If you are planning to spend 2 days in Milan, this 48 hour Milan guide will help you plan exactly where to stay, the best things to see, where to eat, and how to make the most of a quick weekend trip to this Italian capital of style.
If you are planning to spend just two days in Milan, you will want to stay in one of the more central neighborhoods or at least close to a metro station.
Milan is a very walkable city, but those steps quickly add up, so making use of public transport will help you get across the city faster and see more in a short period of time.
Getting to Milan
There are two airports near Milan that you can use, depending on where you are flying from. Check flight prices and book a few months in advance with Kiwi.com here.
If you are arriving internationally from major hubs around Europe, Asia, or North America, you will likely fly into Milan Malpensa Airport (code: MXP). This is the largest airport in Milan and indeed one of the oldest in Europe.
There are both buses and trains that can take you from the Milan Malpensa Airport to Milan city center. Buses currently leave only from terminal 1 and you can check the price and timetables here.
The train is slightly less regular but has more stops and also goes to both terminals 1 and 2. You can check the timetable and prebook tickets on their website here.
If you are flying from a smaller hub in Europe using RyanAir or EasyJet, you will more likely land at the Milan Bergamo Airport (code: BGY).
When you land at this small airport, it is very easy to get to Milan. Simply walk out to the buses which are right outside of the arrivals terminals. There are several stands with electric screens in front of the buses. The first two or three screens all say Milan. The bus drivers will direct you to the bus that is leaving soonest.
As of February 2022, the bus from the BGY airport to Milan costs €10. You can pay with cash or by credit card before boarding the bus. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get into Milan. There is only one stop, the Milan Central Train Station.
You can head back to this bus station and catch this exact bus back to the airport. They leave roughly every 15-20 minutes.
If you are flying out of the BGY airport, I highly recommend spending a day or two on either side of your trip in Bergamo. It’s very close to the airport and there are so many amazing things to do in Bergamo.
Getting Around Milan
There are a lot of public transportation options around Milan but the cheapest and most convenient is the metro system.
You can purchase a 24-hour metro ticket from any machine in any metro station. They cost €7 and are valid for as many trips around the entire Milan metro system for 24-hours from the first swipe.
If you want to use the trams and buses as well, I highly recommend downloading the official Milan transport app. It allows you to purchase different types of tickets and keep them on your phone as you travel around the city.
The app also tells you which buses, trams, or metros to take to get to your desired destination.
Unless you have prior experience driving in Italy, then I do not recommend renting a car and driving around Milan. It is a good idea if you are planning day trips as outside of the city is not quite so hectic, but city driving in Milan is not recommended.
Where to Stay in Milan
There are so many wonderful hotels and apartments to rent around Milan depending on what you are looking to get out of your stay.
I tend to prefer booking apartments, even if I’m only going to be somewhere for a quick weekend trip. It means that I can make coffee as soon as I wake up, there’s a place to sit that isn’t the bed, and they allow you to feel a little bit more like a local while you explore a city.
Milan is about style and luxury, so you want a place that will ooze a little bit of that. For me, that means a stay at an apartment from Plum Guide.
I only recently discovered Plum Guide and will be sharing a complete guide to my experiences with them as well as some of my wish-list spots around Europe with you in the coming weeks.
The accommodation on Plum Guide is hand-selected so that you only get the absolute best apartments, condos, houses, and villas around the world. The information about each apartment is honest and the customer service is unbeatable (something that most other apartment-rental sites are seriously lacking these days).
These are my top picks for apartments in Milan from Plum Guide:
- Tarragon Garden: This apartment has 90% of what I look for in a stay; it’s stylish, centrally located, affordable at under $200 USD per night. The only reason I didn’t choose this option for my stay in Milan was that the WiFi is very low-speed. If you don’t need to do any work while you are visiting Milan this is a seriously awesome option. Book a stay at Tarragon Garden here.
- On the Block: This gorgeous studio apartment offers everything you need at a very affordable $110 USD per night. The bed is plush, the kitchen is fully equipped, and you are very well located near Porta Garibaldi and Parco Sempione in the Chinatown neighborhood. This apartment really feels like a home but is also packed with natural light and stylish touches everywhere. Book a stay at On the Block here.
- Delorean: Besides being a great Back to the Future reference, this apartment is modern, packed with natural light, and in one of the coolest neighborhoods in Milan, Porta Garibaldi. It has a huge wraparound balcony that is absolutely perfect for wine in the evenings, coffee in the mornings, or sitting out during the day to watch the fashionable people along Corso Como below. The kitchen is fully stocked so that you can self-cater, the bedroom is comfortable with a huge walk-in closet for all of your fashion purchases on your trip, and the rain shower and heated bathroom floors are an added luxury for this $200 USD a night spot. Book a stay at Delorean here.
