Italy’s fashion capital – and epicentre of design, media and finance – pours dazzling energy and glamour into its festive celebrations. Christmas in Milan is a spectacle not to be missed, from lavish displays of holiday lights to Christmas concerts at the legendary opera house, Teatro Alla Scala, known simply as “La Scala”.
The Milanese officially begin the Christmas season on December 7, with the Feast of Saint Ambrose, the city’s patron saint. Along with Festa dell’Immacolata, the Feast of the Immaculate conception, which takes place on December 8, these days inaugurate Christmas in Milan and are known locally as Il Ponte (the bridge).
You’ll find the Fiera di Sant’Ambrogio, the city’s largest market and a centuries-old tradition, on the piazza in front of Castello Sforzesco, the iconic red-brick castle in the centre of Milan. Hundreds of wooden booths tempt shoppers with handmade crafts, jewellery, hand-knitted winter wear and artisanal leather goods, along with plenty of holiday food and drink. This market, also called “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” (Milanese for “Oh how nice! Oh how nice!”) takes place from December 7-10th as part of the Feast of Saint Ambrose.
You’ll be spoilt for choice if you come hungry or thirsty to Milan’s Christmas markets, but nowhere more so than at the Mercatino di Natale, where you’ll be tempted by diverse regional specialities from the snowy Italian Alps to sunny regions such as Puglia and Calabria. Don’t miss regional culinary traditions such as panettone (fruit cake), roasted chestnuts, and castagnaccio, a cake of pine kernel, chestnuts and raisins.
Festival of lights
This is a city that loves fashion and design, and no expense is spared on festive decoration in the run-up to Christmas in Milan. Expect Christmas lights with a serious wow factor everywhere from the Church of Santa Marie delle Grazie, to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the Castello Sforzesco and the towering Christmas tree that illuminates Piazza Duomo. For many, the crowning glory of all these fabulous lighting displays is the Sfilata di Luci, or fashion show of lights, that bedecks Corso Como.
Christmas Parties in Milan
Milan has a reputation for pulling out all the stops when it comes to wining, dining and celebrating. Milan’s best bars and restaurants are happy to accommodate large groups, office parties and big festive celebrations.
Top venue choices for Christmas parties in Milan include the cozy Trattoria de la Trebia and La Cantina del Giannone, with an excellent wine selection from the Piedmont and Lombardy regions. There’s also the fun, Roman-style Volemose Bene Ostaria Romana, loved by locals for its pasta; Ribot, famous for its Florentine-style steak; and Osteria Fara, adored for its wood-fired pizzas. The most captivating dinner party venue is InGalera. Located in Milan’s Bollate prison, this celebrated and elegant restaurant is staffed by inmates on the prison’s training and rehabilitation programme. Excellent food, a unique venue and the chance to engage in the festive spirit of giving make this a special experience.
If you’re in the mood for aperitivi (early evening cocktails, wine and light snacks — an Italian tradition) Dosso 18 makes an excellent spot for throwing Christmas parties in Milan. For panoramic views of the city and the spires of the Duomo, try Terrazza Martini. Graced with a rooftop terrace and a greenhouse-style gazebo it’s been a fixture on Milan’s high society party circuit since 1958.