Milan was my second venture to Italy, after staying in Rome for a week. It’s Italy’s second-most populated city and offers a much different vibe than Rome.
Where I felt Rome tended to embrace its historic history, Milan tended to be a mix of old meets new. You’ll find a Prada store next to an ancient cathedral. That kind of thing. It’s pretty cool.
And if you’re a fashionista, it’s the place to be. Every clothing store I stepped into left me wanting to take just one (or several) piece home with me. It’s definitely a challenge to stick to a budget, so bring your willpower.
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Table of Contents
Official Language(s): Italian
Emergency phone number: 112
When to Go to Milan
September – October
Depends on what you’re interested in. Fashion Week is a massive event, and if that’s your jam, plan ahead. Hotels will go fast.
If crowds freak you out, also take note of Fashion Week, and avoid. September – October offer lighterish crowds and surprisingly pleasant weather for a city so close to the Dolomites. Bring a coat though, some days you’ll need one.
Plan to Stay
Plan on spending 3 days in Milan to see it all.
Where to Stay in Milan
Ostello Bello Grande
Ostello Bello Grande Hostel is one of those places that just seems to fit the culture of the city. It’s loud, fun and quirky. There’s always something going on. The staff is super nice and the free dinner is a great option when you’re too broke/tired to find a restaurant.
How to Get Around in Milan
Ostello Bello Grande is right by Milan Centrale and it’s pretty easy to figure out. You can get a transportation pass inside and ride just about anywhere. Milan’s transportation is top-notch, I was at the city center in no time.
Where to Eat in Milan
Ristorante Rossini has a cozy, homey vibe to it. We went for dinner, and it was the perfect way to wind down from the day over really, really good food. Their wine selection is top-notch, they have a pairing for every dish.
Via dei Piatti, 4, 20123 Milano
Osteria Mamma Rosa
Osteria Mamma Rosa was my first taste of Milan’s cuisine. From the first bite of bruschetta, I knew it was going to be a good trip. The restaurant itself is gorgeous, and the food has the freshest taste. If you see a dish with tomatoes, get it. Thank me later.
Piazza Cincinnato, 4, 20124 Milano
If you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, give Marchesi 1824 a try. It’s right inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, on the second floor, making it a great place to sip some coffee, nibble on a pastry and people watch. It’s hard to leave without getting a box of sweets. I know I did. The staff are also so, so nice too. The nicest I experienced in Milan.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 20121 Milano
Bar Luce is the one stop I missed, and I’m a little bummed. It’s a bar Wes Anderson designed himself, so it’s just as weird as you’d expect. From what I’ve heard, it’s a great place for aperitivo, (more on that towards the end.)
Largo Isarco, 2, 20139 Milano
Day 1 of 3 Days in Milan
The Last Supper
Fair warning, trying to see the Last Supper is damn near impossible unless you book months in advance. It’s housed inside Santa Maria delle Grazie, a terra cotta church already gorgeous on its own.
Viewings are by appointment only, and last 20-30 minutes. There is a site to book directly, but more often than not, you’ll find it completely sold out. Don’t worry, this just means you’ll have to book with a third-party tour agency, and there are several.
The tour I used is linked below. I really enjoyed my experience. No photography is allowed (sorry, I don’t have anything to show you), but it was still really incredible to see it up close.
Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, 20123 Milano
Castello Sforzesco isn’t too far away and it’s really a sight. Think of it as part-castle and part-museum.
It houses works by da Vinci and Michelangelo and is also cool as hell to walk around. Especially at night. It’s almost like the castle comes alive.
Piazza Castello, 20121 Milano
Open 7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Via Fiori Chiari
This street seems so quintessentially Italy to me. You can walk down here to get to your next destination.
Pinacoteca di Brera
If you haven’t yet had your museum fix, Pinacoteca di Brera is a nice final stop. When you arrive, you’ll enter into a palazzo, which is simply stunning.
Inside is some of Northern Italy’s finest Renaissance artwork. And one lone Rembrandt, which I of course sought out.
Via Brera, 28, 20121 Milano
Open 8:30 a.m. – 7:15 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday, closed Monday
Day 2 of 3 Days in Milan
Day Trip to Bergamo
Bergamo is only an hour train ride away and absolutely deserves a visit! A day will be a good amount of time and I wrote a blog post on how to make the most of it.
Day 3 of 3 Days in Milan
You can’t visit Milan without seeing the Duomo. I know it seems a little touristy but… can you blame me?! It’s spectacular!
It helps to get there right when it opens. Even with a pass, the lines can get pretty thick. Plan to spend some time here, there’s a lot to see and it can eat up a whole morning.
Climb the terrace
Plan on climbing the terraces. It’s way fun.
Piazza del Duomo, 20122 Milano
Open 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is just steps away. It’s a nice spot to grab a bite to eat and window shop/actually shop. Every high end, luxurious shop you could ever think of is housed in this beautiful building. Just walking around makes you feel upscale.
Not everything is totally out of your budget, though. It just takes looking past the Armani storefront to find the hidden, less expensive stores.
Piazza del Duomo, 20123 Milano
Santuario Di S. Bernardino Alle Ossa
I have a weird fascination with ossuaries, so hearing that there’s one in Milan meant I had to visit it. Santuario Di S. Bernardino Alle Ossa is much smaller than other ossuaries I’ve seen. It’s also less visited, so space won’t be an issue.
It was used to house bones for several centuries when the cemetery became too crowded. However, the bones weren’t used for decor until the 1700s when it was restored after a fire. Why do people think to decorate with skulls and femurs? Beats me, but I dig it.
Via Verziere, 2, 20122 Milano
Basilica di Santa Maria presso San Satiro
Basilica di Santa Maria presso San Satiro is a tiny little church with a very interesting optical illusion. I’m not sure I was quite able to capture it properly, but see if you can spot it. A lack of space meant people had to get creative, and thus, the basilica was born.
One Last Thing
Milan knows its drinks, and knows how to integrate it into everyday life seamlessly. Get a cocktail if you can. Even better? Aperitivo. The idea here is you pay for your drink, and the food (usually in a buffet-style) is free. Check bars nearby and go for it.
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