Milan in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

Make the most of your stay in Milan to discover its natural beauty, enjoy its impressive architecture and taste the local gastronomy.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 min read

Milan in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

Milan | ©Tove Liu

Many tourists think that it is too little time to visit the museums, parks, castles and other attractions of the Italian city. However, if you make a list of the daily activities and start the tours early in the morning, you will be on time. On the first day, you can tour the main sights of the historic center. The next day, do some shopping and sample the great gastronomic variety of the city and, finally, you will be in time to visit the Porta Nova district of Milan.

Day 1: Tour the historic center of Milan with a sightseeing tour of the main places of interest

Inside the Duomo| ©Jorge Láscar
Inside the Duomo| ©Jorge Láscar

The best way to get to know Milan is to dedicate a whole day to tour the historic center of the city. You will be amazed by the architectural beauty of its squares and buildings.

Be dazzled by the Duomo of Milan

Your adventure begins at the Duomo of Milan, considered one of the architectural jewels of the city. You will be able to contemplate from the first moment the predominant gothic style in its doors, the roof and the external and internal walls. A true sample of history and art.

The cost of tickets to the Duomo of Milan may vary depending on the area you are going to visit. In this regard, you will be able to choose between:

Of course, I recommend you to book your tickets to the Duomo of Milan in advance because it is a very visited moment. Without a doubt, everything you are going to see inside the Duomo makes it worth the expense, especially if you decide to go up to the terrace to enjoy the views.

Book a guided tour of the Duomo of Milan

Visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an ancient building built in the period from 1865 to 1877 that shows the architectural majesty of the nineteenth century. It offers an elegant setting for dining, shopping, photography and is included in many of the guided tours of Milan. At the end of your tour of the Duomo, you can connect directly to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, as the two sites are close to each other.

When you enter this shopping arcade, you will enjoy the luxury and beauty of its structure: a pair of perpendicularly designed arches, which have been covered by a splendid vault combining iron and glass. In addition, the dome incorporates an amazing mosaic that pays homage to the continents: African, American, Asian and European.

In the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, you will find stores of famous Italian designers and fashion houses. Also, world-famous restaurant franchises and other iconic establishments in Milan.

Book a guided tour of Milan

Enter the Museo Teatrale alla Scala

To continue your first day's tour of Milan's historic center, you should walk in the direction of Alessandro Manzoni. In this way, you will find the Museo Teatrale alla Scala, the only one in the city dedicated to opera and theater, open to the public from 9 am to 5:30 pm.

If you book your visit to the Teatro alla Scala you will enter its rooms and observe true relics of the world of opera, such as:

  • The first spinet used by the romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi.
  • The beautiful baton with instructions obtained by the composer after the success of his opera Aida.
  • The original scores, in Verdi's own handwriting.
  • A series of antique instruments preserved in the Museo Teatrale alla Scala.
  • The portraits made of the exhibitors of the theatrical works, sketches of the scenographies used and manuscripts.
  • A large collection of oil paintings, which decorate the walls of the building and reflect the close relationship between theater and opera.

Book your visit to the Teatro alla Scala

Don't miss the Sforzesco Castle

Milan Castle| ©Agnieszka Rysio
Milan Castle| ©Agnieszka Rysio

If you still have some time left, you can go to via Dante to visit the Milan Castle, which opens its doors from 7 am to 7:30 pm. You can enter the imposing Sforzesco Castle and tour it for free. Alternatively, you have the option to pay an entrance fee and see the internal museums. In the latter case, it is best to book a ticket for the Sforza Castle in advance.

During the tour, you will see the entire environment of the walls and contemplate the predominant medieval architecture. In addition, you will stroll through the beautiful courtyards of the castle, which change according to the season of the year: in winter they are covered with snow and Christmas lights, while the other months are green and flowery. On the other hand, if you have at least four hours for the visit, the ideal is to enter the five museums:

  • Instrumental Museum: there, you will get in the rooms antique instruments representative of the European scene.
  • Archaeological Museum: in these rooms you will find samples of prehistoric art.
  • Ancient Museum: this is a space that houses the last works of Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists. There is also the Pietà by Rondanini.
  • Furniture Museum: you will find handcrafted pieces made between the fifteenth and twenty-first century.
  • Art Gallery: you can see more than 1,500 representative pieces of Italian painting from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century.

Book your ticket for the Sforzesco Castle

Visit the Pinacoteca of Brera

Visit the Pinacoteca of Milan, located in Piazza Pio XI in the historic center, and have an encounter with art. You will enjoy a total of 24 rooms inside this gallery. All of them chronologically arranged, starting with the famous collection of Cardinal Federico Borromeo, and continuing with works by Da Vinci, Titian, Botticelli, among other exponents of the Renaissance.

