When visiting Italy you may want to compare Venice vs Milan.
More often than not, both cities are included in the Italian itineraries and road trips of tourists, Venice and Milan are two unmissable cities to visit in the Bel Paese.
In the north of Italy, on one side there’s Venice, the city on the water with its maze of canals and narrow alleyways, and on the other, the fashion capital city: Milan.
They’re both well-connected by flights to European cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam and perfect to visit on the weekend, so which one do you choose?
As a big fan of Venice myself, I love revisiting this city when I can, but after spending time in Milan, I can say that there’s so much to do and see there as well.
Venice vs Milan: Which is better?
For you to see exactly what’s on offer, let’s get into this comparison guide to be able to fully understand the main differences between Venice and Milan.
Venice and Milan are two of the most popular destinations to visit in Italy so it’s no surprise to me if you are at all not sure which city to visit first!
With this guide, I’ll do my best to help you gain a deeper understanding of both Nothern Italian cities so you can make your final decision, ready?
Best time to visit Venice vs Milan
Let’s start with the best time to visit! Venice is a jewel of architecture, art and engineering, built on many small Venetian islands in the middle of a lagoon. Tourists arrive in Venice attracted by the beauty of the city on the water during all 4 seasons.
Whether it’s super warm or freezing cold, Venice has an impressive choice of things to see and do, including events to attend and things to experience.
But when’s the best time to visit Venice for most people? Based on my experience, the best time to be here is early spring or early autumn. This means that the end of March until the end of May (or September) are the ideal periods to visit the city.
During this time of year you can find extravagant accommodation deals and cheaper flights, while during the summer, around Christmas and New Year’s Eve you’ll find to be some of the most expensive periods to visit Venice as a tourist.
Milan is another great city to visit all year round but what I have found is that late spring and early autumn are usually the best times to visit Milan.
In Milan, expect to get some rainy days but not many overall. Temperatures can go over 22 °C in May and hardly below 10 °C at the start of the season.
I don’t recommend visiting Milan during winter when temperatures feel rather cold and there’s a higher chance of rain and fog. Venice is fascinating always even on a cold and foggy day, whereas Milan may look rather depressing during winter.
🏆 Winner: Venice
Culture in Venice vs Milan
When comparing Venice vs Milan, there’s one big cultural difference between the two cities. Milan is a very international city and very popular with expats that choose to call Milan ‘casa’ whether it’s for a short or indefinite period of time.
In Milan, there are a few important universities considered among the best in the world: the Politecnico of Milan and the Bocconi University.
English is widely spoken in Milan (compared to other Italian cities) and everything is happening at a faster pace, with a strong work-oriented culture.
The cost of living is high and residents find it difficult to deal with all the expenses. On the other side, Milan is a city where you can have access to many services, hard to find in other big cities or just outside its city centre.
I still suggest you carry this Italian Phrase Book if you’re not fluent in Italian, it will be useful for you to be able to have simple conversations with locals in Italian.
Milan is famous for its Fashion Week, attracting all fashion lovers every single year, its impressive selection of restaurants offering different world cuisines, for it’s aperitivos, and some of the best museums and art galleries in Italy.
In Venice, you’ll find that life moves at a much slower pace. In a car-free city where there are no roads, but waterways, and where everyone walks (or gets the water bus) to go to their workplace or university, you simply just feel like taking it easy.
Venetians are also considered some of the most welcoming and friendly people in the north of Italy, as long as you respect the city and its inhabitants.
Unfortunately, Venice is negatively affected by mass tourism and a consequence of this phenomenon is the increasing lack of authenticity and depopulation.
I do my best to encourage travellers to consider be extra conscious whilst visiting Venice, buy souvenirs from locally-owned shops, and by making sure the products they buy are hand-made or by following traditional procedures. Every little helps!
🏆 Winner: Venice
Food in Venice vs Milan
Venice and Milan count both on a wide choice of lip-smacking regional dishes and their authentic taste, even if widely imitated worldwide. They can only be tried here!
I invite you to forget all about Pizza and Lasagne for now! The Venetian cuisine is actually famous for its riot of flavours of the lagoon, starting from the cicchetti, small bites of bread topped with seafood, cheeses and seasonal vegetables.
A Venetian meal can not be defined as such, unless you have a risotto dish like risi e bisi or risotto di gò, a pasta dish like bigoli in salsa and a main course like the fegato alla veneziana or scampi alla busara, just to name a few, of course.
The most traditional dishes have poor origins but they’ve been modernized by the best Venetian chefs to please the eye and the palate. Milan is also famous for its rustic and bold flavours, with a predominance of meat based dishes.
If you’re visiting Milan, you can’t leave without trying some iconic dishes such as the risotto alla milanese, prepared using saffron, and the costoletta alla milanese.
Even though in Venice you can go out for a meal and try traditional fish and meat based dishes, Milan counts on a wider choice of international cuisines.
This is particularly appreciated by locals as well as tourists, especially those who much prefer to have open access to as many options as humanely possible.
After all, Milan is the capital city of aperitivo and where many popular cocktails have been invented. There’s no better way to learn more about the drink culture, than taking part in this aperitivo tour (with street food) in the bustling Navigli district.
🏆 Winner: Milan
Cost of Travel in Venice vs Milan
This may be a dealbreaker for many, because when it comes to comparing the cost of travel between Venice vs Milan, the fashion capital city is the undisputed winner!
Let’s be honest here, Venice is known for being one of the most beautiful cities to visit in the world, and that, (more often than not) comes at a high cost.
By selecting the same dates of travel, during shoulder season (autumn), for one night for 2 people, the price is at least 30 euros higher in Venice.
