Looking to enjoy a long weekend in Milan? Here’s what to do with 3 days in Milan, plus tips for a great Milan weekend getaway!
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Start the day like a real Milanese, head to any local bar and order a cappuccino with a cornetto, a version of croissant, which you can have plain, filled in with delicious jam or with a generous portion of Nutella. Once you’re done tasting the most typical breakfast in Italy, reach the heart of the city, Piazza Duomo is a great way to start exploring the most authentic taste of social life in Milan.
Get in line to discover the fantastic Cathedral, the Duomo, or better still, book a skip the line visit (https://www.getyourguide.com/s/?q=Milan&et=49795) so as to save some time and be able to explore more. If you can, try and book a tour of Milan’s most important church that includes a visit of the cathedral’s rooftop. From here you will be able to enjoy a magnificent aerial view of the city. This is one of Italy’s most remarkable churches, second to Saint Peter’s in Rome and fourth biggest cathedral in the world. The imposing building took almost six centuries to be finished and it is the place to visit if you’re staying in Milan for just a few hours.
Once you’re done, simply cross the street to explore one of the most prestigious spots in town, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the favorite meeting point of the locals. Make sure to check the wonderful stores and the antique bookstores, but do not overlook the building! From the floors to the ceiling, you can admire a refined example of Renaissance Revival architecture.
Walk all the way to the end of the gallery to find yourself in another landmark of the city, Piazza alla Scala right across one of the most famous Opera theatres in the world, the Teatro alla Scala. It’s a good idea to book a guided tour (https://www.getyourguide.com/activity/milan-l139/la-scala-museum-and-theatre-t24640?utm_force=0) ahead if you’re interested in learning about the fascinating history behind the building. It’s also possible to check the museum. If, instead, you’re more interested in attending a concert or a ballet performance, it’s a great idea to book in advance so as to take advantage of seasonal offers. You can learn more checking the official page of the theater here (http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/box-office/tickets-prices/how-to-book/box-office.html)
When lunchtime gets closer, why not trying one of the most popular local places for fast food. Have you ever though that in Italy, fast food often includes a slice of pizza? It does! Head back to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and check Italy’s best known fast food restaurant, Spizzico. Here, for less than 7 euros you can have a full meal with drinks, including a huge slice of pizza with a topping of your choice, a salad or a delicious potato dish, fresh fruit, or even cheese cake.
There are two great ways spending the afternoon, you can either walk along Corso Vittorio Emanuele Street up to San Babila Square, checking fashion shops, bookstores, and department stores such as La Rinascente, for which you will certainly need no further directions. Or you can head the opposite way, walking through Piazza dei Mercanti and then along Via Dante until you reach the imposing Castello Sforzesco, or Sforza Castle. Here, you can just access the castle though its main gate and wander around until you reach the huge Parco Sempione, one of Milan’s biggest green areas, or you can check any of the several exhibitions that are hosted inside the different rooms of the castle.
If you want to go both shopping along Corso Vittorio Emanuele and also visit the castle, you can do both if you book this express and convenient visit to the Sforza castle (https://www.getyourguide.com/activity/milan-l139/milan-sforza-castle-express-guided-tour-t219327?utm_force=0). The tour is in English and it only lasts one hour, giving you plenty of time to splurge shopping!
On the other hand, if you’re really into history, this Sforza Castle guided visit (https://www.getyourguide.com/activity/milan-l139/milan-sforza-castle-and-museums-2-hour-guided-tour-t219345?utm_force=0) includes the entrance to two of the main exhibitions and a guided tour of all the open spaces inside the fortress.
Late afternoons in Milan are all about enjoying an aperitivo with friends in one of the many bars and even in some restaurants. From Sforza Castle you can easily reach the Brera district and discover some of the trendiest food joints in town. Brera is the bohemian neighbourhood of Milan and home to several fashion cafes and eateries, such as Jamaica, N’Ombra de Vin, L’Osteria di Brera, Salsamenteria di Parma, and Baobab Organic Burger among many, really many, others.
A good aperitivo should include a glass of Italian wine or a local drink such as a Negroni, and different small dishes with ingredients such as local cheeses, olives, different varieties of breads and spreads, prosciutto di Parma, a mouthwatering cured ham that both Milanese and foreigners love, but also other cold cuts such as culatello and bresaola. If after a hearty aperitivo you’re in the mood for more, try a dish of risotto Milanese or choose any other dish from this best foods in Milan article. (link to the Milan food article).
Hang out in the Brera district, it’s a great place to visit in Milan at night with plenty of opportunity to meet the locals, and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the neighborhood.
On this second day you can fit several activities, start by a guided visit of La Ultima Cena, Leonardo Da Vinci’s best-known fresco, a masterpiece housed inside the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. This activity really needs to be booked in advance and you shouldn’t be late in order not to miss it. Check my article with tips to prepare yourself for the visit (Link to Cenacolo post) or book a this guided tour. (https://www.getyourguide.com/activity/milan-l139/leonardo-da-vinci-s-last-supper-the-guided-experience-t209262?utm_force=0)
Right after visiting Santa Maria delle Grazie you can walk or a couple of blocks to explore a unique ancient church, Sant’Ambrogio, dedicated to Milan’s patron saint. This church was consecrated in 387 by St. Ambrose, and it was later named after the saint. This remarkable monument was restored back in the eleventh century in a Lombard Romanesque style. One of the most impressive traits of the basilica are the two red bell towers, which don’t have the same height, as well as the spacious atrium, almost as big as the whole church. Once inside, don’t miss the fourth-century sarcophagus known as the Sepulchre of Stilicho. Sant’Ambrogio is one of the most beloved temples in Milan, and despite being heavily bombed during World war II, both the exterior of the building and the inner spaces have been well preserved.
