Our detailed itinerary to see Milan in one day. Full Milan walking itinerary to see Milan’s most famous attractions, recommended food stops and practical tips
Milan is a lovely city to add to your Italian itinerary.
Beautiful, well organised and rich with museums and attractions, it is compact enough to be visited in one day (make it 2 if you want to see the museums) and makes for a lovely base for day trips in the area.
I have been to Milan several times and over the course of my visits I have perfected my itinerary.
Today I am sharing with you my favorite way to spend a day in Milan and see the best of the city in just 24 hours.
Please note: in 2020, several restrictions are in place that will affect your ability to visit attractions and eat out. Abide current regulations and check with local authorities what regulations apply to the day of your visit as changes happen fast.
Milan one day itinerary at a glance:
- Early Morning: Milan Duomo and Piazza, Galleria Vittorio Emanele II,
- Coffee break at La Rinascente cafe terrace
- Late morning: La Scala Theater, Sforza Castle
- Lunch: Brera area
- Early Afternoon: Gae Aulenti
- Late afternoon: fashion district
- Dinner: Brera / Moscova
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The best things to see in Milan in one day: morning in Milan Piazza Duomo
I love to start my day in Milan from Piazza Duomo, Milan’s most famous square.
Piazza Duomo is in the center of Milan and it is easy to reach form anywhere in the city thanks to the metro stop that arrived just here.
As you emerge from underground, you find Milan’s Cathedral right in front of you and its sight is magnificent.
The Duomo has an elaborate Gothic church that is unique in Italy.
While other gothic churches exist in the peninsula, Milan’s Duomo is the only one with such a high number of carvings and spires and it is also unique in its proportions, that make it rather wide for its height, making it closer in appearance to churches you may find in Germany and France than in other parts of Italy.
The Duomo is the most popular landmark in Milan and this draws crowds and this is why I recommend you get there rather early in the morning.
This will give you the best chance to take photos of the facade without people in front (this is a popular backdrop for instagrammers, so it gets very hard to take a good shot without someone posing, if you come here at busy times)
Depending on the time you have, there are several ways to visit the Duomo:
See the outside only – the facade is one of the most impressive parts of the Duomo and if you do some reading about it, it can be enough to feel like you have ‘seen’ the Duomo. You can find some facts about Milan’s Duomo here.
Visit the inside – in which case, you need to allocated a little longer and, ideally, get a guide. You can look at options here.
You can climb to the top Duomo Terrace – this, I highly recommend! The duomo has a beautiful, accessible terrace and you can easily climb to the top of it by stairs of lift (access at the back of the duomo).
The Duomo terrace offers sweeping views over the city but also much more than that: it is the best way to get up close and personal to the Duomo’s spires and carvings and way to appreciate them for the artistic marvel they are.
Good to know: the terrace is high but not particularly scary for people afraid of heights. I don’t like heights and was able to enjoy it no problem! You can visit both the terrace and the Duomo with a guide (info here) or the terrace only (info here)
Coffee break at La Rinascente
After your bright and early start at the Duomo, I recommend you have a quick (or long!) coffee break at the terrace cafe on the top floor of La Rinascente.
This is a department store just beside the Duomo and has a stylish cafe’/bar at the top with nice views over the side of the Duomo.
The views are not as expansive as from the top of the church but they are nice. Also, the price of breakfast here is a fraction of that in nearby Galleria so this is a good place to have a coffee break before starting your sightseeing again.
Good to know: La Rinascente has good facilities that can be handy if you are visiting Milan with kids.
Late morning at Milano Galleria and Sforza Castle
Just beside the duomo, to your left if looking at the façade, sits the famous Milano Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a covered passage with shops and restaurants.
The galleria is famous and iconic of Milan and has two elements that tend to attract visitors’ attention.
One is its roof, one of the most photographed spots in the whole of the city, an elaborate celiging of glass and iron that give the Galleria the distinct feel of an old world ballroom.
