I’ve spent quite a lot of time photographing Milan over the past few years. As you may know, I’m interested in street photography and being able to take pictures of the same city again and again allowed me to grow as a photographer but also to discover the areas where I get the best photo opportunities.
Of course, what I like photographing is different from what you like photographing, so I decided to include information for each place that might help you navigate my hometown and decide if it fits your interests and style.
I also prepared a map with all the areas discussed in this article.
Piazza del Duomo, Galleria and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Piazza della Scala are the most iconic places in Milan. They’re also the most crowded, pretty much any time of the day and any season.
Depending on what type of photographs you want to capture, this area might be too overcrowded or just perfect due to the amount of available human subjects. Keep in mind that spaces here are wide and open.
The whole area is pedestrian-only.
Arco della Pace, Parco Sempione, Castello Sforzesco
Another night life area with pubs known for aperitivi. Wide and open spaces with trams and the beautiful Arco della Pace.
Parco Sempione is one of the largest urban parks in Milan. If you walk across it, you reach Castello Sforzesco, a medieval castle originally built by the Sforza family.
Via Torino, Corso di Porta Ticinese
Via Torino is one of the shopping streets in Milan. It’s not too wide and it’s open to traffic – there are many taxes and trams, bicycles and motorbikes. It’s very crowded during after-work hours and on weekends, but it’s otherwise relatively quiet.
Corso di Porta Ticinese connects Via Torino to the Navigli area and it has many restaurants and pubs so it’s busier during the night. Traffic is mostly limited to trams and taxis.
The Navigli area is famous for pubs and night life with the Milanese-style aperitivo, therefore it’s usually very crowded at night. There are also quite a few quirky little shops selling unusual stuff, antiques and memorabilia.
Cars and trams drive around the Darsena, while the streets along the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese are (almost) pedestrian-only.
This area is known for boutique shops and restaurants. It is relatively quiet despite also being crowded. Streets are narrow and shaded. There are a few hidden corners that are worth exploring.
The whole area is pedestrian-only and you can easily reach it on foot from Piazza della Scala.
Porta Garibaldi, Piazza Gae Aulenti
This area is one of the most modern places in Milan. All-glass skyscrapers are mixed with pedestrian-only squares, fountains and parks. Shops and restaurants add more life to a place that would otherwise be deserted outside business hours.
Piazza Alvar Aalto and Piazza Gae Aulenti are very nice to explore and to look for interesting light and reflections in between the tall buildings.
From Piazza Gae Aulenti you can walk along Corso Como and then Corso Garibaldi to find more restaurants, pubs and night life in a more traditional setting.
The area has a mix of wide and narrow street and places.
City Life, Tre Torri
This is another instance of a recent development with skyscrapers, parks, shopping, restaurants all in a very modern setting and architecture. Spaces are open and wide.
The area is very quiet and night.
Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga are two high-end shopping streets in Milan. Shop windows are fancy and flooded with lights and colors and you can often spot supercars parked as their owners are shopping.
Bonus: Narrow Secondary Streets
So far we discussed the main “touristy” places in Milan, but there are hundreds of narrow secondary streets downtown that are worth getting lost into.
You see, the center of Milan is not large at all and it’s easy to walk from one famous location to another going through these quiet alleys with smaller shops and restaurants and while encountering only a few people on the way. You can find yourself in places that are almost silent even on a Saturday night and just a couple minutes away from the roaring bustle.
And yes, there are real flamingos right in the heart of Milan at Villa Invernizzi.