Last weekend I spent a magical 48 hours in Milan, North Italy. I hadn’t been planning on the trip until a friend rang me 48 hours beforehand, with the unfortunate news that her planned travel buddy had taken sick. I was more than happy to step in, and we set about creating a doable travel itinerary that condensed all the sites of Italy’s second biggest city into just two days.
If you’re thinking of spending a weekend in Milan, here’s our best advice, and what we did on our trip! Plus, scroll down to make sure you avoid a few mistakes we wish we had when we visited Milan…
48-Hour Itinerary For A Weekend In Milan
Here’s how we spent a jam-packed 48 hours in Milan. I have to add, both of us arrived late on the Friday night, so slept in until 10:00 in the morning on the Saturday. If you’re an early bird, you might be able to squeeze in a little bit more sightseeing than we did!
Orsonero, Via Giuseppe Broggi, 15, 20129 Milano ↗
11:00. Our first stop was Orso Nero, a coffee shop touted as one of the best in Milan. My friend E and I both appreciate a really good coffee, so we decided to take the 15-minute walk from our hotel to Orso Nero to see if it lived up to the hype. We popped in to get coffee to go, and experienced a short wait inside before being served. The staff were efficient, friendly, and made a damn good coffee.
Piazza del Duomo
P.za del Duomo, 20122 Milano ↗
12:30. With our coffees in hand, we took the Metro Line 1 from Lima to Duomo. Walking out into the bright, winter sunshine, with the Duomo looming over us, and a fresh caffeine shot, made for a picturesque welcome to the city of Milan. The Duomo is a must-visit when in Milan for the first time, just like the Eiffel Tower is for Paris, and Big Ben is for London. It has historic and cultural importance, and also some of the best views of Milan!
While in the square, we booked our tickets for the Duomo via a QR code on the entrance of the Duomo. I don’t believe you can buy tickets in person, so I really recommend buying them online ahead of arrival, both to save hassle while there, but also to hopefully bag yourself a good time slot. We didn’t do this, and found ourselves stuck with the last slot in the day (which paid off – as you’ll see later) but it wasn’t our first choice.
As with many tourist sites, you won’t find locals in the Piazza del Duomo for good reason – too many tourists, pigeons, and scam artists. Keep an eye on your valuables, and don’t allow anyone to take photos for you, unless they’re clearly another tourist doing the same!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, P.za del Duomo, 20123 Milano ↗
13:15. With the Duomo booked for later in the afternoon, we decide to wander into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, north of the Piazza. This is a famed Milanese building, almost as famous as the Duomo itself, and it truly is as beautiful as you see in pictures. The glass roof brings in streams of golden light, and the architecture is preserved to a high standard. Inside, you’ll find designer boutiques (Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Saint Laurent) and matching high end restaurants. However, the Galleria itself is free to enter and wander about, and makes for some beautiful photos.
Cracco, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 20121 Milano ↗
13:45. After wandering around the Galleria, we decided to stick around for lunch. The first restaurant that caught our eye was Cracco, which had a contemporary yet classic interior and a few free tables. As my first proper meal in Milan, I went for the traditional Milanese dish of saffron risotto, which arrived in its distinctive yellow colour. Risotto is always such a treat on cold days, so it made for the perfect lunch on a cold January Saturday. I have to say, while the service was good at Cracco, the dish was a little underwhelming, with the risotto rice a bit undercooked. Saying that, it was still good fare for its location.
Marchesi 1824, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, 20121 Milano ↗
15:15. Across the way from Cracco lies Marchesi 1824. I had initially bookmarked this decadent candy store and coffee shop as the place to go for our morning coffees, but I’m glad we saved it for the afternoon.
Marchesi 1824 has been making patisseries, baked goods, and candy since 1824. It has a number of stores around Europe, but originally started in Milan. For that reason, it’s a very popular location, and guests will queue to sit in the upstairs cafe in long lines. Our pro tip: pop in for to buy goods to takeaway! We bypassed the queue by taking the lift to the first floor, and spoke to the doorman, who quickly ushered us inside.
At the gorgeous glass counters filled with treats, you begin a fun little game. First, you have to wait for one of the many aproned women to address you, and then indicate what you would like to buy. Once registered, you will be given a ticket to take to the till to pay. Queue up here, pay, and once paid, return to the same counter. Again, you’ll need wait for another attendant to deal with you, who will then prepare your chosen sweets and place them in a little bag for you to take away. It was inefficient, but it felt very Italian. Why rush when the journey is so beautiful?
