I’ve always felt like Milan is one of those cities where you can turn up never really knowing what to expect. Best known for being the fashion capital of Italy, and one of the top fashion cities of the world, Milan is most definitely a classy place.
Full of gorgeous museums, churches and of course the famous Duomo di Milano, you can find fascinating history paired seamlessly with high-end shopping and an endless array of delicious food. I absolutely loved my trip to Milan and would most definitely have liked to stay in the city for longer.
But, if you are thinking about visiting, here’s the perfect 3-day Milan itinerary, perfect for a long Italian weekend away!
Getting Around Milan
The first thing you’ll need to work out when you arrive in Milan is how to navigate the city. A lot of the main attractions are fairly close together so, at least for day one, walking will be your best option. But if you’re looking to venture a little outside the Duomo, Milan also has a great public transport network and is also really well connected to other popular cities in Italy. It’s also super easy to carpool in Italy which could also save you a lot of money!
Milan’s bus network is excellent. It more or less runs like clockwork and you can also use the buses interchangeably with the trams and the metro to get almost anywhere in the city. A ticket will cost you just €1.50 and will be valid for 90 minutes no matter how many journeys you take. The buses pretty much run all day but there is a night bus on Fridays and Saturdays that covers the little period the regular buses miss – from 2am until 5:10am.
You can also use the Metro or tram to get around. They run from 6am until 12:30am and the same ticket rules apply as for the buses – €1.50 for 90 minutes. You can also buy unlimited 24- or 48-hour tickers for €4.50 and €8.25 respectively but after 8pm a single journey doubles in price.
How to Spend 3 Days in Milan
Day 1 in Milan:
Duomo Di Milano
There is no better way to start exploring this Italian gem that with the Duomo di Milano. Started in 1386, this incredible cathedral took nearly 6 centuries to complete and it has more statues than any other building in the world. This is a total of 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figurines that decorate the building.
Aside from being Milan’s most famous landmark, the cathedral also holds significant importance for the city. As well as being one of the most intricate and breath-taking cathedrals in Europe, it also holds the title of the second-largest cathedral in the world! The stunning beauty of this building and intriguing gothic style of the architecture brings visitors flocking to Milan from all over the globe.
Plus, the cathedral is actually free to enter! However, if you want to climb to the roof terrace, which, trust me, you would regret if you didn’t, then you will have to pay a fee of €13 to go by stairs and €17 to take the lift. They also reduce the price for under 25’s, children and the elderly.
Once you do get to the top, just walk around the roof and take in the incredible amount of detail that’s gone into this building. Plus, the view of the Piazza below is just as stunning. Exploring the Duomo is without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Milan and certainly not to be missed.
Piazza del Duomo
Once you’ve absorbed enough of the incredible Duomo, it’s time to explore the Piazza below. The perfect place for a spot of people-watching, the Piazza del Duomo is the largest Piazza in Milan and literally translates as ‘Cathedral Square’.
Bordering a wonderful collection of fashion boutiques, quaint cafés, fancy restaurants and coffee shops, it can be nice just to have a wander around and take it all in. Plus, with a metro station on its doorstep, the Duomo in the background and right next to one of the most beautiful shopping centers in the world, the Piazza is extremely well located.
Why not grab a coffee and watch the people taking photos or feeding the pigeons on the square? Or explore the shops and when you’re done, be sure to wander over to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele!
A few quick tips:
- Watch out for scammers on the square. If anyone approaches you and tries to sell you something or give you something for free, just be extra vigilant.
- If you walk down an alleyway to the left of the Duomo, lookout for a little bakery called Luinis. They sell the absolute best panzerotties and super cheap too!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Also located off the Piazza del Duomo, the Galleria is one of the most beautiful buildings in Milan.
I know what you’re thinking, it’s a shopping center.
Well, true, but it’s not just any shopping center! When you walk in you could easily mistake it for another cathedral or a palace.
The high ceilings are covered in gorgeous patterned glass and beautiful paintings adorn the tops of the walls. The walls themselves are ornate, covered in intricate gold carvings and it literally looks fit for royalty!
It’s full of designer brands like Prada and Gucci so you may not be able to buy anything there unless you have €500 spare for a handbag! Nevertheless, just walking around this shopping center is a pretty amazing experience. It was also built in 1877, making it one of the oldest shopping centers in the world.
High Line, Milano
Right around the corner, you’ll find Milan’s High Line. If you fancy doing something a little more unique, then take a lift and walk around the rooftops of the Galleria and see some wonderful views of the city below. Once you get to the end of the 550-meter walkway, you’ll also find a cute little restaurant that sells amazing pizza for a pretty decent price of €14!
