Milan is a microcosm of Italian culture and has a lot to offer its visitors — you could spend weeks trying to uncover all the secrets of Italy’s most bustling city and you would still find something to surprise you at every turn. So if you only have a few days to dedicate to Milan, we've got the perfect itinerary to ensure you make the most of them.
Take in gorgeous and world-famous sights, wander around lively neighborhoods, indulge yourself on a mini shopping spree, and luxuriate in the Italian art of the aperitivo. And if you have a day more to spare, try some unique museums or a day trip to one of the many charming small towns that surround the city.
Day one: start strong with the Milanese must dos
The real challenge in Milan is making a shortlist of what you want to see because the city has absolutely everything. Start your first day by following your heart to one of the city's most iconic destinations — Piazza Duomo and the marble façade of the Duomo. Make an early start and you may have it almost to yourself — but keep in mind this is still Italy’s busiest city. Once you’ve taken in the delights of the Duomo, head to the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and marvel at its intricate glass ceiling and luxury shops.
Then you can take a trip back in time and walk to the Piazza dei Mercanti, which used to be the real heart of the city in the Middle Ages. From there, make your way north to the Teatro all Scala — its on-site museum gives an intriguing behind-the-scenes insight into the history of this center of performing arts. If you find a performance that captivates you, ask at the box office about same-day tickets; shows are regularly sold out months in advance but last-minute options often crop up. Exit stage right and head northeast to find a different type of costumed wonderland. The Quadrilatero d'Oro is one of the most famous shopping districts in the world and is worth a visit even if your budget doesn't stretch to the eye-watering designer prices.
Window shopping can really work up an appetite, so for lunch you can either stay in the area and eat at the Terrazza Rinascente, a rooftop terrace at the top of a designer store with stunning views over the Duomo, or head further north to the Brera neighborhood. If you choose the latter, you can try Pizzacoteca di Brera (named in honor of the nearby gallery Pinacoteca di Brera) and delve into some gourmet pizza or pick the Salsamanteria di Parma to enjoy a selection of cold cuts and classic Italian dishes. Those in search of meat-free dining should beat a path to L'Orto di Brera – it may look like an unassuming local grocers but head inside to discover a delightful dining spot.
Spend your afternoon strolling around Brera, one of the most romantic neighborhoods in Milan, and discover its secret corners and façades. You can then head to the aforementioned Pinacoteca di Brera, one of Italy’s most famous art galleries boasting an incredibly precious collection of works including Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus and Hayez’s The Kiss. End your afternoon by relaxing on a tree-shaded bench in the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli before moving on to spend your evening in Porta Venezia.
One of the coolest neighborhoods in the city, Porto Venezia is home to a vibrant LGBTQI+ community. If lunch feels like a distant memory, head to the sublime Dim Sum for gourmet delights. Now you've lined your stomach it's time for some drinks and there's no shortage of great bars to choose from — try Leccomilano for cocktails and a relaxed vibe, Kilburn for a taste of London in Milano, or Kanpai for a Japanese-inspired stylish experience. Head over to Eppol for a mix of the old Milanese tradition and the new underground vibes, or to Mint Garden Café for a flower-full (and flavorful) evening.
Day two: art, culture and your very own photoshoot
There's no shortage of culture in Milan so another morning of art and history is on the schedule — start at the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie to marvel at Leonardo da Vinci’s world-famous The Last Supper, and then stop at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, burial place of Milan’s patron saint. From there, head up to the Castello Sforzesco — once home to the mighty Sforza family that ruled over the city in the Renaissance — and then round off your morning wandering through Parco Sempione, a popular urban park that stretches out behind the Castello.
It's time for lunch and we're heading north to the Porta Garibaldi and Isola neighborhoods, which will be your destination for the afternoon. Ratanà is the place to be if you want to try some Milanese cuisine with a modern twist; Ajo Blanco and its tapas are a great option for a mix of Spanish cuisine and the menu at Capra e Cavoli offers some delicious vegetarian and vegan delicacies.
In the afternoon, hunt down the best photoshoot locations around Porta Garibaldi and Isola, with their imposing skyscrapers and vibrant street art. You also have to stop at Piazza Gae Aulenti, one of the most recently built in the city and a perfect representation of Milan’s most modern soul — thanks in no small part to its very recognizable tower, the tallest in Italy — and also snap a picture or two at the famous Bosco Verticale residential buildings that act as a vertical living garden to mitigate pollution in the area.
Come back down south for your evening fun and start your night at the famous San Lorenzo Columns, a social hub of Milan that hosts nightly revelry. Head south to the Navigli – Milan's ancient network of interconnected canals — and enjoy some delicious Milanese street food alongside in-the-know locals at Macellaria Popolare. Wine is available by the glass to wash it all down. Once again, you have a wealth of options to consider for drinks among the many cafés and pubs that dot the streets. Try The Doping Club, Vista Darsena, Bar Rita or GinO12, each with its own unique vibe and promises of an unforgettable Milano nightlife experience.
Day three: football, fun museums or a day trip
If you have an extra day in Milan, then you can consider some unique attractions that do not fall within the "absolutely unmissable" category but are still well worth a visit.
The beautiful game
If you’re a football fan, then you should consider a visit to the famous San Siro Stadium, home of the two Milan football teams — Internazionale, known as "Inter" and A.C. Milan. The Stadium also has a museum that charts the history of the two teams throughout domestic and international championships. And if you happen to go there on a weekend, you may catch one of the two teams having a home game and enjoy an authentic Italian football experience.
The perfect museum for kids
If you’re traveling with kids, don't miss the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci — Milan’s science and technology museum. Its collection includes machines, planes, cars, and ships, as well a huge variety of models built following Leonardo da Vinci’s original designs. The main event, though, is the interactive laboratories — kids and adults can enjoy learning about all kinds of subjects, from DNA sequencing to robotics.
Explore beyond the city on a day trip
If you'd like some respite from the hustle and bustle of city life, then all you have to do is pick a train and go — there are many delightful small towns just an hour or so away. Our recommendation is Bergamo, a town with two souls represented by the two main neighborhoods — Bergamo Alta, the old city center perched on top of a hill, and Bergamo Bassa, the newer area with hipster coffee labs and delicious eateries.