“Milan is boring.”
“Don’t bother going to Milan.”
“It’s like any other big city.”
That’s what people told me before our trip back to Italy. Somehow, we had never made it over to Milan in Lombardy, and it was high time that we experienced the city for ourselves. Over the 2 days in Milan, we traversed some of the top Milan tourist spots, indulged in the aperitivo tradition and explored the cosmopolitan city on foot.
So, is it worth visiting Milan? You can get a good feel of the city if you visit Milan in 2 days, and it’s always better to see something once rather than hear about it one hundred times because we loved Milan. It’s true that Milan is the stylish fashion capital of Italy, but don’t think for a second that it lacks soul.
The city has flair and character, and while there are a handful of essential sights, Milan is the perfect place to chuck your “to-do” list out of the window and grab a cocktail or two instead. If you’re short on time, read on for how to organize your 2 day trip to Milan! But first, a few basics that you should know.
Planning a trip to Italy for the first time? Click here for 14 things you should know before you go to Italy or head on over here for even more Italy travel tips and guides.
How to get to Milan
By plane: Milan has its own international airport – Milan Malpensa Airport (airport code: MXP). There are also two other smaller airports that mostly receive domestic flights: Linate and Orio al Serio.
To get from Milan Malpensa Airport to the city you can either take the Malpensa Express (operated by Trenord) for 13 Euros per person, or hop on an airport shuttle bus. The journey from Milan Malpensa Airport to the city takes about 1 hour.
By train from Rome to Milan: Trains travel frequently between Roma Termini and Milano Centrale – the journey takes approximately 3 hours.
By train from Florence to Milan: There are many direct trains that travel from Firenze S. M. Novella to Milano Centrale – the journey takes just under 2 hours.
By train from Venice to Milan: There are several direct trains from Venezia Santa Lucia to Milano Centrale each day – the journey takes approximately 2 hours.
Read more about Italy’s train system and other essential things to know before visiting Italy here.
How to get around Milan
Getting around Milan via public transport is fairly easy and you can cover a lot of ground in Milan in 2 days. Milan is well-connected by the subway system, trams and buses. You can also get around on foot easily if you’re not in a hurry – this is a great way to see some of the quieter nooks and crannies in Milan.
You can buy public transportation tickets from machines inside subway stations or from tabaccherias (shops with a large “T” sign hanging outside). Single-trip tickets are valid for 90 minutes from the first use and cost 2 Euros, though you can also opt to purchase single-day or two-day tickets. You may also be able to pay for your ticket via contactless credit card.
Not all Italian subway systems are created equal, and they can often be hotbeds for pickpockets (*ahem* Rome *ahem*). However, the subway in Milan is extremely clean, odour-free and efficient – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend using the underground system in the city centre. Here is a Milan subway network map.
Where to stay in Milan
A first-time visitor to Milan should aim to stay in the city for no less than 2 to 3 days. Read on for my recommendations for some of the best places to stay in Milan, or click here to see even more highly rated hotel options in the city. Just so you know, in my experience accommodation prices tend to be higher in Milan than we experienced elsewhere in Italy.
Zebra Rosso is located in the Brera design district and offers spacious apartments a 15-minute walk away from the Duomo. The air-conditioned apartments are stylishly furnished yet effortlessly cozy, and feature bold and funky zebra-print wallpaper in certain rooms. We stayed in the one-bedroom apartment and loved the rustic wooden dining table, private balcony and convenient location. There are a number of restaurants in the neighborhood and is within a 3-4 minute walk from the Moscova subway station. Click here to book your stay at Zebra Rosso!
If you have a layover in Milan or need a hotel near Milan Malpensa Airport then check yourself into Sheraton Milan Malpensa. It is the only hotel with direct access to Terminal 1 of the airport and offers day rates if, like us, you arrive into Milan early in the morning and are not able to check into your hotel until the afternoon. The rooms are nothing fancy, but they are clean and spacious and offer the opportunity to take a steaming hot shower after a long flight. The day rate at Sheraton Malpensa is 80 Euros and allows you to use the room from 9 AM to 6 PM. Book on their official website to take advantage of the day rate (use the promotional code: ZDY). If you need the room outside of the day rate hours, you can book a room at Sheraton Milan Malpensa here!
