The Perfect 2 to 3 Days in Milan Itinerary

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by Hope Brotherton


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For anyone who hasn’t done their pre-trip research, Milan can be an intimidating city to visit. But rest assured, we have the perfect Milan itinerary to make the most of your 2 to 3 days in Milan.

Milan is Italy’s bubbling and bustling northern metropolis. The capital of Lombardy in Northern Italy is packed with juxtaposing architecture, famous art galleries, eclectic culture and world-class shopping.

As the economic engine room of Italy, you may be fooled into thinking Milan is all business and no pleasure, but you’d be wrong. Milan is a city synonymous with style, and it’s home to famous foods like panettone. But there’s more substance to Milan than pastries and pumps.

How Many Days in Milan?

In order to do Milan justice, you’ll be debating about how many days to spend in Milan when you’re planning your next Italian adventure.

On the surface, Milan doesn’t have a mammoth list of must-see attractions compared to cities like Rome, Florence and Venice. That being said, there’s still plenty to see in Lombardy’s capital.

To visit the city’s main attractions like the Duomo, the Last Supper and Castello Sforzesco, 2 days in Milan will be plenty of time. If you only have one day in Milan then it won’t be enough to see all of the main attractions.

If you want to head to hidden gems, dive into a day trip or relax between attractions, then you’ll want to spend 3 days.

Getting to grips with Milan in 3 days is a cinch and you’ll be able to go beyond the must-see. Keep in mind that if you’re visiting Milan in winter, particularly in December, you may want to budget in enough time to explore Christmas markets and to enjoy winter activities.

If you’re short on time and debating between spending two to three days, neither decision will be wrong because you’ll be living la dolce vita either way.

Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano

Getting To and Around Milan

Milan is serviced by three airports: Linate, Malpensa and Bergamo.

Linate is the closest airport to the city centre but its flights are on the pricer end so it’s not a good option if you want to keep expenses down in Milan.

Milan Malpensa is the largest of the three. Here, international and domestic flights land, which makes it a popular choice. You can book bus transfers from Malpensa here.

If budget isn’t a consideration and you prefer a hassle-free journey, you can book a private transfer from the airport.

Finally, there is Milan Bergamo. While Bergamo isn’t technically in Milan, flights to and from are cheap and it has good transport links into Milan too. It is also very much worth spending a day in Bergamo itself if you have the time. You can book bus transfers from Bergamo to Milan here.

If you’re arriving into Milan by train, then you’ll probably pull into Milan Central Station in the heart of the city.

There are several large bus stations in Milan (including Lampugnano and Milan Central Bus Station), so make sure you know which one you need as they’re in different parts of the city. You can check bus and train schedules here.

The easiest way to get around Milan is via its metro. The network consists of 5 lines. The stop for Milan Central Station is Centrale FS (on the M2 and M3). The other stops you’ll likely need are Duomo (M1 and M3), Porta Genova FS (M2 for the Navigli district) and Conciliazione (M1 for the Last Supper).

If you’re not keen on the underground, then you’re in luck because Milan has an extensive network of buses, trains and trams too. We’d recommend using City Mapper to help navigate the bus and tram networks. If you’re planning on relying heavily on public transport, buy daily or 3-day tickets.

Milan Tram Network
Tram passing La Scala in Milan

2 to 3-Day Milan Itinerary

In recent years, Milan has welcomed 10 million tourists each year. If you don’t want to get swept up with hordes of other holidaymakers, then you’ll need to plan ahead to make the most of your 2 to 3 days in Milan.

Day 1 – Duomo, Royal Palace & City Centre Highlights

Duomo di Milano

In order to escape the crowds of other tourists, you’ll need to hit the city early. The first place on your itinerary should be the city’s most impressive site: the Duomo (Milan Cathedral).

Situated in Piazza del Duomo, Milan’s most visible monument attracts flocks of visitors every day and is definitely one of the best things to see in the city.

Commissioned by Gian Galeazzo in 1386, you should aim to glimpse this gothic wonder before the break of day. Get there early to marvel over the marble, oggle at the spires, and snap your social shots without the crowds.

The Cathedral opens its heavy brass doors at eight o’clock sharp. If you’re planning on heading up to the rooftops, museum and other exhibitions, then grab yourself a combined ticket at the entrance or you can pre-book tickets here.

If you’re one of the first through the Duomo’s doors, you can wander through the stone columns, stare at the stained glass and take your time exploring every nook and cranny at your own pace.

A slow-paced wander around the cathedral should last one hour, which means you’ll be first in the queue to climb the 165 steps to the Cathedral’s roof. Make sure you’ve got some comfortable shoes on your feet for the winding climb.

Once at the top, take your time to soak in the views. Milan’s skyline is swamped with skyscrapers and ancient churches, which gives you a keen insight into the city’s contrasting features.

