Welcome to the fashion capital of the world, Milan! One of my favorite cities in the world. Fashion, art & architecture, history and the amazing food all make Milan so special and a must visit. If you are planning a trip to Italy, do not skip Milan! You ask why? Well, keep on reading for my complete Milan travel guide with a 2 and 5 day itinerary!
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What do I need to know about Milan?
Milan is a city located in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy and the second most populous city in Italy after Rome. Milan was also the former capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402.
As I mentioned, Milan is one of my favorite cities in the world. From the friendly and fashionable locals to the amazing food, centuries old history to the modern art. Milan is simply amazing. Fun fact: I fell in love with Milan so much, that I was plotting to miss my flight back home!
During my trip, I used a taxi from the airport and then Uber to navigate around the city. Judging from the Mercedes and Audis that came to pick me up, I believe Uber Black is the only option available there. Taxis are available, however, your best bet is getting them pre-paid to avoid scams or astronomical charges. Unfortunately, this is a common problem is many countries around the world and tourists are the easiest victims. Click here to read about taxis in Milan.
Milan also has a great public transportation system. Fastest way to get from one major city to another is the train system, I used the ItaliaRail from Milan to Rome, click here. I say the fastest way because unlike flying, you do not need to get to the train station 2+ hours before your departure time. Such a relief! To move around in the city, public buses and the metro are great options. The metro has only 4 lines, but 111 stations and is the longest metro in the country. Have you ever tried looking at the Tokyo, New York City or Paris metro maps? If like me, those make your head spin, I am pretty sure you won’t have that issue with the Milan metro system. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, then do a quick search of the Tokyo metro system map). Click here for a link to the metro map.
If you are planning a stay at an Airbnb or a local house, then you might be wondering where to get the essentials, you know such as a toothbrush or paste, body lotion, or basic food items to cook. You will find a lot of small, extremely small stores that carry some of the basic necessities including fresh produce. Penny Market Express is another option and carries a good selection of meats, fruits & vegetables, wine, cheese and dairy products. Click here to find a store location. And if you need some medicine during your trip, then a local pharmacy or farmacia can help you. I recall coming across Farmacia del Duomo which is located near the Duomo. Location- Via Larga, 6, 20122 Milano.
Where to stay in Milan?
You can pick one of the many stunning hotels in the historic streets of Milan or live like a local by staying at an Airbnb. Here are my top picks for hotels.
- Barcelo Milan– $45 per night- Cool rooms
- Milan Marriott Hotel– $135 per night- Downtown city center location
- The Westin Palace, Milan– $200+ per night- Upscale, contemporary and modern.
- Hotel Da Vinci– $60 per night- Free parking at the hotel!
- VIU Hotel Milan– $250+ per night- High end, sleek rooms with city views.
- Grand Visconti Palace Hotel– $160+ per night- Elegant property, 4 star hotel with upscale Italian dining and indoor pool. Centrally located, one of the best 4 star hotel in the city.
And if you are looking for a more authentic experience, then may I interest you in some of my favorite Airbnbs. (Update: the below rates maybe different after the pandemic).
- Milan city center flat for 2 people- $80 per night- Click here.
- Studio near Parco Sempione for 2 people- $44 per night- Click here.
- Bright and centrally located for 5-7 people- $74 per night- Click here.
- Porta Romana for 9 people- $104 per night. Click here.
- Duomo Penthouse for 6 people- $154 per night- Click here.
Best things to do in Milan
Where do I even begin from? Milan has a lot and I mean a lot of things to see and do. It is a paradise for history, art and fashion lovers. Oh and let’s not forget the delicious pizza, pasta and gelato.
Depending on how long you are planning to spend in Milan, you can either hit the main attractions or spend a little longer exploring the city through different experiences. Here’s how to see Milan:
- City Center
- Ancient Roman & Medieval Milan
- Stunning churches of Milan
- Parks and waterways
- Shopping in the fashion capital
- Entertainment & sports
While wandering on the streets of Milan, visiting its museums and basilicas, doing a spot of shopping, or exploring the ancient waterways of Lombardy, you will find yourselves drawn into the special atmosphere of the city, sharing in its positivity and drive.