Tip: If you don’t have a lot of time in Milan and want to book centrally-located and convenient hotels, look for hotels around Centro Storico or Brera. Not to worry if you stay a little further away from the historic centre, the city is well connected by a clean and efficient subway system. Click here to view other accommodation options in Milan’s city center!
Planning your perfect trip to Italy? Click here for even more Italy hotel booking tips and recommendations!
The best things to do in Milan in 2 days
Wondering what to see in Milan in 2 days? This Milan itinerary covers some of the most iconic places to see in Milan if you’re short on time. If you don’t manage to get around to everything on the list, don’t stress – Milan is a fantastic city to sit back and bask in the ambiance. Though it can be crowded around the main tourist areas, wander two streets over and you’ll find yourself some peace and quiet.
1. Visit Milano Duomo and the rooftop
The picture-perfect Duomo di Milano is one of the top places to visit in Milan. It’s one of the biggest Christian churches in the world and took 600 years to complete. Much like the Duomo in Florence and the Duomo in Siena, you can not only enter the main cathedral but also the roof structure for panoramic views across the piazza and city.
There are several Milan Duomo ticket options, and the best thing to do is to purchase your ticket ahead of time online and download the PDF confirmation + bar code that will be sent to you via e-mail. You do not need to scramble around town to look for a printer, the bar code scanners that the guards use can scan the ticket on your phone. This way, you skip the ticket lines at the Milano Duomo! If you’ve forgotten to buy Duomo tickets in advance the ticket office is to the right of the cathedral.
You can get up to the rooftop via stairs (left hand side of the cathedral) or elevator (back of the cathedral). There are approximately 250 steps to get up to the rooftop, or you can also take the elevator for an additional 4 Euros. Walking across the Duomo di Milano’s rooftop pavilions is absolutely one of the best things to do in Milan and 100% worth the extra cost. Make sure you double check the time for last entry onto the rooftop.
Though there is no dress code to enter the rooftop, there is a strict dress code for the Milan Duomo – you will need to cover your knees and shoulders so make sure you dress appropriately. While you’re in the cathedral don’t forget to visit the underground archaeological areas and crypt of St. Charles. Because this is one of the top Milan tourist attractions with plenty of corners to explore you should expect to set aside 90 minutes to 2 hours to take all the details in.
Tip: The lines to enter the cathedral (on the right hand side of the Duomo) are often massive. It is possible to skip-the-line at the Milan Duomo by going to the rooftop first as there is a dedicated cathedral exit (open from 10 AM to 5 PM) once you are finished touring the rooftops.
2. Admire the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Duomo di Milano is flanked on the left by the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the main luxury shopping venues and top tourist attractions in Milan. The structure dates back to the 1860’s and features a unique iron and glass roof and dome.
The Galleria is home to numerous designer stores and brands, traditional cafés and restaurants as well as prestigious and historic bookstores. It’s one of the best places to visit in Milan and I do recommend that you stop by during the day as well as at night, as the starry night sky transforms the Galleria when you walk down its passages.
3. (Attempt to) see the Last Supper by Leonardo
Leonardo’s Last Supper is preserved in the refectory, or Cenacolo, at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Due to the fragility of the work, entry is only allowed every 15 minutes with a maximum capacity of 30 people at any given time. Viewing the painting is one of the top things to do in Milan, so booking (way, way in advance) is absolutely mandatory as tickets to the Last Supper are highly sought after. Standard tickets cost 12 Euros and are usually released approximately 3 months in advance via the official Last Supper ticket website.
Unfortunately, even though I attempted to secure tickets 1 month in advance I wasn’t able to get my hands on any via the official channel. Though there are a couple of fast-track Last Supper guided tours that grant last-minute access to people who weren’t able to secure tickets, quite frankly I wasn’t keen on spending upwards of 65-80 Euros just to see the painting. If you are desperate to see the Last Supper then look into this Da Vinci guided walking tour with fast track entry to the Last Supper or this “Best of Milan” tour with skip-the-line access to the Last Supper. They are both highly rated via Klook.
