24 hours in...Milan

(Updated August 2019)

Milan is probably Italy's most important economic and transport hub with two internationally operating airport in the outskirts.

Chances are that you have a connection in Milan - either between two flights or because you take a train from here to your final destination in Italy.

Italy Milan - View of the cathedral from the museo del novecento
Here you can kill two birds with one stone (actually that's a quite disturbing idiom): Best view at the Duomo, Milan's cathedral, from the Museo Novecento (the spiral on the ceiling is by Lucio Fontana, just so you know)

I had various stopovers in this North Italian metropolis and can therefore easily share my best bits of advice in this "24 hours in..."-post.

Of course, you won't be able to see all there is to admire in Milan in only 24 hours. Look at it as an aperitivo, Italy's famous equivalent to a happy hour, an amuse-gueule - a yummy snack that will make you come back for more.

💰   Local Currency:

Euro (EUR) / 1 EUR = 1.12 US$ (August 2019) / current rate

🚔    Emergency Hotline:

Carabinieri (Police) 112

Fire Department 115

🛫    National Airline: 


🛬    Airports:

Malpensa Airport, IATA Code: MXP

Linate Airport, IATA Code: LIN

🗺    Tourist Info online and onsite:

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II  (corner piazza della Scala)
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 88 45 55 55

Opening times: Monday to Friday 9 a. m. to 7 p. m., Saturday 9 a. m. to 6 p. m., Sunday and holidays  10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Following either of the itineraries, you should consider getting a Museum Card. It's good for three days which you probably don't need, but it costs only 12 €uro which you already pay for a visit to the museums at the Castello.

🚆    Getting Downtown and Back

No matter what people say about Italy, I've been there so often and I really like their public transport system that brings you to almost everywhere at a reasonable price.

The joy starts with the airport shuttles: From Malpensa airport there are two options - you either take a bus which due to traffic might be a little slowerr, but also a little cheaper, i. e. 8 €uro one way and 14 €uro round trip.
You can buy the ticket a little booth right at the arrival door from a very unfriendly man who rolls his eyes at visitors who don't speak Italian.
Or you go by train which is faster and a little more expensive, i. e. 13 €uro one way, 20 €uro round trip within 30 days. To get this relatively good price, you should book online.

From Linate airport you have to take a coach, there is no train connection.
There is also a bus connecting both airports. So getting to the city center and back is really a piece of cake.

Italy Milan - Tram in Milan
My favorite means of public transportation are the old trams.
Unfortunately, they cover only a small part of the city.
Note: If you want to follow the sunny day itinerary, you better go to Cadorna station (only possible by train from Malpensa) instead of Milano Centrale. There you can leave your luggage at the Deposito Bagagli, the luggage deposit, and head straight to the fun.

Public transport in Milan costs 1,50 €uro for a trip of 90 minutes on the trams and buses or one metro ride, changes are included. If you buy a card with ten rides on it, you pay 13,80 €uro, but honestly, I don't think that you will use them - at least not on a sunny day.

🌞    Morning Activities

Italy Milan - Parco Sempione
View of the Castello Sforzesco from the Parco Sempione.
Milan is a relatively green metropolis - compared to other Italian cities - so that you could spend a sunny day just strolling through one of the many parks.

But then, of course, you'd miss out on a lot, so let's level it out; which is easy since the largest and most beautiful park, the Parco Sempione, is adjacent to the Castello Sforzesco.

If you arrive at Cadorna station - as suggested - you just walk down Via Marco Minghetti to the castle - in about five minutes.

If you're coming from Centrale, take Metro M2 to Cadorna - it's only 5 stops.

The castle was built mid of the 15th century by Francesco I. Sforza on the remnants of the destroyed Visconti family's castle. Over the centuries many architects - i. a. Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante - have built and altered it. The former systems of bastions were transformed and are today part of the park.

Italy Milan - Pietà Rondanini
This Pietà is rather interesting than
beautiful, I give you that.
Besides admiring the old structures, you should absolutely visit the Museo Pietà Rondanini located to the left as you enter from Via Marco Minghetti.

The Pietà Rondanini is a marble statue by Michelangelo depicting Mary and Jesus taken from the cross.

Although many of Michelangelo's sculptures remained unfinished, this one is special since it was his very last work.

