Most people dream about visiting Italy, but when it comes to Milan you tend to hear a lot of mixed reviews. As the fashion capital of the world, Milan is a hit with some people. However, others claim that this Italian city is boring and expensive and suggest going elsewhere.
I’ll be honest, Milan was never high on my list but when I found a cheap flight I figured why not. I ended up with 3 days in Milan and enjoyed every minute of it. While I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite spot in Italy (that’s still Venice!) I would recommend including it in your itinerary. So, with that being said here’s my suggestion on how to spend 3 days in Milan, Italy.
How to Get to Milan
While you can easily drive, train, or bus to Milan, Milan is a big international travel destination which means that many people arrive by plane. There are three airports within the vicinity of Milan. Malpensa is a big international airport with an easy direct train between the airport and the city. However, you may also fly into Linate or even Bergamo. Bergamo is the furthest, it’s about an hour away so keep that in mind but there are still public transit options if you don’t want to pay for a taxi transfer, it will just take a little longer.
Getting Around Milan
Milan is a large city and fairly spread out so while you will absolutely want to walk around and explore, chances are you’ll want to take advantage of public transport as well. There is an easy-to-use metro system. You can buy tickets per ride or a pass.
When it comes to walking, remember that Milan like many other European cities does have some uneven cobblestones so wear comfortable shoes and double-think before putting on stilettos or heels.
Where to Stay in Milan
Again, Milan is a big city so you may need to strategize depending on your plans. The city centre, especially near the Duomo is a popular choice of location. However, hotels here do tend to be a bit pricier as well.
If you are using the train system to travel around, you might prefer to be within walking distance of the train station instead so you don’t need to worry about dragging your luggage all over on the metro.
Alternatively, you might want something different and more local and choose to stay in one of the surrounding neighbourhoods where it’s less busy and a little cheaper.
Here are a few ideas of places to consider for your 3 days in Milan.
- For a spot neat the Duomo try: SCF Collection Duomo or Room Mate Guilia
- For closer to the train station try: 43 Station hotel or Le Dimore Suites Milano
How to Spend 3 Days in Milan: My Milan Itinerary
As I said, I spent 3 full days based in Milan. Most people say Milan is good for one day which if you are intent on just exploring the highlights of the city, I would agree with. However, I like to stay longer in places and use them as a base so I’m not constantly moving around with my luggage and Milan was a good place to do just that. With that being said, here is my suggested 3-day Milan itinerary.
Day 1: Explore Milan
Your first day in Milan can be about exploring the city. There are two main highlights that you will want to book tickets for.
The first is the Duomo, which is the famous cathedral. There are multiple ticket options if you want to view inside and the rooftop or just the rooftop. You can also pay extra to take the elevator up (note: the elevator only goes up, you need to take the stairs down). I choose just to do the rooftop as I had heard that the inside isn’t too impressive, and I did get to pass through quickly as I exited. I also choose to go early in the morning when it was less crowded (keep in mind, I visited in October) but the evening at sunset is meant to be an incredible (but much busier) time to visit as well.
It is possible to book tickets on arrival but the lineup can be long. You can book them online in advance to save time if you prefer. Click here to book the Milan Duomo church and rooftop or here for just the rooftop ticket.
The world-famous opera house is just a few minutes walk from the Duomo. I did not go inside but you can if you like by purchasing a tour ticket. The ticket also includes entrance to the museum. You can get your ticket to La Scala here.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper
A second major attraction is the painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. The history of this mural is quite impressive. Not only has it survived hundreds of years but it’s also survived Napoleon using the church as a stable and WWII bombings.
Today, it’s one of the top things to do in Milan but tickets can be hard to find and you need to book well in advance. Tickets can be purchased online starting a couple of months in advance though you may get lucky and find openings closer to the date. For more information on when tickets open up and how to buy them visit this website.
