I have to be honest, the first time I visited Milan, I expected something different. Something more fashionable, something more romantic, something more beautiful. But expectations are a dangerous thing to have and I learned that you should never judge a book by its cover. So I looked beyond and slowly got to know the beauty of Milan.

Milan might not have the romantic vibe that Rome has, or the beautiful canals of Venice, but Milan does have a lot to offer. It’s Italy’s city of design, industry, fashion, the world expo, art galleries and museums for modern and contemporary art. Milano is real; she doesn’t try to be beautiful, but that’s what makes her beautiful. And that is why I like her.

As one of my close friends lives in Milan, I’ve visited the city several times so here is a guide to my favorite things to do in Milan.

Locals know best - here are 10 secret spots not to miss in Milan!

1) Have a royal picnic at Parco Sempione

Get yourself some fruits, a blanket and a bottle of vino and you’re all set for a nice picnic between the flowers at Parco Sempione. This lovely park is located northwest of Milan and is bordering the gardens of the Sforza Castle.

Address: Piazza Sempione, 20154 Milano

Locals know best - here are 10 secret spots not to miss in Milan!

2) Go vintage treasure hunting at the east market

The east market is located inside of an industrial building dated from the second world war in the heart of ventura design district in Milano. At this marketplace you can find anything from vintage clothing, furniture and antiques. Entrance is free and if you’re hungry you can try out some Italian bites at the food market while listening to the DJs playing. Follow their facebook or instagram for scheduled dates.

Address: Via Privata Giovanni Ventura 14 20134 Milano

3) Go for aperitivo and drinks in Navigli

Navigli, with its pretty canals, cosy terraces, lively bars and aperitivo is a great place to wander around in the evening. From 7PM till 9PM head over to Mas for cocktails and an all-you-can-eat buffet with small appetizers for €10.

Address: Mas: Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 11

Locals know best - here are 10 secret spots not to miss in Milan!

4) Go for an all you can eat brunch Italian style

Hidden in Navigli you can find Fonderie milanesi, a nineteenth-century style old farmhouse full of colorful vintage art and furniture with a cosy courtyard. This is the perfect spot for a Sunday brunch. You pay 20 euros and pick something from the menu and you can eat whatever you like from the bar.

Address: Via Giovenale, 7 – 20136 Milano

5) Wander around the streets of the Cinque Vie historical district

This is known as the most ancient part of Milan, a five street crossing: via Sant’Orsola, via Santa Marta, via del Bollo, via Bocchetto and via Santa Maria Fulcorina. You can find lots of boutiques and design galleries here. And if you’d like to see some old churches and archeological sites, this is the area to be.

Locals know best - here are 10 secret spots not to miss in Milan!

6) Watch the sunset from Monte Stella

If you’re looking for a nice and quiet place to escape the busy city centre, this is the perfect spot to be! Surround yourself in the calmness and enjoy the greenery of this little mountain, while you gaze at the view over Milano and watch the sun go down. Make sure to bring some drinks before you go, as there are no shops or cafes around!

Address: Via Enrico Terzaghi, 20148 Milan.

Locals know best - here are 10 secret spots not to miss in Milan!

7) Drink mojitos with the locals and travellers at Ostello Bello

Ostello Bello is a lovely hostel located in the heart of Milan, within walking distance of Navigli and Piazza Duomo. The bar inside of the hostel with its colorful vintage interior and friendly staff make you feel right at home. It’s full of travelers and local people and they serve some really good mojitos!

Address: Via Medici, 4, 20123 Milan

8) Get cultural at one of the free art museums

Milan is known as the city of fashion and art and has lots of free museums. Soak up the creative atmosphere at Hangar Bicocca, a place for contemporary art, or check out world-class photo exhibitions at Carla Sozzani Gallery, set in a beautiful courtyard.

Address Hangar Bicocca: Via Chiese, 2, 20126 Milan

Address Carla Sozzani: Corso Como, 10, 20154 Milan

9) Grab a drink and listen to live music at Colonne di San Lorenzo

Absorb the lively atmosphere and culture at this beautiful Roman colonnade opposite of the San Lorenzo Basilica. Bring your own beer or wine, listen to people play the guitar and get to know some local people.

Address: corso di Porta Ticinese, 35, Milan

10) Try the Italian gelato at Cioccolat Italiani

No Italian adventure is complete without the taste of Italian ice cream. A few steps from Piazza Duomo you can find Cioccolat Italiani, one of the best ice cream places in Milano. Try out some of the flavours while sitting at the steps in front of the Duomo and watch people from all over the world walk by/enjoy some good old people-watching.

Address: via San Raffaele, 6, Milan

What is your favorite spot in Milan?

This is a guest post by Yasmin Meijer.

Dutch dreamer, wanderer and ocean lover, Yasmin lived out of a backpack for a year in Australia, traveled to 35 countries, studied photography in the UK and Chinese in Shanghai, and now lives in Amsterdam. When she’s not planning her next trip, she’s writing stories, capturing moments and chasing her dreams of adventures. Follow her blog wanderlobster.com and on Instagram @wanderlobster.