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Milan has a special place in the hearts of those who love shopping and fashion, but there’s so much more to explore in the second biggest city of Italy. Long time ago, Milan was Western Roman Empire’s capital and although the times of empires are gone, this city still remains very important for Italy, being its economical capital. And it’s also luring for the tourists because there are plenty of things to explore.
The list of best things to do in Milan for 3 days is long and to make things easier for you I prepared this 3-day itinerary. It will allow you not to miss anything important and provide you with a variety of options to choose from, depending on your touristic tastes.
What to Do in Milan for 3 Days: Sightseeing, Shopping and Dining
Getting to Milan
There are three airports near Milan: Linate Airport, Malpensa Airport and Bergamo Airport. Linate is the closest airport to the city that’s located only 8 kilometers from Milano center. You can take bus 73 and X73 to get from Linate Airport to the San Babila metro station. Because of Linate’s location the prices on flights are higher compared to the other two airports.
Malpensa is the largest of all airports that serves both International and Domestic flights. In case you’re flying from Dubai to Milan with Emirates Airlines, the plane will take you to Malpensa. As it is located 30 kilometers from the city center, there’s a regular shuttle service that can take you to the city in an hour. Another way to get to Milan from Malpensa is a direct rail link. Third option is to take a convenient bus transfer.
Bergamo airport is popular among the travelers looking for cheap flights to Milan. It’s located even farther than Malpensa but there are plenty of transportation options available. You can get to the city for as little as €5 using comfortable bus transfers.
If you wish to travel in comfort the best option is to book a private airport pickup. A company which I have used in several cities including Dubai and I was extremely happy with is Welcome Pickup. You can Book your Milan Airport Transfer here to get you directly from the airport straight to your hotel and they usually have the same price of a taxi or a little bit more. The best thing is that even if your flight is delayed, you’ll have no problem as the driver will be monitoring the flight anyway. You will be met by the driver holding a name sign as soon as you come out at the arrivals with a bottle of water and city map.No matter which airport you will arrive at, there are numerous easy ways to get to the city.
3 Day Itinerary to Milan
Before you start exploring this wonderful city, it’s highly recommended to get a Milan City Card. It’s a pass valid for two days that gives many discounts for museums, attractions, restaurants and shops. It also allows you to use hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus (alternatively, you can take a separate hop-on hop-off bus tour) and eases transportation immensely.
3 days in Milan Itinerary: Day 1
1. San Bernardino Alle Ossa. It is located in a walking distance from Duomo Square and the reason to visit it, is its unusual decoration. If you are fascinated with places like Sedlec Ossuary, which I wrote about in my guide for Prague, you will also like San Bernardino Alle Ossa. The walls, pillars, doors and cornices of this place are covered with bones and skulls that mostly come from defunct 17th century cemeteries. This is not the place for the faint of heart.
TIP: Before you go to Royal Palace of Milan and Duomo Cathedral, you can visit Museo del Novecento where you can see contemporary works of art dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. The thing is that 2019 marks 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci’s death and there are many events and exhibitions collectively called Leonardo 500 that are dedicated to the artist’s impact on Milan. It makes 2019 a truly unique year to visit the Italian metropolis.
2. Royal Palace of Milan. Located next to Duomo Cathedral, the Royal Palace is one of the most significant art centers of the city. Until 1919, when it became a property of the state and was opened to the public, the Royal Palace was a residence of rulers. If you want to go inside, make sure to explore the Hall of Caryatids that survived heavy bombings of 1943. 3. Duomo Cathedral. It’s easy to understand why so many guides put this Cathedral on the first place in a list of things to see in Milan. Quite possible, seeing it for the first time can take your breath away and make your jaw drop simultaneously. The construction of Duomo Cathedral, one of world’s largest Catholic churches in the world, started in 1386 and lasted for five centuries. Needless to say, the result is impressive. A combination of white and pink marble, openwork pinnacles and sophisticated sculptures overlooking the city. What a beauty to behold!
- Make sure to wear clothes that cover knees and shoulders, otherwise you won’t be allowed inside the cathedral.
- Climb the Duomo’s rooftop terrace to enjoy outstanding panoramic views of the city and see the sculptures from up close.
- Enjoy the aperitivo time in one of the cafes overlooking the Duomo.
- If you want to find out more about Duomo Cathedral take Fast-Track Milan Cathedral and Terraces Guided Tour.
4. Piazza Mercanti. Not far from Duomo, you can find the Piazza Mercanti. During the medieval ages it was a governmental and commercial center of Milan. Although, the role of the plaza changed, it’s still a must-visit place and one of the most beautiful piazzas of Milan. It preserves the authentic atmosphere of the Middle Ages with plenty of unique buildings to explore.
5. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. That’s where you get a mix of luxury, art and beauty blended with top-notch Italian flavor under one epic glass roof. The galleria is a stunning passageway made with mosaics, stuccoes and marble, located between piazza della Scala and piazza del Duomo. The center of the glass dome is decorated with stunning mosaics that represent different parts of the world (Europe, America, Asia and Africa) and show the role of Milan in the economic system. Now Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II became a home to luxurious restaurants and shops.
