The Ultimate Guide to 48 hours in Milan

Just wow

My thoughts of Milan had always been of their Duomo and the fact that it’s the renowned fashion capital of the world. I was a little sad to miss it on my VeniceVerona trip last April, so I decided this big city warrants more than just a day’s visit, so I decided to pack my bags and head over there for a weekend 48 hour rendezvous.

First impression of Milan

While Italy is full of cities that I loved: Verona, Venice, Cinque Terre, Taormina to name but a few, Milan, though beautiful in its own right, doesn’t give me the sense of wonder as the other cities. There are some wow moments when I walk around the city, however, it somewhat lacks the charm I experience in places like Padua and Rome the eternal city.

Out of all the cities I have visited in Italy, Milan would probably be near the bottom of the list in terms of favourite, but there are still some stunning places to see!

Sights in Milan

An itinerary is always subject to change due to weather and tiredness, so instead of telling you exactly where I spend how much time, I will list all the attractions I visited and what I thought of them in my 48 hours there as well as mark their location on the map above.

Why did I say that? Well – I visited most of these places on Day 1 because it was forecast to be pouring the next day! So for the sake of better photos, I crammed my itinerary and hopped from one place to another.

Get my Milan Map here (for free!)

Navigli Grande

Naviglia Grande, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
The canal Naviglia Grande

Navigli Grande is the hip neighbourhood of Milan, kind of like the central Saint Martin district in Paris with a canal and all – and on a Saturday it is lined with stalls for a good old-fashioned flea market. In truth, the things that are sold there are no different than what you would find in any other European City, although the vibe there was nice and it made for a good photo spot.

Quirky street art, Naviglia Grande, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
Some quirky street art in the district

What caught my attention, however, was the food market – Naviglia Grande nearby. With a quirky modern design, it sells food and various edible goodies as well as street food trucks both in and outdoors. It is also a no WiFi zone, and the food looks quite tasty.

Mercato Metropolitano, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
Mercato Metropolitano with its quaint seatings!
food court on Mercato Metropolitano, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
More street food stores further along!

How to get there: Porta Genoa metro station, head south to the canal

Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy - laugh travel eat

Red bricked with a thick wall, Sforza Castle looks like it was frozen since the Medieval Ages. Its central Torre del Filarete is the real eye catcher at 70m high, tapering upwards in successively smaller level towards a dome.

tower Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy - laugh travel eat

Built in the late 1300s, the castle was originally called Castello di Porta Giova and home to the Visconti lords. However, it was destroyed in the 1400s and rebuilt by Francesca Sforza, who founded the Sforza dynasty and is the 4th Duke of Milan, and made it the center of the Milan court.

inner courtyard Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy - laugh travel eat
An inner courtyard in the castle grounds

The castle actually takes a back seat in the history of Milan when the Spanish invaded. For the next two centuries, it acted as a storage unit for the Spanish troops and it wasn’t until the 1900s that it was restored and renovated by Luca Beltrami. Now it is home to several museums and art collections

Address: Piazza Castello, 20121 Milano
Opening times: daily 7:00 – 19:00 for the grounds
Admission free (unless you want to enter the museum – which is 5 euros)

Sempione Park

View from the Sempione park back towards the Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy - laugh travel eat
View from the Sempione park back towards the Sforza Castle

The park that adjoins the castle – Sempione Park was actually a bit of a disappointment and not very large at 386,000 m2. Established in 1888, the park provides an excellent view of both the Arch of Peace and the Sforza Castle. While the park is home to a small arena, an aquarium, and various sculptures, the only other highlight was the fact that there is a library within the grounds as well as the free WiFi.

Address: Piazza Sempione, 20154, Milan
Opening times: Nov – Feb: 6:30 – 20:00; Mar – Apr, Oct: 6:30 – 21:00; May: 6:30 – 20:00; Jun – Sept: 6:30 – 23:30
Admission free

Arch of Peace

front of Arch of Peace, Milan, Italy - laugh travel eat
I almost thought I was in Berlin!