4. Visit the medieval Castle Sforzesco
The Sforza Castle was built in the 15th century and is a sprawling complex of towers, gardens, fortresses and residences. Today, it is home to several museums and art collections and are ticketed, though you can wander through the grounds for free.
At one point in history it was the largest citadel in Europe, so you can imagine the amount of time it would take to properly traverse the various exhibitions. The castle is closed on Mondays, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and May 1st.
5. Tour the Teatro alla Scalla
Whether you are a fan of opera or not, touring the La Scala is an incredible way to peek into the rich history and importance of the arts in Italy. Not only does the La Scala showcase artifacts from the theatre, it also gives visitors a detailed overview of the history, damage during World War II and multiple restorations.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch a rehearsal from the private boxes, though photos are not allowed. If you have an evening free you might also want to watch a live performance in the theatre – it’s one of the best places to visit in Milan for culture vultures. Tickets for a general tour of the theatre cost 9 Euros per person, show tickets begin at 15-21 Euros and go up depending on which section you choose to sit in.
6. Check out the Navigli canals
The Navigli district is one of the best places to visit in Milan, especially if you’re after a buzzing atmosphere and excellent cocktail bars. It’s one of the busiest nightlife spots in Milan and features charming (and functional) canals reminiscent of the ones in Venice or Amsterdam.
The canals are flanked by restaurants and cocktail bars, and is one of the best places to catch the sunset in Milan. If you’re headed to Navigli on a Friday or Saturday evening make sure you book ahead for dinner, as restaurants are often fully booked in advance! The easiest way to get there is via the number 2 green subway line – get off at P. ta Genova.
Ready to book your trip to Milan? If you only have 2 days in Milan then I recommend checking out the Zebra Rosso boutique apartments in Brera for easy access to excellent restaurants, the subway and the Duomo di Milano. Alternatively you can also check out other highly rated hotels in Milan by clicking here!
Where to eat and drink in Milan
Dry Milano: Located on Via Solferino, Dry is consistently rated as one of the top cocktail bars in Milan. Come here if you’re looking for a hip and stylish place for a few stiff drinks.
Ugo Bar: Quite possibly my new favourite cocktail bar in all of Italy. Warm and welcoming service, outrageously good drinks, and generous appetizer platters. What’s not to love?
Cafezal Torrefazione Specialty Coffee: Just down the street from Dry is this cute coffee joint run by some seriously lovely guys. Their flat white is spot on and I would highly recommend Cafezal Torrefazione for coffee lovers.
Terrazza Aperol: The “insta-famous” Terrazza Aperol is located next to the entrance of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which also means that guests are privy to unobstructed views of the Duomo. Entry costs 15 Euros which includes 1 drink and food from their appetizer buffet (spoiler: don’t bother with the food). Though they are fairly notorious for poor and grouchy service, we didn’t encounter any issues (though I could hear the cashier berating some other tourists behind us). Is it worth visiting? Sure, as long as you’re happy to pay for the view.
Eataly: For a quick bite head to Eataly Milan Smeraldo near Porto Garibaldi. Much like its counterparts around the world, Eataly features a massive Italian market, on-site restaurants and several smaller food court areas.
Have more than 2 days in Milan? Lucky you! You might want to consider visiting Lake Como, doing a day trip to Verona or spending another day or two exploring all of Milan’s hidden gems – you never know what treasure you’ll stumble upon!
I hope this 2 day Milan itinerary has given a better sense of how to plan your trip. If you found this helpful, please share it with friends or family who are traveling to Milan, or feel free to pin it for later!
Heading to other destinations in Italy and need some travel tips and recommendations? You might also enjoy these guides:
- Head on over here for the full collection of Italy destination guides and tips
- Not sure what to expect from your trip to Italy? Read more about essential things to know before traveling to Italy here
- With a plethora of accommodation options it can be hard to narrow down your selections. Here are some tips for booking hotels and apartments in Italy
- Spending some time in Rome? Read this for unmissable landmarks and attractions in the Eternal City
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