With very cheap flights in and out of Milan (thanks RyanAir!), Milan is one of the most popular spots to stopover when exploring Europe. Instead of hanging around at the not-so-exciting airport, plan your travels so you can spend a day exploring Milan in between flights. For the ideas on how to spend a stopover in Milan, read on.
Is a stopover in Milan enough time to see Milan?
Well, this question really does depend on you and what you enjoy and want to see. For myself personally, yes, a day stopover was more than enough time to explore Milan city and head back to the airport. I landed in the evening on Sunday and left Milan back to the airport by 3pm Monday, having filled my own quota of Milan tourist sights.
Suggested read: How to do a Paris Stopover: One day in Paris
How to get to Milan from Milan Airport (Bergamo Airport)
While there are a few ways to get to Milan from Bergamo Airport, I chose to get a bus transfer with Terravision. The transfer booked online was 8 euros per person one way and I learnt on my return journey back to the airport that it is cheaper to book online than pay at the bus (which was 10 euros per person one way). The bus station was easy to find and the journey was trouble free. If you are travelling during covid times, this transfer bus requires the FFP2 masks to board. This bus takes you to Milan Central Station where you can continue your journey into Milan (or Milan accommodation if staying overnight like I was) from here.
Things to see on a stopover in Milan
I rose bright and early on my one day in Milan to ensure I was able to see many of the sights before too many people crowded the area.
1. Start with the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)
The early morning alarm is so worth it to see the Duomo di Milano lit up at sunrise and this was how I was able to get photos without the crowds at the Milan Cathedral. There were still people crossing the square on their way to work (I visited on a Monday) but it was far less busy than I saw it a few hours later. Take a moment to enjoy the spectacular cathedral as the morning light slowly reaches it – there’s a reason why it’s an iconic Milan sight.
2. Then visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
You won’t have to travel far. In fact, if you’re facing the Duomo di Milano Cathedral and turn to your left – well, there you are – in front of an entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Another well known sight in Milan and a must to see on a stopover in Milan, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Milan’s oldest still-operating shopping centre. Housing some of the most luxurious boutiques in Milan, shopping here was well and truly out of my price range but the building is magnificent and worth a wander through. Heads up: tripods are banned in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (something to do with the floors as the police explained to me when they saw me using it -oops!- although, forgive me for being slightly confused that that my 1kg plastic tripod can do more damage to the floors than my body weight in boots – but we deal haha!)
When visiting the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping centre, keep your eye out for a mosaic bull on the floor. It’s an old legend that if you spin three times on the bull’s certain area, it will bring you good fortune. While I was there I saw a Milan local man come in and do the three spins, so thought, hey when in Rome! (or in this case… Milan) and tried it myself. You can learn more about ‘The Legend of the Lucky Bull’ here.
3. Enjoy breakfast
There are plenty of cafes around the Duomo di Milano and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II area to grab breakfast. I chose the very healthy option, of course.
4. Before going on top of the Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) Rooftop
One of the coolest things to do on a stopover in Milan is visiting the Duomo di Milano rooftop. It feels like a truly unique experience and my top highlight for my time spent while on my stopover in Milan. There are numerous combinations of tickets you can buy when visiting the Duomo di Milano rooftop, including a culture pass, inside the cathedral and to the museum (find out more about Milan Cathedral ticket prices here); however, I was only interested in visiting the top so purchased a Rooftop pass.
Milan Cathedral Rooftop Pass
When buying your rooftop pass there are two options – lift or stairs. When I visited in 2022 the prices were 10 euro for stairs and 14 euro for lift (see the up-to-date price list here). I chose to take the stairs and I only recommend this if you are quite fit – also be prepared to be a little dizzy by the end walking around and around and around the spiral staircase.
Milan Cathedral Rooftop
The Milan Cathedral rooftop opens daily at 9am (opening hours can be found here) and no tripods are allowed (even to bring up without using) so be sure to leave them behind. I was blown away by the Duomo di Milano rooftop and would highly recommend everyone visiting Milan on a stopover include it in their itinerary.
As mentioned above, you can combine your rooftop ticket with other parts of the Cathedral. When leaving the rooftop, you do get taken through a small part of the Cathedral, which, personally, was enough for me. However, if you want to see more of this incredible building, combine your ticket with the other options.
5. Then finish with The Last Supper
Did you know Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is housed in Milan? Located in the Cenacolo Vinciano Museum in Milan, if you plan your stopover in Milan in advance you’ll be able to witness this incredible painting with your own eyes. Entry costs 15 euros and can only be booked up to a certain date before more tickets are released. Unfortunately for me as I visited Milan on a Monday, this is the only day a week that the building is closed (open Tuesday to Sunday only) and so I was unable to visit. However, if I find myself on another stopover in Milan, it’s at the very top of my list. Find out more about The Last Supper in Milan and book your tickets here.
5. And if you want more – Arco della Pace!
If you still haven’t enjoyed enough of Milan after seeing the above (and stopping for lunch along the way – did someone say pizza and pasta?!) you can spend your afternoon wandering through the city as well as stopping at the Arco della Pace.
The day I visited was SO windy so I retreated slightly earlier from walking around the city; however, if you have a lovely day you could spend the afternoon exploring more. I spent about 8 hours from sunrise until about 2pm before feeling like I had seen what I wanted to see during my stopover in Milan (heads up though – I’m not interested in high fashion so I didn’t spend anytime learning and exploring the fashion locations of the area).
Where I stayed on my Milan Stopover
I spent two nights in Milan due to my flight connections. The first night I chose to go into Milan so I could take advantage of the location and wake up early to see the sights. I stayed at Genius Hotel Downtown Milan and really enjoyed it. Clean, simple and very well located (only a 10 minute walk to the Milan Cathedral!)
As my flight leaving Milan departed at 6am from Bergamo Airport, I stayed at BGY Airport House Grassobbio in Bergamo, which was about a 25 minute walk to the Bergamo Airport and was a pleasant and easy place to stay.
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