If you’re looking for a European city break that’s fairly inexpensive, has plenty of things to see and do with some great foodie spots – Milan should be high on your list! Three days is enough time to get a taste of what the city has to offer; from iconic landmarks like the Duomo to hidden local gems, this is a city break guide to cover all the must-see essentials.
I went to Milan at Christmas time last year, and thankfully we were blessed with beautiful weather. I really do love going on city breaks and exploring new places like Amsterdam, Bucharest and Pisa, and I’m excited that Milan is now another detination that I can tick off my list!
Where to Stay in Milan
We booked to stay at the Best Western Plus Hotel Galles, located on one of the most lively shopping streets in Milan. The hotel is located right next to the Lima Metro Station, making it super easy to hop onto the metro and explore the city in no time at all! The hotel is also just a 15 minute walk from Stazione Centrale, where trains from the airport head directly to.
The decor is fairly traditional and the rooms are quite compact, but it’s a great hotel with fantastic transport links to get around the City with ease.
The hotel has fantastic facilities, including La Terrazza the rooftop restaurant, a bar and an incredible spa with a gym, sauna, indoor pool and Turkish bath. There’s also a number of beauty treatment rooms where you can book a relaxing massage – so this is a great hotel that has it all.
There are dozens of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars around the hotel too, including top name brands such as H&M, Nike and Sephora.
What to Do in Milan
We had 3 days in Milan, and a whole itinerary of things to do (and a list of plenty more things to do if we ever visit Milan again!).
There’s a lot to do in the City and luckily you can get to a lot of it within easy walking or metro distance.
Duomo di Milano
Duomo is Milan’s best-loved site – and for good reason! The Duomo di Milano, consisting of 3,500 statues, 135 spires and enormous bronze sculpted doors, took over 500 years to complete. The magnificent white Gothic cathedral can be explored alone or as part of a guided tour; take a speedy lift to the top or clamber up 150 steps to reach the roof, where you can enjoy spectacular views across the city.
I’d recommend getting there early to avoid the queues, and to enjoy walking around the rooftop of the cathedral without it being too crowded. Basic tickets for the Cathedral costs €17, which gives you access to the cathedral with lift access to the rooftop, and a number of other museums and exhibitions.
Just beside the Duomo di Milano, you’ll find Galleria Vittorio; one of the world’s oldest shopping emporiums in the world.
Built in 1867, the shopping emporium holds high-end retailers such as Gucci, Prada and Hermes. The mall is just incredible to walk through – the shops are housed within marble floors, glass domed ceilings and incredible mosiac displays.
It looked extra incredible at Christmas time – with a stunning Swarvoski Christmas tree taking center stage in the emporium. It’s a must visit – even just to walk through and admire!
Castello Sforzesco is a Renaissance castle, around 20-25 minutes walk from the Duomo di Milano. The castle was once home of the Viscontis and then the Sforzas (who once ruled Milan) and is home to stunning architecture and sprawling courtyards to explore. You’ll also find Michelangelo’s unfinished masterpiece here, the Pietà Rondanini. We were too late to purchase tickets as the recommended time to tour is around 4 hours, but we had a nice time walking around the grounds and admiring it from outside.
Just behind the castle, you’ll find Parco Sempione, beautiful green grounds surrounding the castle with a lake, winding paths and plenty of space to explore.
San Siro football stadium
My boyfriend Billy is a big football fan, so we went to the San Siro football stadium for a tour. The football stadium is in the San Siro district of Milan, and is home to AC Milan and Internazionale. The stadium has a seat capacity of just under 76,000, making it one of the largest stadiums in Europe, and the largest in Italy.
The tour took less than an hour so it was fairly quick to walk around. The tour starts in the museum which takes you through over 100 years of football, and then you head into the stadium to see the changing rooms, the tunnel, the dug-outs and the pitch, and then the tour finishes with a gift shop to look around. Tickets for the self-guided tour start from just £18.80. It was good to walk around and see, but we weren’t too keen on the area so we didn’t hang around there for long. I think that the stadium is going to be demolished and rebuilt in a few years time, so be quick if you want to see it!
