2 Days in Milan: The Best Restaurants and Museums
Arts & Culture
Milan is one of Italy’s most thriving metropolitan cities and known for its ties to the fashion industry. If you are traveling to Italy and looking for a city with elegant dining, world class museums and luxurious shopping, you should absolutely add Milan to your list. Milan was the starting point for me on a two-week trip through Italy and this guide will show you how to best indulge for 48 hours in this lively city.
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Where to stay
Mandarin Oriental, Milan
Near La Scala and Via Montenapoleone, offering luxurious rooms and suites, fine dining and a private spa.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Park Hyatt Milan
Elegant property nearby the Duomo di Milano with upscale rooms and suites.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Bulgari Hotel Milano
A chic oasis in the heart of the city’s shopping district, home to a see-and-be-seen aperitivi bar and rare treat indoor swimming pool.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Breakfast for two daily.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
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Day 1: First Day Exploring
With Milan being a thriving metropolis and a hub for international business, arriving in the city is a breeze. Whether you arrive by train or plane there will be cabs, a metro system or a prearranged private driver to whisk you to anywhere you need to go at any time of day (or night).
On this particular trip, I arrived by train from Zurich and was able to get a cab in line at Milano Centrale upon my arrival and was at my hotel in under 10 minutes.
I arrived at the Park Hyatt Milano by 10 AM and was greeted warmly by the concierge who said my room was ready for early check-in which worked out fantastic. I was able to freshen up and head out to start exploring! My hotel was located right by two of Milan’s most iconic architectural wonders, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Duomo. Naturally I took a quick walk through the Galleria and stared in awe at the Duomo before walking anywhere else in the city, I knew I would be coming back to both of these spots.
As I said, Milan is a very accessible city with an easy-to-use Metro system but on this trip I made my way around mostly on foot. I love to explore hidden streets and stumble upon anything I can, so if you aren’t in a rush and have a good pair of walking shoes, I encourage you to do the same here. I decided I would walk over to the Ambrosian Library which was at the top of my ‘must see’ list in Milan. This gallery is home to manuscripts, literature, historical drawings and art work. They are known to have the largest collection of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and have a portion of these drawings on a beautiful display in the Library room. There is beautiful architecture around every corner, including the outdoor terraces, but the library room with all its books took my breath away. I was lucky enough to visit when the gallery had Dolce & Gabbana's clock, Chiaravalle, on display. This clock is a magnificent gold iron and blue and is modeled with Da Vinici’s concept of watches and time keeping revolving around a combination of the sun, the moon and zodiac signs.
While Ambrosian Library was a highlight for me, I had another museum on my list that day. After leaving the gallery, I was headed to the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, but first, I needed to have lunch. On my walk to the museum, I decided to stop at one of the gorgeous restaurants in the Galleria. Savini Milan has a gorgeous terrace and big luxurious cushioned seats so you can enjoy your long Italian lunch. The views of the Galleria are stunning and you have a direct view of the Prada store across the way. Hello window shopping. I had tagliatelle with ragu and parmesan along with a glass of a dry local white wine and polished everything off with an espresso.
The Poldi Pezzoli Museum houses a large collection of Italian artworks that includes paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewelry and beyond. One of the most notable displays is the display of armor on the first floor. This museum is ornate and has tiny gems hiding all around it. Take your time and make sure you don’t miss anything. Once you have taken it all in, I suggest sitting in the large room with floor to ceiling windows on the first level behind the reception desk. The windows look out to a beautiful courtyard and it is a peaceful place to sit and let your mind rest.
Right around the corner from the museum is Via Monte Napoleone, which is a luxury shopping street that dreams are made of. We all know Milan is a fashion capital and this is where the luxury magic is. While the Galleria is beautiful and has some selection, this is where you can go to find it all. Goyard, Loro Piana, Cartier…you name it and it is there. I spent some time on the street ducking into my favorite spots and making sure to take full advantage of my VAT tax refund as an American traveling in Europe.
Of course one of the biggest attractions in Milano is the Duomo. While you can sit and stare at it all day, it's worth a visit inside and to the observation terraces. As with any activity, I highly recommend booking ahead and skip the line passes. I picked the last entry of the day which was great as some of the crowd had started to die down, but I would say if I could do it again, I would take the first entry of the day. As I mentioned, I was staying close by and seeing the square early in the morning, there were even less people in line. The inside is everything you would imagine it to be, beautiful and full of history. The terraces not only provide a view of the city but a view of the ornate architecture on the upper part of the building. After experiencing the Duomo, I decided it was time for aperitivo before dinner and grabbed a seat at one of the cafes lining the square of the Duomo. I suggest seeing the Duomo at all hours. Morning, afternoon and night…but especially at golden hour. This was spectacular and I got some great photos while enjoying a glass of wine.
Per all my travels, dinner time is always an event and I am always seeking out an amazing restaurant to enjoy my evening in. I have a friend who works in fashion and travels from New York to Milan all the time for work. He also happens to be somebody I without a doubt trust to give me food recommendations. His recommendations lead me to Langosteria Café on this particular evening. The space is chic but also gives a certain warmth. The staff is very welcoming and when you look around the restaurant, every patron is having a great time smiling over their drinks and food. I was on a solo trip so I grabbed a seat at the bar which proved to be a great time. The bartenders/servers made sure my experience was top notch and walked me carefully through all of my options. I love a good cocktail before diving into dinner and Langosteria does not disappoint on the craft cocktail selection. I opted for a bit more of a traditional route and had a negroni, but it was made perfectly! The restaurant has a heavy emphasis on seafood and has a raw bar with an amazing selection. I started out by ordering the yellowtail with jalapeno sashimi which is one of my favorite dishes on any given day and the quality of this one was amazing!
