It has been a challenge putting this guide together because I did not feel like we fully explored Milan. Due to flight delays, we arrived four hours later than planned and the weather was working against us most of the weekend. Our carefully curated itinerary had to be tossed out quickly. We made the most of our time there and although we did not get to see and do all the things, we still had an incredible time. Milan is very different from most other Italian cities I have visited - it is more formal/business like; its architecture is more modern and while other Italian cities thrive on their history; I think Milan is thriving on its present.
VISA REQUIREMENT. Italy is a Schegen member state which means you can gain with a valid Schengen visa. Pro tip - when applying for Schegen visa, make sure to request multiple entry - not two entries. Certain Schegen countries have the option for “two entries” on the application so make sure you select “multiple entry” on your application.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED. That depends. Milan is a great base for exploring parts of Italy and Switzerland. If your plans involve day trips then you should consider staying longer than I did. I spent three nights in the city with two day trips. I was on a mid morning flight out of London and had a half day to explore Milan. The main purpose for the trip to Milan was to get to Como so our time in Milan was limited to a few hours before and after our day trips. We spent Saturday in Verona and Sunday in Lake Como. Verona was not planned but it was raining very heavily in Milan on Saturday, we opted for the trip to Verona over staying cooped up in our hotel room.
WHERE TO STAY. Although we stayed in the suburbs - we were within a 20-minute bus or tram ride to city center and only an eight minute uber ride to/from Milano Centrale. We stayed at a three-star hotel - Hotel Ideale. It was clean; comfortable; rates included breakfast and the staff was very friendly and helpful. If I find myself in Milan again, I could see myself staying here on a return trip to Milan.
WHAT TO SEE. I don't think you can claim a visit to Milan without visiting the Milan Cathedral (Duomo). What sets this apart from other Duomo is the gothic style architecture and it fills its space. I don't quite know how to describe it. Just trust me and put this on your itinerary. If you can withstand the queues, you can walk around the top. I stuck to viewing it from the Piazza and I am still in awe.
Next to the Cathedral is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is home to high-end boutiques and fancy cafes. Walk to the center and look up to admire the intricate details that makes this one of the most photographed spots in Milan. If you superstitious, find the image of the bull and spin on it for some good luck.
On the other side of the Galleria, you will find the famed opera house - Teatro alla Scala. If you can get tickets to a show, I hear it is one of the most impressive opera houses in Europe and a great way to glimpse into the culture of Milan.
Santa Maria delle Grazie. This is one of the reasons I will be returning to Milan. I missed out on visiting this place. It is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site and the place that displays the famous Leonardo da Vinci mural - The Last Supper.
Watch the sunset from Naviglio Canal. If you have visited Venice then you may not be impressed by this. If you want an escape from the center then here is an option. It is quieter than the area around the Duomo and has a variety of restaurants; bars and cafes.
WHERE TO EAT. I discovered this Italian culture of snacking while we were in Venice and I definitely embraced it (wholeheartedly). Our first stop in Milan was to Luini which is an incredible snack shop near the Milan Cathedral. They do snacks well here. For Pastries and sweets, head to Paticceria Marchesi located above the Prada store in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
For Pasta and Pizza visit one of these Milan spots - Ristorante da Teresa; Norin Cafe and Bistro; Pizzeria Di Drago and El Brellin.
DAY TRIPS. I did not realize how close Milan was to several Italian cities. We knew it was close to Lake Como (that was half the reason we were there), but thanks to mother nature ruining our plans to spend Saturday in Lake Como, we discovered several other Italian cities within a two-hour train ride from Milan. We visited Verona, Bellagio, and Lake Como. You can read all about our time in Verona here. Other day trip options we considered: Venice (2.5 hrs via train); Rome ( 3 hrs via train); Bergamo (1/2 hr train ride) ; Cinque Terre (3 hrs via train); St Moritz, Switzerland (2.5 hrs via express train).