Hop-on-hop-off bus tour
I love a good hop-on-hop-off bus tour, but I think in hindsight we shouldn’t have booked it on this occasion for Milan we spent most of our time exploring on foot. I think if we had another day there, then we’d have used the bus more as there were so many different routes to take and things to see.
There are over 30 stops on the bus tour covering all of Milan’s main attractions, so it’s the perfect introduction to the city. Tickets start from just £18.00, and you also have the chance to buy 2-day passes and use the pass to get discounts at other attractions. Because we’d already explored Milan the first day and a half by foot and Metro, we didn’t really need this on the last day.
Where to Eat and Drink in Milan
There are so many great foodie spots in Milan – and the great thing that I noticed about the city was that it didn’t feel over-touristy at all. Everywhere we walked we saw independent and family run businesses, bustling with locals – that’s how you know a place is decent if it’s rammed with locals! We went to a few different areas in Milan for a variety of dishes, and the long hunt for garlic bread…
Naviglio Grande is a trendy area, with a network of canals designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Here you’ll find cafes, antique shops, bookstores, small art galleries and a whole host of cafes, restaurants and bars. The area is also home to the smallest pub in the world! The area has a grittier, more bohemian vibe than the city center, which is nice to walk around in come evening time.
We went for dinner at a little restaurant in Naviglio on our first night – but I can’t remember the name at all! (The downside to leaving it months to finally write a blog post about it…). The nice thing about Milan I found, was that although there are people outside the restaurants looking to bring people in, they weren’t pushy or aggressive about it. We ordered a beer and a wine each, shared garlic bread to start and ordered seafood spaghetti and sausage and cheese pizza to have for our mains. The food was fresh, piping hot and delicious, and the little restaurant had a relaxing atmosphere.
We popped into a local Gelato shop on the way back to the Metro, and we shared vegan chocolate gelato which was rich and so chocolatey.
We went to Venchi on a couple of occasions for gelato – we probably looked odd having gelato on a cold winters morning but we just couldn’t resist… When in Italy after all!
We had the luxury wafer cones dipped in warm chocolate and coated in sprinkles, and we tried different flavours including tiramisu, hazelnut, caramel and vanilla.
We went to a little restaurant just off of Duomo di Milano, which we thought would be crazy expensive but it wasn’t bad at all! We shared crispy prawns to start, I had spaghetti and meatballs for main and Billy had lobster and spaghetti. We shared strawberry cheesecake and I had tiramisu, and we also had a cocktail each.
The service was quick and it was a nice atmosphere – the bill came to €107.50 for us both, which is a good price considering where the restaurant was located.
For our last lunch in Milan, we found a restaurant tucked away in a side street from the Duomo di Milano.
We shared fried Mozzarella balls and rosemary chips to start, and then we both had a stuffed pizza each which was insane. The calzone was stuffed with cheese, bacon and a cream sauce, and a crispy cheese topping. It was the pizza of dreams!
As we went to Milan at Christmas time, there were lots of Christmas markets around and street food stalls. We found a little patisserie stand by the cathedral serving up giant raisin pastries drizzled in icing sugar, so I may have eaten more than one of those during our weekend city break…
Here are a number of handy tips which might help you in your time in Milan – let me know if there are any others you would recommend I add!
- Buy tickets for the Metro. It’s super easy to use and really easy to navigate too – the metro is super clean as well and signposted well, with plenty of maps and interactive boards to follow. We bought a weekend ticket for around £10 and used it day and night to get around.
- The City is not as expensive as people say. We ate out on two separate occasions on the Duomo Square, and a 2-course meal with drinks each came to around £70-£80 for the both of us – which wasn’t as expensive as I was expecting! The food is great and the atmosphere is relaxed, so it’s worth looking around for a restaurant in this area.
- Explore on foot. We did a lot of walking on this city break (around 45k steps in 3 days) and got to see some fantastic parts of the city! The roads are fairly easy to navigate too (with the help of Google Maps!!)
I had a great weekend break in Milan for Christmas, and would love to visit again during the Summer to see Milan in a different light.
Have you been to Milan before?