I was so excited to return to Italy after a few years of absence. I adore everything about Italy; the people, the culture, art, architecture and the incredible food. However, as I only had 2 days in Milan, there was no way I could fit in all of the wonderful things to do in Milan, so I had to be selective. These are my top recommendations for what to see in Milan in 2 days so you can enjoy a wonderful weekend in Milan!
How Many Days in Milan is Enough?
I have to begin by saying that 2 days in Milan is not enough! At least it’s better than one day in Milan, but if you can spare an extra day or two then you will have more time to experience all of the best things to do in Milan and still have time to relax and enjoy your time here. I spent 3 nights in Milan, so had 2 full days and an extra few hours to explore the city.
How to Get to Milan
Milan is in the north of Italy and is well connected to the rest of the country by rail and air, as well as road if you are coming by car.
There are two airports which serve Milan, Milan Malpensa and Milan Bergamo. Malpensa is closest to the centre of Milan and is connected to the city by train, and Bergamo is in the city of Bergamo, which is a train and bus journey away. If you only have a day or two in Milan, try to fly into Malpensa so you don’t spend too much time getting into the city. However, if you have several days in Milan, you might also consider flying into Bergamo and spending a day there, as it is also a lovely little city to explore.
Getting to Milan by Train
If you are travelling around Italy (or the rest of Europe) by train, Milan has direct train services to Rome, Venice, Florence and many other cities in Italy, so getting around by train is quick and convenient. There are several train stations in Milan, so if you have a choice of stations, check which is closest to your accommodation before you book your tickets. Milano Cadorna is probably best for trains coming from the airport, but if you’re coming from elsewhere it will depend on where you are staying. Use the Trenitalia website or app to check times and purchase tickets.
REMEMBER: You must validate paper train tickets by stamping them at the machines by the platform before boarding your train. E-tickets are already validated with the date and time.
Getting Around Milan
Central Milan is certainly walkable, however getting from one side of the city to the other is much easier by metro, which is fast and cheap. There are also a few tram lines around the city too. Buy tickets from the metro station or use the ATM transport app. Single tickets cost €1.50, or you can buy a day ticket for €4.50.
The Best Place to Stay in Milan
I don’t think there is a bad place to stay in Milan, although it is one of the most expensive cities in Italy, there are a lot of high-quality places to stay. I chose an Airbnb in Navigli which is a residential neighbourhood, with plenty of great bars and restaurants. The metro was about 10 minutes’ walk from my apartment, and it was a couple of stops into the centre. Some people prefer to stay as close to Il Duomo (Milan Cathedral) as possible, but prices are at a premium there. Just staying slightly farther out will save you a lot of money, which you can then spend shopping in Milan!
Hostels in Milan
Milan is not cheap, and some hostels could set you back $50 for a dorm bed. Ostello Bello Grande, for example, is one of the top-rated hostels in Milan and is close to Milan Central Train Station but it is expensive. The New Generation Hostel Urban Navigli is slightly lower-rated but cheaper, it’s all about getting the balance between quality and value depending on your budget. You can check all the hostels in Milan on Hostelworld here.
Hotels in Milan
Don’t expect to find a cheap hotel in the centre of Milan. Room Mate Giulia is slap bang in the centre, just steps away from Il Duomo and gets great reviews. The location is second to none, and the funky décor and friendly staff seal the deal. For a cheaper option, you’ll need to look further out of the centre. Try cosy La Residenza Isabella or browse all hotels in Milan here.
Airbnb in Milan
There are also plenty of options for Airbnb in Milan like this fabulous flat in Navigli where I stayed. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip!
What to See in Milan in 2 Days
Il Duomo: Milan Cathedral
This beautiful cathedral is in the centre of Milan and is top of my list for things to do in Milan. As it is such a popular place, there are often long queues to get inside. Come here as early as you can in the morning to get some photos of the square in front of the Duomo with as few people as possible, and you can enjoy a visit inside and on the rooftop, without the crowds of people you’ll get later on. Tickets are available on the right-hand side of the cathedral, just follow the signs (or the queues of people if you arrive later!)
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Next to Il Duomo is the gorgeous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade. This beautiful building is popular with Instagrammers, and if you want a photo without hundreds of people in you’ll have to get here early! The shops which line the arcade are pretty upmarket – I’m talking Luis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and the like!
In the tiled floor near the centre of the arcade you’ll find the design of a bull as part of the coat of arms of Turin. Its said that if a person puts their right heel on the bull’s testicles and turns around anticlockwise three times they will have good luck. I don’t know how true that is; our walking tour guide said that really it is an excuse for locals to show their distaste at Turin, but if it brings good luck maybe it is worth a quick spin!