In the museum, open from 10 am to 6 pm, you will discover approximately 1500 works on canvas, wood and copper, among which stand out:

  • Tablet of the School of Athens. This is one of the largest paintings preserved from the Italian Renaissance period, belonging to Raphael.
  • Madonna del Padiglione by Sandro Botticelli.
  • Adoration of the Magi by Titian.

Definitely, an activity suitable for the whole family, which you can incorporate among the 10 things to do in Milan with children. Also, since the museum closes early, you will have time to eat at a restaurant. For example, if you walk in the direction of the Duomo, you will find Al Mercante Restaurant, which closes at 10 p.m. every day.

Book tickets for the Pinacoteca Brera

Day 2: Discover the Porta Nuova district

Alberi Library| ©Lorenzo Percosini
Alberi Library| ©Lorenzo Percosini

Visiting Porta Nuova after visiting the historic center of Milan will allow you to contrast the medieval and modern architecture of the city. It will be a unique experience that will make you feel like you have traveled from the past to the present.

Marvel at the Alberi Library

Your day trip to Porta Nuova can begin at its well-known green lung, the Biblioteca degli Alberi, a public park with an area of more than nine hectares and a surprising geometric design that combines beautiful circular woods, linear paths and large irregular fields. In addition, this natural space is home to 135,000 plants and 500 trees. One option to tour it is to book the Milan bike tour.

Entering the "Library of Trees" as this botanical park is known, you will enjoy a peaceful atmosphere where you can breathe fresh air and relax while admiring nature. In addition, if you visit Milan at Christmas time and approach the park, it will be covered with snow and sparkling lights.

Also, during the tour, you will see a series of phrases about botany and informative plaques, which will help you to know and quickly identify each of the 100 species of plants and 21 species of trees that exist in the park. In general, you will see shrubs, vines, hedges, aquatic and ornamental plants, birches, poplars, cedars, oaks, among others.

Book a bike tour in Milan

Stroll around Piazza Gae Aulenti

In the vicinity of the Biblioteca degli Alberi, you will find Piazza Gae Aulenti, which stands out for its peculiar architectural design and sustainable lighting system. A must-see area that provides a truly futuristic atmosphere. You can reach it comfortably if you book the Milan sightseeing bus.

When you arrive at Piazza Gae Aulenti, the first thing that will catch your attention is its circular podium shape, whose height reaches 6 meters above the street. From there, you will see the imposing skyscrapers such as Unicredit and some modern buildings. In addition, if you visit this square after the sun goes down, you will enjoy an incredible spectacle that combines water and a system of LED lights. All this, activated by photovoltaic technology.

And if you stroll through this important Milanese square at Christmas time, you will see a huge Christmas tree and a fabulous skating rink. All these are reasons enough to make this tour part of your list of 10 things to do in Milan at night.

Book the Milan sightseeing bus

Do your shopping in Corso Como

On Corso Como| ©a_marga
On Corso Como| ©a_marga

Corso Como is a popular pedestrian street with a large number of tourists, where you will discover a different atmosphere from the rest of the city. It is usually one of the stops if you book a guided tour of Milan. During daylight hours, you can shop in the fashionable stores and eat in luxurious restaurants or cafes. And when the sun goes down, the nightlife starts in all the bars and nightclubs. This area has undergone several architectural renovations, with the purpose of turning it into the avant-garde face of Milan.

You can also sit comfortably on a terrace of a café or restaurant to relax and admire the surroundings. After a long afternoon of shopping, you will have the opportunity to try one of the famous Milanese aperitifs to warm up a bit before partying in a nightclub. And keep your eyes peeled, because if you are lucky you might run into a celebrity!

How to get there: At the end of your visit to Piazza Gae Aulenti, just cross a footbridge and you will arrive at Corso Como.

Book a guided tour of Milan

See the UniCredit and the Vertical Forest

The UniCredit building is considered the largest skyscraper in all of Italy, an imposing 231-meter high building that is part of the city's renovation phase. A true landmark of Milan's architectural history. It has a pinnacle of approximately 80 meters high that complements the structure. In addition, the spire-shaped area is covered with LED lights, which at night is very visually appealing.

Similarly, in the city's youngest district you will see the Vertical Forest, composed of a pair of towers whose exterior has been clad with approximately 2,000 species of plants. These towers with fully habitable apartments promote a type of sustainable architecture, which benefits man, respects nature and provides a beautiful view to behold.

