Travel

How to Spend 48 Hours in Milan

Everything you need to know to make the most of 48 hours in Milan, Italy!

Milan duomo header

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Milan is one of the major airport hubs for folks flying from the US into Italy, so often people have a day or two in the city and want to maximize their time in the city!

If you only have 24 or 48 hours in Milan, this guide helps you figure out how to focus your time, where to stay, and what to see!

Where to Stay for 48 Hours in Milan

My top choice for where to stay in Milan has to be the Navigli neighborhood. It’s a cool area to walk around in day or night and has tons of bars and restaurants if you’re not into making reservations.

A few hotels I like in the area are Navigli Design Apartment and Art Hotel: both are really great prices for the city.

Another great area to check out is the Brera district. Brera used to be the artist part of town and has absolutely gorgeous architecture. It’s also near the center, so easy to walk to the major sights. 

Some great accommodation options in Brera include Charming Milan Apartments Madonnina or Contempora Apartments if you’re able to pay a little more!

Another few options I like in other parts of Milan are Heart Hotel and My Bed.

Milan Duomo rooftop architecture

Must Do’s With 48 Hours in Milan

First up: the obvious ones!

The Duomo

Start with the one everyone thinks of first: the Duomo. Seeing the roof of the Duomo is 100% worth it, so plan to get a ticket! You have a few options here: to go by stairs or elevator. The stairs aren’t too bad if you’re able-bodied and don’t mind the walk, but don’t forget that it may be hot and there’s not really a place to take a rest midway up. It’s less intense than climbing the Florence Duomo.

Milan Duomo rooftop terrace!

Going up to the roof terrace gives you a closer look at the intricate architecture covering the sides and top of the cathedral, which is really amazing.

Another option is to do a guided tour. This covers the inside of the church and the roof and gives good explanations of what you’re looking at. I enjoyed it, but if you just want to go for the views, skip this.

You can also pay to enter only the Duomo or do a combo ticket that includes the roof terrace, the church, the museum, and an archaeological area underground. It’s not my favorite church interior, so you’re not missing much if you just do the roof. Either way, you’ll get a quick look inside as you finish the roof tour.

Milan Duomo interior - guided tour option

The Last Supper

While one of the most famous paintings in history, many people don’t get to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper when in Milan.

Called the Cenacolo Vinciano in Italian, it’s a surprisingly humble setting: the painting was done as wall art for the refectory (dining hall) for the attached church and convent. Da Vinci tried a new way of fresco painting, making it impossible to remove from the wall, so the convent has been converted into a museum dedicated to the painting.

Tickets are hard to get! They limit entry to protect the painting, so buying weeks in advance is crucial. If you check their website and it’s booked, keep an eye on it: sometimes more get released back to the site.

Best things to do in Milan - the Last Supper. how to get tickets

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Even if you don’t recognize this name, you’ve seen influencers post photos taken here. A galleria is a fancy historic mall, and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the most beautiful! The big, airy atrium is pure elegance. While I wouldn’t recommend a meal here (overpriced), if you’re into designer brands, spend some time browsing!

Milan Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Niche Spots in Milan

While not exactly secret, here are a few spots you may want to check out:

If you’re into history, make a stop at Sforzesco Castle. It dates back to the Middle Ages and at one time was one of the largest castles in Europe! Nowadays, it’s home to several museums including both Renaissance and ancient art, Egyptian artifacts, and Michaelangelo’s last sculpture.

Even if you’re not interested in art, it’s worth checking out. You can walk the grounds and the interior courtyard without paying entry. Keep an eye out for the Visconti coat of arms, which inspired the Alfa Romeo logo.

Milan, Italy castles

If you’re into theater, seeing a show at the Teatro alla Scala is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The grandeur of the space combined with the history of the building make it amazing for any theater lover. But if your evenings are full or you’re not into the shows on offer while you’re there, you can also do a guided tour during the day.

Want something a little creepy? San Bernadino alle Ossa is a church in Milan known for having an ossuary! It’s not unheard of for Catholic churches to have a chapel decorated with hundreds of bones, but definitely unusual to the average American. When the attached cemetery filled up, a side chapel was built to accommodate the overflow. It’s free to enter if you want to check it out!

Milan ossuary

You can’t talk about Milan without at least mentioning shopping! Fashion isn’t my forte, so I’ll leave that to better shoppers.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m all about eating well, so don’t miss my bigger guide on restaurants, bars, and a great speakeasy! Or grab it today on my Milan Masterlist interactive guide on Thatch.

Beautiful spots in Milan, Italy

Treat Yourself: QC TermeMilano

One last activity that I highly recommend in Milan: a spa afternoon!

Milan is home to one of the best spas I’ve ever visited. QC TermeMilano is massive, with 20+ rooms offering different experiences. Every room has a theme, being immersive without turning into kitschy. From the ancient walls surrounding it to the state-of-the-art tech, it was honestly one of my favorite things I’ve done in Milan.

The size means that although there were plenty of people there when I visited, nothing felt crowded. If a room had more than a couple of people in there, we moved on to another and came back later. Perfection in a spa.

Entry isn’t cheap: 46€ in 2023, which includes towels, locker space, 3 hours of access to all the rooms, and an aperitivo. Don’t be fooled, the aperitivo was delicious and almost an apericena (Italian for light snacky dinner). They also offer massages and additional treatments!

Milan spa day! Best things to do in Milan

How Much Time Do I Need to Spend in Milan, Really?

How long you want here depends on your travel style. An annoying answer, but 48 hours in Milan is a good starting point.

Milan is more of a living city than a tourism city, so you don’t need a ton of time there. If it’s part of a bigger whirlwind Italy trip, maximize your time in Rome or Cinque Terre rather than staying here.

Milan Navigli district

You can see everything in one big day if that’s what you want. Plan for 2ish hours at the Duomo, a self-guided walking tour that’ll include the Galleria, Forzesco Castle, and Navigli. The Last Supper painting is timed entry, but including getting there early, that’ll be about an hour. It’ll be an exhausting day, but it’s doable.

I recommend two or three days. If three, include a day trip to somewhere like Lake Como or Brescia. That will give you plenty of time to relax and explore the city with more meals at some of the city’s fabulous restaurants, while still seeing some of the beautiful countryside!

Milan Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Whether you have 48 hours in Milan or less, this guide should help you maximize your time!

Want it in a more mobile-friendly, interactive form? My Milan Masterlist guide on Thatch is easy to use, gives all this and more, and makes it easy to navigate from place to place! You can get it on Thatch today.

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