The Golden Triangle
For all the fashionistas and shopaholics, the Golden Triangle is the high-fashion area of Milan. You’ll find both Italian labels (Prada, Versace etc.) as well as international labels (Chanel, Louis Vuitton). Even if you don’t plan on buying, it can be fun to people-watch in this famous part of the city.
Located in Central Milan, Castle Sforzesco is a medieval fortress. There has been a building here since the 14th century and at one time it was one of the largest citadels in all of Europe. It’s one of the most famous landmarks in the city of Milan and it’s free to walk around the walls, courtyard, and garden but you will need to purchase a ticket if you would like to visit the inside museums.
This neighbourhood is about a 40-minute walk from central Milan. It’s a bit quieter and more local with older buildings and plenty of canals. It’s a scenic area to walk around, take photos, and of course, grab a meal or a drink.
Day 2: Day Trip to Lake Como
As mentioned earlier Milan makes a good place for some day trips and I used one of my 3 days in Milan for a day trip to Lake Como.
From Milan Central train station, you can take a train to Varenna, which is one of the beautiful towns situated on the lake. The trains run hourly and only take a little over an hour of travel time. Plus, the station is right in Varenna, only a few minutes walk from the waterfront so you don’t need to worry about other transportation.
Varenna is beautiful but quite small, so for your day trip to Lake Como, you can easily add in another village. There are ferries that connect them and run frequently so just purchase a ticket and keep an eye on the schedule posted above where the ferries dock. We chose to explore Varenna and Bellagio and those two took up the majority of our day. If you visited in the summer, with longer daylight hours, you can likely add in a third.
Day 3: Relax at a Day Spa
For my third day in Milan, I chose to do something a little different: a day spa.
Milan is home to a QC Terme spa, which is a luxury chain of spas across parts of Italy and France. The location in Milan is called QC Termemilano and is located beside some Roman ruins which provide a fun and unique atmosphere.
There are several packages you can do. I did the 5-hour package which included a robe, towel, flipflops, access to all the spa facilities and a 30-minute apertivo with snacks and 2 alcoholic beverages. There are so many rooms (saunas, steam rooms, pools, relaxation rooms etc.) that I probably could have easily spent the day.
As a bonus, the changerooms are stocked with nice body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and face wash along with blow dryers and hair straighteners so you can clean up for a night out after your spa time.
Where to Eat and Drink in Milan
Milan has some absolutely incredible food. I was lucky and visited with a friend who has lived in the country for 4 years so she had some great insider suggestions that I probably wouldn’t have found on my own. Note that for dinner, you will want to make reservations as places book up quickly (this usually has to be done over the phone). If a restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, show up when they open for your best chance at getting a table. Usually, this is 7:30pm which is a little early for Italians.
Based on our experiences, here’s where to eat and drink in Milan.
- Frijenno Magnanno: incredible Napoli pizza
- Trattoria Madonnia (Navigli district)
- Osteria del Treno: Which has been featured in Stanley Tucchi’s show.
- La Lattteria: a tiny, family-run spot
- Osteria Dell’Acquabella: amazing risotto
- Dal Milanese: fun atmosphere and good traditional food
For drinks, make sure to check out Nottingham Forest Bar. This unique bar has a massive cocktail menu with very creative ways to serve them. My cocktail was a mini bathtub complete with a rubber duck!
If you are a foodie you might also want to consider some of these foodie experiences:
- Leonardo’s Vinyard museum
- Apertivo tour and street food tour
- Wine tasting
- Cooking class
If You Have More Time
As mentioned earlier, Milan makes a good place for day trips so if you do have some more time and don’t want to move around too much another few spots worth considering are:
Final Thoughts on 3 Days in Milan
I enjoyed my time in Milan. Was it my favourite Italian city? No. But was 3 days in Milan worth it? Absolutely, especially when it’s such an easy place to fly in and out of. Again, keep in mind that it is a little more expensive and many things should be booked in advance so you will want to do some planning ahead of time rather than just winging it.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Italy
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.