Book the Milan sightseeing bus

See the nightlife in Porta Nuova

At Porta Nuova you will find the best of Milan's nightlife. While the rest of the city sleeps, this trendy district has a celebratory atmosphere. You'll find dozens of clubs and bars at your disposal.

For example, after booking a street food tour of Milan, you can move to Corso Como and, once there, it's on:

  • LoolaPaloosa, Hollywood Rythmoteque and 11Clubroom: these are three of the most popular clubs that have their doors open until dawn.
  • Lounge Bar: 14 minutes away from Piazza Gae Aulenti and 9 minutes from the Vertical Forest.
  • Cost Discopub: 6 minutes from Piazza Gae Aulenti and 9 minutes from the Vertical Forest.

Book a street food tour of Milan

Day 3: Buy souvenirs and enjoy the aperitivo culture

Chinatown, Milan| ©IK's World Trip
Chinatown, Milan| ©IK's World Trip

After touring the Centro Storico and Porta Nuova, you will be familiar with the streets, which will allow you to move from one district to another without inconvenience. This being the case, you can dedicate the third day of your trip to wander around the city to do some shopping and enjoy the aperitivo culture.

Stroll around Milan's Chinatown

Visiting Milan's Chinatown will give you a multi-ethnic experience you will always remember. This district offers a wide range of Asian and Italian products. Moreover, during your visit you will enjoy a colorful atmosphere, thanks to the Chinese lamps hanging from the ceilings along the street.

During your tour, you will be able to shop in the food markets, taste the East Asian gastronomy and Italian traditional dishes. You also have the option of sampling street food or drinking a delicious cup of green tea accompanied by dangos.

Afterwards, you can head to the cultural center inside Chinatown, where a contemporary art exhibition is usually on display. Afterwards, enjoy an aperitif at the legendary Cantine Isola.

Walk through Milan's Monumental Cemetery

A few streets away from Chinatown is the Monumental Cemetery. This is an imposing construction that you must visit, especially if you are an enthusiast of necro-tourism or cemetery tourism. You will be able to contemplate amazing sculptures on the tombs, made by Renaissance artists.

During the visit you will discover the historical, architectural and artistic heritage of this enclosure. You will walk through more than 250 thousand square meters, where you will discover obelisks, funerary sculptures, some temples designed in a Greek style and much more.

For example, among the most famous tombs are:

  • Trajan's Column to scale.
  • Tomb of the Campari family with the representation of the Last Supper in real size.
  • Tomb of the famous fashion designer Antonio Bernocchi with the representation of the life of Jesus in a white tower.
  • Tomb of the Bruni family with the representation of an Egyptian pyramid.

Likewise, you will find a special section with an exhibition of old photographs, which will allow you to know how the cemetery has evolved historically. In addition, you will see some funeral cars from the 1920's and a sort of hall of fame, where you will know which are the most visited tombs with a small review.

  • Hours: The Monumental Cemetery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • Price: Admission is free.

Visit the Canals of Naviglio

Naviglio by Night| ©Groume
Naviglio by Night| ©Groume

Next on the itinerary is the guided tour of Navigli, which owes its name to the canals that run through it. A district visited daily by tourists and locals, due to its picturesque and lively atmosphere. There, you will find markets where you can buy some souvenirs and a great variety of products. You will also find bars and restaurants to have an aperitif.

If you are lucky, maybe your stay will coincide with the Sinigaglia Fair, which takes place every Saturday of the year on the Naviglio canal. You will get local gastronomy to take away or taste on the spot. Also at the market you will find new and used products: women's ethnic clothing, shoes, handbags, accessories, collectible comics, many handicrafts, among others.

Also, if on the last Sunday of every month you stroll along one of the sections of the Naviglio canal, you will come across more than 400 exhibitors, which make up the famous antique market of this district.

Book a guided tour of Navigli

Explore the Fashion Quadrilateral

Near Piazza Duomo between the streets Corso Venezia, Via della Spiga, Via Montenapoleone and Via Manzoni, you will find the Fashion Quadrilateral, so named because the streets surrounding the stores form this geometric figure.

The Fashion Quadrilateral is a luxurious neighborhood where you will find houses of famous designers such as Versace, Dior, Gucci, among others. There are also boutiques, hairdressers, restaurants and cafes. Undoubtedly, it is a district you should not miss. You will be amazed by the architectural beauty of the buildings and the fashion showcases. However, keep in mind that this is a very expensive place, visited by celebrities from all over the world.

Three days will definitely be enough to enjoy everything to see and do in Milan. You just have to organize your calendar of activities and remember that in one day you can visit several places, as I have shown you.