Despite not being the capital of Italy, Milan is full of things to see and do with every step you take. Considered by many the city of fashion, this emblematic city has not only the best galleries, but a multitude of museums and buildings that showcase the history of the country.
If you are thinking of coming to Milan for four days and do not quite know where to start to get to see everything, do not worry, I have prepared a detailed plan so you can make the most of your days. Visit the Duomo, watch the Last Supper, have an evening on the canals and take a trip to one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, let's get started!
Day 1: A stroll through Milan's must-sees
You have just arrived in Milan and, for this first day, I propose you to get a taste of the place by going straight to know the great must-sees of the city. You are in one of the most historic cities in the whole country and you will soon realize that, just walking through the center, you will find a monument, square or museum of great importance.
I hope you come with your batteries charged because you will start the day touring the Royal Palace and going up to the great Duomo, you will eat one of the most typical dishes of Milan and end the day in the famous Vittorio Emmanuele Gallery and discovering the interior of the Scala Theater.
See the inside of the Royal Palace
Hopefully you woke up early to make the most of the day. Chances are you've opted to stay in some accommodation near the center but, just in case, your first stop will be at the Duomo metro station, one of the busiest spots in the city.
The first thing you will see is the imposing Duomo that gives its name to the station but, before entering this marvel, I invite you to start the day by entering the Royal Palace, the building that is just to the right of the Duomo from the subway.
It is one of the most important buildings in Milan because for centuries it was the residence of the great powers that ruled and governed the city. Today it is a splendid cultural center that you can visit for about 10€ from half past nine in the morning, from Tuesday to Sunday. You can walk through some of the rooms, stroll through the courtyards and see the temporary exhibitions.
Marvel at Milan's Duomo
As you leave the Royal Palace, you've probably already imagined what the next stop will be, right? You have before you the imposing Duomo of Milan, one of its great emblems. Lined with pink marble on the outside and with a clear Gothic style of the fourteenth century, this imposing cathedral is the most visited place in the city and you can not miss it.
As you suspect at this point, this is usually a pretty busy place and therefore I recommend that you book in advance your tickets for the Duomo to avoid unnecessary queues. Besides, even if the outside is incredible to see and photograph, the interior of the Duomo will leave you open-mouthed with its high peaks and gothic decoration.
The entrance to the Duomo and the museum pass costs only 2€ but I strongly recommend you to buy the ticket to go up to the terrace of the Cathedral, which has one of the most spectacular views of Milan, besides being able to see the entire structure of the building from above. You can choose to pay about 15€ going by elevator or about 5€ if you prefer the stairs.
Try the famous Panzerottis
Milan is a city to see quietly and without haste. That's why after a whole morning among royal galleries and gothic architecture you will surely be a bit hungry.
You will have time later to sit down to eat a succulent plate of pasta with knife and fork but, in order to make the most of this first day, I suggest you go to one of the most popular places in Milan; the Luini.
In this place they sell a variety of pizza that is famous throughout the city; the Panzerotti. It is a fried pizza dough stuffed with the most typical ingredients such as tomato sauce, mozzarella, olives or basil. In this place they sell them for all tastes and sizes and, for less than 5€ you can eat like a real Italian.
Walk through the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery
After lunch and a stroll around the Duomo, I suggest a perfect mid-afternoon plan that is just a 5 minute walk from where you are.
This is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a place famous throughout the city not only for having some of the most exclusive stores, but for its infrastructure.
This cross-shaped gallery has huge stained glass windows that give light suspended on tall columns that make the space an open area and very pleasant to walk. In addition, on the floor there are large mosaics such as the one of the Bull, which they say that if you step on his testicles and turn around three times without looking, it means you will return to the city.
Surely you will return someday to recognize this fantastic place but, in the meantime, you can take advantage of seeing some of the most exclusive shop windows in Italy and, if your pocket allows, take some souvenir detail.
