Are you looking for the best things to do in Milan in 3 days, as a first-timer? Or are you searching for the perfect 3-day Milan itinerary? You’re in the right place.
Attracting more than 12 million visitors every year, Milan is the second most visited city in Italy. This should come as no surprise, as Milan is one of Italy’s most exciting cities and offers visitors thousands of things to do. Museums, historical sites, world-class theatre, and international events like Fashion Week and Design Week – Milan truly has it all. With all these options, organizing a trip to Milan can be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors. For this reason, we’ve put together a recommended 3-day Milan itinerary that will help you get through the best things to do in Milan in 3 days.
Our suggested Milan itinerary has you visiting all the city’s most famous landmarks (e.g., Duomo, Brera, and Navigli) as well as some of the city’s lesser-known attractions. Without further ado, let’s explore the best things to do in Milan in 3 days.
WHERE IS MILAN LOCATED?
Milan is located in the northwest of Italy and is the capital of Lombardy, one of the most populated regions of Italy. The city is not far from the Alps nor from the Mediterranean waters, and Lake Como, Lago Maggiore, and Lake Garda are even closer. The convenient location and the presence of two international airports (Malpensa and Orio al Serio) make Milan an almost inevitable stop for many tourists visiting Italy.
To get a good sense of how the city is laid out and where the best things to do in Milan are, you can check the Milan tourist map below.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN MILAN?
The historic center of Milan is relatively small, and most of it can be covered easily on foot. As a matter of fact, most locals prefer to walk pretty much anywhere if it’s under 30 minutes! But if you’re not a big walker, you have many other options:
The Subway in Milan consists of four lines: M1 (red), M2 (green), M3 (yellow), and M5 (violet), running from 6 am to 12:30 am. You can check all the routes on this map. A single-trip ticket costs 2 €, is valid for 90 minutes and can be used on trams and buses too. You can purchase your tickets inside most stations but it’s also possible to pay directly with a contactless credit card or Apple Pay.
Bike-sharing is very popular in Milan and you’ll see several operators such as Ofo, Mobike, and BikeMi. At this moment, Mobike/RideMovi is the most widespread and easy to use. It’s pretty cheap too – you’ll pay 1€ for 30 minutes of usage.
Taxis are a bit expensive here (base fare is about 4 EUR and then it’s 1.4 EUR for each additional kilometer), but if you’re tired, carry heavy luggage, or just feel like treating yourself, you have that option too. To call the nearest taxi to pick you up, download the app FreeNow Milano.
You should be warned that in Italy UBER is only available as UberBLACK, UberLUX, and UberVAN, which are basically limo services. Because there is no UberX or UberPOOL, it tends to be more expensive than taxis on average.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MILAN IN 3 DAYS: ITINERARY
• DUOMO CATHEDRAL
Let’s start with the most outstanding place in Milan: Duomo Cathedral. It’s almost impossible to miss it considering its size. A stroll around the city will eventually bring you to Piazza del Duomo, where you can appreciate the cathedral’s incredible exterior. However, one of the best things to do in Milan is to visit the Duomo rooftop. Beautifully decorated with sculptures and spires, the terraces offer a great panoramic view of the city. Ensure you purchase online a ticket that gives you access to both the rooftop and the cathedral, as the interior is absolutely worth a visit.
• GALLERIA VITTORIO EMANUELE II
Right next to the Cathedral you’ll find Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the most beautiful covered galleries in Europe. Called by locals ‘Il Salotto di Milano’ (the living room of Milan), the Gallery is famous for its beautiful architecture, fancy restaurants, cafès, and shops. Stop for an espresso at Marchesi or for an aperitif at Camparino to get the full experience.
• BRERA DISTRICT AND PINACOTECA DI BRERA
Your first stop of the afternoon will be the famous Brera district, which is just a 15-minute walk from Duomo Cathedral. Brera is one of the most evocative districts in Milan. Once populated by artists and bohemians, the area is nowadays home to many art galleries and fashion boutiques. The highlight of Brera district is the Pinacoteca: one of the greatest art museums of Northern Italy, the gallery showcases 600+ works from Lombard and Venetian schools, including masterpieces by Caravaggio and Piero della Francesca. The “Kiss” by Francesco Hayez is also considered one of the most symbolic paintings of the Pinacoteca.
