Truth to be told, I had no intention to visit Milan. It wasn’t my first time in Italy, in fact I would rather head down South to explore more food or a quick dip in the mediterranean sea.
But what was I doing in Milan anyway?
You see, I was heading towards Hungary and Croatia for the summer, and a stopover flight to Milan was a lot cheaper compared to a direct flight to Budapest. I saved £120 by flying from London > Milan > Budapest instead of London > Budapest. How does that work I have no idea, but that my friend is weird flight logic. So here I am, on my way to Budapest with 24 hours to spare in Milan and to be honest, it wasn’t that bad at all.
24 hours is not much but I decided to spend most of my time at the heart of Milan, Piazza del Duomo. Easily accessible from the Milan Central Station, simply alight at Duomo Metro Station and you’ll find yourself at the square. Ticket costs €1.50 which is valid for the first 90 minutes.
WHAT TO DO IN MILAN FOR 24 HOURS
Land of fashion galore, Milan is the ultimate getaway for shopping and expensive brands! For someone who is on a budget, it is extremely unfortunate as all I could do was to stare at expensive luxury handbags, elaborate cafes and well dressed locals. But there’s definitely a lot to do in Milan even on a budget, and I had the best of time wandering around Milan within a mere 24 hours.
Listed below are 7 things you can do in Milan for a day, and hope you’ll find it helpful!
1. THE GALLERIA VITTORIO EMMANUEL II
One of the oldest shopping mall in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II is arguably one of the most popular spot in Milan. I was thoroughly amused to find that McDonald was aptly replaced by Prada after 20 years of occupancy at the Galleria. Seems like fast food chain held no chance in the fancy world.
Equipped with the best of luxury brands, elaborate cafes and fancy department stores – the Galleria is indeed a shopping haven and I tried my best to blend in! The architectural details of the Galleria on the other hand, is stunning. There is a nice bookshop if luxury shopping is not your thing. Also be warned, dining here is terribly expensive.
2. THE MILAN CATHEDRAL (DUOMO DI MILANO)
Across the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II is the Duomo di Milano (the Milan Cathedral), and honestly you wouldn’t miss it by any chance because it is the heart of Piazza del Duomo. This iconic Milan Cathedral is the largest church in Italy, and if you’re planning to visit the Cathedral I will suggest you to book online (link here!) to skip on the massive queue. Ticket costs €3 per entry. It is also advisable to get the Duomo Pass (€12 – €16) if you’re planning to do both the Cathedral and the rooftop terraces (more on that later!).
I spent most of my early morning sitting around the square while trying to complete a quick sketch of the Duomo di Milano (while skipping on visiting the Cathedral altogether, because honestly at this point I’ve grown weary of visiting churches in Europe). Also a quick heed of warning, beware of flying pigeons because they’ll poop on top of your head. Luckily, I was wearing a hat.
3. THE ROOFTOP TERRACES OF DUOMO DI MILANO
The rooftop terraces of the Milan Cathedral was in fact, the main highlight of my quick stopover in Milan. The heavy gothic influences, intricate carvings and sky high spires made the rooftop terraces a must visit in Milan. Also bear in mind that the entrance to the rooftop terraces are on the different side of the Cathedral (opposite H&M of the Galleria), so be sure to queue for the right line.
I would also suggest on getting there early to avoid the afternoon crowd. I started queuing right after the opening hours and was one of the first to climb up the stairs. If you’re taking the Duomo Pass (for both Cathedral and rooftop terraces) – go for the rooftop first and then the cathedral. Alternatively, a separate ticket just for the terraces will cost you €9 (via the stairs) and €13 (via the lift). But honestly why would you pay extra €4 for the lift? Take the stairs you lazy.
4. THE PIAZZA MERCANTI
What used to be the heart of Milan during the Middle Ages, the Piazza Mercanti still host some of the old Medieval buildings, and for a moment it feels like you’ve gone back into time. I find the Piazza Mercanti to be a lot more enjoyable and quieter than the Piazza del Duomo (honestly, the huge crowd can get on your nerve).
