It has become a trend to squeeze travel in whenever you can – with the weekend city break becoming more popular than ever! So, at the start of December, I disappeared to Milan with a friend for a two-night whistle-stop adventure. We flew out of London Stansted at 9 am – arriving within a couple of hours to Bergamo airport with no plan at all. So we jumped on a coach straight to Milan Centrale… We had a few minutes trying to work out the Metro system and where our hotel actually was. Once we figured it all out we headed to our hotel for a brief pit-stop – planning what we should go and explore first. Before we knew it we were back on the metro and heading to the Piazza del Duomo.
Piazza del Duomo
The piazza is right outside the Duomo di Milano – the cathedral that everyone associates with Milan. Walking up the steps from the metro to this magnificent view made leaving my house at 3 am totally worth it! We wandered around for a while, just soaking up the atmosphere and the stunning view. To one side of the Piazza, there was a small Christmas Market – with lots of little huts selling anything and everything – even a Santa walking around with designer trainers!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Looking at the Duomo, to your left is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – our next stop. Italy’s oldest shopping mall, built in 1861 and packed with every designer brand you could think of. Visiting in December meant there were Christmas decorations all over the city – so walking into the mall, we were greeted with the view of the Swarovski Christmas tree shining bright in the centre and the sound of Christmas music playing in the background.
After exploring the Piazza and shopping mall we headed to the shops down Via Torino before finding a nice spot for dinner and drinks. Once we were back at our hotel, we planned the next day – searching up all the best things to do and see, plotting them on google maps to work out how we’d cram everything in a day or so!
In the morning we headed on the metro back to the city centre and went off to find the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
We weren’t quite sure what to expect – but everything online said it’s worth checking it out. So we headed there for our morning coffee and pastry. Well, I’d 100% recommend a visit to anyone who loves coffee. As you walk in you are greeted to the smell of fresh coffee (obviously!) and the sound of the fully working Roastery machine in the middle of the building. We weren’t sure where to start with the coffee menu – any and every coffee you can think of was on that menu!
There are only six Starbucks Reserves in the world. They hold a selection of the rarest and exceptional coffees you can find. The Reserves are where Starbucks push coffee to the limits, developing the best flavours with their roasting and experimenting with brewing, ageing, infusing and blending to make a mind-blowing cup of coffee.
From the Starbucks Reserve, we made our way to Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione. This castle is on the edge of the park, it was built as a fortress in the 14th Century. Throughout the years, the castle has been enlarged – with the Sforza Family reconstructing it and turning it into one of Italy’s most magnificent palaces.
The castle has a few museums brimming with history from Milan’s past, Egyptian artefacts, and a lot of art – including the Sforza family’s collection. The entrance ticket costs €10 and includes entry to all of the museums, or you can just explore the castle’s courtyard which is open to the public for free. Click here to find out more about tickets!
Arco della Pace
From the castle, you can walk through the stunning park, at the other end of the park is the Arco della Pace. The Arco della Pace (translated to the Arch of Peace) was built by Napoleon, to mirror the Arc du Triomphe in Paris. Napoleon built the gate at the start of Corso Sempione, which is the road that connects Paris and Milan, through the Simplon Pass so he would pass through the arch as he comes into Milan.
The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
From the Arco della Pace, we wandered back through the park to the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie. This church is in the heart of Milan and possibly most well known for being the home of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper. Santa Maria della Grazie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its architectural complexity. Click here to find out about tickets to see the Last Supper!
Church of St. Maurice
Along the street from the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie is the Church of St. Maurice. This Monastery stands on the site of a previous place of worship and parts of the building are located on the ruins of a Roman circus and walls. This church is home to a large collection of artwork, which makes this a beautiful church to visit.
Naviglio Grande Canal
Naviglio Grande Canal is quickly becoming the place to be – you can walk for a matter of minutes and feel like you’re in a different town! It’s brimming with bars and restaurants – along with a lot of culture. As you wander down the canal, there are lots of side streets that are well worth the explore. There are vintage boutiques, art shops and art galleries all hidden away from the main stretch.
Originally, the canals in Milan were built to help build the Duomo, bringing in materials from the lakes into the city.
Duomo di Milano
From the canals we headed back towards the Cathedral, exploring little side streets wherever we could. Once we were back to the Piazza we headed to the ticket office to buy some tickets to entre the Duomo. We got a ticket for €3 each to Cathedral – but there are options to entre different museums etc. For €23 you can have access to the Cathedral’s rooftop. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go up to the rooftop – but apparently the views of Milan are stunning! Click here to find out more about tickets!
After our day exploring all that Milan has to offer, we headed for pizza and wine. The following day we were due to fly home late afternoon, so we got up early and jumped on the train to Bergamo. We walked through the town to the Funicular up to the old town. A maze of cobbled streets lined with small boutiques and shops, with restaurants, cafes, bars and bakeries dotted along. We spent a few hours looking in the churches and shops, we sat for a while in the main square, decorated with Christmas Trees everywhere and Christmas carols playing. We had a much-needed coffee and cake stop in the cafe inside the Funicular station – with the best view of Bergamo.
It was soon time to think about heading back to the airport. We jumped on the bus and within in a few minutes we were at the airport, through security and waiting for our flight home!
Walking route of Milan
Italy Travel Guide