Paris vs. Milan: Which Fashion Capital in Europe Should You Visit First?

Paris vs. Milan: Which Fashion Capital in Europe Should You Visit First?

Both are drop-dead gorgeous fashion meccas.

When it comes to glamour and style, two European cities are often pitted against each other in an age-old showdown. Paris and Milan are traditional rivals in the fashion scene, with both cities at the forefront of fashion in Europe, and celebrating their own fashion weeks every single year. Needless to say, Paris and Milan’s popular fashion cultures have greatly contributed to their respective economies by way of tourism and retail. 

That begs the question: If you’re after this kind of travel experience in Europe, which one are you going to visit first? It’s not like you have all the money in the world to immerse in each destination one after another. Despite the similarities, there are surely aspects in each city that could speak to you more deeply. Here’s what you need to consider in Paris vs Milan, the fashion capitals of Europe!

Also read: Travelling to Europe in 2022: What It’s Like and What to Expect

Milan, Italy

Shopping in Milan


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Milan is a shopaholic’s dream destination. Walking along its shopping districts, you’ll find a generous selection of fashion brands; from luxurious high-end stores and designer wears at discounted prices, to unique fashion pieces found at flea markets. And it’s not just clothes you can shop till you drop, but also jewellery, home decor, and even food to munch while you’re window shopping.

There’s a little bit of something for people of all walks of life. You can spot all the famous upscale brands at Via Monte Napoleone, commonly considered the most luxurious shopping street in the world. Armani, Prada, Gucci — you name it, they got it. 

On the other hand, should you be shopping on a budget in Milan, Via Torino is a popular choice for bargain hunters. At affordable prices, you can find trendy clothes, jewellery, and footwear to come up with an ensemble that’ll make you look like a million bucks. Aside from fashion stores, these streets have cosmetic and home decor stores that make it a one-stop shop for your vanity items. 

In case you want to shop for vintage pieces, Cavalli E Nastri has vibrant and old-school luxurious styles from the likes of Christian Dior and Emilio Pucci. Other famous shopping areas in Milan include Via Della Spiga, Via Brera, and DMAG just to name a few. And after a long day of shopping in Milan, unwind to refreshing desserts you can find at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, where there are cafes and gelato parlours to retreat to. Even better, this area features mid-range fashion brands like Mango and Zara. You can’t escape fashion in Milan!

Milan’s fashion culture

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Here’s a fun fact: Before Milan and Paris even had their own fashion weeks, New York City beat them to the punch — during WWII in 1943 at that. That fateful event basically triggered both Milan and Paris to vie for the position of fashion capitals in Europe. 

In 1958, Milan launched the very first Milan Fashion Week with its Alta Moda (high fashion) collections. Fast forward to today, Milan Fashion Week attracts millions of fashion icons, journalists, and casual fashionistas from around the world each year. The locals themselves also up their fashion game during this season even if they don’t watch the live fashion shows. 

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The months of January, February, June, and September basically turn the streets of Milan into catwalks as these months are when the spring/summer and fall/winter fashion shows take place. Some shows happen outdoors and are open to the public, while others are more exclusive and require an invite. If you’re lucky enough to catch a fashion show during your visit, look out for the collections of major fashion houses like Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Gucci, along with rising fashion brands worth the hype.  

The tourism scene in Milan

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Image credit: Cristina Gottardi

With such a huge impact on the fashion world, it’s no surprise that Milan has its own fashion tours where tourists get to visit hidden ateliers and showrooms, and even attend fashion workshops. You’ll learn how high-fashion clothing is made from scratch, from the sketches to the type of fabric used, and how designers pick the models to wear each piece properly. You might even get lucky and be asked to wear a dress yourself. 

But aside from the contribution of Milan’s fashion scene to its tourism, the city undoubtedly has unmatched architecture to unfurl. The likes of the Milan Cathedral, Piazza del Duomo, and Sant’Ambrogio are stunning establishments you don’t get to see anywhere else in the world. If you want to feel the youthful vibe in Milan, make your way to Naviglion where you can chill at canal-side cafes and music clubs in the evening. It’s the perfect place to people-watch, too. 

