24 Hours in Milano: The Essentials What To Do, See And Eat
Many people see Milano as a layover stop. It’s stuck behind the shadows of Rome, Venice, Florence and other major cities, but the city has a lot to offer both culturally and historically.
Ciao my fellow travelers! Today I am here to talk to you about one of my hometowns – Milano. My parents and grandparents are from Milano, and I myself visit the city at least once a year. I consider it almost my second home, which is why I have not written a Milano travel guide till this day, because I have a hard time seeing myself as a tourist in my own city. The below photographs are a collection of pictures I’ve taken over the years of the essential must-visit spots and must-try experiences in Milano, so grab a cappuccino and enjoy this local Milano travel guide.
First Stop: Breakfast at Biancolatte
Where to Eat the Best Breakfast in Milan: Biancolatte
You’re in Italy, so of course you know that an American breakfast is out of the question if you want to experience Milan as a local. Coffee and pastries are your go to this morning at the highly sought after café Biancolatte — “White Milk.” I grabbed their signature blueberry marmalade whole grain croissant with an almond milk cappuccino.
Second Stop: Piazza Scala
As you make your way up to the Duomo, you will find yourself in Piazza Scala surrounded by cars and old school trams. This 19th century square is located in front of TeatroLa Scala, the world-renowned theatre and opera house. You will frequently see the iconic and still fully operational trams pass by Piazza Scala. The tram was one of the first means of transportation in Milano and to this day it is still transporting locals and visitors around the city. The old school trams still feature wooden benches, wooden steps, and sash windows so hop aboard one if you get the chance throughout the day.
Third Stop: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
On your way to visiting the primary attraction of Milano, il Duomo, you will have to walk through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This shopping “gallery” is considered one of Milano’s prime jewels. Covered with a glass and iron roof, the five-story four-gallery structure extends from Piazza Scala to il Duomo. It is lined with mosaics, statues, and most of all high-end shops and restaurants. Created during the era of Italian unification, this gallery represents Italian unity and self-confidence, which is why it is adorned with various patriotic symbols. Consider this area New York’s Time Square, it’s the pulse of Milano and the liveliness of the city extends out from here.
Fourth Stop: Duomo
No introductions needed here. The heart of Milano, the cathedral that never gets old, figuratively. It’s actually 600 years old and has the history to prove it. Almost every time you see the Duomo, one part will be “under construction.” That’s because the cathedral is made of a rare and precious marble from Piemonte, Candoglia, that when exposed to rain, wind and sun, oxidizes and deteriorates. This means that the cathedral was almost doomed to fall apart from the start, which is why you’ll see pieces being regularly changed. The replacements of its parts have caused the cathedral to go from a neo-Gothic look to a Gothic and slightly Baroque cathedral over the years. With a crucifix made by Leonardo da Vinci and a golden madonnina, or Virgin Mary, placed on a spiral up high on the cathedral as a patroness of the Milanese people, the Duomo is essential to your 24 hours in Milano. If you get a chance, go inside and take a look at the Duomo’s many marvels and walk to the top of one of the spirals for an amazing view of the Piazza.
If you’re looking for drinks with a view, go to Terrazza Aperol. Designed by Antonio Piciulo, the Campari-owned Padova aperitivo has made its mark as the iconic Northern Italian cocktail of choice. The Aperol Spritz’s bright orange colors, bubbles, and branded glass make for the perfect Instagram-worthy picture with a gorgeous Duomo backdrop.
Fifth Stop: Lunch at Luini
Where to Eat in Milano: Panzerotti Luini
If you are starting to get hungry at this point, you are in luck. Just steps from the Duomo lies Milano’s local and most popular hotspot that has been around for over 125 years, Luini. This is not a sit down restaurant, but is the local grab-and-go of the area. It’s hard to miss with lines of people wrapping around the bakery since it’s construction in 1888. You’ll find a number of people eating Panzerotti outside the building as well. This grab-and-go lunch option might be best choice given how busy your 24 hours in Milan will be. Luini is world famous for its Panzerotti, a soft fried pizza dough stuffed with sauces, the traditional being tomato and mozzarella. However, you can really find anything, pesto, prosciutto, ricotta and chocolate, peaches with almonds and amaretti, zucchinis, spinach and ricotta and more. Salty or sweet, Luini has got you covered and the rest of Milano covered!