The other one is the image of a bull on its floor. The bull is a popular attraction in Milan Galleria and you will easily spot it thanks to the crowds that always gather around it.
The reason for its popularity is a legend. Locals tells us that that if you plant your heel on a specific part of the bull’s body (you will easily recognise which, as it is consumed by use – let’s say it has to do with fertility…) and twirl 3 times, you will have good fortune!
Did you know? You can learn about this and more fun facts about Milan here.
Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle)
The Sforza castle (Castello Sforzesco) is the other famous Milan landmark and, with the Duomo, one of the most visited in the city.
You can reach it on foot from Galleria and the walks is worth it: on the way, you will pass the famous La Scala Theater and also the statue of Leonardo da Vinci just in front.
The castle dates back to the XVI century and there are several ways you can enjoy it.
You can simply stroll around its courtyards and admire its outside from Parco Sempione or you can visit its stunning Pinacoteca, including paintings by Andrea Mantegna, Tiepolo, Canaletto and Antonello da Messina.
Since you are working against time with only one day in Milan, I recommend to visit the museum you book your tickets in advance here
Good to know: planning all these activities for the morning may seem like a lot. However, Milan city center is compact and you will easily be able to see all of this without any strain on your time.
Lunch in Brera
Brera is a lovely, wealthy area of Milan city center just beside the Sforza Castle and full of restaurants and cafes.
This is a wonderful place for lunch and also for some slow sightseeing.
Here you have quiet cobbled streets, hidden courtyards, old trams and churches, all wrapped into that unmistakable wealthy and fashionable atmosphere that Milan does so well.
Good to know: If you love art, you may enjoy a visit to the wonderful Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan’s main public art gallery). The Pinacoteca is one of the museums in Italy with virtual tours, handy if you want to check out before you go it it is the type of museum you would enjoy.
For lunch or a snack, Milan restaurants in Brera I recommend are:
- Panini Durini (fresh sandwiches and more),
- Baobab (gourmet burgers),
- Cinc Brera (great for a drink and a snack),
- Obica (mozzarella bar and Italian specialties)
- La Tartina (tapas bar)
Afternoon in Milan Piazza Gae Aulenti and Corso Como
This next stop brings you a little out of Milan city center and is one you may want to tackle with a quick ride on the metro: Piazza Gae Aulenti and nearby Corso Como.
Piazza Gae Aulenti is a modern piazza in Milano Porta Nuova area, built by architect Cesare Pelli and inaugurated in 2012.
The piazza is a wonder of modern architecture and it is visually as far from Piazza Duomo seen before as it gets, in itself a contrast worth experiencing.
The Piazza is huge and it is above street level, the whole complex developing over 3 different floors hosting restaurants, shops and offices.
Several fountains decorate the space and tall skyscrapers frame the piazza too, giving the all area a futuristic fee.
With my friends, we always joke that it looks like Dubai and indeed, the tall Unicredit building looks very reminiscent of the modern UAE architecture!
The are of Porta Nuova is also where you find the famous Bosco Verticale, another marvel of modern architecture in Milan.
Something special: near Piazza Gae Aulenti you find Corso Como, a large beautiful street. Come here and make sure you pack into Number 10: you will find a gorgeous Casa di Ringhiera, one of the most typical architectural marvels of old Milan! You can read all about case di ringhiera and why they are meaningful here
Late afternoon and dinner in Milan center
After all the history and the architecture I believe it is good to experience a different side of Milan, that of fashion.
Milan is a huge fashion capital and even just going window shopping here is an experience.
For designer shopping or window shopping, head to Via Montenapoleone and the so called ‘quadrilatero della Moda’ (Milan fashion district), where you will find all designer shops and, if you visit Milan during fashion week, models and celebrities
For high street shops you can head back to the area between the duomo and the castle, which is also where will find a last hidden gem of historical Milan: piazza dei Mercanti, a lovely square worth seeing.
