A perfect itinerary to experience a weekend in Milan amidst history and fun, and discover why, as the locals say, “Milàn l’è un gran Milàn”.

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Today's Milan is a multicultural city, vibrant at every hour of the day and night, brimming with inspirations where you can lose yourself among art, shops, museums, skyscrapers and activities of all kinds.

But there is also the Milan of yesteryear, which gets lost in a fascinating past rich in history and passion. As a traditional saying in the local dialect announces (taken from a Milanese song from 1939): "Milàn l’é un gran Milàn" - Milan is a great Milan.

So what is the true face of the Lombard metropolis? Let’s prepare to discover it together with am unmissable weekend in Milan, in which we’ll reveal its most authentic soul by exploring ancient and modern neighborhoods, the most famous and iconic places as well as the intimate and hidden ones. We’ll get to know the secrets of a unique city and end up falling in love with its culture, so eclectic and special.

Where to stay for a weekend in Milan

Weekend in Milan, where to stay

In a city so big and complex, the choice of where to stay in Milan is very important and can make a difference in how well we experience our trip

Obviously, the decision largely depends on the budget we have available, and we also need to consider that public transportation is well developed and covers the entire city area. So we can move around the various neighborhoods conveniently (though remindful of peak hours) and quickly.

For our weekend in Milan, the ideal option could be to find a structure in the area around the Columns of San Lorenzo, a place not too far from the center (less than 1km from Piazza Duomo) but with generally more convenient quality-price ratio.

This way, we can easily visit the entire historic center and the so-called Quadrilatero della Moda, while in the evenings we can reach the Navigli area, one of the hubs of Milanese nightlife, even on foot. In addition, we’ll have the stops of two different metro lines within a few hundred meters, while the tram stop will be only a few steps away.

Weekend in Milan, Friday night: nightlife along the Navigli

Weekend in Milan, Navigli

After arriving in the city on Friday afternoon or evening, let's officially begin our weekend in Milan by immersing ourselves in the vibrant and trendy ambiance of the Navigli district.

A walk along the Naviglio Grande, crossing the small bridges over the canal and admiring the lights of the 19th century style tenement houses, is an unmissable and charming experience.

Here, we can enjoy an all-Italian aperitivo, for example with the classic Milanese-style apericena; or dine in one of the many restaurants in the area, or even have a drink and join the nightlife on Friday and Saturday evening.

The Navigli and the Darsena are indeed one of the main hubs of Milan’s nightlife, frequented by both tourists and locals. They are located a short distance from the metro station of P.ta Genova FS (M2, Green metro line), while if we are staying near the Columns of San Lorenzo we can easily reach the district on foot.

Saturday morning itinerary: Piazza del Duomo and the heart of the city

Weekend in Milan, Piazza del Duomo

Despite the crowd of tourists and locals who fill it daily from morning to night, Piazza del Duomo still manages to convey the atmosphere of an authentic Milan. For this reason, as well as for the scenic beauty of the fabulous building of the Duomo that seems to tower over the entire city, Piazza del Duomo is the ideal starting point for our trip on Saturday morning.

Here, from a cultural and folklore perspective, we could almost spend the whole day: we can indeed visit the Duomo (going up to the terrace to admire the square below is an unforgettable experience), stroll with our eyes up in the wonderful setting of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, admire the famous Teatro alla Scala, one of the most prestigious theaters in Italy, or explore the exhibitions of Palazzo Reale and discover the artworks of the Museo del Novecento.

Let’s try to limit our visit to this area to about a couple of hours, considering that in any case Piazza del Duomo is the main hub of the city and we’ll pass through it again within this same day. 

Instead, let’s head to the Brera district, where we can make a stop in one of the numerous typical trattorias that crowd this area. We can thus try some of the traditional Milanese recipes, such as Risotto with Saffron, Cotoletta or Ossobuco. 

Saturday afternoon: museums, shopping and skyscrapers

Weekend in Milan, Via Monte Napoleone

After lunch, let’s lazily walk through the streets of Brera to discover the atmosphere of the area, made lively and a bit bohemian by the presence of the famous Accademia delle Belle Arti. Speaking of art, enthusiasts can visit the Pinacoteca di Brera, which contains masterpieces by artists including Caravaggio, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca and others.

Alternatively, it only takes a few hundred meters to reach Via Montenapoleone: if we walk along the street while keeping an eye on the windows of the luxurious boutiques, we will get in tune with the stylish soul of the World Capital of Fashion.

From this point, indeed, the shops follow one another continuously until Piazza San Babila and then, following Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, once again to Piazza del Duomo. 

Now we can choose whether to conclude the first "daytime" stage of our itinerary by returning to the hotel to rest before the evening outing, or to make the most of every minute of this weekend in Milan by visiting all the most significant neighborhoods of the city.

In the latter case, from Piazza del Duomo, we can reach Cadorna station with the M1 metro line (Red Line, 2 stops). Here, we take the M2 line (Green Line) to arrive at Garibaldi FS station in 3 stops and then head towards the skyscrapers of Piazza Gae Aulenti.

In this futuristic neighborhood, we’ll discover the most modern side of Milan, amidst shops and futuristic views, such as in the area of the Biblioteca degli Alberi, where the photogenic and innovative residential complex known as Bosco Verticale is located.

From this area, we can also walk to the emerging district of Isola, an ideal place to spend a wonderful and lively Saturday night.

