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We've come up with a packed itinerary for a great 48 hours in Milan.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chris Yunker

How to spend 48 hours in Milan

Plan the perfect 48 hours in Milan with our list of musts, including drinks by the canal and climbing the Duomo

Written by
Liz Humphreys
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Ready, steady, go. Okay, we’ll admit, 48 hours isn’t enough to get a true feel of Milan and its roster of restaurants, museums, bars and shops, but beggars can’t be choosers. Sometimes a weekend will have to do, so there’s no time to waste. After all, this is a city of hustle and bustle, where the traditional and ultra-modern sit side by side in absolute comfort. The Italian fashion capital is a stunning city that everyone should enjoy at least once in their lives.

Milan caters to all sorts of tastes, meaning the weekend can be as fast-paced or as relaxed as you desire. Either way, be sure to eat plenty of food and do plenty of window-shopping. Here is our guide to 48 hours in Milan.

48 hours in Milan

Friday evening
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Luca Volpi

Friday evening

The perfect way to start a Milan visit is with aperitivi, pre-dinner drinks served with all manner of snacks to fill the belly; the most basic comes with nuts, chips and olives, while more elaborate spreads include everything from pasta and veggies to sushi. Navigli, the hip area hugging the canals, is the classic destination for aperitivi in Milan; try Mag Café for cool vintage vibes.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian

Follow the locals to Fonderie Milanesi, in Ticino not too far from the Navigli canals. Finding the entrance is half the fun: It’s hidden through a courtyard that leads to a 19th-century foundry converted into a cool bar, restaurant and nightlife spot. It’s open till 2am most nights, so you have plenty of time to take in the scene; if the weather’s nice, you can relax in the garden with a Negroni or two.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites

If you planned in advance (at least three weeks is ideal—more in the summer season) hopefully you’ve managed to snag tickets to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper, displayed in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. You’ll only have 15 minutes to view the painting, but it’s a can’t-miss Milanese experience you won’t soon forget.

Saturday midday
Photograph: Courtesy Peck

Saturday midday

Milan’s three-floor gastronomic temple, Peck, makes a worthy stop to grab some nibbles in its phenomenal deli—the Italian meats and cheeses are out of this world—or for a fine lunch in one of its three restaurants, the more formal Ristorante Al Peck, the casual Peck Italian Bar, or the café Piccolo Peck.

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Prada, Gucci, Versace, Valentino—you’ll find all the big names in Milan’s main fashion district, Quadrilatero della Moda. If all that haute couture is out of your league, make a beeline to DMagazine Outlet, a discount designer store where, if you’re lucky, you’ll manage to snag an amazing garment or shoes for a mere fraction of the original price.

Seeing a production at Teatro La Scala—one of the top opera houses in the world—is worth the splurge. The season runs from December through June, and you should buy tickets as far in advance as you can—though there are often last-minute tickets available at the box office two-and-a-half hours before each performance starts.

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Saturday late night
Photograph: Courtesy Cioccolati Italiani

Saturday late night

It’s just a short walk from La Scala to join the queue at Cioccolati Italiani, where the chocolate, hazelnut and pistachio gelati—amongst other amazingly delicious flavours—will knock your socks off. It’s open till 1am on Saturday (till midnight other nights), so you can get your gelato fix into the wee hours.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites

The second-largest church in Italy, the Duomo—built between the 14th and 19th centuries—is Milan’s top attraction and definitely worth a peek inside. Every Sunday there’s a mass at 11am accompanied by the Cathedral Choir, or to beat the crowds you can arrive earlier to tour the church (which opens at 8am). Don’t miss a visit to the rooftop terraces to view the spires up-close and the Milan skyline from on-high.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design

The pretty neighbourhood of Brera makes a lovely place to stroll. Art lovers should save time to visit Pinacoteca di Brera, which houses Italian paintings from the 14th to the 20th centuries in a 17th-century building. Stop for lunch at Fioraio Bianchi Caffe, a cute bistro filled with flowers; try the risotto or one of the kinds of pasta.

Head across town to one of Milan’s most avant-garde—attractions, Fondazione Prada, which houses contemporary art in more than 200,000 square feet of space centred around an old distillery. Though there is a range of rotating exhibits, you’ll always find pieces from artists Louise Bourgeois and Dan Flavin. If all this art works up an appetite, check out the Wes Andersen-designed Bar Luce for a drink and bite in what feels like a ‘50s movie set.

Find Milan’s best neighbourhoods...

Where to stay in Milan
  • Hotels

Before you decide where to stay in Milan, let’s break down those stereotypes that classify the city as a snobby fashion capital and nothing more. Whether in Brera for the artistic vibe, Navigli for well-crafted cocktails, Porta Romana for local hangouts, Duomo for sightseeing or Porta Nuova for design-conscious buildings, Milan offers much more than meets the eye.

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