6. La Scala Opera. After walking through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II passageway, you will approach one of the most famous theaters in the world. Also known as the ‘Temple of Opera’, the stage of this legendary place hosted an incredible number of world-known artists. Despite several renovations, it still retains its magic and allure. But there is a huge difference between observing the theater from the inside and experiencing it from the inside. It’s best if you have a chance to attend La Scala Opera during your stay in Milan.
7. Brera District. You will continue to explore the creative side of Milan in Brera District because it is often called the artistic heart of Milan. Quaint stores selling paints and canvases, antique shops, small artisan workshops that sell various handcrafted items and the smell of fresh cappuccino.
Recommended to visit:
- Manfredi luxury jewelry
- Argenteria Dabben silver handicrafts
- accessories by Angela Caputi Giuggiù
- chocolate specialties by Guido Gobino
- Milan’s famous painting collection at Accademia di Belle Arti
8. Castello Sforzesco. This castle has a rich history that starts in 1368. It was destroyed, rebuilt, reconstructed and used as a fortification in several wars. In 1800, Napoleon ordered to destroy it, but later it was decided to renovate it. The castle was severely damaged in the Second World War and in the beginning of the 21st century its reconstruction was finished. Like a phoenix, it always managed to rise from its ashes. The castle is surrounded by beautiful park ‘Parco Sempione’ which is a great place to take rest before you continue exploring Milan. TIPS:
- There are numerous interesting museums in the castle. I recommend seeing them on the second day, leaving the first day for the exploration of the castle’s courtyard. Otherwise, you won’t have the time to see other places of interest on the first day.
- If you’re fascinated by the museum’s history, you can take this tour.
9. Torre Branca. One of the greatest places to see for those who enjoy stunning views and panoramas. Torre Branca is one of Milan’s highest constructions that rises over Parco Sempione and offers magnificent views on Castello Sforzesco and the Duomo Cathedral. On a clear day you can even see the Alps!
10. Santa Maria Delle Grazie. This place is home to one of the most famous paintings in the world ‘The Last Supper’. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the end the 15th century, it followed an incredible number of preparatory sketches. Due to the technique used by da Vinci, the fresco deteriorated and went through a number of restorations. There are countless copies of this masterpiece, but if you want to see the original, the “painting that speaks”, you need to go to Santa Maria Delle Grazie. TIP:
- A number of tickets per day is very limited, so it’s recommended to reserve the tickets in advance. Otherwise, the probability of seeing ‘The Last Supper’ is very low. Tickets can be bought online and you can also get inside by purchasing a guided tour.
- You can also get a Milan tour that combines seeing the Duomo Cathedral and ‘The Last Supper’ or a historical tour with admission to ‘The Last Supper’.
3 days in Milan Itinerary: Day 2
1. Porta Nuova. During the first day you have seen the older parts of the city and the beginning of the second day offers the exploration of a new vibrant district Porta Nuova. What was once an industrial area was turned into Milan’s most futuristic district with skyscrapers, hi-tech stores, cycling tracks and green spaces.
- go to piazza Gae Aulenti to see the stunning view of Milan’s skyline and Porta Nuova
- see the Vertical Wood which was nominated the most innovative highrise in the world in 2014
- take a tour to the ‘Library of Trees’, public park with over 135,000 plants at the foot of the Vertical Wood
- see the highest building in Italy (231m) – The Unicredit Tower
2. Isola District. A cycling track and pedestrian boulevard connects Porta Nuova to Isola District. In Italian, Isola means ‘island’. And this district is a real urban island dotted with small venues, restaurants, local trattorias and street art that it is famous for. You can easily call Isola the heart of Milan street art because of the number of paintings that you can see on the walls there.
3. Monumental Cemetery. Having a cemetery in a guide is not a common thing. But Milan’s Monumental Cemetery looks more like an outdoor museum featuring works of some of the greatest sculptors of the 1900s. Because Italians can even turn death into an art. Along the most walked paths, there are maps that help visitors to indicate the most beautiful monuments. If you decide to visit the cemetery it is recommended to see the Memorial Chapel, the tomb of the Campari family, the tomb of Arturo Toscanini, the Famedio or the “Temple of Fame” and the Crematorium Temple.4. Chinatown. Want to see the oldest and biggest Chinese district in Italy? Here you go! A little city inside the city with its own culture and customs, Chinatown is a very dynamic and vibrant area. Three-storey houses give it a retro feeling which is further multiplied by traditional Chinese ornaments, lanterns and ideograms. And it can certainly make your Milan shopping experience completely different because there are over 150 stores and even the biggest ethic food store in Italy. It’s a must-visit area during Oriental Design Week, Chinese New Year and Christmas.
5. Museo D’Arte Antica. In the end of the first day you can go to Castello Sforzesco once again to explore numerous museums that you didn’t have the time to see on the first day. You can visit The Museum of Ancient Art, The Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco (featuring over 1.500 works), The Museum of Musical Instruments, The Egyptian Museum, The Archaeological Museum of Milan, The Applied Arts Collection, The Antique Furniture and Wooden Sculpture Museum and other exhibitions. It’s a real castle museum, isn’t it? Among these museums, it’s highly recommended to see The Museum of Ancient Art that now features several exhibitions dedicated to the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan. You can see a complete list of Leonardo 500 events here.