Saturday night: restaurants and clubs of Isola and Corso Como

Let's spend Saturday night in one of the trendiest neighborhoods of Milan: Isola, a district located behind Milan Porta Garibaldi station, has had an incredible development in recent years, transforming from a predominantly working-class area into an alternative area in balance between tradition and future.

There are many restaurants and pubs in Isola, and in summer the outdoor tables of the venues further highlight the vibrant nightlife.

For those who want to stay out late, the pedestrian street of Corso Como with its nightclubs is not far away, just south of Porta Garibaldi. If we are staying near the Columns of San Lorenzo, keep in mind that after 12:30 AM the metro closes, and it will be necessary to return to the hotel by taxi or taking advantage of the nighttime replacement network in operation from midnight to 6:00 AM (of course, we can also walk back, but it's about a 3km walk). 

Sunday morning itinerary: exploring the Sforza Castle and Sempione Park

Weekend in Milan, Castello Sforzesco

The second leg of our weekend in Milan takes us to explore in the morning the extraordinary Castello Sforzesco, erected in the 15th century (although defensive fortifications were already present in Roman times in this location), one of the most well-known and unmissable sites in Milan thanks to its imposing and scenic architecture.

Inside, there are several courtyards and museums to explore, from the Pinacoteca to the Egyptian Museum and the Museum of the Pietà Rondanini. For time reasons, it’s wise to consider visiting one or at most a couple of them (for the most passionate art lovers).

We then exit the Castle from the side of Parco Sempione, where we can enjoy an afternoon stroll along the paths of the city's main green lung. Following a straight path, we will leave the park near the Arco della Pace, in a truly pleasant place full of cafes where we can rest for a while.

Sunday afternoon: from the Last Supper to the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio

Weekend in Milan, Santa Maria delle Grazie

From the Arco della Pace, we return inside Parco Sempione, exiting from the side where the Triennale di Milano museum is located.

From this point, it's just a few hundred meters to reach two of the most spectacular attractions in the city: the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (which is open on Sundays between 3:00 PM and 5:50 PM) and the Museo del Cenacolo Vinciano.

It’s almost superfluous to describe how significant and beautiful works such as Bramante's dome or Leonardo's Last Supper are. 

To have the best visiting experience, it’s useful to highlight the importance of booking in advance, and possibly opting for a guided tour, at least for the Last Supper. This way, we can fully discover and understand the secrets of this exciting and timeless masterpiece. 

The atmosphere outside Santa Maria delle Grazie's complex should also be emphasized: the aura of a more authentic Milan, less polished than the area around Piazza del Duomo or the Quadrilatero della Moda.

After the visit to the Basilica and the Museum, let's head to the nearby Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, an imposing church and a symbolic place of the city as it houses the remains of Sant'Ambrogio, the patron saint of Milan. This area is particularly lively and pleasant thanks to the presence of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

After visiting the Basilica, let’s stroll along some narrow and picturesque streets (Via Lanzone, Via Caminadella and Via Mora) to reach the beautiful Columns of San Lorenzo, dating back to Roman times, behind which stands the silhouette of the Statue of Constantine and the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, one of the oldest churches in Milan (end of 4th century).

For those who still have some time (and energy!) left, you can take the metro at Missori (M3, Yellow Line) and go to the Centrale FS metro station to admire the spectacular building of Milan Central Station, inaugurated in 1931, which blends Neoclassical, Liberty, and Art Deco styles.

From the station, let's walk to the nearby Corso Buenos Aires, another area famous for the presence of many shops, where we can immerse ourselves one last time in the unmissable Milanese shopping experience.

Sunday night: last night between NoLo and Chinatown

Let's not miss the opportunity for one last Milanese aperitivo by exploring the NoLo district (North Loreto) and its lively atmosphere. This area has become increasingly cool in recent years, and is frequented by young people and artists who crowd the taverns, bars and numerous venues in the evening.

We can choose to dine in this area located, as the acronym itself indicates, just north of Piazzale Loreto; or, after a quick drink, we can take the M2 and head to the Moscova station, from where in a few minutes we will enter Chinatown

Here, Chinese immigrants have created an important community over the past hundred years, and today walking along Via Paolo Sarpi, the main artery of the neighborhood, among the sparkling lights of the signs of the venues and the scents reminiscent of Oriental culture, allows us to fully understand the multi-ethnic atmosphere that characterizes Milan.

After dinner, before returning to the hotel, let’s make one more stop in Piazza del Duomo: we will appreciate the beautifully illuminated facade of the Cathedral, with the statue of the Madonnina observing us from its tallest spire, and it will make us relive all the fantastic experiences we have had during our unforgettable 3 days in Milan.

Bonus tip: the sporting soul of Milan in the unique atmosphere of San Siro

From Piazza del Duomo, let’s take the metro M1 from to reach the Lotto stop. From here, with the M5 (Lilla metro line), we'll arrive easily at the San Siro Stadio terminus.

Here we will get in touch with the most sporty soul of Milan, a city that lives and breaths football, where the exploits of the two local teams, Milan and Inter (two of the most prestigious clubs in the world), are followed by Milanese people in a heartfelt and visceral way. 

The Giuseppe Meazza stadium, better known as San Siro (named after the neighborhood in which it’s located), is one of the best stadiums in Italy, and also one of the most visited monuments of the city: it’s not only a football stadium, but an integral part of local history for almost 100 years. 

If during our weekend in Milan there's a match scheduled for either AC Milan or Inter Milan, the advice is not to miss it. We'll experience a spectacular, vibrant, and unique atmosphere that will leave us with an unforgettable memory of the city and the vitality and passion that characterize Milanese people.

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