Museo Pietà Rondanini
Castello Sforzesco
Piazza Castello
20121 Milano
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 88 46 37 03

Inside the castle are two other museum complexes, the collection of ancient art including many archeologic treasures as well as paintings and sculptures.

Civiche Raccolte d'Arte Antica 
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 88 46 37 34

A large variety of antique instruments is to be seen at the

Museo dei Strumenti musicali 
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 88 46 37 03

All the museums at the Castello are open Tuesday to Sunday 9 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.

If you intend to visit these three museums, you should consider the museum card which i. a. also grants access to Milan's aquarium that you'll find mentioned below.

Italy Milan - Scultura di sedie Parco Sempione
My favorite spot at the Parco is this mini-colosseo.
Once you walk through the back gate into the park, you can buy a gelato and stroll along the trails in the shade of the majestic trees, sit on one of the benches or just on the thick and soft meadows.

If you get bored, there is more to see like for instance the Acquario Civico di Milano, Milan's aquarium, or the Palazzina Appiani, a small neoclassic villa by Luigi Canonica which was used as a podium for the French royal family during games and events.

If you wanna find out, how the French royals watched the game: The villa can be visited.

I know that especially in the US Italians have a reputation...for having a thing for food.

You'll appreciate it as it now comes to lunch.

Walk back to the castle and get to the other side, take a selfie at the Fontana di Piazza Castello, the castle's square, and then continue down Via Luca Beltrami to the traffic circle Cairoli.

On the opposite side of the circle begins Via Menfredo Camperio, and that's the first step to your special lunch.

⛈    Morning Activities

Although Milan does not overwhelm its visitor with statues and facades and museums like Rome, Florence or Venice, there are many venues worth the visit; whereby the really great art here is rather modern to contemporary than antique.

However, two of my favorite galleries are not far from the station Palestro (M1 - when at Cadorna, just take the metro towards Sesto 1 Maggio. Coming from Centrale, you take M2 to Loreto and change there into M1 towards Bisceglie) and right next to each other. That makes them the perfect spot for a rainy morning.

Italy Milan - GAM Milano
The ceremonial hall with Alessandro Puttinati's
sculpture of Paolo e Francesca
The GAM - Gallery of Modern Art, which would be approximately the years from 1800 to 1900, is housed in a neo-classicist villa, built at the end of the 18th century as Count Ludovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso's home.

Besides the wonderful symbolism paintings by Giovanni Segantini and the post-impressionism, realism paintings by Angelo Morbelli and late neoclassicism sculptures, another very interesting part are the ancient decorations and furniture of the majestic rooms and halls.

Galleria D'Arte Moderna di Milano
Via Palestro 16
20121 Milano
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 88 44 59 43
E-mail: c.gam@comune.milano.it

Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.

Italy Milan - Entrance to the PAC
One of the lesser-known galleries in Milan,
however, one of my favorite ones.
(Photo: Stefano Stabile,
PAC (padiglione d'arte contemporanea) - milano,
CC BY-SA 3.0)
The PAC - Gallery of Contemporary Art, which does not show any permanent collection, but invites the public to see outstanding contemporary pieces from all over the world, is the GAM's modest neighbor: It's housed in the former stables and the space is much smaller.

However, the art isn't: Every exhibition I've seen here got me all enthusiastic!

Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea (PAC)
Via Palestro 14
20122 Milano
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 88 44 63 59

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 a. m. to 7.30 p. m. (Tuesday and Thursday to 10.30 p. m.)

By the way - if the rain stops for a while, you are also in the perfect spot to enjoy one of Milan's many parks: The Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli is just across the Via Palestro, and although this public garden as significantly smaller than the Parco Sempione, it's just as beautiful and 'entertaining'.

Hungry for lunch yet? Although on a nice day you could walk the 2,5 km respectively 1.5 miles to the restaurant, you might not wanna do it in the rain.
No problem, hop on the M1 at Palestro (towards Bisceglie) and get off at Cairoli. Via Manfredo Camperio, where the restaurant is located, starts just at the Cairoli traffic circle.

