A Perfect Two Days in Milan Itinerary For First-Time Visitors (You Don’t Want to Skip Milan!)

Looking for how to spend the perfect two days in Milan? Read on for our detailed itinerary!

Milan, Italy – a beautiful, stately, Italian city that just oozes that classic “European” feeling.

Maybe it was because, in our tour of Northern Italy, we had already cruised around the water at Lake Como, visited tumbling seaside villages in Cinque Terre, and navigated the tiny canals and alleys of Venice. In contrast, Milan stood out against all those smaller villages and cities as a gorgeous, bustling, and more archetypal European city.

Milan is also chock full of historic monuments, has an excellent public transit system, and serves some seriously delicious food. It has buildings with grand, stone facades and stately doors and large, busy boulevards and cute side streets. It’s just so pretty! I had a fantastic time taking pictures at all the beautiful spots in Milan.

In this post, I’m sharing our two-day Milan itinerary – I was so happy with our time here and think that this was really the *perfect* itinerary for exploring this lovely city and experiencing the highlights.

Planning Your Visit to Milan: To help you plan your trip quickly, these are 2 things you’ll definitely want to book in advance:

  • Duomo Entrance Tickets: You’ll definitely want to purchase these in advance to save you time in line when visiting the city. Make sure you purchase the combo ticket for the terrace!
  • Last Supper Guided Tour: You can’t miss visiting this masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, and you learn so much about the fascinating history of the painting on this tour.

Milan Day 1 Itinerary

For your first day in Milan, you’ll stick mostly to the area in central Milan around the Piazza di Duomo. There’s a lot to see and do in this district!

The Duomo

The Duomo is one of the most stunning cathedrals I’ve ever seen, with a very unique, castle-like design – with spires and pinnacles lining the rooftop. I was literally in awe of the Duomo and quickly declared it my new favorite cathedral (a declaration I stand by to this day!)

While I’ll admit that my favorite part is the exterior, the inside is also stunning and definitely worth a visit. Inside, you can admire the many traditional Gothic features (such as the pointed arches and the stained glass windows).

The stained glass windows behind the altar at the back of the church were huge – almost floor to ceiling! Massive is an understatement.

We also loved the beautiful tiled floor and the interesting glass tombs on display around the perimeter of the church. Inside these tombs were bishops who presided over the city of Milan. I’ve never seen a tomb quite like that in a church before and thought it was very unique – and all their skin was covered, so it wasn’t very creepy.

You need tickets to enter the church, and need to buy them online in advance – grab your tickets here!

The Duomo Terraces

Another really fun part of visiting the Duomo is the chance to go up on the rooftop terraces! You will walk on a path around the edge of the rooftop, right next to the spires and buttresses, with all the designs and curlicues up close.

The intricacies of each beam and buttress are so complex. This is a must-do in Milan and probably the best rooftop terrace I’ve ever visited.

You need a separate ticket to go up to the terraces, and you can either book a ticket to climb the spiral staircase up (a little bit cheaper) or take an elevator to the top (a little bit more expensive).

Again, you’ll need to buy tickets online ahead of time for the terrace – you can get those tickets here!

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is located on the Plaza di Duomo, just next to the cathedral itself. This absolutely drop-dead gorgeous open-air hall is actually the world’s oldest shopping mall! It was constructed in 1877 and named for the first king of Italy.

The entrance is a tall, grand archway, and inside is a stunning passageway lined with luxury brands and ornate facades. In the center of the gallery is a large glass dome. You can find all sorts of luxury brands housed in the gallery.

My picture here was taken first thing in the morning (around 7:30am), before the crowds of people arrived – usually the gallery is very busy.

San Bernadino Alle Ossa Church (Aka The Bones Church)

Not even 10 minutes from the Duomo is one of the most unique churches you will ever visit! The church was constructed in 1754 and built on a former cemetery. While there is a somewhat larger main room in this church, the Ossuary chapel is definitely the main attraction.

Every surface of the Ossuary chapel is ornamented with human bones. (In fact, ossa means bone). Stacks of human bones are packed into the walls, with skulls used to create designs, such as the cross.