Rinascente Department Store
Rinascente Milano Piazza Duomo, P.za del Duomo, 20121 Milano ↗
16:00. Our next stop was Rinascente Department Store, just across from the Galleria. This was more of a necessity than planned trip, due to my friend forgetting her swimsuit ahead of the evening’s spa session. The department store is similar to that of Selfridge’s or House of Fraser, a confusing layout of vast floors full of concession stands and hidden escalators and lifts. If you need any make-up, clothes, or indeed, swimwear, while in the centre of Milan, this is your place.
Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano, P.za del Duomo, 20122 Milano MI, Italy ↗
17:00. Back on schedule, it was finally time to visit the Duomo. At the Duomo, there are two main areas, the terraces, and the interior. There are also a number of ticket types, but they are chiefly differentiated by the way you access the terraces, either by lift or stairs.
We bought a ticket that included both areas, and took us up to the terraces in the lift (we were both wearing heels and decided to be a bit bougie). The lift is compact, holding ~6 people plus an attendant. You queue at the back of the building, and then ascend to the terraces. Here, we were immediately excited to see how the night sky had turned a deep orange, and flooded the rooftops of Milan for a spectacular view. We ran along the right-hand side of the Duomo and took photos as we went, before climbing up further stone steps to the main roof. It was surreal walking on the giant roof of the Duomo, at such a picturesque time. I couldn’t believe how lucky we got!
Then, what they fail to tell you is, no matter how you ascended to the rooftop, you’ll be taking the stairs back down. This was a bit deflating, and by the time I reached ground level I was a bit worn out. Add onto this that we missed our time slot for the interior – because we got the last tickets of the day – and it was a slightly rushed affair. However, that sunset will always be something I remember.
Hotel + Dinner
19:00. After visiting the Duomo Terraces, we decided to take the Metro back to our hotel and change, ready for the spa. Here, we also picked up a bite to eat, but if you plan your time better than us, it’s likely you can squeeze in a quick dinner or drink and nibbles.
QC Termemilano, P.le Medaglie D’Oro, 2, 20135 Milano ↗
21:00-24:00. As if the Piazza, Galleria, and Duomo hadn’t been enough fun for one day, we decided to top it off with a trip to the viral QC Termemilano Spa, in the South East of the city. We’d known before arriving in Milan that we wanted to visit the “spa of wonders”, and had booked one of the last remaining slots – 21:00-24:00 – despite the average ticket duration being five hours.
Was it worth missing those two hours? Honestly, I think we could have spent a whole day here had we wanted to. The centre is clean and the facilities are new, making for a pleasant experience. Lockers, towels, bathrobes, and flip flops are provided. And there’s 28 different “treatments” to try, although we found most of them were the same thing (a sauna) with a different twist (smells like eucalyptus, smells. like rose, or goes hotter than the previous one did).
I will say, swimming in hot baths with steam rising up into the starry Italian sky was quite something. After our visit, we both floated back to the hotel on a cloud, and promptly fell asleep.
Orso Nero (Part II)
Orsonero, Via Giuseppe Broggi, 15, 20129 Milano ↗
10:30. On our second day in Milan, we decided to return to Orso Nero for the incredibly good coffee, and this time got there in time for fresh pastries too. The line into the café wound down the street, with locals and tourists alike, so instead of spending additional time waiting to sit inside, we got our breakfast to go, and sat outdoors. The pistachio cream croissant was a particular highlight; delectable without being too sweet.
Via Bergognone, 40, 20144 Milano ↗
11:30. We knew on Sunday we had less time to spend in Milan as we were heading home in the evening, so we expedited our time between destinations by taking Ubers. These were as expensive as you’d expect in tourist cities, akin to the rate paid in London. From Orso Nero we travelled to the South West of the city, in the Navigli area, to the Armani/Silos Museum. This is a highly contemporary space, with four floors dedicated to the works of Georgio Armani, and at the time of our visit, and exhibition on Armani’s partnership with Aldo Fallai.
While luxury fashion isn’t inherently sustainable, I did enjoy the browsing the permanent collection of couture gowns, jackets, and suiting. If you’re looking for a designer experience that spans more than just shopping while in Milan, this is the place.
