What’s in this guide?
- Things to do at Naviglio Grande
- History and facts
- Restaurants, bars and shops in the area
- Opening times
How to get to Naviglio Grande
Located on Milan’s city centre’s southern outskirts, it’s easy to get to Naviglio Grande by public transport. A quick and cost-effective way to travel around Lombardy’s capital is by metro. To reach the Naviglio, you can hop on the M2 line to Porta Genova or Agostino, just a short walk from the canal. You can get off at Porta Genova station if you arrive by train.
Alternatively, you can travel by bus or tram. Lines 25 and 26 will drop you off at Via Gorizia, along the banks of the Naviglio. At the same time, trams 2, 10 and 14 will leave you at Corso Colombo. From there, it’s just a short stroll along the canal.
If you’re planning to use public transport often during your stay, we advise you to get your hands on the travel cards as soon as you can. They allow you to travel by metro, bus or tram within a 90-minute window. The 24-hour pass costs €4.50 and the 48-hour pass €8.50.
Milan also offers public bikes. Cycling around the Navigli district provides beautiful views of the city and is an affordable way to travel. The first half an hour is free of charge on regular bikes, then €0.50 every 30 minutes after that. On electric bikes, the first 30 minutes are €0.25, the second minutes €0.50, then €1 for every 30 minutes.
Things to do at Naviglio Grande
The Naviglio Grande is the oldest canal in Milan, built between 1177 and 1272. It’s 50 kilometres long, running through the Navigli district, a scenic place for an afternoon stroll or an aperitivo in the sun.
There are plenty of things to do and see here, from learning all about the history of Milan's churches to tasting the authentic Lombardy cuisine. The Darsena (the point of convergence between the canals) is a space for recreation for all, no matter if you fancy getting gelato on the go or simply watching the sunset.
Ready to explore Navigli?
Strolling around Navigli is a great way to discover the area, but nothing beats the beauty of a canal cruise. Everything just looks so much better from the water! If you fancy a canal tour, various companies provide this service.
Autostradale Viaggi offers a trip along the canals, as well as a journey from Cassinetta di Lugagnano to Castelletto di Cuggiono to explore the majestic Robecco sul Naviglio Villa and the medieval village of Boffalora sopra Ticino. Services depart every Sunday, and general admissions cost €12, while concessions cost €10.
Neiade also provides tours along the Milanese waterways with stops at the Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio, Vicolo dei Lavandai and the Conchetta di Leonardo da Vinci on the Naviglio Pavese. And if you want to experience Venice even when in Milan, why not hop on the gondola? Groups of between two and six people can ride together.
Strolling around the area? Get ready to bump into some of Milan’s most notable buildings, such as the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore (San Lorenzo Maggiore Church), Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio (Sant’Eustorgio Church) and Porta Ticinese.
The Basilica di San Lorenzo was built on a former Roman site between the 4th and 5th centuries. It symbolises the Roman Empire's legacy in the Middle Ages. Architecturally varied, this Basilica is as fascinating on the inside as it is on the outside. Opposite to the Basilica is the Colonne di San Lorenzo (Columns of San Lorenzo), 16 Corinthian columns dating back to Roman times.
A few miles south of the San Lorenzo Maggiore church, the Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio used to be an essential stop for pilgrims on their journey to Rome. Its majestic chapel houses frescoes by Vincenzo Foppa and Giovanni di Balduccio.
Porta Ticinese is another important historic landmark, one of Milan’s old city gates. First created with the Spanish walls of the city, the original entrance was destroyed and later rebuilt in the 19th century.
Art and culture
Navigli is Milan’s artistic heart, home to contemporary art galleries and exhibitions. These art spaces often represent the springboard for new talents, such as the Miradoli Arte Contemporanea and the Silbernagl Undergallery.
Get a gelato on the go and explore the neighbouring Tortona district, where you’ll find David Chipperfield’s MUDEC (The Museum of Cultures), Beautiful Gallery and Armani/Silos Fashion Museum.
Naviglio Grande history and facts
The Naviglio Grande is the oldest and most important canal in Milan, connecting the Ticino River to the Porta Ticinese near Tornavento and running for around 50 kilometres.
Created because of a drainage ditch being widened as a defence against Frederick Barbarossa, it stretches back to 1177. In 1258, it extended into Milan despite citizens’ protests and was eventually completed in 1272, when it became navigable. It turned into the central trading hub for exchanges of goods and services, from coal and wood to salt and rice.
Between 1830 and the 20th century, around 8,000 boats travelled through the canal, with traffic peaking during WWII.
People started expressing a strong interest in road transport for exchanging goods. In 1979, the last cargo of sand was unloaded at the Darsena, which marked the end of the Naviglio Grande as the central trading hub. Today, the canals are only used for irrigation purposes, as was initially intended.
Restaurants, bars and shops near Naviglio Grande
When it comes to Milan’s culinary scene, the Navigli district stands out as one of the very best. Dotted with vintage boutiques and quirky shops for unexpected finds and packed with various bars and restaurants – food is Navigli’s speciality.
Too much choice? Let us help. We know the importance of an exceptional culinary experience. Here are a few of the best spots in the area:
- 28 Posti
- Al Pont de Ferr
- Le Tournedos
- Ostriche e Vino
- Osteria Conchetta
- Le Striatelle di Nonna Mafalda
- Osteria della Darsena
- Officina del Riso
- Belé Ristorante
Fancy a pizza? You wouldn’t be in Italy if you didn’t. Pizza is the ultimate pleasure for the palate, and Milanese know it well. Head to:
- Ai Balestrari sul Naviglio Pavese
- La Tradizionale
- Napoli 1820
- Solopizzacafé Navigli
- I Capatosta Navigli
- La Magolfa
- Marina sul Naviglio
- Fratelli Cavallaro
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Well, the same goes for Milan. If you want to live like a local, you can’t skip the daily ritual – the Milanese aperitivo. The Navigli district is the perfect place to head to if you’re in the mood for a refreshing Aperol Spritz and some nibbles.
- Rita & Cocktails
- Officina 12
- La Prosciutteria
- Spritz Navigli Milano
- Vista Darsena
- Mag Caffé
The Naviglio Grande also offers plenty of opportunities for shopping, whether you prefer vintage treasures or high-end designs. Here’s where:
- Maison Gotò
- Mimma Gini in via G. Giacomo Mora
- Dress you can
Most shops in Milan are open every day between 10:00 and 20:00, with some closing for lunch from 13:30 to 14:30.
Bars and restaurants usually stay open the whole day. Most restaurants close at 23:00, while bars can remain open throughout the night.
Taking the train to Milan?
If you're considering a trip to Milan, why not travel by train? Getting the train to Milan is easy due to the high-speed rail connections operated by Trenitalia and Italo. You can travel to Milan from some of the most popular cities in Italy, including Turin to Milan (47m), Rome to Milan (2h 52m) and Florence to Milan (1h 40m).
Need more information about travelling to Milan by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Milan.