Check out more of their Milan apartments here.
If you prefer hotels, these are some of the coolest local boutique hotels that you will want to check into while exploring Milan:
- Hotel Dei Cavalieri Milano Duomo: This hotel couldn’t be more centrally located. You are a two-minute walk to the Duomo where you can explore all of the historical sights in Milan and where you’ll find some of the best food in the city. It feels incredibly luxurious despite having rooms that start around $150 USD per night. It’s in a historical building, but the interior feels modern and stylish. Even if you don’t stay here, don’t miss the rooftop bar for a drink and nighttime views to remember for a lifetime. Book a stay at Hotel Dei Cavalieri Milano Duomo here.
- Doria Grand Hotel: This old-world hotel will bring you back to the Milan of another time, but not in a dated or old-fashioned way. The lobby and restaurant are indeed grand, as the name suggests, and the rooms are comfortable with modern amenities and amazing views. It’s located near the main train station, which means it’s easy to connect to the rest of Italy, get to the airport, or hop on the metro to explore more of Milan. Rooms start at a very moderate $100 USD per night considering the quality you get here. Book a stay at Doria Grand Hotel here.
- Velvet Grey Boutique Hotel: This boutique hotel is one of my favorites in Milan because it doesn’t have the stuffiness that you find at some of the older more established hotels in Milan. The rooms are clean and modern, some with balconies facing into a tree-covered courtyard. It’s less than a 10-minute walk to the Duomo and close to several metro stations to easily explore more of the city. Rooms start at $180 USD per night. Book a stay at Velvet Grey Boutique Hotel here.
2 Days in Milan Itinerary
I have broken this article down into bite-sized pieces so that you can pick and choose to create the two-day itinerary that suits your style and interests. I prefer to explore a city by area, so one day I will explore the northwest and the next the southeast or something like that.
Milan is a huge city packed with famous monuments alongside hidden gems to discover. There is so much to do in this gorgeous city, you’ll want to extend your trip before it ends.
Day One Activities
If you’ve never been to the city before, you’ll want to start your two days in Milan with a bang and there’s only one place to do that.
Il Duomo di Milano
The Cathedral of Milan, also called Il Duomo, is the largest church in Italy (even bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City). Not only that, but it is one of the top three largest churches in the world.
You can enter the cathedral for €5. Even more interesting though, is to climb the centuries-old stairs to the top. This costs €15. If you want to walk along the cathedral roof, but the stairs are too much, you can pay €20 and take an elevator to the top instead.
This cathedral isn’t just large, it’s architecturally stunning and so it should be considering it took almost 600 years to build.
You can prebook your tickets here, which I highly recommend doing first thing in the morning to avoid the huge crowds that tend to come later in the day.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Right next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This high-arched arcade is the oldest continuously operating shopping gallery in all of Italy.
It was built between 1865 and 1877 and named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II.
It’s not home to some of Europe’s most exclusive brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Dior.
There are also some fantastic cafes and restaurants inside that you may want to grab a table in for a mid-morning coffee and cake. Marchesi 1824 is a particularly famous (and delicious) spot to do just that. You can grab a table by the window and look down over the gallery as people wander through.
The other thing to do in the Galleria is to find the mosaic of the bull. Place your heel on his, um, thing, and then spin three times. It’s for good luck and a return to Milan someday.
Castello Sforzesco or Sforza’s Castle is a 15th-century medieval fortification that at one point during the 17th century, was one of the largest citadels in Europe.
You can simply walk through the castle gates from the main entrance near the Cairoli metro station to the other side where you will end up in Parco Sempione. The park on the other side is a popular place for dog walkers and joggers, but it’s also just a beautiful place to walk. You can then connect to Corso Sempione, a large tree-line boulevard that is a nice place to stroll or take the trolley up to Chinatown.
Inside Castello Sforzesco are several museums that you may be interested in visiting.
The Museum of the Rondanini Pietà is a small museum that is home to Michaelangelo’s last sculpture of the same name. You can book tickets and read more about that museum here.
Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco is an art gallery and one of the larger museums inside this castle complex. See more about what art is on display and book tickets on their website here.
The Museum of Ancient Art is also inside Castello Sforzesco and is a sort of combination of art and history museum. There are artifacts from thousands of years ago which show that even back then, art was an important part of society. It’s a beautiful museum worth checking out. You can read more about it and book tickets here.
GAM Galleria d’Arte Moderna
The Modern Art Gallery of Milan is housed inside a grand 18th-century mansion with ornate vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers.
It’s here you’ll find work from artists and sculptors like Cezanne and Gauguin. You can read more about their collection as well as what exhibits are currently on display on their website here.