At the end of Sempione Park is the Arch of Peace. Greatly resembling the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin, the arch dominates the square surrounding it. The location is also known as Porta Sempione, from which a gate dated back to the Roman times can be traced. The current gate, the Arch of Peace, was built under the Napoleonic rule in the 19th century by Luigi Cagnola.

Arch of Peace, Milan, Italy - laugh travel eat
Looking grand!

The arch is of neoclassical style, engraved with the important historical events in Europe as well as classical mythology. It is 25 m high and 24 m wide and witnessed several key historical moments such as the escape of the Austrian Army in 1848. It also marks the end of the Strada del Sempione into Milan, which linked to Paris through the Alps.

Address: Piazza Sempione, Milan 20154
Opening times: n/a
Admission free

Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale)

It might seem weird, but the Cimitero Monumentale is a graveyard that is worth a visit. The second largest cemetery in Milan and the resting home to many powerful families in Milan, I was absolutely blown away by the elaborate gravestones and monuments that were built to honour the dead. Opened in 1866, it was designed by Carlo Maciachini sprawling over a whopping 250,000 m2.

One of the galleries-corridor of Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale), Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
One of the galleries/corridor of Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale)

The marble main hall Famedio stood as the entrance to the grounds, the resting place of the most prominent citizen in Milan. From classical statues to Greek Temples – there’s no limit to the opulence you will see here. There are posts with the most famous sculptures and graves around for you to take note, as well as a separate section for the Jewish.

Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale) - laugh travel eat
The less glamorous graves
The taller graves and Mausoleum in Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale) Milan Italy- laugh travel eat
The taller graves and Mausoleum
Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale) Milan, Italy- laugh travel eat
One of the most impressive monuments in the cemetery!

Address: Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale, 2 20154 Milano
Opening times: Tue – Sun 8:00 – 18:00
Admission free

Duomo di Milano

Duomo front Milan Italy - laugh travel eat
Just wow

Needless to say, the Milan Duomo is the main attraction. An absolutely stunning architecture piece, the gleaming white building with its many spires inspired my young self with the fantasy of getting married there… but I am getting ahead of myself.

Interior of Duomo, Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
The stunning interior of the Duomo!

The full name of the Cathedral is the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary. Built in Italian Gothic style, the church took 6 centuries to finish – from the 14th century all the way until the 1965. It is also the second largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world.

Duomo Square viewed from rooftop, Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
View from the roof at Duomo Square

The logistics of visiting the inside of the cathedral is not as simple or easy. Unlike many other Italian churches, to visit the Milan Duomo you are required to buy a ticket. You can do that at train stations or the Museum next to it. The common mistake people make is queuing up right outside the Duomo.

If there are two queues – the left queue facing the Duomo is for mass. As a visitor, you should buy tickets at the booth either side of the cathedral, which might or might not be opened, or at the aforementioned place.

on top of the DUomo roof, Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
What it looks like on top of the Duomo Roof

The lift option is unnecessary in my opinion as there are not as many stairs. The view from the top, if I am to be honest, wasn’t great, but the fact that I got to get up close to see the architecture was worth it.

The archaeological site at the basement of Duomo, Duomo di Milano, Milan, Italy | Laugh Travel Eat
The archaeological site at the basement of Duomo

The ticket also includes the archeological site underground – which wasn’t very interesting with the remnants of an older church and chapel. Most of the descriptions are in Italian as well.

Address: Piazza Duomo, Milano
Opening times: 8:00 – 19:00 (18:10 last admission)
Admission fee: 2 euros for entrance, 8 euros for terrace and entrance on foot, 13 for the elevator.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy - laugh travel eat
The glass and iron vault ceiling!

The grand shopping mall is one of the oldest in the world. Over four-story tap with glass vaults and intricately laid floor, it is named after King Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of the Kingdom of Italy. Finished by 1877 by the architect Giuseppe Mengoni, it is now home to many luxury brands selling chocolates, jewelry, books, and couture. Even if you can’t afford the shops or restaurants inside, it’s worth a visit to see the grandeur of a 19th century Art Nouveau arcade shopping mall.