Skulls and bones are used as decorative elements on columns, and along the top of the walls. It was fascinating and also a little bit eerie! 

  • Hours: Mon-Friday, 8am-6pm, Sat: 9:30-6, Sun: 9:30-12:30
  • Cost: Free to enter (although they do ask for a donation – we just put in a few coins)

Lunch: Luini Panzerotti

For lunch, I’d recommend stopping at Luini’s Panzerotti, a popular eatery near the Duomo that serves “panzerotti” – a turnover-like pastry filed with savory or sweet fillings. The savory dough was fried, whereas the sweet dough was more like a shortbread cookie. It’s a quick, easy, and cheap lunch. 

Teatro alla Scala

The Teatro alla Scala is one of the most famous and important opera houses in Italy, and indeed, is a very prominent opera house in the entire world. This gorgeous, historic theater was built in 1776 and still does shows today. When we were visiting, the Barber of Seville was in its final performances. 

This was THE place to see and be seen in the 1700’s and 1800’s, and observing the other people in the 6 stories of boxes was as much the point of going to the opera as was seeing the show.

Until the 1920s, families would own their own box, and the cost could be as much as an apartment in Paris. Opera attendance was thus very much a status symbol for the people of Milan.

The opera itself is lovely – chairs and walls are covered in red velvet, gold-leafed decorations adorn surfaces, and an enormous chandelier hangs prominently from the ceiling.

Stephanie’s Pro Tip: Make sure you check the schedule online before you go. Visiting hours change every day, and the lights in the theater itself aren’t always on. You can find the schedule for the lights here.

Go Shopping at Milan’s Famed Boutiques

For many people, Milan is synonymous with high-end shopping, and you can find well-known luxury brands and upscale boutiques all over the city (for example, there are a lot of high-end brands around the Piazza di Duomo).

However, whether you’re ready to do some serious shopping or just want to stroll and window browse, you should absolutely head up to the “shopping district,” which is just a little bit north of the Duomo.

Some of the big streets for shopping in this area are Via Monte Napoleon and Via della Spiga, but I’d recommend just wandering around – the area is really fun.

Pro Tip: Stop in at Cova on 8, Via Monte Napoleone. It’s a super pretty bakery with beautiful and delicious pastries.

Naviglio Grande Canal

South of the historic center are two adjoining canals: Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese. You can go ahead and skip Naviglio Pavese – there’s not much going on there – but Naviglio Grande is just delightful.

Walkways line the charming canal, and restaurants spill out onto the sidewalks, overlooking the water. In the evenings, the area really comes alive with people dining, hanging out, and enjoying the night air.

Dinner: Naviglio 48

This restaurant is right on the banks of the canal and was one of my favorite meals I had during our entire time in Northern Italy. The trofie pasta with pesto is *chefs kiss* perfection!

Day 2 Milan Itinerary

For the second day in Milan, we’re exploring some lesser known areas and then hitting up a top bucket list experience to have in the city!

Monumental Cemetery

The Monumental Cemetery is located in the northern part of central Milan, and is a beautiful, large, historic cemetery. It is a must for anyone who wants to get off the beaten path, or who loves old, interesting cemeteries and architecture.

All of the graves are adorned with sculptures or engravings, and many of the tombs had full-on structures erected to hold the graves. Many of the large structures were designed for families, and you could see that tombs were stacked on each other inside. 

Some of the structures were massive and resembled castles or pyramids, and the sculptures on the graves were evocative and poignant. We loved admiring all the different graves and tombs in this beautiful cemetery.  

Brera Neighborhood

Brera is a small but chic neighborhood near the Monumental Cemetery, and home to several interesting spots.

For example, every Tuesday there is an antique market along Via Brera, with a lot of unique things to buy. 

Don’t miss the Palazzo Brera, an old palace that today holds the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery, the Braidense National Library, and the Brera Botanical Garden. The gallery holds fine arts from Italian and foreign painters, and was established by Napoleon himself.

Library envy

I really wanted to see the library, but it’s only open to actual students (although they did let me take a picture). And the botanical garden is a lovely, calm oasis in the middle of the city.