🍝     Lunch

Italy Milan - Riso e latte restaurant
Benvenuti nella casa della nonna: At Riso e latte you'll feel at
your Italian grandma's house- even if you've never had one.
(Photo: Riso e Latte)
Of course, you can get a slice of pizza or a piece of focaccia at every corner.
But if you want to combine typical Italian food with a really fun environment, make reservation at the Riso e latte, which translates to rice and milk, a tiny family-style restaurant decorated in the fashion of the 1960s.
Soul food in a unique, cozy setting.

Riso e latte 
Via Manfredo Camperio 6
20123 Milano
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 398 310 40
Email: ristorante@risoelatte.it

They are open every day, but Mediterranean style, i. e. for lunch from 12.30 p. m. to 2 p. m. and for dinner from 7.30 p. m. to 10.30 p. m.

Reservation is highly recommended.

🌞    Afternoon Activities

Italy Milan - Via dei Mercanti MIlano
Palazzo dei Giureconsulti on the Via dei
Mercanti to the left - and straight ahead
you can already spot the Duomo.
Riso e latte is not only a great place, but it's also very conveniently located between the Castello and the must-see Duomo with the adjacent Galleria Vittoria Emmanuele in the very heart of Milan.

To get there, make sure to turn into Via dei Mercanti once you get to Piazza Cordusio.
This street is smaller than the Via Orefici, one of Milan's main shopping streets, but much more picturesque and 'Italian'.
It leads you straight to the Piazza del Duomo where you can see Vittorio Emanuele II on his high horse; and he doesn't get off it...

Italy Milan - View from the Duomo
View from the Duomo's roof.
Since lines can be very long, I strongly recommend to make an online reservation, otherwise, you risk to spend too much of your precious time in Milan in a queue.

There are different parts that you can visit and various packages, so you better consult their website.

Duomo Info Point 
Piazza Duomo 14/a
20122 Milano
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 72 02 33 75
Email: info@duomomilano.it

The Info Point is open daily from 9.30 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.

The Duomo is open daily, but the individual parts have different opening hours, so check out what you want to see and which package is suitable for you.

Italy Milan - Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Honestly, no matter how much of a fuss everybody makes about the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, it doesn't impress me much.

Yes, it is very posh and elegant, but it's also full to the brim with tourists; and exclusively tourists, no Milanese would go shopping or take selfies at the Galleria.

But suit yourself, it's certainly an important sight and to be found in each and every guide book on Milan.

Built in 1864, the building is lavishly decorated in marble, with stucco and frescos, covered by a posh glass roof. The highest point reaches an impressive 47 meters or 154 feet.

It's obvious how this construction is a celebration of the declaration of the Italian state in 1859.

The Galleria is accessible every day from 9 a. m. to 11 p. m.

After the über-touristy part of the itinerary let's get to the fresh, young and hip part of town, the neighborhood around Porta Genova South of the center.

⛈    Afternoon Activities

I admit that the afternoon activities do not differ that much from those on a sunny day. That's because even on a sunny day, you have to see the Duomo; otherwise, it's like visiting Paris without...you know what.

Only that on a rainy day you probably do not want to walk from the lunch place to the Piazza. You don't have to: M1 stops at Cairoli circle and takes you straight to Duomo station (2 stops towards Sesto 1 Maggio).

Italy Milan - MIlan's Duomo inside
Inside the Duomo, Milan's iconic cathedral
Visiting the cathedral on a rainy day, you'll probably miss the opportunity to climb around on their roof.
Never mind, you get a good view of the Duomo and its surroundings from a neighboring building that houses another great museum, too, it's the Museo del Novecento which shows art from the last century.

By the way, it's very confusing in Italian that they don't number the centuries as we do: for us, the past century is the 20th, for Italians, it's the (1) 900th.

Italy Milan - Museo Novecento Milan
The Spatial Ceiling was created by Luciano Fontana
for the dining room of the Hotel del Golfo
on Procchio (Elba) in 1956.
The museum has an interesting permanent exhibition of all the famous Italian futurists and constructivists, but they also organize inspiring special exhibitions.

Already the building itself is very intriguing since they basically pulled a modern glass construction over the old structures so these are still visible - and the view from the museum towards the cathedral, the piazza, and the adjacent streets is priceless.

900 Museo del Novecento 
Via Marconi 1
Phone: +39 - 02 -88 44 40 61
Email: c.museo900@comune.milano.it

🍝    Dinner

Italy Milan - Pizza
You're in Italy, you have to have a pizza at least once a day and "I Capatosta" does not only make some of the best pizza in town, it is also ideally located in the currently hippest district of town, in the area around the Navigli.