(Window) Shopping in Milan
Milan is the capital of fashion in Italy and Europe. I am not a big fan of shopping (due to budget constraints!) but window shopping in Milan is still worth it even if you’re strapped for cash! I did buy a cardigan from H&M next to Il Duomo but couldn’t stretch to a visit to Prada inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. However, you don’t need to even go inside a shop to appreciate the stunning gallery.
*Top Tip* if you want a coffee then Marchesi 1824 is hidden away in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II up a staircase next to the Prada shop, and is a fabulous place to people watch as you can see down into the Galleria below. It is also totally Insta-worthy in its own right!
What to See in Milan in 2 Days: The Last Supper
I didn’t plan my trip to Milan well enough to see The Last Supper. One of the most famous paintings in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece (known in Italian as the Cenacolo Vinciano) is one of the most popular things to do in Milan, and tickets sell out months in advance as there is a limited number available each day. If you manage to buy a ticket on the official website it is just €12 entry fee, but the tickets are hardly ever available and are snapped up by tour companies. Even if you book with a tour company, try to do it as far in advance as possible.
Tour company tickets will be more expensive as they also include the cost of the guide. Alternatively, if you don’t manage to book in advance, when you arrive in Milan go to the ticket office first thing in the morning when it opens to enquire if any last minute tickets are available – you never know, you might get lucky!
Try these tours to see the Last Supper in Milan:
Parco Sempione & Sforzesco Castle
This pleasant park close to the centre of Milan is a nice place to take a break. The castle is free to walk around, although there is a charge to go into the exhibition spaces. I strolled through the castle to reach the park beyond and sat down on a bench for a rest and to people watch. Walk further through the park to reach the Arco della Pace, similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or Barcelona. The light here is lovely around sunset.
2 Days in Milan: Teatro Alla Scala
La Scala Theatre is the home of opera, where many composers wrote and conducted works including Puccini, Verdi and Toscanini. Premium tickets are over €100, but if you book in advance you can pick up tickets for under €20. You might also be able to pick up last-minute tickets on the day, ask at the ticket office. It is also possible to book a tour to visit the theatre when there isn’t a production, but for a real Italian experience, it’s hard to beat an opera at La Scala!
Take a Cooking Class
Where better to learn how to make pasta than in Italy? I found a fabulous pasta making class in Milan on Airbnb Experiences and thoroughly enjoyed learning how to make delicious pasta and tiramisu. Check the details here. Our host Pietro was friendly and knowledgeable, and his mum even joined in to help so it felt like a real family experience. The food as incredible, we learned how to make two types of pasta, and my favourite dessert of tiramisu, and I have a fab afternoon. A cooking class is perhaps one of the more unusual things to do in Milan, I guess most people spend their time shopping or sightseeing, but for me Italian food is such an important part of the culture, and a cooking class is a wonderful way to enjoy fresh, homecooked food – especially if it is in the home of a local cook like this one!
2 Days in Milan: Explore the Neighbourhoods
Depending on where you are staying and how much free time you have, take some time to explore on foot. Walk around and have a coffee in a café somewhere, or a glass of wine or beer in the sunshine. Check out the street art or historical architecture. I stayed in Navigli, where the canals in Milan conjure up memories of Venice and offer a fabulous place to have an aperitivo while watching the sunset. Colonne de San Lorenzo is also a great spot for soaking up the history and taking some great photos.
Take a Milan Walking Tour
There are several free walking tours of Milan which you can do, or indeed you can pay for a guide to show you around. I took a free walking tour with Frog Walking Tour as it got really great reviews on Tripadvisor. However, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped; we ended up with a very large group of about 30 people, and although we visited a few interesting stops, we spent quite a long time at each stop so I felt like I could have seen a lot more in less time on my own or with a different guide.
As well as the free walking tour, I decided to take a Milan Photo Walk as I was dying to get some photos of me in front of Il Duomo. I found this Photo Walking Tour on Airbnb Experiences and signed up. Emilia was a lovely host, and she took me to some of the popular photos spots, as well as some off the beaten track places and a great spot for coffee. The tour was €35 including 10-15 high-res photos of me in the various places we visited. Emilia also offered some polaroid shots which were an extra charge but good fun.
Things to do in Milan: Enjoy an Aperitivo
Aperitivo is an institution in Milan. From about 5 or 6 PM you’ll find lots of bars offering Aperitivo hour, where you order a drink which comes with a selection of tasty Italian snacks, or a buffet where you can help yourself. Keep an eye open for chalkboards advertising their offerings.
Eat Typical Milanese Food
Of course, it’s Italy, the food in Milan is amazing. As well as fabulous pasta and pizza, make sure you try some of the local specialities like Osso Bucco (braised veal shank), Risotto alla Milanese (a creamy yellow risotto flavoured with saffron) or Cotoletta (breaded veal cutlet). You could take a food tour if you have time, or just pick out some fabulous restaurants in Milan.
What do you think? How would you spend your 2 days in Milan? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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This post originally appeared on Tales of a Backpacker.
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