Sempione Park

Sempione Park is central Milan’s largest greenspace, and is a favorite for locals and tourists alike. There are many paths to walk or jog, there are a lot of benches and lawn space, a pond + bridge, pet are welcome, and historical structures like the Arco della Pace and Sforzesco Castle bookend the park.

Sforzesco Castle is an impressive structure, and we loved how well-preserved/well-restored the castle is. Tall brick walls encircle the entire complex, and a large tower dominates the entrance. Today, you can visit a number of museums within the castle.

On the far side of the park stands the Arco della Pace, or the Arch of Peace. This lovely arch was started in 1807 to honor Napoleon’s victories, but construction was stalled until 1826, when it was completed under the direction of the Austrian Emporer.

It was named the Arch of Peace to honor the peace plans for Europe following the Napoleonic Wars.

While I find it fairly amusing that a monument originally meant to honor Napoleon’s victory in Italy was ultimately dedicated to the peace following his defeat, there’s no denying that the arc is a stunning monument.

Santa Maria della Grazie

One of Milan’s many claims to fame is housed in this unassuming church on the west side of the city.

The church: The Santa Maria della Grazie.

The claim to fame: The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci, painted on the walls of the monastery adjacent to the church.

Painted between 1494-1498, da Vinci used an experimental technique, where he painted on walls like he would on a canvas, which allowed him to do more shading and three-dimensional strokes. This created an incredibly lifelike painting, which was revolutionary for the time period. 

Da Vinci really wanted to capture human emotion and what each person was experiencing as Jesus was saying that one of the apostles would betray Him.

The church was partially destroyed during the bombing of WW2, but great pains were taken to prop up and preserve the wall that the painting is on, and you can see the remnants of some of those measures today.

This is definitely a must-do in Milan – I was absolutely blown away by the scale and artistry of the painting, and of course, getting to see this famous masterpiece in real life.

Going on a guided tour to see the painting is an absolute must – you learn so much about the history and backstory, the techniques, and the importance of the painting, and everything that the church and painting have gone through since Leonardo completed the masterpiece.

I’d highly recommend this guided tour to see the Last Supper – we all agreed it was a highlight of our visit to Milan.

Dinner: Pizzeria Geppo dal 1981

We loved the authentic Italian pizza served up and this small and cozy pizzeria – perfectly thin and chewy.

Practical Tips for Visiting Milan

How to Get to Milan

Milan is incredibly well-connected by train and air to Italy, Europe, and abroad. Flights from the US to Milan are frequent and regularly on sale – making it a frequent first stop on an Italian itinerary.

How to Get Around Milan

Milan has all the well-developed infrastructure that you’d expect to see in a large European city, as the city is well-connected through multiple metro, tram, and bus lines. It is exceptionally easy and inexpensive to get around Milan through the public transit system – we used all three of these modes of transportation and they were all clean, on-time, and easy to use.

Pro Tip for Using Public Transit: Google has a relatively new feature in Google Maps, where if you are searching for directions from Point A to Point B, you can toggle to a tab that will give directions on public transit.

This is invaluable information when you’re trying to navigate a new city, as the app will literally walk you step by step on where to find the metro stop, what line and direction to get on, how many stops to ride, and where to get off.

Milan is one of the few cities in Italy that has Uber, and it’s generally pretty easy to get an Uber car to pick you up. And if all else fails, you can always hail a cab.

Is Milan Really Worth Visiting?

To be perfectly honest, we talked with several local Italians who said that they really did not like living in Milan, and didn’t think it was a good city. While I totally believe that this is their experience, of course, the logistics of living in a city can be totally different than the experience of visiting a city.

In short, I actually was really surprised by just how much I enjoyed Milan. I was expecting to like Milan, but I was definitely more excited for the other spots on this particular Italy itinerary.

Milan surprised and delighted me – I ate up the beautiful architecture and important historical monuments. And I literally ate so so so much good food. I would truly recommend Milan to anyone visiting Northern Italy.

Map of the Attractions in Milan

Two Days in Milan Itinerary – The Wrap Up

I think two days is the perfect amount of time – enough to see the city and the highlights, but saving time for all the other incredible destinations in Italy. Milan is a city I won’t soon forget, and I’m sure you will be delighted with all the things to see and do in Milan as well!

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