I Spent 3 Days in Milan: Here Are the 15 Things You Absolutely Can Squeeze into 72 Hours


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things to do in milan: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
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When planning an Italian vacation, the first place that comes to mind is probably Rome, followed by Venice and Florence. Sicily, too, for all you White Lotus fans. Meanwhile, the northern city of Milan is often considered a pass-through en route to the aforementioned destinations. However, after spending the weekend weaving my way down its cobbled streets and zipping through its metro, I’m convinced the fashion capital is just misunderstood, in the shadow of its industrial roots. Below are 15 things to do in Milan that showcase the city’s vibrancy, artistry and creativity, plus where to stay and how to get there.

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The Best Things to Do in Milan

things to do in milan: associate editor marissa wu at the duomo cathedral
Marissa Wu

1. Duomo di Milano

  • Metro Stop: Duomo
  • Price: from $0
  • Reservations: recommended, especially if you want roof access

Say Milan and chances are your mind either goes to Fashion Week or the famous Duomo cathedral. The gargantuan edifice took over 600 years to complete, and now dazzles visitors with gargoyles rising towards the sky. A scamper to the top offers a unique perspective of both the church and the city, while the sanctuary offers a respite of calm and wonder under the majestic, vaulted ceilings. Tickets are required to ascend to the roof, though you can walk inside the nave free of charge. A tour can help you make sense of the long, complex history, including the interesting and dramatic story behind the fifth bronze door. Afterwards, have a meal at Giacomo, the art-deco restaurant located in the Museo del Novecento across the street. (I can vouch for the Milanese veal cut and wild boar tagliatelle.)

things to do in milan: la rinascente department store
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2. La Rinascente

  • Metro Stop: Duomo
  • Price: Free
  • Reservations: N/A

Ready to do some shopping? For the last 150 years, La Rinascente has been an iconic Italian department store known as purveyor of specialty goods. Whether you seek one-of-a-kind beauty products or classic sweets, this emporium doesn’t fail to delight. And pro tip: If you go to the top floor, you’ll find the food hall overflowing with a Champagne bar, restaurants, a chocolate shop and a market, served with cathedral views. It’s also known for its dazzling Christmas lights display, if you’re traveling in the winter season.

things to do in milan: associate editor marissa wu at the teatro alla scala opera
Marissa Wu

3. Teatro alla Scala

  • Metro Stop: Teatro alla Scala
  • Price: Varies
  • Reservations: Yes

Another Milanese landmark is the dazzling Teatro alla Scala. The opera house dates back to 1778 and today shows all manner of the classics. I saw Simon Boccanegra, but the season also includes performances of Don Carlo, Turandot and Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze. Pack a nice outfit (but not NYC Met Opera over-the-top), because you’ll definitely want photos. The majority of the audience sits in private boxes above the stage, the interior richly decorated with crimson red velvet and gilded crown molding.

things to do in milan fontana art trail
Marissa Wu

4. Fontana Art Trail

  • Metro Stop: Republica
  • Price: From $772
  • Reservations: Yes

If you stay at the Hotel Principe di Savoia, you have the option to book the Fontana – Slashing Space experience. The rate includes accommodations for two nights, breakfast and a two-hour walking tour inspired by the life of Italian avant-garde artist Lucio Fontana. You’ll visit the sculptor and painter’s favorite haunts, stopping by some of the city’s most renowned landmarks. (Shown above: “The House of the Big Men”.) The best thing is that the tour caters to everyone, even if someone isn’t an art fanatic. I found it an accessible and easy way to get a feel for the city, and then had inspiration for the places I wanted to visit on my next visit.

things to do in milan: fondazione prada. waiters pose behind the counter at bar luce designed by wes anderson
Marissa Wu

5. Fondazione Prada

  • Metro Stop: Lodi Tibb
  • Price: from $15
  • Reservations: Yes for foundation, no for Bar Luce

You can’t go to Milan and not visit the Prada Foundation, the arts and culture institute that features a mix of permanent and rotating contemporary art exhibitions on display. Throughout the year, it hosts screenings, talks and other public events related to contemporary art and culture. (Think of it as the Italian version of the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.) Admittedly, I was there for Bar Luce, the café designed by Anderson in 2015. Be prepared to spend at least half a day wandering through the galleries.

things to do in milan  navigli district
urbazon/Getty Images

6.  Navigli District

  • Metro Stop: Romolo
  • Price: Free
  • Reservations: N/A

In the past, Milan had many canals, some of whose construction was overseen by Leonardo da Vinci. Today, Navigli Milano, Navigli Grande and Navigli Pavese are of the few that remain. Walk along them and you’ll find cafés and restaurants by the water—a little respite from the bustling city center.

