Our mini guide to one day in Milan with tips on the best things to do in Milan in one day, where to stay and some of our favourite addresses for breakfast, lunch, dinner and real aperitivo.
I am just back from a long-awaited weekend in Milan.
The main reason behind my trip was snooping around Expo 2015 (you can read about my hellish day here), which is taking place just outside of the city but since I never had time to visit Milan properly, I also planned a full day in town.
Unusually for me, I didn’t go there with the kids, but rather with a friend, which allowed me to experience one of the things Milan is most famous for: its stylish food scene!
- Is one day in Milan enough?
- What’s the best way to get around Milan?
- What is the best time to visit Milan?
- What is Milan best known for? Interesting fact about the city
- The best area to stay in Milan
- Where to eat in Milan
- What to see in Milan in one day
Is one day in Milan enough?
Milan is a compact enough city. One day in Milan is not enough to visit its beautiful museums and enjoy its rich cultural life, but I believe it is enough to get a good sense of the city and see some of Milan’s must see attractions.
With one full day in the city, you will be able to see the area of the Duomo, La Scala and the fashion district and you may be able to visit one museum, before ending the day in one of Milan’s beautiful restaurants.
What’s the best way to get around Milan?
It is worth noticing that Linate, smaller, is very close to the city centre while Malpensa is very far.
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.
The best way to get around Milan city centre is on foot or by public transport.
Milan has a reliable network of trams, buses and metro. The ticket is the same for all of these options and can be bought at newsagents across the city and at metro stations.
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, also good months for day trips to famous localities in the area such as Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna and world famous Cinque Terre.
What is Milan best known for? Interesting fact about the city
- Milan is one of the world’s fashion capitals and is home to the headquarters of many high fashion brands, like Versace, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Armani just to name a few.
Fashion is hugely popular in the city and the Milanese are considered among the most fashion conscious (and stylish) in the whole of Italy.
For the visitor, this makes for a great excuse to show off your best outfit: there is no such thing as being overdressed here!
- Milan is a wealthy city. The highest income earners of Italy work in Milan.
- Milan is home to Europe’s largest opera house, La Scala, which attracts renown Directors, musicians and music lovers from all over the world.
- Milan is famous in Italy for being the home of what is now a national tradition: aperitivo.
The best area to stay in Milan
The best area to stay in Milan is the city centre and my personal favourite is the area is close to Castello Sforzesco.
This ares is well served by public transport, restaurants and shops, it is safe and allows you to walk to all majour sites.
I visited with a friend as we felt perfectly safe even at night and I would choose it again for a stay with family.
Accommodation options we were recommended in the area: Brera Apartments, Brera Prestige B&B and Eeasyhomes Brera-Madonnina (please note: these are affiliate link and will open a new window on the booking engine booking.com)
If you want to have a general idea of accommodation available in Milan, I find a good resource to be the price comparison and booking engine Hotels Combined.
If you enter your dates of travel and accommodation requirements, it pulls out data from many accommodation sites (including booking.com and TripAdvisor, among others) showing you the best price available for each property.
Where to eat in Milan
If you like eating out, Milan can be your personal slice of heaven.
From its famous aperitivo to full on meals, the choice is endless: the only limit is your imagination… and your budget (Milan can be really pricey)!
With so much choice, I will not even try to write a Milan food guide, but rather share the places we loved the most. From their number, you can guess both my friend and I love our food! Among the many good restaurants where to eat in Milan, we loved:
Light lunch/ snack
- Princi bakery (pizza, salads etc), perfect for Italian breakfast or lunch on the go
- Vianson (cheesy focaccia, delicious!), for a quick bite at lunchtime
- Parma and co (cured meats and mains), good for lunch especially if you get a seat on the streetside terrace
- La Rinascente bar (mainly for the view over il duomo), a bar ad cafe with a rooftop terrace overlooking the duomo
- Cinc Brera, bar with outdoor terrace in beautiful and stylish via della Madonnina- great for cocktails
- La Tartina, serving small plates and bites (tartina is a small piece of bread with topping)
- N‘ombra de vin a gorgeous cellar serving high-quality wines and a small selection of excellent main courses
- Il pescetto, an informal fish joint with super fresh ingredient: you order at the till and get served at the table
- La vecchia lira, just in front, perfect for a more traditional Italian meal
The same local friends who recommended these also recommended Officina 12 and Rebelot in the Navigli area: we didn’t have time to go there, but the source is reliable so I feel like including them in this list anyway.
What to see in Milan in one day
The most famous landmarks in Milan are famous for a reason and should not be missed.
The best way to visit Milan is walking and this is a good itinerary:
Castello Sforzesco is right in Milan city centre. Castello Sforzesco (=of the Sforza family) is one of the most important monuments in the city and for centuries it represented a symbol of power by both local and foreign rulers. Its development started in the year 1358 and it took about 10 years to complete.
A curiosity: when first built, Castello Sforzesco stood 591 feet tall, but because of many foreign invasions and reconstructions, its height is now 102 feet! Entrance to the main courtyard is free and worth it for the beautiful gardens.The castle hosts temporary exhibitions, advertised outside.
A few minutes walk from the Castle on the way to the Duomo. It’s a medieval square, secluded from the main busy commercial high street and gives a great sense of what Milan commerce must have looked like in the past
The Duomo is world famous and icon of the city of Milan. The Milan Duomo is the fourth largest cathedral in the world and is right in the centre of the city, beside the famous Galleria and walking distance from La Scala opera house.
Work on it was started by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the Duke of Milan, in 1385 and the cathedral took nearly 600 years to complete.
A very peculiar building because of its gothic style, not as common in Italy as is the North of Europe, it is worth a visit: explore the inside and then take the stairs (or the lift) to its roof for a close look to its imposing spires and a bird eye view over the city
Located just opposite the Duomo: this beautiful galleria is one of the most stylish buildings in Milan: Its official name is ‘galleria Vittorio Emanuele II’ and four-story double arcade now hosting shops, restaurants and hotels.
Milan Fashion District
Corso Vittorio, la scala, il quadrilatero della moda, via della madonnina make up Milan’s fashion district.
All these locations all walking distance from each other and easy to cover in a day without exhausting yourself. Walking from one to the other, you will see MIlan’s modern shopping street (Corso Vittorio), peek into Milan’s fashion scene and see some of the prettiest streets in town, via della Madonnina, which has an understated but unmissable elegance.
Corso Como and Piazza Gae Aulenti
For a taste of a more modern Milan, an interesting spot is Piazza Gae Aulenti: at the end of stylish Corso Como, this is an uber modern square, worth a visit for its architecture and fabulous shops.
If you venture that way, which that I highly recommend, make sure you stop at 10 Corso Como to peek at the casa di ringhiera there: it’s a very interesting house and if you linger outside for long enough, you are likely to run into a tour guide telling its story. Eavesdropping is free, while the same cannot be said about the coffee sold at the fancy coffee shop now hosted there. It’s extravagantly expensive, but ambiance and style are priceless…. or are they?
I’d love to hear your impressions of Milan: have you been? Is there a favourite place I missed? I hope you enjoyed this guide to Milan in one day: if so, please share it!