Pinacoteca di Brera
Pinacoteca di Brera is probably the most famous art museum in Milan, and for good reason. It’s one of the best in Italy and houses some of the most famous Italian works of art in history.
In addition to the permanent collection, there are always new exhibits on display in the gallery as well as live events and concerts throughout the year.
You will definitely want to pre-book your tickets on their website as well as check opening hours and events that may be taking place during your trip.
Braidense National Library
Located in the same plaza as the Pinacoteca di Brera, this library is one of the oldest and largest in Italy. It was created back in 1770 and in 1880, the library became a national public library.
If you love historical buildings and visiting libraries around the world, this is one you won’t want to miss. The collection of books is incredible and the decor and architecture is stunning.
Lunch of Day One
While you are in this part of town, you’ll want to check out at least one or two of these places for lunch or a snack.
- Panini De Santis: A sandwich institution in Milan, these panini are packed with fresh locally sourced ingredients and grilled to perfection. The Ronny is a personal favorite.
- All’Antico Vinaio – Milano: If you’ve been to Florence, you may have heard of this panini spot before. This location in Milan is just as fresh and just as famous. Come here before you start to get hungry because it’s not unusual to wait 30-45 minutes before you can order your sandwich. It’s always worth the wait.
- Gino Sorbillo: This is a great option for lunch or dinner, but if you are craving a good pizza this is the best I’ve had in this region of Italy. It’s Napoli-style (the best in my humble opinion) with the chewiest dough I’ve ever had. The toppings are of excellent quality and the service is great (there are a few waiters who speak English).
Evening and Dinner of Day One
See a show at Teatro alla Scala
Teatro Alla Scala is one of the most famous opera houses in the world. For the last 200 years, every major show and singer has appeared on this stunningly ornate stage.
In addition to operas and concerts, it’s also home to the ballet in Milan, so there is an abundance of opportunities and shows to suit your interests if you enjoy live shows.
It’s worth going to an orchestra show just to sit up in the heavens and see this theater in the flesh. You can get pretty affordable seats at the last minute (usually about €10-15) for shows during the week.
You can simply explore it as a museum during the day on a guided tour. This is a fun way to learn about the history of the theater and get a behind-the-scenes look at the entire place, including backstage. Book that tour here.
If you would prefer to see a show (something I highly recommend), you can book a ticket for that directly on their website here. If you aren’t sure of your plans, you can arrive to the theater on the day and see what seats they have left, they often have cheap seats available at the last minute.
Negronis at Bar Basso
The Negroni as we know it today is a cocktail made with Campari, sweet vermouth, gin, and fresh orange peel. This drink was created at a cafe in Florence, but the origins of this drink are right here in Milan.
Back then it was called an Americano, famously called so because American visitors preferred the locally made Campari bitter (which is from Milan) to be mixed with a splash of soda water to mellow it out a little bit.
Then one day in 1919, Count Camillo Negroni asked for the bartender to make it with gin instead of soda water, and the Negroni was born.
The best in the city can be found at Bar Basso which lays claim to the fact that they brought the aperitif (the before-dinner drink and snack) to the common man. They were the first bar in the city to make cocktails for everyday people, not just the super-rich who were sitting in high-end hotel bars drinking them.
Now the bar has a huge selection of cocktails (up to 500 different options!), but the Negroni is their most famous.
Dinner at La Piola
Right across the street from Bar Basso is another Milan institution, La Piola. A classic and casual osteria serving up local fare including Risotto Milanese (risotto with saffron) and polenta dishes as well as more traditional Italian dishes like ravioli and antipasti options, too.
You can expect to pay about €20 per person for a main course without drinks. This is roughly the price you will find in most casual eateries around the center of Milan.
It’s also worth noting that if this is your first trip to Italy, most sit-down restaurants charge a “bread” fee. Even if you don’t eat the bread you will pay about €2 per person to sit down. Take the bread, it’s delicious.
Day Two in Milan Activities
Now that you’ve seen some of the most popular sights during your first day in Milan, day two can be a little bit more leisurely. You may want to check out some of the things that you didn’t have time for on yesterday’s itinerary as well.
Santa Maria Delle Grazie
This is an absolute must-do in Milan in my humble opinion, but it has to be planned at least a few days in advance.
Santa Maria Delle Grazie is home to the original Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. This mural was painted between 1495 and 1498 and is on the wall inside this monastery.
You can visit for €15, but you have to pre-book your time slot. You need to then arrive 30 minutes before your time slot to “check-in” in which time you can then explore the grounds before your time slot.
You then get 15 minutes inside the room with the small group who also booked your time slot (if you book early in the morning you could possibly be one of the ONLY people in there!).