Enjoy a light brunch in the nearby Café Le Grazie, or walk along Corso Vercelli where you can also go for some retail therapy without spending as much money as you would spend if you went shopping to Milan’s most fashionable stores.
Ride your Milan subway, line green from Cadorna Station to Porta Genova Station and get ready to experience the Navigli. Canals are not just typical of Venice, Milan has its own network of five ancient canals, including the famous Naviglio Grande, as well as Naviglio Pavese, Martesana, Paderno and Bereguardo. In the past, these canals had a commercial purpose since many goods would reach Milan from other parts of northern Italy on vessels navigating these waters.
As time went by, other routes proved more to be more time-efficient, and the neighborhood was abandoned until the last decades, when all kinds of initiatives. Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese are the only ones that are still open for touristic navigation, while the whole area has turned into a nightlife hub in Milan’s city life. Enjoy a ride along the Naviglio Grande or book a private walking tour to learn more about the history of the neighborhood (https://www.getyourguide.com/activity/milan-l139/milan-2-hour-navigli-guided-walking-experience-t209850?utm_force=0). Once your experience is over, you’ll be totally ready to choose which of the many bars and pubs in the area you can hit for a fun night out. If you’re traveling alone and having a drink all by yourself is not exactly your idea of fun, why not joining a Milan food and aperitivo tour? (https://www.getyourguide.com/activity/milan-l139/milan-aperitivo-tour-with-street-food-t184637?utm_force=0) you will need no other excuse to have a unique gastronomic night in town together with other visitors and a local guide.
If you think you’ve seen enough of Milan and want to take advantage of the city’s fantastic train network, Milan’s central location in North Italy represents a great starting point to visit other famous Italian cities, including Venice, Bergamo, Florence, Turin, and even Rome! Not everyone knows that you can reach Italy’s capital in less than an hour by plane, so a day trip to Rome from Milan is not such a crazy idea. Here, I will propose you three different day trips you can easily organize taking train travel into consideration. Train rides in Italy are the most popular way of moving around the country, tickets are often affordable and distances allow you to visit several interesting places in a day.
Day trip to Venice
One of the most fascinating northern cities in Italy is Venice, which you can reach by train from Milan in about 3.5 hours. The ticket price ranges from 22 to 45 euros depending on category and train type (regional train, cheaper but slower, or intercity, much faster).
Depart early in the morning from Milano Centrale Train Station and buy your ticket to Venice Santa Lucia, your final destination. Always remember to convalidate your ticket at the beginning of your trip and before getting on the train to avoid any fines.
Venice is a magical city that you can easily walk around without necessarily spending loads of money. You can simply wanter long the small alleys and cross the unique bridges over the many canals that make Venice a unique place to visit in the world.
Go for a cup of espresso in the fantastic Piazza San Marco where you can admire the characteristic architecture of the city or from where you can board a Vaporetto to reach the colorful island of Burano or the more famous Murano, where you can tour a factory glass and learn everything about the old glass-making techniques.
During the afternoon, you can explore the magnificent Palazzo Ducale, snap a selfie on top of the Rialto Bridge, and enjoy a delicious lunch made of pasta and seafood in one of the many restaurants along the sea.
You can also buy unique souvenirs, such as Carnival masks, traditional hats, and Murano-glass jewellery.
Day trip to Cinque Terre
These picture-perfect seaside villages in the region of Liguria can be easily reached from Milan taking the train to Monterosso. The ticket price ranges from 15 to 30 euros and the trip can last from three to almost four hours.
Cinque Terre is a picturesque string of traditional villages facing the Liguria Riviera, on the western coast of Italy. As the name suggests (Cinque Terre roughly translates as Five Lands), there are five different towns you can explore, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The whole area, including the hills surrounding the small hamlets belong to the Cinque Terre National Park, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site as well. The main attraction in Cinque Terre are the terraces that stand in the steep, cliffy landscape overlooking the Ligurian Sea. The villages are connected through hiking paths, boats and trains only. As a matter of fact, one of the best photo opportunities of the colorful seaside towns is the one you get from the sea, as it allows you to get the whole of the Cinque Terre in one stunning panoramic snapshot.
A trip to Cinque Terre is a unique experience for those who want to discover even more about Italia gastronomy. Local delicacies to try include anchovies from Monterosso, local grapes (and wines too, of course), basil, pecorino cheese, and Focaccia bread. Honey and honey ice cream from Corniglia is another must to try in the area.
Day trip to Varese
Less popular than Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, or even Verona, the province of Varese and its main city with the same name is a hidden gem you should discover if you have an extra day to spend in the Lombardy region.
A region famous for its lakes and its mountain landscapes, the capital of the region is a city often described as the garden of northern Italy. Varese is no more than 1.5 hours by train from the center of Milan, and the tickets start from 6 euros.
Once in town, walk along the many cobblestone alleys in the city center or shop in any of the modern fashion stores. If you prefer a more relaxed tour of the city, explore one of the many gardens and public parks open to the public or admire the plethora of aristocratic mansions and eighteenth century villas, fantastic examples of Art Nouveau architecture that give the city a classy atmosphere. Among these, check Villa Panza Biumo, the mansion is not just a perfect example of severe opulence, but it also hosts a remarkable collection of contemporary art br American artists. For a more adventurous experience, you can either spend your afternoon at Varese Lake in Lido della Schiranna or you can climb the Sacro Monte, a famous mountain road with chapels and churches offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.