The glass and iron vault ceiling!, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy - Laugh travel eat
So pretty!

Address: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II 20121, Milano
Opening 24/7

Rinascente

The department store of Milan, the Rinacentre is the perfect place to shop for a gift and to browse Italian goods. Right next to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and opposite the Duomo, it is three story high with the top floor offering restaurants and a small terrace that faces the Duomo. It is definitely worth a visit if you want to buy some pasta or pesto for your friends or just want to browse.

Address: Piazza Duomo, Milan

https://www.rinascente.it/rinascente/en/store/36/milan/

San Maurizio Monastero Maggiore

fresco at San Maurizio Monastero Maggiore, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
The starry fresco on the side

An unassuming church that you would pass by without a thought on the streets of Milan, the Church of Saint Maurice al Monastero Maggiore used to be attached to the female convent of the Benedictines in the city. Now partially converted into the Archaeological Museum, the church itself is still free to enter.

San Maurizio Monastero Maggiore, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat
The pews and the vault
galleries at San Maurizio Monastero Maggiore, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat

Built in the 1518, the church was built recycling some old Roman structure. While the façade is less than inspiring, the interior is stunning. It has a vaulted navel inside the entire church completely painted in fresco, divided into two halves with one for public and one reserved for nuns respectively. Even though I knew nothing about frescoes, I still couldn’t help but marvel at the richness of colours and the skill that must have gone in decorating the entire church.

Address: Corso Magenta, 13, 20123 Milano, Italy
Opening times: Mon – Sat 9:00 – 17:30 (Sunday services)
Admission free

Colonne di San Lorenzo (Columns of St Lorenzo)

Columns of San Lorenzo, Milan, Italy - Laugh Travel Eat

Red brick and marble columns, the Colonne di San Lorenzo is a ruin from the Roman times. These 16 columns were likely to be from a bathhouse or temple and were moved here in the 4th century, leading towards the medieval gate. Although there isn’t much to these structures, one must admire the fact that they have stood in its spot for over 16 centuries.

Address: Corso di Porta Ticinese, 39, 20100, Milano

Where to stay in Milan

Budget: Ostello Bello Grande

Only a few minute’s walk from the Central station of Milan, Ostello Bello Grande* is one of the nicest and warmest hostels I have ever been to. The hostel is clean, modern and ticked all the basic boxes and then some, here are a few more reasons as to why I liked it:

  • Welcome drink – we were asked to fill out a survey when we arrived, along with other new arrivals with a welcome drink in hand, a perfect way to make friends.
  • Free food – during the evening hours, there is a free for all pasta slash salad bar for guests, so if you are on a budget, like me, it’s the perfect solution to finding dinner.
  • Kitchen – not all hostels have a kitchen, but Ostello Bello Grande has one and is stocked with yogurt. Can’t go wrong with that!

Although the price of the hostel is on the pricier end of the spectrum, the fact that you practically got breakfast and dinner included kind of balance the scale. I also met a fellow traveler there whom I still talk to – another score!

Address: Via Roberto Lepetit, 33, 20124, Milano

Mid-range

My Bed is a good choice 10 minutes from Duomo, but bare in mind that it’s in a traffic restricted zone. A little further but with a great modern vibe, B&B Hotel Milano Sant’Ambrogio is near the Sant’ambrogio metro.

Splurge

Sina De La Ville is 5 minutes from the Duomo with a sun terrace and pool. If you want to be even closer to the Duomo, Hotel Dei Cavalieri is 250 m away!

>if you are heading to Lake Como, check out this 48 hours guide to Como by my friend Arzotravels!

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Written by Nam Cheah

Hi, my name is Nam. I am 24 and spent half my life in Hong Kong and the other half in UK. I believe there's endless experience and beauty in the world and this is me chronicling how to experience the best at the best price.

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