Like any Italian city, Milan is very easy one to fall in love with – you just can’t beat the Italian food and architecture.
If you only have 36 hours in Milan to spare, it might seem impossible to fully experience this vibrant city. However if you arrive armed with a list of the must-see attractions, culinary delights, and hidden gems of Milan, you can make the most of your short visit.
Our group bought Milano Cards online which promise transport for 48 hours around the city and discounts on major attractions.
It was a bit of a waste of money – the bus ticket (the necessary part) was worth less than half the ticket price and we couldn’t use the discount at the Duomo as the tickets had to be pre-purchased elsewhere. The card went unused for those of us who didn’t visit the A C Milan stadium and I’d not recommend purchasing them without a plan of what you intend to see and do.
Near Milan Central Station is a beautiful sculpture of a needle in tribute to the fashion industry which we used as a meeting place in the event anyone was separated from our group!
How to spend 36 hours in Milan
Start your visit to Milan by heading to the iconic Duomo di Milano, the famous Gothic cathedral that dominates the city’s skyline. Be sure to beat the crowds and arrive early and also note that your shoulders and knees need to be covered to enter the cathedral so if it’s a hot day, bring something to cover up with.
Explore the intricate details both inside and out and climb the stairs or take the elevator to the rooftop terrace for panoramic views of the city.
Next, head to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a luxurious shopping arcade adjacent to the Duomo. Marvel at the stunning architecture, browse the high-end fashion, and enjoy an Italian breakfast at one of the elegant cafes.
In the afternoon, take a short walk to the historic Sforza Castle, a medieval fortress which has been turned into a museum. The collections inside range from ancient Egyptian artifacts to Michelangelo’s unfinished masterpiece, the Pietà Rondanini.
As the evening approaches, make your way to the Navigli District, which is famous for its picturesque canals and lively atmosphere. Here there are trendy boutiques, art galleries, and places enjoy an aperitivo, the Italian tradition of pre-dinner drinks accompanied by plates of Tapas from which you can help yourself. Both weekend nights in Milan we were loving the pizza, bread, cold meats and pasta dishes provided.
Take a leisurely stroll through Parco Sempione, a quiet oasis in the heart of Milan. Here you will also find the neoclassical Arch of Peace. Take a book or a picnic breakfast and find a perfect spot to relax.
Visit the Brera district to explore upmarket boutiques, art studios, and Quadrilatero della Moda, Milan’s renowned fashion district where there are fashion stores, and stop at a local trattoria for traditional Milanese cuisine for lunch.
If you’re interested in Milan’s art and culture, visit the Pinacoteca di Brera to see Italian Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces, including works by Caravaggio and Raphael. If sport is more your thing check out the impressive A C Milan stadium instead.
Make your way back to Navigli for the evening choose from the bars, clubs, and live music venues to experience the vibrant nightlife. We found a bar offering all you could drink till a very late hour for 15 euros. Not something which would be encouraged in New Zealand! We weren’t entirely sure what was in the strong cocktails on offer and mostly stuck to the sangria.
It’s easy to pack a lot into 36 hours in Milan. We did as much sight seeing as we could, visiting the Piazza Duomo, the roof of the Duomo Cathedral, Castello Sforzesco, Parco Sempione and Arco della Pace. The Italian pizza and wine consumed to sustain us was definitely in order!