36 Hours In Milan, Italy

36 hours in milan

From the spellbinding historic and architectural delights of the Sforza Castle, Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, to its reputation as a fashion and cultural powerhouse, there is plenty to enchant a visitor to the city of Milan. But, if your time is limited and you can only squeeze a short city break into your busy life, where do you start when looking to visit this impressive northern Italian hub? Well, this itinerary for 36 hours in Milan, should hopefully provide plenty of inspiration. How many sights will you seek to visit during your memorable, if brief, visit?

Day 1: Afternoon - Refresh yourself with a coffee at Fioraio Bianchi Caffè

36 hours in milan | day 1: afternoon - refresh yourself with a coffee at fioraio bianchi caffè
Source: _il__barba_ on Instagram

After a busy flight, or a tiring drive to Milan for the start of your Milan mini-break, the first thing you’ll likely want to do is get yourself settled in and enjoy a refreshing cup of coffee. If so, then brunch at one of the city’s many top bistros will certainly be high on your list of priorities. And the well-reviewed Fioraio Bianchi Caffè is sure to be one such option. This popular coffee bistro has been delighting Milan’s residents and visitors for some 40 years, and it’s easy to see why. Its rustic charms - which boast original decor that would not look amiss on the streets of Paris rather than in Italy’s northern powerhouse - have combined with gourmet dishes to weave their spell on plenty of coffee aficionados and food gourmands. What’s more, it’s open from 8 am in the morning until midnight, so whatever the time of your arrival, you’ll be able to enjoy its atmosphere. And its location within a trendy and arty quarter of the city means you’ll be well-placed for the start of your cultural mini-break.

Fioraio Bianchi Caffè

Address: Via Montebello, 7, 20121 Milan

Website: Fioraio Bianchi Caffè

Opening hours: 8am to midnight (Mondays to Saturdays) - kitchen closes at 11pm. Closed on Sundays.

Average price for two people: 12.50 to 23 USD

Day 1: Evening - Hang out in the Brera Design District and have dinner at Milleluci Trattoria Pop

36 hours in milan | day 1: evening - hang out in the brera design district and have dinner at milleluci trattoria pop
Source: taaniejaah on Instagram

And speaking of artistic merit, the next stop on your whirlwind itinerary is sure to appeal to fans of interior design. The Brera Design District is regarded as one of Italy’s most important design areas and is home to dozens of permanent showrooms. What’s more, time your visit right and you may coincide with the annual Brera Design Week, which boasts more than 200 events and in excess of 300 companies and designers every year. But, even if you aren’t lucky enough to visit during that brief window, those looking for a little decor inspiration will still find much to enjoy. And, once you’ve had your fill of striking design, it’ll likely be time for a little dinner with a musical twist. The Milleluci Trattoria Pop mixes two great Italian loves - food and music. Not only is at one of the city’s highly-rated restaurants, those who opt for a slap up meal will also enjoy listening to music from some of the top Italian singers of decades past - especially the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Milleluci Trattoria Pop

Address: Via Rosolino Pilo, 7, 20129 Milan

Opening hours: Midday to 3pm and 6pm to 2am (Mondays to Fridays); 6pm to 2am (Saturdays); closed on Sundays.

Day 1: Night - Try the Sbagliato cocktail in Bar Basso

Once you’ve finished your meal, you’ll no doubt be in the mood for a little aperitif. And Bar Basso will make for a great destination in which to finish your first day in the city. This legendary cocktail bar is not just home to more than 500 different drinks, it is also home to the renowned Negronia Sbagliato - a drink it doesn’t just serve, but actually invented. This famous cocktail offers a twist on the iconic Italian Negroni, with sparkling wine replacing the gin. To add to the sense of the occasion, those particular drinks are served in huge glasses complete with sizeable hand-cut ice cubes inside. And, if you can tear yourself away from the pleasures of your drink, you’ll no doubt enjoy the bar’s vibrant atmosphere too.

Bar Basso

Address: Via Plinio, 39, 20020 Milan

Website: Bar Basso

Opening hours: 9am to 1.15am (Wednesdays to Mondays); closed on Tuesdays.