TIP: You can take a 3-hour art tour to find out more about Leonardo da Vinci life and work.
3 days in Milan Itinerary: Day 3
1. The Golden Rectangle of Milan. This day is for those who came to Milan to satisfy their shopping ambitions. After all, you’re in the fashion capital of the world! Famous places for shopping that you have already visited during the first day of your stay are Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Brera District, but now you’re going to immerse into shopping completely. ‘The Golden Rectangle’ is formed by the four streets located north from the Duomo Cathedral – corso Venezia, via Monte Napoleone, via della Spiga and via Manzoni. Prada, Armani, Valentino, Versace, Gucci, Cartier, Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, Dolce and Gabbana – you will find it all here, because every meter of this area is soaked with high fashion and recognizable high-end names. Via Monte Napoleone is one of the most expensive streets in the world while the other three streets are more of what the shopping tourists expect to explore while visiting Milan.
2. Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. If you still can comprehend art after shopping, then head to the largest science and technology museum in Italy. It shows the evolution of technology and science starting from the 15th century to the present days. The museum also features special exhibitions dedicated to the fifth centenary of Leonardo da Vinci.
3. Navigli District. In case you decide to dedicate the whole day to shopping and skip the museum, you can end the third day in Navigli district. A charming district with two canals surrounded by cafes, restaurants and bars create a reminiscence of Venetian atmosphere or northern canal cities like Amsterdam. An excellent place to spend the last evening in Milan.
Looking for Something Different? Try These Day Trips from Milan
In case you’re looking for something different, there are many alternative to the activities that were already mentioned. Here’s a list of day trips from Milan that can make your journey even more fun:
- Day Trip to Lake Como, Bellagio and Varenna – on this tour, you will be able to explore colorful villages of Varenna and Bellagio and see the magnificent Lake Como, famous for its stunning villas and gardens.
- Day Trip to Verona & Lake Garda – explore Lake Garda and see Verona city that served as inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. You might also enjoy this guide to One Day in Verona
- Day Trip to Cinque Terre – spend a day in one of the most beautiful places in Italy and learn more about the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Day Trip to Venice – you can organize yourself a full day in Venice. It’s easy to get there by train. One-way ride from Milan takes about two and a half hours.
- Serravalle Designer Outlet Roundtrip – an excellent option if shopping in Milan is not enough. Serravalle Outlets is Europe’s largest shopping mall where you can get 30-70% discount on famous Italian brands.
- Franciacorta Wine Tasting and Shopping Tour – taste the finest local wines of Franciacorta, chat with the locals and search for bargains at Franciacorta Outlet Village.
- Bernina Express Train & St. Moritz – on this tour you can take a ride through the scenic landscapes of Swiss Alps in a panoramic train and see the luxury St. Moritz resort.
Places to Eat in Milan
- Soulgreen – their food is good for the body, good for the soul and good for the planet. Soulgreen serve unbelievably tasty plant-based dishes prepared from fruits and vegetables.
- Giulio Pane e Ojo is a typical Roman Osteria, founded by David Ranucci in 1999, located the Porta Romana area of Milan. Here you can savor authentic Roman cuisine based on traditional recipes which have been passed on over generations.
- Nobu – you can visit this restaurant while shopping because it’s located inside the Emporio Armani store. Nobu offers a blend of traditional Japanese cuisine with Italian and Peruvian influences.
- Contraste – here you will have a chance to taste food that invites many senses. It’s definitely one of the most interesting places to eat in Milan.
- Cracco – if Michelin stars mean something for you, then you should know that this is one of the awarded Milan’s restaurants. Besides, it’s also a wine cellar, a bistro, a bar and a pastry shop.
- La Veranda at The Four Seasons – it’s probably one of the most romantic restaurants in Milan that overlooks the hotel’s beautiful gardens. If you plan visiting it, try their desserts.
TIP: In case you’re a foodie, take a Milan food walking tour, or indulge into wine tasting in Milan.
Where to Stay in Milan
- Four Seasons Hotel – it’s the hotel with La Veranda restaurant I’ve just recommended. It offers luxurious rooms and is located in a shopping district in a 10 minute walking distance from the Duomo Cathedral.
- Armani Hotel – Armani Casa furnishings, marble stone bathrooms, Nespresso coffee machines in each room, personal lifestyle manager and a daily buffet breakfast. What else could you ask for?
- Palazzo Parigi Hotel & Grand Spa – located in the heart of Milan’s fashion district, this hotel has elegant rooms with a terrace or a balcony.
- Grand Hotel et de Milan – it’s a historic hotel furnished with 18th-century furniture. Their restaurant serves incredibly tasty Italian food and offers an informal atmosphere.
- Baglioni Hotel Carlton – located in a fashion district, Baglioni Hotel Carlton is a popular meeting point in Milan. It has elegant rooms with classic design.
As you see, Milan is much more than a city of shopping and fashion. And you need to experience it at least once in your lifetime.