things to do in milan Palazzo Invernizzi flamingos
Francesca Zavanone/Getty Images

7. Palazzo Invernizzi

  • Metro Stop: Palestro
  • Price: N/A
  • Reservations: N/A

In Milan’s Quadrilatero del Silenzio (“Silent District”) sit beautiful buildings that date to the Hapsburg empire. One of them is Palazzo Invernizzi, home to a flock of flamingos, imported about a quarter century ago from South America. The villa is private property, but you can see everything from the street. It’s a nice surprise as you walk through the neighborhood—it’s just around the corner from the Duomo.  

things to do in milan bar jamaica
Marissa Wu

8. Bar Jamaica

  • Metro Stop: Lanza
  • Price: Varies
  • Reservations: N/A

Bar Jamaica was established in 1911 and remains in the same family, with the same allure as Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore in Paris—albeit grittier. For the artistic types, this is a legendary stop. Fledgling artists, including Fontana, were known to take their coffee here—and sometimes pay in artwork. Stop in for a cappuccino (but no later than lunch) and a pastry at the bar or sit with your newspaper or sketchbook and watch the world go down Via Brera.

things to do in milan club 10 spa hotel principe di savoia
Marissa Wu

9. Spa Day at Club 10 Fitness & Beauty Center

  • Metro Stop: Republica
  • Price: Contact to Inquire
  • Reservations: Yes

Honestly, this should be the first thing you to once you step off the plane. I rolled right from my flight into the spa, and it was a lifesaving remedy from the dry air. I went with a facial, which uses luxuriously calming products from the Japanese brand Sensai Kanebo. The spa also offers massages, a pool and sauna and nail treatments.

things to do in milan: via montenapoleone
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Staff/Getty Images

10. Via Monte Napoleone

  • Metro Stop: San Babila or Montenapoleone
  • Price: N/A
  • Reservations: N/A

The storied Via Monte Napoleone is part of the city’s renowned fashion district, where you’ll find both Italian and international luxury labels, from Loro Piana and Valentino to Hermès and Goyard. It’s fun to walk down the cobbled street and peer into the windows, and who knows? Maybe you’ll even take home a trinket or two. And for those of us whose budget doesn’t include $9,000 for a Loro Piana sweater, Zara isn’t far (and it’s fun to see what the European-based stores are offering).

things to do in milan Villa Necchi Campiglio
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11. Villa Necchi Campiglio

  • Metro Stop: Tricolore
  • Price: From $15
  • Reservations: Yes

Private garden, swimming pool and tennis court? Sign me up. The Villa Necchi Campiglio was built in 1935 as a traditional noble home for the Necchi Campiglio family, industrial scions of the city. It was renovated after World War II with 18th-century influences. Visitors can tour the sumptuous rooms, including the library, grand salon and bedrooms. There are also permanent art collections on display and a rotating music program.

thingsto do in milan: galleria vittorio emanuele II
Marissa Wu

12. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

  • Metro Stop: Duomo
  • Price: Varies
  • Reservations: N/A

Fashion, food, literature and more converge on the emporium that is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The belle-epoque structure dazzles with its glass roofs and mosaic tiles, in addition to being home of the first Prada store. Other must-visits are La Feltrinelli bookshop and the ornate Camparino in Galleria. We stopped in at the latter for drinks before heading to the opera, and it’s a great place to people watch over a glass of—what else?—Campari Spritz.

things to do in milan Castello Sforzesco
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13. Castello Sforzesco

  • Metro Stop: Cadorna and Cairoli
  • Price: $5
  • Reservations: Yes

If you went to Europe and didn’t see a castle, did you actually go to Europe? Quandary solved with a visit to Castello Sforzesco, a sprawling complex with courtyards, cloisters, towers and battlements. Entry into the courtyard is free, but if you pony up $5, you can see the rest of it, too. That grants you access to the libraries and archives, like the Museum of Decorative Arts and Archeological Library. Bonus: it’s kid friendly, as the castle regularly hosts school field trips.

things to do in milan Pinacoteca di Brera
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14. Pinacoteca di Brera

  • Metro Stop: Lanza or Montenapoleone
  • Price: $15
  • Reservations: Yes

The Pinacoteca di Brera is a museum dedicated to Italian painting and foreign art dating between the 13th and 20th centuries. The baroque building was constructed on top of a 14th century monastery and is also home to the Academy of Fine Arts. (Fontana studied here.) The collection ranges from Modigliani’s “Enfant Gras” to Raphael’s “The Marriage of the Virgin.” If, after taking the tour, you’re inspired to start taking some art lessons, stock up on supplies around the corner at Ditta Cesare Crespi di Massimo Morlacchi, a hole-in-the wall art supply store popular with working artists.