Visit the Scala Theater
This first day is coming to an end and to put the finishing touch I suggest you continue walking a few steps north and find one of its great cultural buildings; the Scala Theater. Do not be fooled by its sober facade, this place has been one of the cradles of opera in the whole country. Here have been premiered works of the likes of Madamme Butterfly or Nabucco.
I highly recommend you go because, even if you can not attend one of their concerts, you always have the option to take a guided tour inside for a price of approximately 20 €.
This way, you can get to know everything behind the scenes, see the red seats from the stage and get to know the museum with the props and sets.
The last show of the day is at 17:30, perfect time for you to stay for dinner in the area of Piazza Mercanti.
Day 2: Discover the history of Milan and finish with dinner on the canals
Yesterday was pretty intense, wasn't it? But surely you were able to get a bit of a feel for the city you're in. Milan has an extensive architectural and cultural heritage that you can easily explore on foot as most of the attractions are close by.
For this second day, you will visit one of its great buildings, the Sforzesco Castle, which will take you a good part of the morning. You will be able to watch live Da Vinci's Last Supper and, as if that were not enough, by nightfall I have prepared an authentic Italian aperitif in its romantic canals of Naviglio Pavese.
Spend the morning at the Sforzesco Castle
After resting and having a good breakfast, you will head to start this second day at the Cairoli metro station, from where you can get to the main attraction of the day: visit the Sforzesco Castle.
This place has a huge historical significance as it was for a long time the Ducal Palace until after the Ambrosian Revolution it passed from one hand to another. Today, and despite all the modifications it has undergone, it has a huge heritage weight and just walking through its courtyard and gardens is worthwhile, besides being free of charge.
However, the real attraction is inside because the entire huge extension of the castle has been used to accommodate some of the best museums in the city.
For a single entry that costs around 10 € you will have access to the interior of the Sforzesco Castle and all its museums such as Ancient Art, Egypt, Musical Instruments or Prehistory. A whole shot of history and heritage in the morning.
Contemplate The Last Supper by Da Vinci
The visit to the Castle, between its museums and the walk around the exterior, has surely taken you most of the morning. However, before eating something I have reserved for you one of the great landmarks of the visits to Milan.
Just 10 minutes walk down Corso Magenta, you will find the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a place apparently simple on the outside but that hides a treasure that you can not miss: visit the "Last Supper" by Leonardo Da Vinci.
To access to see this mythical painting made directly on the plaster, you need to book tickets in advance for about 10 €. Italy takes very good care of all its cultural heritage and to preserve this wonder, visits can not last more than 15 minutes, but I assure you that they will be very well invested. In addition, if you go right at noon, there will be much less people than in other sections and you can enjoy the work almost exclusively.
Visit the Basilica of St. Ambrose
On leaving the convent you can stop for a bite to eat at one of the nearby pizzerias such as Assaje, just a 3-minute walk away and, after filling your stomach and replenishing your energy, you will head in a short walk of less than 10 minutes to another of the great architectural emblems of Milan, the Basilica of San Ambrogio.
This place is one of the best preserved in the whole city and its architecture has a great relevance in the aesthetics of Milan. The Basilica was built in Romanesque style in 387 and later rebuilt in the 11th century.
It has two towers of different heights and a large atrium that would serve as inspiration for all subsequent Gothic buildings. Admission is free and, in addition, inside you can access the Sarcophagus of Stilicho and the crypt.
Discover the ruins of the Column of San Lorenzo
Continuing with historical remains and while you get hungry for dinner, I suggest you continue with the walk down the Avenue of Edmundo de Amici until you reach the columns of San Lorenzo.
This place is one of the sites that we can find just walking around Milan and consists of a total of 16 columns located in what were once the Roman baths and amphitheater.
In the background, you can enter the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, the oldest church in Milan. You can enter if you have time, access is free, but just strolling around the city at dusk is worth it.