It’s quite an incredible sight and very much worth checking out. You can book your time slot here.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vineyard
Right across the street from the monastery is where Leonardo Da Vinci used to have his own vineyard. It is an absolute hidden gem in Milan and not one many people visit, so you are likely to have the grounds to yourself.
The grapevines have been replanted to mimic exactly the pattern they were in during the 15th century, but they are not the same vines that Da Vinci had when he lived and worked here.
The building and garden are what make this worth visiting, including the art that scatters the property.
Gallerie Leonardo da Vinci
If you want to continue on with your Da Vinci tour, this is the last stop along the way. The gallery itself is inside the Science Museum and is next to the Basilica di San Vittore al Corpo which is very ornate and worth checking out the inside of.
The gallery is home to several of Da Vinci’s early drawings and inventions as well as a replica of the Last Supper and an abundance of information about his life and creations.
Vintage Shopping on Via Gian Giacomo Mora
You can’t come to the fashion capital of Italy and not do some shopping!
There are so many places to shop in Milan, you will no doubt easily be able to find information about the boutiques on Corso Como or the locations of all of the DMAG outlet shops.
But what I really love about Milan are the well-curated vintage stores where you can find Prada bags, Gucci shoes and belts, and dresses from Italian designers that I’ve never heard of but suddenly I need all of their designs from the 70s.
Via Gian Giacomo Mora is the best place to head because here you’ll find all of the best shops in one place. These are the ones I recommend checking out.
It’s worth noting that some of these stores have two different shops on the same street (the first two listed). One is for women and the other for men.
- Cavalli e Nastri Mora
- Bivio Milano
- Groupies Vintage
- Squad Vintage
- Humana Vintage – just up the road from here
- Backstage Vintage – also around the corner from here
Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore
The Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore is one of the oldest churches in Italy. It was built back in Roman times between the late 4th and early 5th centuries.
I found this church particularly interesting because of all of the historical information on display inside. It is available in both Italian and English and it described the role this church has played in the development of Milan over the last 15 centuries.
The information also delved into the history of Milan which I found really interesting. Just across from the entrance to the Basilica you will see the medieval Ticino gate.
Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio
Just down the road from San Lorenzo Maggiore is the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio.
Lunch of Day Two
- Pasticceria Cucchi: This is a bakery, so it’s really a better option for breakfast or for a snack between your meals, but if you haven’t had a chance to have a stuffed croissant yet on your trip to Milan then get one here (I also highly recommend Panettoni Giovanni Cova for one!). However, they also have lighter options like croissant sandwiches and focaccia.
- Osteria Del Binari: This is a good option for both lunch and dinner in this area of the city. It’s especially lovely on a sunny day or warm summer evening. They have a huge outdoor seating area and serve up local Lombardy favorites (Lombardy is the region where Milan is located).
- Piz: If for some wild reason you still haven’t had any pizza on your trip to Milan, then you should get yourself to this colorful pizza place for lunch. The dough is fluffy and light and the toppings are of incredible quality. They also do a killer tiramisu.
- All’Antico Vinaio – Milano: If you didn’t get a chance to visit this panini shop on your first day in Milan, you won’t be too far from it near the basilicas. It really is one of the best sandwiches you’ll ever have.
Evening of Day Two in Milan
It’s your last evening in Milan, it has to be spent along the canal! However, if you are traveling to Milan for a weekend trip, I do recommend swapping your evenings around and seeing the vibe along Naviglio on a Saturday night.
Aperitivos are something of an event here in Milan. If you’ve been to other cities around Italy, you may have experienced it. In Venice, they have Cicchetti, in Bologna you have a glass of wine with crescenta and mortadella.
Here in Milan, you can go into almost any of the bars along the Naviglio Grande canal and pay between €8 and €10. This price gets you a drink and access to an appetizer buffet.
Not all aperitivo spots are created equal. Some have quite low-quality food so that they can keep the price down and attract more people. The ones listed below, in my experience at least, tend to lean towards the higher €10-12 price range, but the food is exponentially better.
You can expect olives, different cheeses, a selection of cured meats, bread, risotto, arancini balls, amongst other things like salad and sometimes even pizza.
- Backdoor 43: The cocktails at this bar are some of the best along the canal. On a sunny day, most people get their cocktail to-go in a paper cup and sit along the canal with a few of their own snacks. This is an ideal budget option that allows you to enjoy the vibes, have an awesome drink, and not spend too much on snacks that you may not even want.
- Momo Bar: This bar has one of the widest selections for food and drink. The buffet is huge and has just about anything you could imagine. You won’t even need dinner after a few drinks and snacks here. In addition to meats and cheeses, they also have different pasta dishes and tons of different salads.
- FAB: The cocktails are excellent here and the snacks are light, mostly nuts, chips, and olives, but the food menu here is exceptional. Stick around for their pizzas and seafood options.
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