What To Do In Milan For A Few Hours [2023]

A few hours in Milan. I didn’t plan that. I planned the whole day in Lecco by Como lake. We were supposed to take a bus to Piani d’Erna cable car, just like for a hike to Monte Resegone. We were supposed to do a picturesque hike.

We were supposed to.

As much as I love Italy, Italians, Italian coffee and Italian food, I don’t like their (lack of) punctuality. The bus didn’t arrive. The next one an hour later didn’t either – I guess snow makes life stop in Italy. My fingers were numb from the cold. It didn’t make any sense to wait longer.

Together with my friends, we made a quick, spontaneous decision. We’re going to Milan. With no plan, no map, no idea what we should see except for Duomo Cathedral, we took a train. Now I wonder that we could’ve taken a day trip to Cinque Terre. But that would require more planning. Next time! 🙂

The first challenge appeared at the train station already – ten seconds before our train left I realized I needed to validate my ticket before boarding it! Check this guide to traveling in Italy by train not to be surprised too. But train travel in Europe is super fun I must say 🙂

I liked this kind of sightseeing a lot. A casual stroll with no rush, with no “faster, further, we still have 5 points to check off the must-see list” kind of approach. Each place we visited was a plus. I wasn’t supposed to be there at all… 😉


A few hours in Milan – what to see?

Milan Cathedral (Duomo of Milan)

What did we see during these spontaneous hours in Milan? We couldn’t squeeze as much as you can see in one full day in Milan and the only main point we knew about before was Duomo Cathedral. It is impressive and it deserves to be called one of the most beautiful churches in the world.

After coming back home I read that it’s also one of the biggest – Duomo Cathedral is 5th biggest church in the world. Bigger are only: St. Peter Basilica in Rome, St. John Cathedral in New York, Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida and The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See in Seville.

Here are some bewildering facts about this church:

  • Duomo Cathedral covers staggering 12 000 m²!
  • The cathedral vaults are the highest in the world – they reach 45 metres.
  • The cathedral has a capacity of 40,000 people.
  • The number of towers is also impressive – there are 135 of them!
  • The highest tower is 108 metres high.
  • From the roof terrace, visitors can admire stunning views of the Italian Alps.
  • Interior of Duomo Cathedral is ornamented by 3,400 statues and 135 gargoyles.

I’m planning to visit Milan in 2024 and then I’ll spend a whole day admiring The Duomo of Milan because it’s the most impressive church I’ve ever seen.

a few hours in milan
a few hours in milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Then we went to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. One of the world’s oldest shopping malls. And it is impressive! It starts right on Piazza del Duomo. Walk around and you may find the best souvenirs from Italy here. In the middle of the mall, we noticed the mosaics of four coats of arms.

a few hours in milan
a few hours in milan

One of them got a particular interest from all the visitors…

Tradition has it that if you step on the genitals of the bull from Turin’s coat of arms and spin three times, it will bring you luck. We couldn’t miss this opportunity! By the way, it’s a very subtle way to express how much the two cities love each other… 😉

a few hours in milan

Theatre La Scala

I found tourist information in the shopping mall so I got a map 🙂 We got out of the mall right at the famous La Scala theatre. Shame on me but I was so busy admiring the Milan city center that I didn’t notice the building of one of the most famous operas in the world. I guess the city center in Milan is so beautiful it’s easy to overlook even La Scala Theatre.

If you wish to visit Teatro alla Scala on your own you may purchase the ticket for a ballet or opera. You can also visit La Scala Theatre with a guide – you can buy tickets here.

Sforza Castle & Parco Sempione

From there we headed towards Sforza Castle – Castello Sforzesco.

a few hours in milan

Near the castle itself, there was a crowd of unpleasant people trying to get money from tourists. “Gift for you, my friend, a gift from Africa, hakuna matata” which certainly leads to “money, my friend”. We got into the castle quickly to avoid all the gifts…

Sforza Castle is another beautiful place to visit in Milan. Nowadays, this medieval-renaissance fortress is a museum complex. There are several interesting museums: the Egyptian Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Milan, the Photographic Archive, Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, the Museum of Musical Instruments and the Rondanini Pietà Museum. You will also see many other exhibits, e.x. military objects and antique furniture.

Milan Castle is a truly unique place!