Dinner at Naviglio Pavese
To end this intense day, I have prepared a perfect plan to do at night in Milan and just a few steps from where you are. One of the most popular areas at night and with more atmosphere to have a drink or dinner is the neighborhood of Naviglio Pavese, where the canals of Milan are.
I can't think of a better plan than going to one of its most popular places like the Manhattan and sit by the canal to have a typical Italian aperitif, which consists of a free buffet with which you can dine and try the best Italian dishes in a charming area ideal for a date or evening.
Day 3: Art and museum day in Milan
In these two days in Milan, you will have already been able to enjoy all the great emblems of the city and its great monuments.
That is why, since you still have time to continue discovering the corners of the city, I suggest you spend this third day to know in depth all the museums and galleries that the city of art has to offer.
You will start going to a real open-air museum, the Monumental Cemetery, and from there, you can walk to all the other places like the Gallery of Modern Art or the Pinacoteca de Brera. To say goodbye to this third day, nothing better than a five-star dinner in this beautiful and central neighborhood.
Tour the Monumental Cemetery
I don't know about you, but when I go sightseeing in a big city I love to see how their cemeteries are and, in the case of Milan, I assure you that it will leave you speechless. Far from being a gloomy and desolate place, the Monumental Cemetery of Milan is a real open-air museum.
To get there you must go to the Monumentale metro stop. By the way, I recommend that you buy the Milan public transport card, which will serve you to travel by metro, streetcar and bus. From here, free of charge, you can enter and walk through the entire cemetery.
Inside you can see authentic works of art such as obelisks, Greek pantheons, engravings and all kinds of historical mausoleums, such as those on the "walk of fame" as soon as you enter.
Experience the contrast of Piazza Gae Aulenti and lunch at Porta Nova
Touring the cemetery will have taken you a good part of the morning. That's why, by the time lunchtime approaches, I want to offer you a contrast and take you to one of **Milan'**s newest areas: the Piazza Gae Aulenti, built in 2012.
Around this square a whole very new and modern urban complex has been built, with buildings such as the Vertical Forest, with up to 2,000 species of plants on its facade. Walking through this area is interesting to discover the contrasts that exist between the most historic Milan and its more modern and trendy heritage.
Through this neighborhood you can reach the Porta Nova area, where you will see several nice restaurants to stop for a bite to eat and recharge your batteries, such as the Pizzeria Carlsbergol.
Visit the Modern Art Gallery and the Indro Montanelli Gardens
After lunch, while the food is coming down, you can take a walk of just over 5 minutes to reach your next stop, the GAM, which specializes in modern art. But first, you can take a stroll through the Indro Montanelli Gardens, adjacent to the Gallery and ideal if you come with children to Milan so they have a space to play.
The entrance to the Gam costs around 10 € and is an ideal plan to continue with the contrasts of Milan. After two days of seeing all the historical past of the city, in this Gallery you can see the most exclusive samples of modern art not only Italian, but international with paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso and Cezanne.
Enjoy the Pinacoteca di Brera's exhibitions
At the exit of the Gam and to end this tour of the museums of Milan, I recommend you to close the day with the Pinacoteca, one of the jewels of the city that has some of the best pictorial samples of all Italy. Visiting the Pinacoteca di Brera is one of the essential stops in Milan.
If you like classical art, this place will surely fascinate you as it is considered the first museum in Milan and inside there are works of the likes of Bellini, Tintoretto and Caravaggio.
Tickets can be booked in advance if you want to avoid queues and cost around 15€, with the option to add for a few euros more an audio guide to guide you through the most important paintings.
Treat yourself to a dinner in the center
It's been a busy day, hasn't it? Don't worry, it's time to rest. When you leave the Pinacoteca you will be in the heart of Milan and you will be able to see at night those areas that you visited during the day the first day, with the extra charm that comes with it.
It is an ideal environment to be able to enjoy yourself and close the day in a good Italian trattoria having dinner with a delicious dish. Some of the most reputable restaurants in this area are, for example, the Rosso Brera, with a delicious traditional menu.