• PORTA NUOVA DISTRICT
From Brera, it’s just a 10-minute walk to Porta Nuova, another emerging district in Milan. Head to Gae Aulenti square, where the heart of technological and commercial Milan is located. Stroll along the B.A.M. (Biblioteca degli Alberi, “The Library of Trees”), a contemporary botanical garden. In this park, you will also find the Vertical Forest, which is the name of the two lush-green towers rewarded in 2016 as the most beautiful urban project in the World.
• ‘THE LAST SUPPER’ AT SANTA MARIA DELLE GRAZIE
Arguably the most famous fresco in the world, “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci is a must-see in Milan for art and history enthusiasts. This 5th-century masterpiece is painted onto the wall of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, far from the usual crowds of tourists. The Dominican convent welcomes visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.15 am to 7 pm. The visit to the Last Supper is strictly regulated to preserve the integrity of the fresco (entry is restricted to a group of 25 people every 15 minutes.) and it is necessary to book in advance at this link (only in Italian). When you come out, make sure to visit the church next door which is beautiful and pleasantly uncrowded.
• SCIENCE MUSEUM OF LEONARDO DA VINCI
After your visit, walk to the Science Museum of Leonardo da Vinci which is just one block away. This museum commemorates da Vinci’s scientific and technological achievements, displaying his original mechanical design manuscripts related to the astronomy, agriculture, and electronics fields, as well as full-on reproductions of the machinery he engineered.
• SFORZA CASTLE AND SEMPIONE PARK
From the Science Museum of Leonardo da Vinci, it’s just a 20-min walk to the Sforza Castle, one of the main landmarks of Milan. Built in the 15th century on the site of even older fortifications, the castle houses various museums, including the Pieta Rondanini Museum, the Art Gallery, the Archaeological Museum, and the Museum of Decorative Arts. Visiting the castle itself is free, but there’s a small fee for each museum. It’s also possible to book a guided tour of the castle dungeons and battlements.
Behind Castello Sforzesco is Sempione Park, a vast city park that is just perfect for relaxing after a busy day of sightseeing.
• NAVIGLI DISTRICT
From Sempione Park, head over to the Lanza or Cadorna subway station (M2/green line), follow the Gessate/Cologno direction and get off at Porta Genova. Exit following signs to Via Casale, and from there walk the length of Via Casale until you reach the Naviglio Grande, Milan’s most picturesque canal. On both sides of the canal, you’ll find plenty of great places to eat and drink. For a quick aperitif, we highly recommend stopping at Mag Cafe, UGO, or Gino12; for a Milanese-style dinner, stop at El Brellin ($$) or Osteria Conchetta ($$).
• DAY-TRIP TO LAKE COMO
For the ultimate Milanese holiday, you might consider adding a few activities that are beyond the city limits. Milan’s excellent transportation system makes it easy for visitors to venture out, even if just for a day trip. In particular, one of the best things to do in Milan when you have 3 days at your disposal, is to organize a day trip to Lake Como.
Milan is just an 80-minute train ride from the gorgeous blue waters and marvelous Alpine views of Lake Como. In the winter, take a funicular ride from Como to Brunate for a relaxing and scenic afternoon. In the summer, stroll through the beautiful towns of Bellagio and Varenna.
If you’re interested in more details to organize your day trip from Milan, check out this dedicated article.
When is the best time to visit Milan?
The best time to visit Milan is April-October.
Milan can be visited year-round, but based on the typical cost of travel, climate conditions, and peak holiday periods, May-October is the best time to go. It’s usually a good idea to avoid the middle two weeks of August when everything in Italy basically shuts down and everyone goes on holiday.
The warmest month of the year is August where the average temperature gets up to 29℃ (84℉) but can 35℃ (95℉) on the hottest days in summer. The weather at night in the winter can get down to a minimum of -4℃ (25℉).
Where to stay in Milan?
If it’s your first time in Milan and budget is not an issue, you’ll want to be as central as possible, and surrounded by all the best sights and best things to do in the city. For that, you’ll want to stay either in the Duomo area / Brera district or in the Porta Nuova district. Porta Nuova is very well connected and you’ll have many restaurants and boutiques at your fingertips. On the other hand, Brera and Duomo feature most of the must-see sights in Milan. These are absolutely the best areas to stay in Milan for tourists.
Ok, that’s it! These are the best things to do in Milan in 3 days. Now you’re FINALLY ready for your Italian holiday!