After you’ve descended the stairs head to the Duomo Museum, which is located in the Royal Palace. This Duomo-centric museum houses statues, paintings and tapestries from the Duomo. The museum gives visitors a sense of the Duomo’s history through the artefacts on display.

If you want to do the Duomo justice, expect to spend several hours here.

Milan skyline from the Duomo
Milan skyline from the Duomo

Royal Palace

After you’ve had your fill and finished up inside the museum, explore the rest of the Royal Palace also known as Palazzo Reale.

For centuries the Royal Palace housed Milan’s government. With its political roots in the past, it’s one of Milan’s beating cultural hearts.

The Royal Palace houses art exhibitions, which are rotated regularly. Before paying for an entry ticket, make sure to research which painters are being exhibited to avoid any disappointment.

On the odd occasion, the Royal Palace hosts free exhibitions too. When you’re buying tickets or reading information, train your eye to spot the word ‘gratis’ which means free in Italian.

Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo

Museo de Novecento

You may have already twigged but Milan is a city filled with museums, many of which are located in Zone 1 (the area around the Duomo).

One of these museums is Museo del Novecento. Situated inside the Palazzo dell’Arengario in Piazza del Duomo, Museo del Novecento is a museum dedicated to 20th-century Italian art and includes paintings by Pablo Picasso among many others.

Top Tip: If you enjoy visiting museums, try and plan your trip to coincide with the first Sunday of the month as entry into museums is free on this day. 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

From there, head north from the Piazza del Duomo and you’ll find yourself under the covered arcades of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery houses designer stores, restaurants and cafes. While many of these shops and eateries will fall outside of your budget (there is a McDonald’s), you need to remember that you’re not there for a mooch. It’s time to soak in one of Milan’s most fascinating architectural structures.

The two arcades are shaped like a Latin cross and are covered by a spectacular glass and iron dome. The bright light pours in from above and makes for the perfect holiday photos.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Teatro alla Scala

After you’ve ambled around the arcade, walk on over to the Teatro alla Scala (also known as La Scala). Milan’s famous opera house looks a little unassuming from the outside, but don’t be fooled as some of Italy’s greatest operatic artists have performed here.

Before every performance, 140 gallery tickets go on sale as well as any last-minute tickets – just be sure to get in there quickly.

La Casa di Manzoni

The area surrounding the Duomo is always swamped with tourists (and for good reason), but if you want to escape the hustle and bustle walk north from La Scala and swing by La Casa di Manzoni.

The house was the birthplace of the famous Italian writer, Alessandro Manzoni. Visitors are invited to view the life and works of Alessandro Manzoni. Tours are offered in both English and Italian. You’ll leave this hidden spot a little wiser about one of Italy’s great writers.

If exploring the house of a famous writer isn’t your cup of tea, then there are plenty of museums in the vicinity to keep you entertained including Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (a Renaissance art museum), the Ambrosiana Library (located next door), Poldi Pezzoli Museum (a collection of paintings by the Flemish masters), and many many more.

To round off your day, head back to La Scala. If you’re trying to grab a ticket on the day, join the queue early. But if you’ve already reserved your seats, enjoy the delights that the Italian opera brings.

La Casa di Manzoni
La Casa di Manzoni

Day 2 – Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, the Last Supper & More

Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio

If you’re planning a weekend in Milan, start your second day at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. This ancient church is located in the heart of Milan.

On its exterior, the church has brickwork of different origins with each one representing a new extension of the church’s architecture. During the 11th Century, the church was restored in the Lombard Romanesque style making its facade distinctive in comparison to the surrounding architecture.

The Basilica is free to enter, so make the most of it and wander through the atrium and crypts.

Chiesa di Santa Maria Delle Grazie

After you’ve wandered around the Basilica, head over to Chiesa di Santa Maria Delle Grazie the home to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterful mural, the Last Supper.

The Last Supper decorates one of the walls of the refectory, Cenacolo Vinciano. Da Vinci first started working on the painting in 1495. It has been restored several times in the years since and successfully survived a bomb blast in WW2.

Tickets to the museum are booked in timed slots. Only a limited number of tourists are allowed to see the Last Supper at any one time, so tickets sell out fast.

Once you know when you’re going to be in Milan, book your tickets to avoid missing out as this is one of the top things to do in Milan for travellers. If you can’t get tickets, you can book a guided tour here that will include tickets.

Santa Maria delle Grazie
Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie

Castello Sforzesco

After you’ve seen Leonardo’s masterpiece, head on over to Castello Sforzesco. Built as a fortress in the 14th Century, the castle is one of the most famous landmarks in Milan and one of the best museums in Italy.

The castle is home to several museums, including: The Museum of Ancient Art, Egyptian Museum, The Archaeological Museum of Milan and the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco as well as a few more.