Day 4: Excursion to Lake Como
These three days of sightseeing in the city have surely been intense and profitable. That's why, since you have one more day of vacation, I can't think of a more entertaining plan than doing some of the best excursions from Milan.
Among all of them, undoubtedly one of the most recommended is the one that takes you to Lake Como, an area near Milan with some of the most beautiful villages in the country.
Whether you decide to hire an organized tour or you want to do it on your own, I recommend starting the tour in the city of Como and, after walking through its narrow streets, take a cruise on the lake. After lunch, do not miss a visit to two of its most emblematic villages: Bellagio and Varena.
Arrival in the medieval town of Como
The ancient city of Como is located just an hour and a half from Milan and can be reached by bus on your own for about 5€ or directly with one of the excursions from Milan to Lake Como. This medieval town was formed around the lake with its name, of glacial origin.
The environment is full of vegetation and the buildings have had to adapt to the terrain. Ideally, take some time to wander around, buy some souvenirs and enjoy a more rural atmosphere after all the chaos of Milan.
One hour cruise on the lake
Once you've toured the town of Como, you can't leave without enjoying some of the best boat rides on Lake Como.
If you hire an organized excursion, most of them include a one hour cruise on the lake from where you will be able to see some of the surrounding villages. Otherwise, you can always hire a boat ride directly from the town's pier.
Lunch in the village
Before heading to the other villages in the lake area, it is best to take the opportunity to eat something in one of the local restaurants in Como. If you come with a guided tour, some of them include lunch.
But, if in doubt, you always have the option of taking an hour or two to eat something in places like Hosterietta, which has a delicious menu and a terrace from which to enjoy the picturesque town.
Visit to Bellagio
From Como, the next stop I suggest is Bellagio, another of the most beautiful villages that borders the lake. If you are wondering how to get to Bellagio, let me tell you that, if you go on your own, you have two roads; one inland and another a little bit longer that goes along the shore of the river. However, what most excursions usually do is to take you directly by boat.
This second option is one of the most attractive to enjoy the whole experience and will take you in less than an hour to Bellagio. Here you will be able to tour the small village, enjoy its green atmosphere and have an incredible panoramic view of the entire lake area.
End the day in Varenna
Another of the most beautiful villages around Lake Como is Varenna, a village just in front of Bellagio that you can easily reach by boat in a few minutes.
It is a fishing village with a very picturesque atmosphere and from where you can take some of the best pictures of the whole lake.
I can't think of a better way to close this great trip around Milan than with a sunset in this charming village.
Then, on your return from this full day tour, you can say goodbye to the city by taking a last stroll and planning when you will return to this historic and cosmopolitan city.
Best time to visit Milan
Milan is a city that can be visited at any time of the year, but it is clear that there are better times when you will not find so many tourists and the temperatures will be more pleasant. Generally, in summer it is too hot to spend the whole day walking around the city. That's why it's best to go in the months of June or September.
Still, if you want to go at a special time and you don't mind spending a little cold, I can't think of a better plan than going to Milan at Christmas, when the whole city is illuminated and dressed up.
Itinerary of your 4-day trip to Milan
Your trip to Milan is full of panoramas and entertaining plans but, so that you have a summary of everything you will do, I leave you a table with the main things to do to better orient you.
- Day 1
- Milan must-sees
- Royal Palace and Duomo
- Gallerias Emanuele and Scala Theater
- Day 2
- Historic Milan
- Sforzesco Castle and "Last Supper".
- Lunch in a pizzeria
- Basilica of St. Ambrose and Pavese canals
- Day 3
- Milan, capital of art
- Monumental Cemetery
- Lunch at Porta Nova
- GAM and Pinacoteca de Brera
- Day 4
- Excursion to Lake Como
- Como and boat trip
- Lunch in the village
- Cruise to Bellagio and Varena