Sixth Stop: Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga
Known as one of the fashion capitals of the world, a trip to Milano is incomplete without stopping by the epicenter of its fashion district. Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga are home to the world’s most exclusive shoemakers and designers. These streets are made for those who enjoy the more luxurious things in life. You’ll even find the occasional art installation or pop culture display, as was the case for Patrick and I. See below for an out of place red British phone booth found smack in the middle of Via Monte Napoleone!
Seventh Stop: Corso Como
The new trendy spot to visit now a day is Corso Como. The street begins with la Porta Volta gate and is filled with perfect places for Aperitivo and a number of fancy and trendy boutiques. In the summer, the cafés spill out into the streets making it the perfect lunch spot on a hot summers day. The famous 10 Corso Como also lives on this lively street. It is an outlet that sells a bit of everything with a fantastic roof garden outside. A must-visit when in Milano.
Eighth Stop: Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione
Hard to miss this 15th century artifact in the middle of the city since its brick walls surround it for a large part of the area. Castello Sforzesco is an old castle that was previously owned by the Visconti and Sforza family as their private Milano residence. It is even said that Leonardo da Vinci helped construct the castle. Today, once you step through the entrance of the castle, there is a large open space that leads to a variety of museums inside the castle that feature artwork by artists such as Michelangelo.
Once you’re done with your tour of Castello Sforzesco, head to Parco Sempione conveniently located right behind the castle. This vast 96-acre park is where a lot of Milanese people come to work out or enjoy an aperitivo in the summer. Walk through the park and you’ll reach l’Arco della Pace, or the Gate of Peace, similar to the Porta Volta gate at Corso Como. L’Arco della Pace was constructed in 1807 to celebrate Napoleon’s victories. It was originally called the Arch of Victories. But following the Congress of Peace that took place in Vienna to decide the post-Napoleonic future, it was renamed the Arch of Peace.
Ninth Stop: Brera and Pinacoteca di Brera
When you think of enchanting and romantic small cobblestone streets, you think of Brera. The artistic center of the city is rich in galleries, museums, boutiques and nightlife. When in this area, stop by la Pinacoteca di Brera, which is considered one of the best art galleries in Milano. The art gallery showcases very significant and important collections of Italian artwork from renowned painters such as Caravaggio and Raffaello.
When your done with the art gallery, head over to one of the many cafés in Brera and order yourself un Caffè Shakerato, another very famous spin on Italian coffee that many foreigners do not know about! It is a lighter version of what many foreigners call an ice coffee and is perfect when you need a hot summer pick-me-up. It’s an espresso, but shaken with ice which waters it down a bit. With a hint of sugar and a bartenders secret ingredient (it completely varies from a hint of syrup to a hint of cinnamon), you’ve got yourself a refreshing coffee.
Tenth Stop: Navigli
Who said you couldn’t experience a piece of Venice or Venezia in Milano? In comes I Navigli, the hip canal like area of Milano. The main street is lined with quaint and particular art stores, cafés and shops on each side of ilNaviglio Grande, or the big canal, which is the oldest canal in Milan. Built between 1177 and 1257, it is more than 50 km long (that’s 31 mi!) and was used back in the day to transport marble to construct the buildings you see around Milano today. In the summer you can take a boat tour of the area or enjoy an aperitivo along the canal.
Eleventh Stop: Il Patuscino
After a long day exploring, if you still have time and energy for a night out head to Il Patuscino after hours. One of the best and most subtle nightlife locales in Milano. One of my good friends from Italy brought me here to celebrate my birthday a while back and she could not have brought me to a more perfect space. At first the local seems very low key: live music, small lounge space with just a few tables scattered here and there, and cocktails. It looks a lot like a 1980s nightclub, dimly lit lights, old style couches and a young crowd. This all seemed great, but I was more in the mood for a dancing scene. I could not have spoken sooner, as soon as the clock struck midnight, a mix of 80s, 90s and pop music came on, people started dancing on the tables, couches and chairs, and the bar turned into a raging, singing dance spot. It was one of the best nightlife experiences of my life if I have to be honest. To top it off, Pippo Inzaghi, world-renown soccer and tennis player was at the bar and dancing alongside with us! A mix of VIPs and young adults alike, highly recommend Il Patuscino for an elegant night out. Whether you want live music and a laid-back lounging atmosphere before 12 or a dancing on the tables and singing pop music type of scene in a small, cramped, and highly sought after Milano local in the heart of Brera, Il Patuscino is the place to be for your first Milano experience.