Sad to say that most tourists would stumble into the square just to get to McDonalds…which is not too far away. But I love that they kept the square well maintained. If you can get a guide here to explain on all the historical facts, please do. I wish I had more time.
Just a stone throw away from the Piazza del Duomo, the Piazza Mercanti is a short walk away from the bustling crowd. It’s really not hard to find. Just look for McDonalds, you will pass it at some point so be sure to stop by.
Address : Piazza dei Mercanti, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
5. DON’T FORGET TO HAVE SOME GELATO!
I found a fancy place call Cioccolatitaliani nearby the Galleria, and to be honest it was the long line and massive crowd that had drawn me to the cafe/gelateria. But the queue was well worth it, because it was one of the best gelato I’ve ever had (albeit pricey and maybe a little too touristy but hey no complains here, I was a happy child). A signature cone will cost you €4.50, and there’s plenty of flavours to choose from.
Be sure to take your Instagram worthy shot with your gelato at the Galleria!
Address: Via S. Raffaele, 6, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
6. TRY LUINI’S PANZEROTTI!
Now this my friend, is a hidden gem. A quick walk around the Galleria stumbled me across Luini’s, which was packed to the brim because it was lunch hour, and I was peckish. The long queue was well worth it as I sunk my teeth on the soft pillowy pastry filled with tomato sauce and mozarella cheese. If you’re an avid street foodie and refuse on paying premium prices for meals at the Galleria, Luini is perfect for that quick bite.
You’ll have an extensive choice of either sweet or savoury panzerotti, so why not try both? Plus they’re really easy on the wallet as most of Luini’s pastries costs €1.20 and above, nothing too crazy.
Address: Via Santa Radegonda, 16, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
7. LAST BUT NOT LEAST, EXPLORE THE ITALIAN COFFEE CULTURE.
Did you know that it was Milan’s vibrant cafe culture that inspired Starbuck’s coffee chain’s approach? Now, comparing Starbucks to the Italian coffee is completely uncalled for, but you get the gist. There is a lot to learn on the Italian coffee culture, and while I do not imply that you should be a coffee snob, it’s good to learn about the Italian coffee etiquette before you embarrass yourself.
For example, milk coffees are only to be taken in the morning (lattes, cappuccinos etc.) and only to be taken before a meal. The Italians also drink their coffee in small, steady doses. An espresso is called un caffe, and most cafes has standing bars where the locals would take their daily espresso and go. Sitting down in a cafe means extra charges (while screaming tourists!) and ordering a hot latte will only give you hot milk; the proper term is caffe machiato.
Sounds a lot to take in? Don’t forget to have a pastry alongside your coffee.
HOW MUCH DID I SPEND IN MILAN?
My 24 hours escapade in Milan, was surprisingly alright on the wallet. In total I spent €61 for a day in Milan while saving £120 on flights (so that’s £65 of savings, after currency conversion). I could have save more on food and hostel (€10 per night was my actual budget) but skimping on amazing Italian food while you’re in Italy is just crazy.
24 hours in Milan, Italy
|Transportation||Return bus from Malpensa airport to Milan Central Station (via Terravision)||€14|
|Metro ticket (24 hours pass)||€4.50|
|Accomodation||New Generation Hostel Urban Città Studi (one night)|
Note : Hostel was OKAY. Expensive, but nothing much.
|Food||Assorted (breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner)||€18.50|
|Miscellanous||Ticket to Duomo Rooftop Terraces||€9|
Shortly after Milan I boarded onto the flight to Hungary, made my way down into Croatia, and spent my last summer days in Bosnia Herzegovina (in which I promise I will try to write more on that later!). Until then, I hope this little guide on Milan will help on your next adventure to Italy, and au revoir!