While it is undoubtedly true that Milan is one of Italy’s most fastest-paced and modern cities, it’s not fair to label it monochrome. Scattered amidst the skyscrapers and cathedrals of fashion are pockets of green that are the perfect spots to stop and take a breath. This northern powerhouse boasts some beautiful parks and gardens – here’s our guide to some of the most famous and best loved.

Parco Sempione

Opening up right behind the Castello Sforzesco, Parco Sempione is definitely one of Milan’s staple locations – as well as the most famous among all of the city’s parks and green spaces. Dating back to the late 19th century, Parco Sempione features the perfect mix of outdoor activities (trails for walks and runs, playgrounds for children, dog-friendly areas) as well as beautiful historic architecture like the triumphal Arco della Pace.

If you’d like to add a touch of romance to your visit, then you should seek out the Ponte delle Sirenette within the park – as the name suggests, it features the statues of little mermaids, and it’s said to be one of the most romantic spots in the city.

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The Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli are in the Porta Venezia neighborhood © BalazsSebok / Shutterstock

Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli

The Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, located in the Porta Venezia neighborhood, are designed and intended as a place for leisure and relaxation – and they’ve been Milan’s “gardens” (as they’re known to this day) ever since the first half of the 18th century.

Once you’ve soaked up the sun to your heart’s delight and are looking for something else to do, the Giardini Pubblici also house some pretty incredible buildings – like the natural history museum and the planetarium.

Giardini della Guastalla

Even though they’re not as vast as Parco Sempione or the Giardini Pubblici, you’d be sorely mistaken to dismiss the Giardini della Guastalla based on their size alone. Still within Milan’s city center and boasting a remarkable history, these gardens feature centuries-old trees as well as a beautiful Baroque pond.

The Giardini della Guastalla are also right in between the Università Statale and the Policlinico Hospital, which makes them the preferred spot for students to relax between classes.

The front entrance of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Italy
The Galleria d’Arte Moderna is on the grounds of the Giardino della Villa Belgiojoso Bonaparte © Stephanie Ong / Lonely Planet

Giardino della Villa Belgiojoso Bonaparte

Right across the street from the Giardini Pubblici, you’ll find the little garden of the Belgiojoso Bonaparte Villa. The villa is also known as Villa Reale and it houses the GAM – the gallery of modern art –  in the same rooms that used to belong to the Earl of Belgiojoso, who commissioned the garden to be one of the very first “English gardens” in Milan.

The Giardino is a great perfect place for a soothing stroll, but there’s a twist – it’s traditionally open only to children, for whom it features a playground, and the adults who accompany them. So if you’re traveling with kids and are looking for a green space to relax in, the Giardino is definitely worth checking out.

Parco Biblioteca degli Alberi

Nothing screams Milan like innovation and quirky new ideas, and the Parco Biblioteca degli Alberi (also known as BAM) is the perfect example of it. Located in a very hip area of the city, right between the Isola neighborhood and the ultra-modern Piazza Gae Aulenti, the Parco was inaugurated only in 2018 but it’s actually Milan’s third-largest green area behind Parco Sempione and the Giardini Pubblici.

It’s not too hard to understand why it’s called Biblioteca degli Alberi, library of the trees, once you know that the park is home to more than a hundred kinds of flora. But there’s a lot more to do here than just stroll among the trees and relax on the grass – the Parco hosts a huge variety of activities, from conferences to workshops dedicated to kids and adults alike. And if you find that you’ve grown attached to a particular tree during your visit, then you can always make it yours with the park’s initiative of adopting a tree!

Monte Stella

Not too far away from Milan’s iconic San Siro stadium is the Monte Stella, also known as Montagnetta, or little mountain. Because that’s what it is – a small artificial mountain that rises about 50m above the city. And while it’s not much, it’s definitely enough for the residents of a city like Milan, which sits smack in the middle of the Po Valley.

The Monte Stella is always busy with runners, hikers and bikers who want to test their training going up and down its paths – but it’s also a great spot to enjoy the Milan skyline from a perfect vantage point. Be sure to stop by if your visit happens during a particularly snowy winter – you’ll find the “slopes” of the little mountain filled with people having fun in the snow and you might want to join them!

Three cyclists riding in Parco Nord in Milan
Parco Nord has trails for running, hiking and biking © Getty Images

Parco Nord

Parco Nord is in Milan’s suburban area (to the north, as the name suggests, around Sesto San Giovanni and Cinisello Balsamo). While it is quite distant from the city center proper (even though Milan’s public transport makes reaching it very easy even without a car), it’s definitely worth visiting if you want to take a day off from touring Milan’s museums and boulevards and completely surround yourself in nature while enjoying a variety of activities.

Parco Nord truly has it all: trails for running, hiking and biking; soccer, basketball, baseball and boules courts; a picnic area and, of course, several playgrounds for children.

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