

New Year’s Eve is a fabulous celebration in Milan, with many of the city’s uber-trendy clubs offering packages that include aperitivo, dinner and dancing. Some of the most popular locales are Byblos, Gattopardo, and Milan’s designer-owned clubs, like Armani Privé and Just Cavalli.

The city also offers more budget-friendly celebrations like fireworks at Castello Sforzesco, parties outside at Piazza Duomo, and bars on the Navigli canals and around the nearby Colonne di San Lorenzo piazza.

As on Christmas Day, most restaurants and shops close on New Year’s Day, letting workers celebrate the new year and spend time with family.

Although the Epiphany on Jan. 6 isn’t as commonly celebrated as in other central and southern Italian cities, Milan celebrates the holy day with a procession from Piazza Duomo to the church of Sant’Eustorgio (near the Navigli area), with a reenactment of the march of the Three Kings.

If you’re coming to Italy over Christmas, don’t miss our post on celebrating Christmas and New Year’s in Florence, too!

Have you ever experienced Christmas in Milan? What was it like? Tell us in the comments!

13 Comments

  • Ania says:

    I would love to go to Milan for Christmas this year. Could you advise me if restaurants, bars are open over the holidays or is it better to pick another dates for a visit there?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Ania,

      Though many places will be closed on Christmas day, Milan is a big city with many travelers and tourists and there will definitely be restaurants available throughout the city – even your hotel might have options for you! Christmastime in Milan is gorgeous, we’re sure you’d enjoy the visit!

  • Dina Nielsen says:

    Hi. I want to travel to Milan in november, and hopefully enjoy som italian Christmas spirit. When do the Christmas decorations start?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Dina,

      In some cities the Christmas decorations are up as early as the first of December, but mostly they seem to go up after the 8th of December – on St. Ambrose’s feast day (especially in Milan, the city he is a patron saint of). Around that time is when you’ll start to find lights and Christmas markets in all the major Italian cities.

  • Korey says:

    Hi!

    I’ll go to Milan at 24-27/Dec/2016,
    Is it all the shop & restaurant will close during that time?!

    Thanks!!

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Korey,

      Though some shops and restaurants will certainly be closed during that time, especially 24-26, not all of them will be. We recommend you reserve your dinners in advance, perhaps via your hotel, to be sure you get a table for Christmas dinner! Have a great trip.

  • Sara sørensen says:

    Hi!
    My boyfriend and I are thinking about going to Milan in december. Is it worth it in the christmas time? We really want a romantic christmas full of christmas spirit. Should we go to London instead maybe?
    – Sara

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Sara,

      Milan is gorgeous during Christmas time! Starting the first week of December there are the famous O bej O Bej Christmas Markets, plus an artisan fair that lasts a bit longer. You’ll find the entire city sparkling with Christmas lights and an enormous Christmas tree in front of the Duomo. Window shoppers (or just shoppers!) will love strolling past the Christmas-themed display windows. This is also the perfect time to explore Milan’s many museums, bakeries and fantastic restaurants, to escape the cold!

  • Ash Shah says:

    We will be in Milan for new year. We fly back on Jan 1. Does the Malpensa Express run from the city to the airport on Jan 1?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Ash,

      We couldn’t find any indication on the Malpensa Express website in Italian or English about trains having different times on holidays.

  • Anthony says:

    My family will be in Milan around 28 Dec to 01 Jan to enjoy the festivities and also to shop. Will the stores for both luxury brands and outlet shopping be open? Thanks

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Anthony,

      It varies from store to store, but you can expect closures on Jan 1 and perhaps December 31. Every other day you should find the stores open. Have a great time!

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