Start off at the city center, Piazzo del Duomo which is the geographical and historical center of Milan. It is here where you will find the magnificent Duomo. It is also the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. The interiors are as stunning as the exteriors, however, if you are looking for some splendid views of the city, then you’ll have to climb up 919 steps to the rooftop terraces. Your fitness capabilities will be tested!
PRO TIP: Looking for a pic without the crowds? Get there early. Right before sunrise, it will be just you and the pigeons.
Did you know? The Piazzo del Duomo is the symbol of the Lombard capital; dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente (St. Mary Nascente). Construction started under Gian Galeazzo Visconti, most likely 1386, and its origins are legendary: the story is that the devil appeared to the lord of Milan one night, offering to save his life if he would build a huge church in which Satan’s image appears repeatedly. And the 96 Satanic gargoyles confirm the story.
The Piazzo consists of the Duomo, the Palazzo Reale which is the Royal Palace of Milan, the Arengario, the Arcades and the Galleria. In the center is the equestrian monument dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele.
Moving on to the ancient Roman & Medieval Milan. What once was an amazing city constructed, hundreds of years ago, only a few traces remain of the Milan that was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire, as its monuments have been demolished over the ages to reuse the building materials. I do recommend checking out Civico Museo Archeologico, Ruins of the Roman Theatre and Forum, Palazzo Della Ragione and Ruins of the Imperial Palace.
As mentioned before, the Duomo is certainly a must visit. If your version of a dreamy European vacation includes visiting the gorgeous churches, then I’d recommend checking out San Lorenzo Maggiore,San Maurizio Al Monastero Maggiore and San Simpliciano.
Did you even go to Italy if you didn’t visit a museum? How many museums do you think are there in Milan? A lot I say. The city offers unique glimpses of every form of culture, from figurative art to the sciences, from ancient history to the recent past. There is something for everyone. The Enrico Toti submarine is one of those that tell you a little bit about the technology during WWII. It was the first submarine built in Italy after the war. It can now be seen at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia. Other notable museums are Sforzesco Castle, and ofcourse the Royal Palace of Milan.
If all the walking and sightseeing has made you tired, then spend a relaxing afternoon at one of the many parks in Milan. One of the more popular ones is Sempione Park. While you are there, you can also view the Arco della Pace, in the far corner of the Parco Sempione, is one of Milan’s most characteristic Neoclassical monuments. Started in 1807 as a tribute to Napoleon, it was dedicated in 1838 to Francis of Austria and in 1859 to the independence of Italy.
I hope you were not planning to leave Milan without some shopping. As you know, fashion and Milan are a match made in heaven. You can find designer stores all around. Via Monte Napoleone, or “Montenapo” for Milanese locals, is a symbol of luxury, exclusive shopping and is undoubtedly the most elegant street in the city. Corso Buenos Aires is 1200 meters long and has more than 350 shops to meet everyone’s needs. It is one of Europe’s most famous shopping streets. Corso di Porto Ticinese is the right place for those looking for alternative shops and boutiques, for vintage clothing and ethnic & natural products.
Few more options are Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Quadrilatero Della Moda, Via Paolo Sarpi, Via Savona, VieTortona, Via Bergognone & Via Toriro.
Lastly, set aside some time to either watch a live soccer game or tour the Stadio San Siro “Giuseppe Meazza”, perfect for sports lovers. If sports is not your thing, then you might want to attend an opera. Teatro alle scalla is where some of the world’s most renowned artists perform in Milan. They host some amazing operas, ballets and concerts.
Restaurants in Milan- Best Places to Eat
I know you have been waiting to learn about this. I lovedd the food in Milan, everything tasted so fresh and delicious. What I learned was that in Italy, breakfast usually consists of coffee and a pastry consumed at the counter of your neighborhood cafe. I think Paris was croissant and coffee? There are several restaurants, cafes, bars around the Duomo which is the city center. You could easily have every single meal in that area for 5 days straight. But if you ask, here are some of my suggestions. (Click each name for a link).