My all time favorite yellowtail jalapeno for consistency is Nobu, and this one was right up there in competition. The chef also brought out an amuse bouche of chilled scallop over gazpacho that just melted in your mouth. I am a sucker for perfectly cooked scallops so I knew I had to give their seared scallops a try after getting a taste of the seafood. Once again, I was not disappointed. The scallops were cooked to perfection and I ate every last bite. You might think, this is where it ends but no, I was being a bit gluttonous and knew I had to try one of the seafood pastas to top off the night. The bartender and I discussed a few items that I was eyeing and ultimately he helped me to decide on the Gnoccheria. This was a gnocchi with scallop, shrimp, etc and had a creamy red sauce with a touch of spice. The meal was finished off with a complimentary dessert of a bite size frozen lemon pastry. Needless to say, Langosteria will always be a go-to for me on a trip to Milan moving forward.
Day 2: Seeing More of the Sights
I am the worst person to ask for breakfast restaurant recommendations as I typically start my day with breakfast at the hotel. Perks of making your booking with a Fora advisor, your breakfast is pretty much always included!
After enjoying a leisurely breakfast and getting ready for the day, I decided to make my way towards Castello Sforzesco and the adjoining Parco Sempione. Castello Sforzesco is a medieval fortress that includes artworks from Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
While the museums are wonderful and have many beautiful artworks to showcase, the fortress itself has many wonders to look at such as the Torre del Filarete (the clocktower) and the Piazza out front with the fountain in the center. Once you have made your way around the castle, make sure you take a walk in the park. Don’t miss the Ponte delle Sirenette, being a New Yorker, it gives me Central Park vibes. If you make it to the other side of the park, you will also find Arco della Pace which is a large stone archway commissioned by Napoleon and built by Luigi Cagnola.
A close walk from Parco Sempione is perhaps the most famous site to see in Milan. Santa Maria delle Grazie, which is home to Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. I can not stress this enough, you MUST book this as far in advance as you possibly can. For me, this was a last minute trip to Milan (literally booked the day before) and there was not a free time or ticket available to see The Last Supper for weeks after I departed Milan. Still, I was able to see the church and the surrounding area but if you are traveling to Milan, as soon as you have your dates locked in, reserve entry for this. After my failed attempt to see The Last Supper, I figured sometime in the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci was a perfect way to immerse myself in history and cool off on a hot September day. This museum kept me busy for hours! Every corner I turned, every floor I went to, there was something fascinating to see. The exhibitions to show how science and technology have evolved over time, and in such a short period, were really done superbly. I often find myself drawn to whimsical art museums but in this museum I found myself getting lost in the more tactical and really reading into what each item was and what the significance was. The museum also has some really amazing, decommissioned ships, a submarine and a missile.
I was in this museum for a long time, but afterwards, I made a visit to Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio. The basilica is a roman style church that has beautiful archways and a courtyard with gorgeous, tiled floors. You can also visit the crypt of the basilica which is the resting place to the remains of St Ambrose.
After seeing what felt like a lot in one morning/afternoon I had worked up an appetite. In Italy what better way to feed that appetite than fresh pizza? Berberè Colonne was the perfect stop for lunch. The restaurant is cute and efficient. I am pretty close to a purist when it comes to pizza, so I ordered the Margherita. It was delicious and really hit the spot after walking all morning. Admittedly, I was pretty exhausted (and full of pizza) after lunch so I slowly walked myself back towards the direction of the hotel taking my time walking past the beautiful Duomo and winding through the Galleria.
I realized I hadn’t really taken a look at Teatro alla Scala yet either, so I walked around the outside admiring the building. Sadly, the two nights I was in town there were no shows happening at the theater, but if you are in Milan and have the opportunity to see an Italian opera or a ballet, I would put this at the top of the to-do list.
After a rest in my room it was almost aperitivo time! The Park Hyatt has a very nice bar, called Mio Lab, so I decided to grab a drink there before heading off to dinner. Another option for apéro would be the Mandarin Garden at the Mandarin Oriental. The space is so beautiful, as you would expect from any Mandarin Oriental, and they have Aperitivo from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. The restaurant I was going to for dinner, I had seen the day before when walking from Museo Poldi Pezzoli to Via Monte Napoleone. The friend I mentioned earlier had told me to go eat dinner that night at Bice, which is a cozy restaurant with Italian classics, but I had seen this charming courtyard with lights hanging and beautiful plants…so I decided to go rogue and ended up at Don Lisander. This restaurant was so charming with its beautiful garden, glowing chandeliers, and perfectly set tables with white table clothes. I knew I had made the right choice to change it up and find another restaurant to add to everyone’s Milan restaurant list.
As stated, I was solo on this trip but would highly recommend this for a date night. The ambiance is perfect for a romantic dinner. This restaurant is popular for its risotto and I wasn’t going to leave Milan without trying Risotto Milanese. I ordered the classic dish with a glass of Chardonnay, and it was excellent. This was the perfect send off from Milan.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Favorites of Firenze: A Guide to Florence, Italy
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Milan.