Average price for two people: 24 to 46 USD

Day 2: Morning - Tour the Duomo and wander through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (from USD 13.0)

Day two begins with a visit to a true icon of Milan - the spectacular square and cathedral at the very heart of the city, the Duomo. This piazza, which dates back as far as the 14th century, is home to some of the city’s most important sites and buildings of architectural significance - so little wonder then that it is not only a must-see but something of a tourist hot-spot. And after enjoying its cultural and artistic delights, why not keep the theme going - while also indulging in a little retail therapy - by making a beeline for the famed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The oldest mall in Italy, its two glass-ceilinged arcades date back to the 1860s and boast impressive architecture to boot - making it a true cathedral to commerce that proved so iconic that the term ‘galleria’ has since become synonymous with many a latter day mall.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Highline Admission Tickets

Day 2: Afternoon - Sample some traditional Milanese fare at Ristorante Galleria

The Galleria also lends its name to this highly-popular restaurant, which is based within the iconic glass-domed mall, and will make a great spot to tuck into some tasty treats while extending your visit to this stunning architectural marvel. The restaurant, which has been operating within the Galleria for more than 50 years, enjoys impressive views out across the mall - both from within the restaurant, and from the ‘outdoor’ seating. This iconic restaurant offers a menu that features a mix of Italian dishes, including a number closely associated with the city - such as the Milanese Cololetta and the Risotto Milanese. It also offers a wide array of fresh seafood selections daily, as well as some tasty pizzas.

Ristorante Galleria

Address: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, 75 - 20121 Milan

Website: Ristorante Galleria

Opening hours: 10am to 12.30am (daily)

Average price for two people: 13 to 23 USD

Day 2: Evening - Do some window-shopping at Via Monte Napoleone

Milan-Via Monte Napoleone during the Christmas period
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user FlavMi used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Welcome to the next stop on your itinerary - the most expensive street in the whole of Europe. The Via Monte Napoleone - also known as Montenapoleone - dates back to Roman times, even if the name with which it is today known came many centuries later. It was once home to some of the wealthiest aristocracies of the city - a fact reflected in its many neoclassical architectural wonders. Little wonder then, that today it is a leader in the world of international fashion and is home to some of the most exclusive and expensive boutiques and shops in the city - making it a great place to do a little window shopping, even if the goods you gaze longingly upon are more of the aspirational variety rather than something you’ll be able to splash the cash on. Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani are just some of the big name brands to have a base on the street. Of course, those looking to make their short break particularly memorable may wish to purchase a romantic treat for their loved ones while exploring the splendid offerings on sale.

Louis Vuitton

Address: Via Monte Napoleone, 2, 20121 Milan

Website: Louis Vuitton

Opening hours: 10am to 7.30pm (daily)

Average price for two people: Ultra high end

Day 2: Night - Eat in one of the artsy restaurants in the Navigli neighbourhood

Source: Photo by Flickr user JasonParis used under CC BY 2.0

The romantic and trendy canals of Milan are the next stop on your whirlwind tour - and a fitting place to end day two with a slap-up meal in one of the area’s artsy restaurants. The Navigli neighbourhood - in actuality a number of streets close to Milan’s historic canals - are a popular spot, thanks in part to the boat tours along the waters of the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Paverse, and the impressive buildings which line their banks. Indeed, early evening may be one of the best times to enjoy the beauty of this location - the street lighting and the still waters creating a majestic sight. And, if you enjoy the area, you may be interested to note that campaigns are afoot to make the Grande and Paverse fully-navigable again - so watch this space if you are inspired by your brief boat tour trip, and long one day to embark upon a romantic cruise along their full length. Keep those fingers crossed.

El Brellin

Address: Vicolo dei Lavandai, Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 14, 20144 Milan

Website: El Brellin

Opening hours: Open seven days. Times vary depending on season - see website.

Average price for two people: 24 to 46 USD

Day 3: Morning - Visit the biggest park in Milan - Parco Sempione

Parco Sempione, Milano
Source: Photo by Flickr user Luca Volpi used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Your flying visit to this impressive city may almost be at an end, but there’s still time to fit in some impressive sightseeing. The Parco Sempione is the biggest park in the whole of Milan, and it will make a fitting send-off to any city break. Dating back to the late 19th century, its picture postcard grounds extend to almost 100 acres (in actuality 95 acres or 38.6 hectares), and border upon two true landmarks of the city in the form of the Sforza Castle and the Arch of Peace. Indeed, the park’s very layout was designed to maximise the striking views of the arch and the castle, guaranteeing some spectacular photo opportunities as well as increasing the temptation to pay both a visit before you do finally bid a fond farewell to Milan. If you can find the extra time to pay the arch and castle a visit, then they’re well worth it. The 15th-century citadel, for instance, is home to a number of the city’s art collections and museums - so culture fans take note.

Sforza Castle

Address: Piazza Castello, 20121 Milan

Website: Sforza Castle

Opening hours: 7am to 7.30pm (castle); 9am to 5.30pm Tuesdays to Sundays (castle museums)

Average price for two people: Free (castle grounds); 5.71 USD (to grounds and all museums)

Inspiration enough for a return trip

36 hours in Milan will certainly whet the appetite of those travellers looking for a memorable short city break. And, after enjoying this itinerary, you’ll likely have found plenty to inspire you to make a repeat visit sooner rather than later.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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I'm a writer and photographer based in the heart of the beautiful Scottish Highlands. A professional journalist by trade, I have written for and edited several newspapers, magazines and websites....Read more

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