Ristorante Belé Navigli, Via Angelo Fumagalli, 3, 20143 Milano ↗
13:00. From Armani/Silos, we rushed over to Belé Ristorante, a Michelin Guide featured restaurant we’d booked into a few days prior. One o’clock is the latest they serve their tasting menu, so we made sure we made it to the little restaurant just in time. While the space itself felt a little out of character for a contemporary diner, the staff were excellent. On arrival, we were greeted by a pleasant front of house staff who took us through the six-course menu in a clear, non-fussy way, and left the food to do the talking. And talking, it did!
The smoked black tea tagliolini had to be my favourite dish, with delicate fresh pasta coated in a buttery, smoky sauce. And if you go for the tasting menu, be sure to order the white chocolate and tangerine dessert!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Part II)
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, P.za del Duomo, 20123 Milano ↗
15:30. From Belé, we took the Number 2 Tram from Via Valenza Alzaia Nav. Grande to the Piazza del Duomo for a final run around the shops. I spent a good amount of time trying sunglasses on in Prada, and my friend E returned to Marchesi 1824 to buy gifts.
Milano Centrale, Piazza Duca d’Aosta, 1, 20124 Milano ↗
17:00. Finally, it was a quick run back to the hotel for our bags, before hot-footing it to Milano Centrale Station to get to our respective airports. I’ve added in Milano Centrale as the final stop in our itinerary, as it’s also a beautiful building (which I didn’t get a photo off, so here’s one of the Duomo) and you’ll more than likely pass through it at some point.
My pro tips at Centrale: get yourself into a queue for tickets immediately! The ticket machines are always busy, and there is no distinction between train tickets, metro tickets, or the XP1 Malpensa Airport Express. If travelling to Malpensa, know that your train will aways go from Platforms 1 or 2. Just get there with plenty of time!
5 Mistakes To Avoid In Milan
Finally, here’s a few things I wish I’d known ahead of our trip…
1. Not Flying Into Milan Linate Airport
If you can, fly into Milan Linate airport. This is the closest airport in the city, and can save you some considerable time and spend. I flew into Malpensa, and found it took almost 60 minutes to reach the city centre by train. This was easy to do though – look for signs for the train when exiting Malpensa airport, and go to the respective platform for your terminal (Terminal 1 or Terminal 2). There, you can get a direct ticket into Milano Centrale or Milano Cordoba for 13€. It would be considerably more expensive to travel in by taxi, and can still take around 40 minutes.
2. Not Buying A Travel Pass For The Metro
My next big tip is to buy a travel pass for the Milan Metro. The number of times we queued for tickets at Lima, Duomo, Repubblica, Milano Centrale, was a lot. At each station, there are only a handful of machines too. Save yourself time and maybe even some money by buying a Day Travel Card for 7,60€, or a 3-Day Travel Pass for 15,50€. In comparison, a single trip on the Metro costs 2,20€.
3. Not Booking Everything In Advance
We weren’t able to visit our second favourite restaurant – Locanda Perbellini – due to it being fully booked well ahead of our arrival into the city. It’s a place I will make a beeline for if I ever return to Milan, but it also taught us a valuable lesson about how popular certain establishments are.
The same goes for the Duomo – we bought tickets on the day, and were fortunate to score tickets around sunset. However, previous slots in the day had already sold out, so had we wanted to go at a different time, we wouldn’t have been able to.
4. Visiting QC Termemilano On A Weekend
I love a good spa, and QC Terme Milano is certainly a good spa. Saying that, were their good spa guests? Eh, I’m not so sure. QC Terme on a Saturday night felt a little bit like a cross between a club and a spa, with young Italian couples making out the pools, while other pesky guests stole robes, towels, and flip flops. (This happened to me twice, and my friend once, during our 3-hour visit). If you’d rather not share the spa with horny teenagers and petty thieves, I recommend visiting at quieter periods – weekdays and early mornings.
5. Flying In A Storm
This final one is really a note to self: do yourself a favour and avoid booking flights during horrible storms. We travelled back during Storm Isha, and my flight ended up being re-routed to Brussels. I lost a day of time getting back to the UK, which was costly and annoying, but I also had the worst travel experience of my life as the pilot tried (and failed) to land twice in strong winds. I loved Milan, but I wish it had ended on a slightly better note!