To give Castello Sforzesco’s ground and museum the time it deserves, you’ll end up spending 2 to 3 hours here. You can pre-book tickets here.

Tower of Castello Sforzesco
Tower of Castello Sforzesco

Sempione Park

If the weather is glorious on your trip to Milan, then it’s time to grab a gelato and sit in Sempione Park – the park at the back of Castello Sforzesco. This large park is a slice of peace in a busy city.

As you wander through the park, you’ll see the Arch of Peace wherever you turn. It’s a must-see for history buffs and architecture lovers alike.

Arch of Peace in Sempione Park
Arch of Peace in Sempione Park

Pinacoteca di Brera

After you’ve relaxed in the calm of the park, pick up your feet and walk over to Pinacoteca di Brera. This former church and monastery was built by a religious order.

After they were banished, the church was transformed into a cultural venue. Now, it is home to a collection of fine art paintings.

Explore Navigli

After stomping around Milan for 2 days, spend your second evening in Milan in the Navigli district. The neighbourhood of Navigli is a system of interconnected canals that is filled with trendy bars, gourmet restaurants and riverside eateries. It is also one of the best places to stay in Milan if you’re after a more local vibe.

It is the perfect spot to watch the sun fall behind the skyline. As the day turns into night, lights twinkle on the dark canal waters and you can watch the world go by while you dine on traditional Italian aperitivo.

Plenty of bars charge between €7 to €10 for a drink and bring out sumptuous plates of food free of charge.

Avoid any tourist traps that serve meals geared towards tourists like spaghetti and meatballs or spaghetti bolognese. You can also organise a food tour or an aperitivo tour if you want somebody to guide you through the city’s cuisine.

Navigli District
Navigli District

Day 3 – Day Trip from Milan

If you’re spending 3 days, there are two ways you can spend your third day in Milan. The first is to race around the sites that you haven’t been able to fit into your 2 days and the second way is to spend your final day is by getting out of the city by going on a day trip.

Milan is well connected to its surrounding areas, so visitors are spoilt for choice.

Lake Como

A day trip to Lake Como is one of the most popular getaways from Milan. Though you could easily spend 3 or more days exploring the area, you can see the highlights within a single day.

You can grab a train from Milan to the town of Varenna in about 2 hours. If you don’t want to navigate the transit system on your own, you can also opt for an organised day tour.

From Varenna, you can hop on ferries to explore the iconic towns of Belaggio and Mennagio and maybe even squeeze in a villa visit! It’s a jam-packed day, but definitely doable.

Varenna in Lake Como
Varenna in Lake Como

Bergamo

There’s a good chance that you flew into Bergamo airport when you arrived in Milan and thought nothing of the town you were arriving to. Though it’s primarily used as an entry point to the Lombardy capital, the city of Bergamo is very much worth visiting and there’s a lot to do within the confines of a day.

You can reach Bergamo from Milan Centrale in about an hour. Alternatively, you can also book a guided day tour if that suits you more.

Once there, take the time to explore the Citta Alta, including the Botanical Gardens, the Duomo and the Campanone Tower. Wind your way down to the Citta Bassa along the UNESCO-listed Venetian walls and grab an aperitivo before heading back to Milan.

Monza

Monza is the heart of the Italian Formula One, but there’s more to Monza than motorsport. If you’re in the mood for more attractions, I’d recommend visiting Duomo di Monza, Villa Reale, Ponte dev Leoni and the Chapel of Monza.

A day trip may seem slightly daunting but the train into Monza from Milan Central station takes 15 minutes and return tickets are pocket-friendly too.

Villa Reale in Monza
Villa Reale in Monza

Where to Stay in Milan

Lancaster Hotel – This classically decorated hotel located in Milan’s city centre is the perfect base for exploring the city. They have a range of comfortable rooms available suitable for singles, couples, or families and a buffet breakfast available. 

Castello Guest House Milano – An excellent high-end option, this is a fantastic place located in the centre of the city and within walking distance to many attractions. They have a number of rooms available that can accommodate couples or families. 

Queen Hostel – This centrally-located hostel is one of the highest-rated in Milan. Perfect for budget or solo travellers who want to meet fellow travellers, they offer both private and dorm rooms with social common areas. 

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Milan!

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio
Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio

Whether you’ve marched around Milan in 2 days or sauntered around for 3, Lombardy’s capital has shops for the fashion-conscious, buildings for architecture aficionados or sites for historical enthusiasts. Wherever you end up visiting, you’ll enjoy your time in Milan.

Are you planning to visit Milan? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Hope is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Birmingham, England, she is passionate about budget-friendly travel and incorporating greener and more eco-friendly travel into her adventures. She keeps returning to Italy but loves to travel around any European country.

Comments

  1. I am currently planning some time in Milan, so thank you for the timely and helpful post. Will you be covering Bergamo soon?
    Thanks!

    Reply

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