things to do in milan the last supper
Pier Marco Tacca/Contributor/Getty Images

15. The Last Supper

  • Metro Stop: Conciliazione or Cadorna
  • Price: $15
  • Reservations: Yes

Save the best for last, right? Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is, besides the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most recognizable Western artwork (alongside David, of course). You can find it on the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a basilica in the western part of the city. Be forewarned: You cannot execute this last-minute. I tried, only to find out reservations sell out months in advance. So if you’re even thinking about seeing it, I’d hop on it.

How to Get There

I was kindly flown out by La Compagnie, a Paris-based business class airline that launched a New York-Milan route in 2022. All flights depart from Newark Liberty International Airport, which, depending on where in NYC you live, can be a quick (albeit expensive) rideshare away or a total pain to get to. (Note: To save money, opt for the $8 AirTrain that goes from Penn Station to the airport via NJ Transit.)   

Reservations with La Compagnie include access to the airport lounge and the boarding process is so streamlined it’s sneaky. Because each Airbus A321 accommodates just 76 passengers, you’re never waiting to queue up 20 minutes after your boarding call time.

things to do in milan la compagnie airline
Marissa Wu

After takeoff, I opted to do the thing that, for me, makes business class worth the upgrade: lay down. Ever wondered why celebrities always look refreshed after a long-haul flight? Definitely betting that it was because they took a horizontal snooze (and applied a sheet mask) in air. Those who must work can connect to the Wi-Fi, which is quite reliable—not something I can say for all airlines. There’s also a plethora of entertainment options. (I finally finished Barbie).

Then there was the food. The menu is helmed by chef Christophe Langrée and his team of Michelin-star chefs. You’ll be served a seasonal three-course meal replete with organic wine, coffee and tea.

La Compagnie lands at Milan Malpensa, located an hour from the city by both public transport and car. I walked off the plane feeling refreshed and ready for a weekend exploring Italy’s fashion capital. Airfare starts from $2,200 round trip and includes two checked bags, including unwieldy sporting equipment.

Of course, many major airlines fly into Milan daily including Delta, United and JetBlue. (But if you want to fly business class, La Compagnie is the best value.)

Where to Stay

I stayed at the Hotel Principe di Savoia, a property of the Dorchester Collection. (It’s the company behind legendary names like The Dorchester in London, Le Meurice in Paris and The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.) It might just be the apogée of Milanese splendor, as far as hotels go. Walk through the entryway, draped in vermilion, floor-to-ceiling curtains, and you are enveloped in the hotel’s signature scent: “Winter in Milan” by the Italian brand Culti, emanating delicately from gallon-size (though discreet) bottles.

It wasn’t surprising, knowing Milan’s rich art and design landscape, to discover that the lobby features rotating art exhibitions. At the time, the Principe was featuring Marzio Villa, a Brazilian photographer. New pieces by different artists are installed every quarter—a small touch to keep things interesting for the regular clientele.

things to do in milan: hotel principe di savoia
Marissa Wu

Despite having traveled some 4,000 miles to see the sights, I found that I would have been content to pass the whole weekend ensconced in the hotel. I had learned that my favorite film director, Wes Anderson, had once been a guest when passing through on his way to Venice. Knowing that, everything just made sense. I’m not saying The Principe inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel or vice versa, but in many ways, it felt like one was taking a page from the other. From the doorman with his fur muff and top hat, to the sumptuous, wood-paneled Principe Bar (order El Milanes, the signature cocktail with rye whisky, sherry, sake, saffron, butter and shallot) and candlelit Acanto Restaurant (headed by chef Matteo Gabrielli) The Principe made the stay itself a curated, thoughtful and charming experience. Honestly, all that was missing was a bottle of Pouilly-Jouvet ’26. (IYKYK).

I started my mornings with sumptuous breakfasts and ended my stay with an exquisitely crafted dinner at Acanto, and all I can say is that this was hotel food that was actually worth eating. Every meal was an experience. And on a very personal note, I was touched that all the staff seemed to know my allergies—this is huge because I’m constantly having to advocate for myself on the front.

Overall, The Principe is a sophisticated—but relaxing—city escape, with easy access to other parts of Milan. (There’s a metro stop right outside and cabs are always in abundance.) Rooms start at $500/night and go up to $15,000 for the Presidential Suite (which has hosted many a movie star).

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