Also read: Italy Travel Restrictions: All You Need to Know to Plan Your Visit

Paris, France

Shopping in Paris


Image credit: Melanie Pongratz

Gorgeous luxury brands, chic fashion finds, and the most glamorous people you’ll ever meet. These are what make Paris what it is. To be completely honest, shopping in Paris often comes at a hefty price, but that’s because this sophisticated posh culture is what makes its people proud to be French — or more specifically, Parisians. 

Each lavish store you enter exudes opulence, from the interior design down to the very scent permeating throughout the boutique. What’s even better is that this lavishness doesn’t limit your selection of lifestyle items to purchase. Paris has everything, from party clothes and surfwear, to perfumes and fancy souvenirs. The most popular shopping area in Paris is arguably Boulevard Saint Germain where there are shops for elegant home decors, fashion, and even gourmet food.

Fashion is hardly complete without makeup, so enjoy the beautiful shopping street of Rue Du Commerce for mid-range to high-end cosmetics and skincare brands like The Body Shop, Sephora, and L’occitane. Another shopping district where you can find all your branded favourites is the Golden Triangle; this is home to world-class brands like Dior, Louis Viton, Chanel, and Hermes — which, by the way, is the flagship store rising up to three storeys high. 

Now, if you really want to squeeze your shopping experience within a budget, try Montmarte. This bohemian avenue is a haven of quirky handmade items and vintage finds. You might even find yourself the perfect vintage coat while you’re here. As long as you know where to look while shopping in Paris, you’re sure to make an IG-worthy fashion statement.

The Paris fashion culture

paris milan

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Although Milan was quicker to launch its own Fashion Week than Paris, that isn’t to say that the City of Love didn’t create its own version earlier than Milan. 

It wasn’t called Paris Fashion Week yet, but in 1945 — just two years after the first New York Fashion Week — Paris started to hold Haute Couture shows. In 1973, they finally renamed it Paris Fashion Week and pioneered the catwalk. That said, Paris was the very first European city to make fashion an industry, and this dates all the way back to the 1640s until 1715, when France had become so wealthy that its fashion culture spread throughout Europe. 

Image credit: Laura Chouette

Today, Paris is at the forefront of the “Big 4” of Fashion Week, the other locations being New York, Milan, and London. It’s held in February/March and September/October during spring and autumn respectively. People in the fashion industry consider Paris Fashion Week the finale of the whole season, which also gives it a rightful claim as the fashion capital of the world. There are 100 shows per week, and unlike Milan Fashion Week, most of these are by invitation only.

Also read: Best ‘Emily in Paris’ Filming Locations in Season 2 You Need to See IRL

Paris’ tourism scene

the louvre

Image credit: Daniele D’Andreti

There is no doubt that Paris doesn’t actually need its Fashion Week to promote its tourism. Iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and Arc de Triomphe are marvels enough to convince tourists to visit the City of Love. As it stands, Paris consistently welcomes 30 million tourists a year with its attractions alone. 

But did you know that there are also fashion establishments now that you can visit during your trip to Paris? This includes Palais Galliera, a fashion museum that was originally commissioned by the Duchess Galliera to host her art collection. Now, you’ll find exhibits that feature fashion from the 18th century to the 1940s, along with preserved drawings and photographs. 

The Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design is also an eye-opener as it boasts of fashion exhibitions and modern art all year round. It has a rooftop bar where fashion professionals and students can mingle the night away too. Now that sounds like the perfect place to meet the cool and artsy people of Paris. 

Also read: France Travel Requirements: What to Know Before Visiting

paris milan

Image credit (L-R): Fabien Maurin; Ouael Ben Salah

Paris vs Milan — both cities are very similar and quite different in many ways. One thing’s for sure: No matter which city you choose to visit first, you’re sure to have a fashion-forward experience. We strongly recommend you amp up your fashion game when you visit these gorgeous fashion destinations. You’ll want to blend in Paris and Milan, after all.

Featured image credit: Raden Prasetya | Unsplash

About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.