This impressive castle stands proudly in the center of Milan, just around the corner from the Duomo. Built in the 15th century, the castle used to be one of Europe’s most magnificent citadels. Now, it houses several museums and art galleries.
Sforzensco was my second favorite sight in Milan. I love how, despite how much the times have changed, it hasn’t lost one ounce of its classic Italian charm.
Outside you’ll see a fountain and most likely a lot of tourists! Walk past them into the courtyard and you’ll then see the true magnitude of this place. Visiting the courtyard itself is free, so you’ll only need to pay if you want to visit any of the museums. I decided not to and just enjoyed admiring the sights of the castle and how pretty the deep terracotta walls looked contrasted against the forest green of the park on the other side.
One of my favorite things to do in any big city is to find and explore their green space. Parco Sempione is the perfect place to relax after a hard day exploring the city. You actually have to walk through Sforzesco Castle to get to it so it’s the perfect next stop on this 3-day Milan itinerary.
The park is 95 acres in total, so certainly not small! Plus, similar to New York’s Central Park, it’s not just lush greenery and woodland walks. You can also find an aquarium, a theater, a museum, an observation tower, and a library along with souvenir shops and food stalls (I 100% recommend the gelato. It’s super delicious!).
The park also contains the famous arch of peace and, even if you don’t fancy walking to any of the above attractions, I seriously suggest you don’t miss this! The arch was requested by Napoleon and its purpose was to preserve harmony in Milan. The detail put into the arch is pretty magnificent too; it’s white with incredible gold carvings and statues and definitely stands out in the surrounding green.
The Last Supper
After you’ve spent some time chilling at the park, take a short stroll around the corner to the Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazi. This church may look somewhat unimpressive on the outside but don’t let that fool you. It’s one of the most important and visited buildings in Milan because of what it holds inside.
One of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous paintings ‘The Last Supper’ sits inside this church. A painting that has been picked apart by critic’s time and time again, remade and scrutinized for hidden meanings since it was discovered. It was originally painted by Da Vinci in the 15th century and is now one of the most recognized painting’s in Europe and most certainly not something to be missed when visiting Milan.
Because of its popularity, however, you need to make sure you plan your visit well in advance. I’m literally not kidding! The painting is so popular that if visiting in June, I’d recommend booking your tickets in April as spots sell out insanely fast!
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
Just another short walk from The Last Supper and you’ll find the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. It is the second most important church in Italy because it’s dedicated to the Patron Saint Ambrose. The church was also built in the 387, making it one of the oldest churches in Milan.
Furthermore, it has an incredibly unique design. The front has 2 red brick bell towers, one taller than the other. The atrium is as big as the church itself and it also contains a few archaeological remains. This church has some truly fascinating architecture and it well worth a walk around. It also free to enter.
Sunset at the Navigli District
Visiting the Navigli District will be the perfect end to your first day in Milan. From the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, it is either a half-hour walk or a 14-minute train ride to reach the District.
Navigli is a truly unique area of Milan. With some of the most beautiful canals, chic bars and restaurants, grab some dinner by the riverside and watch the sun go down. Alternately you could take a canal cruise along the river too, whilst learning a little history about the neighborhood.
A couple of must-dos in Navigli however, are to try the traditional Milanese Aperitivo culture with drinks and small plates. Also be sure to sample some of the best gelato in Milan by heading to La Gelateria Della Musica, which has countless upvotes from frequent travelers. Their dark chocolate and cherry flavor is to die for!
Day 2 in Milan:
For an exciting start to your second day in Milan, visit the Bosco Verticale. North of the main Piazza, the Bosco Verticale is a pair of residential towers in the Porta Nuovo area of the city. It’s also known as Milan’s ‘Vertical Forest’ due to the incredible 800 trees growing up the side of the towers.
The concept behind this beautiful but unusual structure was to break the separating between humans and nature and wildlife and build a place where they can all connect. It’s a wonderful landmark and definitely something to add to your Milan and Italy bucket lists!
Next head to Milan Centrale which, a little like Grand Central Terminal in New York, is a lot more than just a train station. It’s one of the largest and most architecturally beautiful stations in Europe and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Milan.
Climb the marble staircase, marvel at the incredible architecture, stained glass windows, beautiful paintings, chandeliers and more. Once you’re done exploring, head to one of the many shops and cafés and grab yourself a coffee and perhaps a small cake or pastry. Then catch a train to the East Market!
East Market Milano
The East Market is a wonderful place to explore! This is the first marketplace in Milan where anyone can buy or sell anything (within reason obviously). It’s also a very different side of Milan to what you’ve seen so far.