What to pack for Milan?
In addition to the cute vacation outfits, there are some more essentials that I recommend packing with you.
- You can also checkout my Amazon storefront for some inspiration for your Milan trip. Click here.
- Makeup- bare minimum, whatever fits in this bag . I have the gold colored one. Click here.
- Skin care- travel size only, the Origins travel skincare set was perfect, I use most of their products at home too. Click here.
- Sunscreen- again travel size only, I like the Neutrogena stick version which works for face & body. Click here.
- Camera- I have the Canon EOS T7i, there is a great bundle deal on Amazon. Click here.
- Waterproof camera- under $50, loved it! The quality is pretty good for the price. Click here. I also purchased a wide angle lens. Click here.
- Tripod- solo traveler problems. Get something sturdy and lightweight, especially if you plan on taking pics when it is windy. Click here.
- Packing cubes- to keep things organized especially when you have limited space. Click here.
SAMPLE ITINERARY– MILAN TRAVEL GUIDE WITH A 2 AND 5 DAY ITINERARY
With so much to do and see, how many days are enough? I may not have the answer to that question but I have put together couple of different options for a shorter and longer visit. Whether you plan to explore Milan at your own pace or are determined to experience as much as possible within 1-2 days, these itineraries will be very helpful to you.
2 DAY ITINERARY–MILAN TRAVEL GUIDE WITH A 2 AND 5 DAY ITINERARY
- Start off with some fresh baked croissants or cookies @Bianco Latte
- Burn off those calories climbing the stairs @Duomo for some amazing rooftop views
- Next stop the Royal Palace or Palazzo Reale Milano
- Must take a break @Savini Caffe
- To shop or not shop @Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
- Taste the best nutella gelato or some vegan ice cream @Freddo Gelato
- Spend your evening strolling through Parco Sempione or rent a bike
- Pizza for dinner on a rooftop @I Dodici Gatti
- Delicious breakfast @Princi Bakery
- Explore the National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan also known as Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (10 Euros/ adult)
- Next up the beautiful Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore (1.3 kms away from the museum)
- Don’t miss The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci housed @Santa Maria delle Grazie
- Lunch @La Veranda ($$$)
- Try a unique Milanese scooter ride experience or learn to create your own perfume here
- Stop for some gelato @Arcogelato
- Check out the beautiful San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
- Dine in @Trattoria Minta
- Finish the night off with drinks @Signorvino and enjoying nigh time views of the Duomo
5 DAY ITINERARY– MILAN TRAVEL GUIDE WITH A 2 AND 5 DAY ITINERARY
See above for Day I and 2
- Get out of Milan with a day trip option. Option 1. Day trip to Venice, here, Option 2. Day trip to the Swiss Alps, here, Option 3, Explore the stunning Lake Como, here.
- Back in time for dinner @Ristorante Ribot
- Enjoy a good breakfast @God Save the Food
- Next, head to Monte San Primo for a hike and connect with nature, pack your lunch along
- Get a relaxing massage @Shiseido Spa Milan
- Explore a local street and pop in for some fresh made pizza
- Start off with a food tour in the city, here
- Next visit the Sforzesco Castle
- Fancy an afternoon tea in Milan with Laduree, here
- Spend the evening either @Via Monte Napoleone or attend a show @Teatro alla Scala
CONCLUSION– MILAN TRAVEL GUIDE WITH A 2 AND 5 DAY ITINERARY
Soo..are you ready for Milan? I am telling you, it is an amazing city! Milan is a fashionista’s paradise and just lovely to stroll around with a gelato in your hand. Sounds like a dream? Well, pack your bags then and head to Milan. I have also seen some inexpensive flights flying directly to Milan from many U.S. airports. Emirates Airlines had them for under $500 roundtrip.
TRAVEL TIP: Sign up for various airlines newsletters, you will also be the first one to find the real cheap flights everyone brags about.