It is open every day 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM in the summer and 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM in winter. Entry to the castle is free of charge, museums are paid. Interestingly, travellers below 25 years of age benefit from free entry to all the museums.

Unfortunately, having only a few hours in Milan we weren’t able to visit any of Sforza Castle museums. It’s a pity but I’m sure next time we will have more time to explore this extraordinary place.

We went for a short walk in Sempione Park – a great place for a relaxing time among beautiful nature.

Arch of Peace

Then we headed to the Arch of Peace – Arco della Pace.

a few hours in milan
a few hours in milan

It was built in the 19th century as an order by Napoleon Bonaparte. Milan Arch is modelled after the Triumphal Arch of the Star in France.

The Arch of Peace is yet another monument which made a huge impression on me. It’s richly decorated in beautiful low reliefs depicting the most important events of Milan’s history. There are also decorative statues and Corinthian columns.

Arco della Pace is 25 metres high and 24 metres wide. It’s massive!

From there we walked back around Duomo Cathedral. We roamed the streets around there with no specific destination. The sun setting over the cathedral was a sign it’s time to go back… 🙂

a few hours in milan

A few hours in Milan – is it worth it?

During such a spontaneous and short trip we didn’t see many important points in Milan. We didn’t have a chance to see Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, we didn’t climb the towers of the cathedral to see the city from above.

Milan is one of the best places to visit in Italy and I was happy I decided to go there with my friends. Now I think that visiting Milan requires at least several days. After just a few hours in Milan, I felt hungry for more! I will come back there for sure.

I’m planning to visit all the beautiful cities in Italy: Milan, Venice (check how to spend 3 days in Venice in November shared by fellow bloggers from Our Escape Clause!), Bologna and to see all the best museums in Florence.

And I will do it. Unless I’ll be tempted by amazing mountain views again… 🙂 I do recommend you take a trip to Como lake and depending on your physical condition do a demanding hike from Lecco to Monte Resegone or a much easier and shorter hike to Monte Barro.

Not only do I think that Como lake is awesome – Ryazan included one of its cute towns in her post about 5 incredible places to visit in Italy!

If it’s going to be your first time in the mountains – check how to prepare. And if you want to see a smaller town, don’t miss the picturesque Bergamo!

Remember. Do not stick to your travel plan very strictly. Sometimes you want one thing but the circumstances force you to do something completely different. And it is more than OK. With no plan, no map, no idea what I should see, I went to Milan. And despite a frustrating morning, my day was fantastic 🙂

Hotels in Milan city centre

If you change your mind and decide to stay in Milan for a day or two, then it’s best to find accommodation close to the main attractions.

To make planning your trip easier and faster, I checked the best hotels in Milan city centre. They’re the highest-rated on booking.com. I chose several different places suitable for different budgets.

Ostello Bello – an interesting hostel located in Milan’s city centre, just a 10-minute walk from Duomo Cathedral. Guests are content with a fantastic atmosphere, room cleanliness and friendly and helpful staff.

Milan Royal Suites – Centro Duomo – charming apartments located in the city centre. Guests are delighted with fully equipped and spacious apartments and contact with the owner.

Aiello Rooms San Babila – comfortable hotel situated in Milan centre, close to the cathedral. The price includes breakfast. Besides location, guests are delighted with spacious soundproof rooms and helpful staff.

Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Touring Club Milan – if you’re looking for a bit of luxury, check out this 5-star hotel situated in Milan centre. Guests appreciate comfortable rooms, beautiful decor, a hotel bookstore and a wellness centre.

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3 thoughts on “What To Do In Milan For A Few Hours [2023]

  • Reply Michele November 11, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    I really appreciate your post. I’m going to Italy (Milan) next Sunday and because I have between 5 to 6 hours free before change my destination to Brescia. I would like to take advantage and visit Milan, I found your post very helpful, however I don’t know if 5 hours would be enough to at least “follow” the same route. I will try my best 🙂

    • Reply Dorota November 11, 2019 at 9:25 pm

      Hi Michele, I’m glad I could help 🙂 5 hours should be enough to do the same route. Enjoy your time in Italy, it’s an awesome country!

  • Reply Barbara October 13, 2022 at 6:04 pm

    I am going to Milan in Nov.. Solo.
    So I can walk around the city and find those tourist spots based on a map?
    Appreciate any tips.

    Thank you.

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