The Navigli (singular Naviglio) were waterways to facilitate the transportation of goods to and through the city; practically like the Grachten in Amsterdam or the Fleete at Hamburg.

Today this area full of shops, bars and restaurants - partly on the water - attract mosquitos and crowds of nighthawks alike.

To get from the center to the restaurant, take the M1 at Duomo and go back to Cadorna where you change trains and continue on the M2 to Porta Genova.

Pizzeria I Capatosta
Alzaia Naviglio Grande 56
20144 Milano
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 89 41 59 10

Open daily for lunch from noon to 2.30 p. m. (weekends till 3 p. m.)and for dinner from 7 p. m. till midnight.

🍸   Nightcap

Italy Milan - Navigli MIlano
Very determined shopping advice at the Navigli
You're already in the best neighborhood for food and drinks and joy and fun - just cross the Ponte di Ferro, the iron bridge, and turn right.

Walk along the Naviglio for less than three minutes before you turn left into Via Angelo Fumagalli and on the left side, you'll see Rita's bar.

Via Angelo Fumagalli 1
20143 Milano
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 837 28 65

Rita's bar is open daily from 7.30 p. m. (aperitivo!) till 2 a. m.

To get back to your accommodation at Milano Centrale, walk back towards the pizzeria and continue on Via Casale to the end. There you turn right into Via Valenza that takes you to the metro station Porta Genova. The train M2 towards Cascina Gobba takes you straight to the main station Centrale.

😴    Accomodation

Especially if you are on a layover and need to get back to the airport in the early morning, staying close to either Milano Centrale station (or Cadorna) is the best option, and the Marconi Hotel is a pleasant place at a reasonable price and a less than 10 minutes walk from the main station (where also the airport bus station is located).

Marconi Hotel 
Via Fabio Filzi 3
20124 Milan
Phone: + 39 - 02 - 66 98 55 61
Email: info@marconihotel.it

Need more ideas for what to do in Milan? Check out this post - also on a visit to Leonardo da Vinci's famous Cenacolo = 15 minutes of staring.

Note: If you have a couple of days in Milan - or if you don't want to see the city center at all - you can easily go to one of the lakes North of Milan like Lago di Como (my favorite) or Lago di Garda (everybody else's favorite). Since the train ride takes about an hour and you don't even have to go downtown to take it, but can hop on right at Malpensa airport, it's a great alternative, especially during the hot summer months.

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  1. Awesome post. I love the way you give to opportunity for both sunny days and rainy ones. It could be very helpful if you have just a limited time and make the most out of it. The recommendations of yours are also interesting and will make sure to have some fun, whether one does everything or just a few of them.

  2. Nice post :) It's super informative and I love that you included a lot of information! I actually haven't been to Milan but your pictures look great and it seems like there is a lot to do. I love the picture you posted from the PAC! I think I would definitely visit that if I ever make it to Milan!

  3. Thank you, Katrin, glad you find it useful. It's put together for a really short stay. A longer stay should definitely include also the Fondazione Prada and the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca (described in my 'Weekend in Milan' post) - if you are into art that is, but for a short trip these venues are too far from the center. Happy travels, Renata

  4. I definitely enjoyed this post as I really want to visit Milan. I dont know much about it outside of the Duomo I am bookmarking it so i can read it again

  5. Thank you, Danie. If you have further questions for your planning, don't hesitate to contact me. Since I've been there a couple of times, I can tell you a thing or two - e. g. also about awesome trips to the lakes. Happy travels - buon viaggio - Renata

  6. I loved the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and I was taken there by a friend of mine who lives in Milan and shops there often. The architecture is beautiful and there were very few people around when we went for breakfast.

  7. Sounds cool - good for you. I like the very sumptuous architecture, too, and of course the view from the top is great. Buon viaggio.

  8. My friend is traveling to Italy and she would be staying overnight in Milan, I am going to pass this blogpost right away. Thanks.

  9. For your information, 'i capatosta' has moved location. It is no longer at the address that you mentioned.

    Also, while it makes okay-ish pizza, there are much better things to eat in Milan rather than pizza. Why not eat something milanese like ossobucco or risotto alla Milanese at a small local trattoria?


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