You can find vintage clothes, handmade crockery, Italian herbs and spices, delicious home-baked food, furniture, vinyl, arts and crafts, and bits and bobs! Literally anything you could possibly think of. So, take your time wandering the stalls, and see if anything takes your fancy and most definitely stop for a bite to eat or a huge ice-cream!
Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore
Once you’ve had your fill of antiques, head over the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore. This beautiful church is another of the oldest churches in Italy, dating back to the 4th century. It was also remade a couple of times due to fires that ruined a lot of its exterior.
Although the inside is much simpler than some of the other churches in Milan, the impressive Roman columns outside make it so worth a visit. There are 16 columns in total and the remains of a Roman amphitheater and baths.
Your 3-day Milan itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Brera District. This is a stylish area north of the Duomo where you’ll find cobbled streets, colorful buildings, balconies, and wooden window shutters – in fact, everything you’d expect from a typical European old town!
Wander down the stone streets, explore the alleyways, visit the cute shops, designer boutiques and cafes and be sure to pay a visit to Pinacoteca di Brera. This is the main public art gallery in Milan and contains a very impressive collection of paintings and artwork.
However, even if you’re not into art, you’ll also find an astronomic observatory, an academy of science, a library and a beautiful botanic garden, so it’s definitely not worth missing whilst in Milan.
La Scala Opera
Lastly, take a trip south to one of the most gorgeous theaters in Europe. Draped in gold and red velvet, the Scala Opera has seen some of the greatest performances of all time. Built-in the 18th century, the building alone is truly breath-taking, plus the museum inside will help you learn some of the history of the Opera House.
Ballets, plays, theater, and Italian operas have been performed in the Scala Opera House. Be sure to check the schedule before you go and you might even be able to watch an unforgettable performance of Rome and Juliet.
Day 3 in Milan:
For your last day in Milan, I recommend taking a day trip to another of Italy’s beautiful destinations. The city of Bergamo is only 55 minutes by train from Milan, the gorgeous Lake Como is about 2 hours away and the incredible city of Verona is also 2 hours from Milan.
In Verona, you could spend the day wandering around the impressive Amphitheater, exploring the history surrounding Romeo and Juliet and walking down the riverfront and seeing the stunning Castelvecchio bridge.
Be sure to climb to the top of the Torre dei Lamberti for magnificent views over the city, wander the Piazzas and see the Verona Cathedral.
A day in Bergamo might consist of exploring the old Colleoni Chapel. Marvel at the stunning interior of the Basilica of St Mary Major and also pay a visit to her Baptistery as well.
Be sure to see the stunning Bergamo City Gates and the Rocca Museum with its ancient fortress and battlements. Another must be would be to take the ancient Funicular railway up to the upper town from the lower town and see the incredible views of the city on the way up.
Or, enjoy a peaceful day at Lake Como and visit the Como Cathedral, the archaeological museum and see the Basilica of Saint Addondio.
Lake Como is known for its beautiful traditional Italian towns and you could easily spend a day wandering the hilly, winding cobblestone streets or relaxing on the waterfront with a coffee and a panini!
Alternately take a boat trip on the lake and admire the gorgeous views from the water itself.
Eating out in Milan
When it comes to eating in Milan, it can be a little pricey if you don’t know where to look. Avoid the restaurants near the Duomo as they tend to be touristy and overpriced as it’s such a popular hotspot.
Here are a few general tips. Check out the prices of a few staple dishes like the Spaghetti Carbonara or the Margherita pizza – if they’re anything more than about €9 then you’re probably paying too much! Watch out for service charges and if the staff offer you bread or olives check if they’re adding it to the bill before you accept. If there are staff outside a restaurant with a menu card with pictures on it trying to draw you in, walk very quickly away!
Instead explore the side streets, alleyways, and try and find the restaurants where the locals go. Street stalls are scarce in Milan but bakeries and cafes (like Luinis) are a great place for lunch and traditional trattorias are a wonderful choice for dinner.
The Best Time to Visit Milan
Milan is a pretty busy city. It’s not uncommon for huge queues to form outside popular attractions such as the Duomo and that’s no fun for anyone! Especially as Milan can also get mega hot in the peak summer months of July and August.
I therefore seriously suggest those are the months you avoid! They will be hot, but that won’t be the ideal temperature for exploring the city and you’ll most likely start wishing you were at the beach!
Try and avoid the Easter months in April too, as the prices will soar around then as well!
The best times to visit Milan are April to June or September and October because the weather will still be warm, but not unbearable, so walking around the city will be much more comfortable. Plus, the crowds will be thinner, so you’ll have more time to enjoy the sights and the prices will be lower due to the off-peak dates.