Hmmm…what to do with an extra day in Italy? How about… pack a bag, book a hostel and head to the only Italian city with both Uber and Starbucks! I love a good Italian cappuccino as much as the next guy, but sometimes a girl just needs a €7 cup of Venti soy and god-knows-what-else to remind her of home and get her through her Ryanair flight. 24 hours is never enough time to really “see” a city, but it’s plenty of time to drink some wine and hit the highlights! Here’s what to do with 24 hours in Milan!
For some basic Italian phrases, check out my post A Guide to the Best Sights in Rome!
How to get there
If you’re arriving from anywhere else in Italy, I would advise checking both Italo and Trenitalia for the best train ticket prices to Milano Centrale. The trains are way cheaper than domestic flights and much faster once you factor in security and airport time.
If you are flying into Milan, there are three major airports: Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate and Bergamo Orio al Serio. Each is about an hour away from the train station, Milano Centrale. Shuttles run back and forth between the airport and train station for only €5-10!
Where to stay
Milan has some great choices for hostels and, since it’s such a big city, I would start by figuring out which area you would like to stay in. I booked a 4-bed female dorm in Babila Hostel and was very pleased with the result. The hostel was clean, the staff was polite and they had a cute bar/restaurant area in the lobby! In hindsight, I wished I had booked a hostel closer to the train station since I had an early flight the next morning. You live and you learn!
If you are looking for accommodation closer to the train station, I would suggest checking out Ostello Bello. It’s a bit pricier than Babila Hostel but Ostello Bello is a mere five-minute walk from Milano Centrale (saving you €15-20 in Uber costs each way). Although I haven’t stayed there personally, I hear they have a great atmosphere and a fun bar filled with young travelers!
Duomo di Milano
One cannot spend 24 hours in Milan without a visit to the city’s stunning and historic cathedral.* This gorgeous gothic structure is the fifth largest Christian church in the world and stands, since 1386, as a beautiful symbol of Milan. If you plan to enter the church and visit the rooftop terraces, which I strongly recommend, you should make sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time. Tickets to the terraces (by stairway) are only €12.50 and you can buy them on the duomo’s official website.
*Disclaimer: If you have a fear of birds…you might want to skip this one. The square surrounding the Duomo is always covered in pigeons. It’s gotten to the point where locals have begun charging tourists for staged photos of the birds scattering.
Stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Next door to the Duomo di Milano, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is considered one of Milan’s most luxurious shopping centers. Although you probably won’t be shopping there if you’re traveling on a budget, it’s a beautiful space and a fun spot to do some window shopping and people watching. When I visited Milan, it was decked out for the holidays, complete with an enormous Christmas tree! A stroll through the gallery in December will certainly put you in the holiday spirit.
Admire Da Vinci’s The Last Supper
Da Vinci’s famous The Last Supper has been on my bucket list since study abroad back in 2017…which is why I had a mini-panic attack when I went online to book my ticket four days ahead-of-time and found it completely sold-out. Thankfully, a simple call to their customer service solved my problem and I was able to purchase a ticket.
If you plan to feast your eyes upon this Da Vinci masterpiece, please be smarter than I was and book tickets a month in advance. The convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie only allows 15 people to view the painting at a time, so you can imagine that things can book up quickly. If you do plan your visit in advance, the ticket only costs €12 and The Last Supper is truly extraordinary!
Visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano
You can call me basic…but the Starbucks Reserve is unlike any other Starbucks in the world. I set off expecting a Venti, skinny, sugar-free hazelnut latte in a Christmas cup. Instead, I came away with something called a Marocchino covered with shaved chocolate and served on a wooden tray in one of the most spectacular buildings I’d ever laid eyes on. Italy finally gave into the Starbucks craze…but not without giving it their own personal, Italian flair. Thanks Milan, for ruining my mall-kiosk Starbucks lattes forever.
Treat yourself to a slice of Spontini
Spontini is a delicious Italian pizzeria that serves fluffy, mozzarella drenched slices of pizza cut into thick cubes (mozzarella-pull Boomerang anyone?). Conveniently enough, they have a location right around the corner from the Duomo di Milano. It’s the perfect place to grab a slice porta via (to go) and enjoy lunch with a view of the piazza! Just make sure to keep the pigeons away, those buggers are sneaky.
Pro-tip: go for the original Margherita. I sprung for the doppia mozzarella (double mozzarella) and I filled up on cheese alone.
Stop by Mascherpa for an Instagram-worthy dessert
Tiramisu on-the-go anyone? Normally, I’d pick gelato over tiramisu any day of the week. However, even I couldn’t resist Mascherpa’s Instagram-worthy desserts and the shop’s adorable aesthetic…It also didn’t hurt that they have Nutella Tiramisu with brownie layers instead of ladyfingers. In their tiny shop in the heart of the Navigli district, you can buy tiny pots of Tiramisu in tons of different flavors for only €4! They also offer a “deconstructed” tiramisu that includes freshly brewed coffee, ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese for dipping.
Fun Fact: Both Spontini and Mascherpa were featured on INSIDER food! (That’s how you know for sure they’re Instagram-approved. Those people don’t eat anything that isn’t photogenic).
Although there’s plenty more to see in Milan, you won’t have time to do much more in only 24 hours. You could easily spend months exploring and taking in all that Milan has to offer. But, if you don’t mind being a little rushed, a day is plenty of time to enjoy the highlights!
If you enjoyed my suggestions of what to do in Milan, make sure to check out my related posts The Best of Florence, The Ultimate Guide to Dining in Florence, A Beginner’s Guide to the Amalfi Coast, A Guide to the Best Sights in Rome and When in Rome…EAT as the Romans Do.
As always, thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow my adventures on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!
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