For dinner, I recommend you go back to the area of Brera and Moscova and try one of the following addresses:
- Il Pescetto – informal fish seafood restaurant
- La Vecchia Lira – traditional Italian restaurant
- N’Ombra de Vin, restaurants and wine bar
Other things you can do in Milan in one day
La Scala theater tour or show
La Scala is one of the most famous opera houses in Italy and the world and it is a beautiful building to visit inside and out.
The best way to see it is to get tickets for a show but if this is not in your plans, you can also just see the outside or take a tour of the inside.
The theater overlooks Piazza della Scala which you will recognize thanks to a statue of Leonardo da Vinci in its center.
The Last Supper
The Last Supper is hosted in Santa Maria delle Grazie and is a world famous masterpiece worth seeing.
Advance booking is mandatory and come with allotted time entrance. Book as early as you can (free cancellation up to 24h before) as tickets often sold out weeks in advance.
If you want to see the Last Supper, I recommend you book that first and plan the rest of your day around the time slot you get.
La Darsena and the Navigli area
For one day in Milan I have recommended dinner in town however, there is another area you may want to check out and that is the area of I Navigli.
This is an exceptionally popular area for aperitivo and dinner and a nice one to visit thanks to the presence of canals, rare in Milan. The area is much beloved by locals but it gets crowded so I recommend you visit only if you have the energy, at the end of the day, for a rather buzzy part of town.
Places to eat at Navigli and Darsena are: Bacaro Navigli, Posto di Conversazione, Temakinho, Antica Marmeria, Fabbrica Pizzeria.
Milano City Life
If you enjoy modern architecture and new projects, then you may also include in you itinerary a stop at Milan City Life, a new Milan area recently built as a urban renewal project for the Milan Fiera Area.
Milan City Life has tall towers, a large shopping area and green spaces: while this would not be buy first recommendations for your day in Milan as a first time visitor, this can be an interesting stop if you want see a different side of the city.
How to best visit Milan in one day: practical tips
Is one day in Milan enough?
As you can see from this one day Milan itinerary, you can see many things in Milan in a day.
However, you will not be able to visit many museums in this amount of time so while one day in Milan is enough to see Milans main landmarks, it won’t be sufficient for significant museum stops.
What is the best time to visit Milan?
Milan has a continental climate and gets cold in the winter and very hot in summer.
The best time to visit are the spring months of May and June and again September and October.
One day in Milan: how to get from the airport to the city center fast?
Linate is smaller and very close to the city centre while Malpensa is very far (over one hour by train).
If you only have one day in Milan, try and arrive/leave from Linate to gain valuable time.
The easiest to get to central Milan from Linate is to take the bus just outside the arrival hall, while the best way to get from Malpensa to Milan city centre is by train.
In both cases, you get to Milano central, the city’s main train station and,from there, you are in a great position to catch the metro and reach the city center proper.
Where to leave your luggage when visiting Milan in a day
Stazione central is equipped with luggage storage (downstairs) and this is a super handy option if you have luggage with you.
While Milan is reasonably safe in terms of pickpockets, I do always recommend not to lug your bags around if you can avoid it.
This will save your back, allow you easy access to public transport and museum and will take away some unwanted attention tourists sometimes may get.
Do you need public transport for a day in Milan?
How much or how little you need public transport in Milan depends very much on your plans.
If you are staying in Milan city center, you can easily just explore the city center of foot, resting assured you can see many landmarks this way.
If you want to visit Piazza Gae Aulenti area, then I recommend you also use the excellent Milan metro.
Metro stations are all equipped with machines and they usually accept both cash and card.
If can also consider the Milano Card, which includes public transport and gives you discounts on several museums and attractions.
I hope you enjoyed my recommendations and tips for visiting Milan in one day. Safe travels!
This post was originally written in 2018 and has now been fully updated (Nov. 2020)