The accommodation I’d like to compare are at least 20 minutes walk from the city centre, with the Concoct Milano rooms, not far from the Sempione Park and La Loggia della Luna (in Venice), based in the Santa Croce district, not far from the railway station Santa Lucia.
Due to the 3 airports there are more flights landing in Milan than Venice, these include Malpensa and Bergamo also, which are the main hubs for low-cost airlines.
This is the reason why flights are generally cheaper. Both cities are also well-connected by public transport, considering that Milano Centrale station and Venezia Santa Lucia are some of the largest railway stations in the country, connecting them to other main Italian cities such as Florence, Rome and Naples.
If you want, you can compare Venice and Rome too, as you can find good deals by consulting at least a month and a half ago the Trenitalia and Italo websites.
🏆 Winner: Milan
Things to do in Venice vs Milan
The list of things to do in Venice and Milan is extensive. This is the reason why I recommend to spend at least 3 days in Venice and more or less the same in Milan.
On your first 2 days in Venice, you should cover the main attractions, most of them are located close to each other around the St. Mark’s basin.
Once near the Rialto area, you can go on a gondola ride and navigate the most important canal of Venice: the Grand Canal.
You will find that the best way to get around Venice is walking up and down its bridges and getting lost around its neighbourhoods, but along the way make sure to visit its stunning art galleries located inside Gothic Venetian palaces.
Some of my personal favourite things to do here is take a stroll around the Jewish Ghetto, stop for aperitivo at Bacareto da Lele or Osteria Al Squero, two bacari loved by locals and visit other islands of the Venetian lagoon.
If you’ve got enough time, why not join this boat trip to Murano, Burano and Torcello and visit 3 of the most famous islands in Venice while here?
Milan is also famous for its rich architectural and artistic heritage and the first thing to do is visit Piazza Duomo and walk down the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
For all shopping addicts, head over Quadrilatero district, Corso Venezia and via Montenapoleaone to fill your luggage with the best quality clothes (Made in Italy).
Finally, go for a stroll along the Navigli at night where you can treat yourself to aperitivo just like the locals like to do. A walk around Sempione Park is the perfect place to take a break from the bustle of the city.
🏆 Winner: Venice
Tourist attractions in Venice vs Milan
Venice is known as the romantic city on the water, and when you think about it, there’s no other city in the world like it.
The main attractions to visit, especially as first time visitor are: St. Mark’s Square, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace and the romantic Bridge of Sighs.
You can drink a (not the cheapest in Venice) cappuccino at the Caffè Florian before heading towards the Rialto Bridge and market area.
True and proper tourist attractions in Venice are art galleries and museums housed in old palaces, often overlooking the Grand Canal. At the top of the list of best museums there is the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, both based in the Dorsoduro district. Both not to be missed!
Milan is the perfect culture and art destination! Some of the best attractions to include in your Milan itinerary should be: the Duomo and its rooftop terraces, explore the Museo del Novecento, walk down the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, see the Teatro alla Scala and Sforzesco Castle plus much more.
If you love art, I also recommend visiting the Pinacoteca di Brera, in the trendy Brera neighbourhood, or if you’re feeling contemplative, why not admire the Da Vinci’s Last Supper inside the refectory of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie?
🏆 Winner: Draw
Getting Around Venice vs Milan
In Milan, forget driving if you don’t want to end up stuck in traffic. Instead, use the fast and affordable metro. By metro, you can reach the main attractions and points of interest of the city. In the historic centre you can easily get around on foot!
If you love walking, you’ll find that the best neighbourhoods to visit on foot are the Duomo area and the Brera district as well as the Navigli area.
The 48-hour Milan pass is best for exploring Milan and it not only includes access to all the city’s public transport but also free entrance to La Scala Theatre and Duomo.
All three international airports in Milan are well-connected to the centre, with a frequent and reliable bus service. You can book your transfer in advance from Bergamo airport, Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate to the centre.
In Venice, there are 2 airports: Venice Marco Polo, closer to Venice city centre and Treviso airport, where the low-cost airline Ryanair operates its flights.
Some of the most popular options for getting from Marco Polo airport to Venice centre are the ATVO bus transfer which arrives in Piazzale Roma and then you have the shared water taxi which will take you directly to your hotel (or point of interest).
When it comes to moving around Venice, the best way is on foot, so you can explore the narrow streets and cross bridges. If you have a limited time in Venice and want to see as much as possible, then use the convenient water bus service.
You can also get a water bus pass in advance and even select for how many days you’ll need it for so you can save time queuing up when you arrive in Venice.
Also, while you’re here, I would like to invite you to read my complete guide on public transportation in Venice for more tips. However, if you feel like you need extra advice, don’t hesitate to join my Facebook group and ask me or other travellers.
In general, travellers find it slightly more difficult to understand how to move around Venice compared to other mainland cities such as Milan, in this case. For this reason, when comparing Venice vs Milan, the latter is an easier to explore.
🏆 Winner: Milan
After comparing things like the food culture, the best time to visit and things to do and see in Venice and Milan, you should know a bit more about both Italian cities.
Of course, there are other factors to take into consideration, but I think the ones I have covered above are some of the most relevant when it comes to a short trip.
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Venice vs Milan: Which will you visit?
Now you have a better idea of what to expect whilst visiting Venice and Milan.
I firmly believe that both cities are worth any visitor’s time and energy as they offer a glimpse of just how different the urban landscape in Italy can be.
There’s no need to say that in Venice you visit attractions you can’t find in Milan and vice versa, and for this reason, both places make a great addition to your itinerary.
Your final decision will likely be based on things you want to do and see and when you can find a flight and hotel deal all based on your specific travel dates.
Also, it is worth remembering that by visiting Venice, you’ll have the chance to visit other enchanting cities in Veneto, many of which can be easily reached by train.
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