Our detailed guide to make the most of one day in Milan. Find out the best things to do in Milan in one day, full walking itinerary to hit the main landmarks and recommendations on where to eat in Milan.
In the last few years, I have found myself spending a good bit of time in Milan. My dad goes there for work often and always waxes lyrical about the city to such an extent it eventually made me curious.
I went for the first time a few years ago, with the handy help of a friend who studied there and therefore knows the city super well, and then I found myself there again for work and eventually for a family trip with the kids.
Each time, I only had one day in Milan but I always made it count.
Thanks to the insider help of my friend, the tips from my dad and some good old exploring I did myself, I always managed to have a great day in Milan and now I want to share some tips with you.
This is my guide to one perfect day in Milan!
Is one day in Milan enough?
In this article I will cover what to see in Milan, how to plan your day and I will share practical tips for visiting the city.
But first, let’s set the expectations right so you know what you can and cannot do with one day in Milan.
Milan is a big city but an easy one to enjoy even with limited time available.
Its city center is compact, its transport network excellent and many of Milan’s most famous attractions are in close proximity to each other, meaning you can see many of them in one day or even just a handful of hours.
To give you an idea: the duomo and famous gallery are literally beside each other (you can get them in the same shot if you are taking a photo!), the famous Scala theater is a few minutes up the road from them and the Sforzesco Castle is less than 10 minutes away.
This means that if you only have one day in Milan and want to get a good overview of the city’s main landmarks, you can easily do so.
If, instead of a quick overview, you want to dig into the city’s museums to see some of the city’s most peculiar neighborhoods outside of the centre, things change and you will need more time.
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One day in Milan: need to know before we start
Before I launch into my recommendations for one day in Milan, I want to mention the Last Supper, the masterpiece that brings so many visitors to the city.
Basically, what you need to know is that if you want to see the last supper you need to book very much in advance and make it the center of your trip, organizing the rest of your day around it.
While not difficult to visit per se, or too demanding, the problem with the last supper is that the tickets for it book our weeks if not months in advance and this means you may not have a choice of your preferred time.
My advice, if you intend to visit, is to book that first and adapt the rest of this itinerary around that commitment.
The easiest way to book tickets online for the last supper is to get tickets and tour here
What to see in Milano in one day?
This is my favourite way to spend one day in Milan.
Stop one: Milan duomo
Milan city center is dominated by the stunning Duomo di Milano, the large Ghothic cathedral you are likely to have seen in so many photos of the city.
The duomo is right in the historical center of the city and I love starting my day here as it always makes an impression, no matter how many times you have seen it.
If you are coming by metro from, for instance the central station, its view opens up in front of you as soon as you emerge from the underground passage and wow, you would need to be a really jaded tourist not to be impressed!
The Duomo of Milan in unique in its style and very different from other churches you may have already visited in Italy for many reasons.
First, the construction of the Duomo started in 1386 but lasted over 500 years!
This is a staggering amount of time even for a construction of this scale and several architects and visions concurred to its final look.
The dominant style, the one you notice straight away when you first see the duomo façade, is Gothic.
This is characterized by the tall spires that decorate the structure and also by the elaborate carving embellishing almost every inch of this church.
The outside of the duomo is for many the highlight of the trip but I do recommend also go inside as the church is truly beautiful and interesting.
Inside, you can easily spot the influences of the different architect’s hands that worked on the constructions of the church and you will also have the chance to see something unique: the stunning colorful windows that make the Milan duomo so special and the statues, the real gems of craftsmanship inside this church.
Climb the duomo terrace
After seeing the outside of the duomo and making time for its inside, I highly recommend you take the time to climb to the top of it too.
The roof of the duomo is accessible and it is surprisingly easy to visit even with a mild fear of heights.
You can get up there by stairs or lift (much better!) and what expects you on arrival is pretty unique: a close up and personal encounter with the Gothic spires of the church with a view over of the city of Milan as a backdrop!
The terrace is quite large and it is worth taking the time to enjoy it fully. The only downside to it its that it may get really busy so, if interested in going up, I highly recommend you buy tickets in advance here.
Should the crowd be too much or should you prefer a similar view but with a coffee in hand, I can recommend an alternative.
La Rinascente, the big department store just in front of the duomo, has a gorgeous roof top bar with fab views over the duomo and Milan. Not quite the same but free (unless you make an order) and definitely impressive!
Piazza del duomo
The duomo has probably stolen the show for you but before you head away from the piazza, do take the time to take in the other sights here.
On piazza duomo, on the right, you will find the Royal palace, the Museo del Novecento and, in the center, the statue to Vittorio Emanuele.
They are all worth a quick stop before you head to our next stop, the famous Milan galleria.
Just beside the duomo, to your left if looking at the façade, sits the famous Milano galleria, 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, probably the most photographed spot of the whole of the city after the duomo, and the other one is the image of a bull on its floor, built with mosaic tiles.
This last one can seem peculiar and indeed it is, especially once you hear the story about it!
When you enter the gallery you are likely to see a small (or big) groups of people in a circle, looking at something. What catches their attention is usually a person, adult of child, twirling with their hill digging into a specific spot on the floor.
Looking closely you will see that the heel is planted on the private parts of the mosaic bull (yes, you read that one right) and each person takes turns to twirl three times on it.
The reason for this is simple: legend says that if you twirl three times in this fashion, you will have good fortune!
Visit La Scala
The Gallery is beautiful to see but is a passageway more than a destination in itself and it leads from the duomo to the famous Scala theater.
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 of course to get tickets for a show (in that case, be ready to flaunt your best dress, there is a strict dress code) but if this is not in your plans, you can also just see the outside or take a tour of the inside.
Walk down Brera
After a stop in La scala I like to go to Brera, a lovely part of Milan filled with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Brera is probably my favourite part of Milan for one day in the city as it has some stunning streets that are beautiful yet intimate.
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.
I always like to come here for coffee or lunch: I will share some of my favourite addresses at the end of this post.
Explore modern Milan: Piazza Gae Aulenti
This next stop brings you a little out of Milan city center and is one you may want to tackle with the metro.
However, I don’t want this distance to scare you as I think this stop is really worth it – so much so, if I had to choose I would even prefer to come here than to go to the castle (see below), which is one of the most traditional and visited parts of the whole of Milan!
Piazza Gae Aulenti takes the name from its architect and is a modern marvel.
With my friends, we always joke that it looks like Dubai and indeed, its tall building and modern architecture make it a world away form the ancient charm of Milan city center, and in a very good sense.
This is a fantastic place to see a different side of Italy, whose modern architecture I feel is often overlooked.
It will also bring you nicely to our next stop, in between this piazza and the center: Corso Como.
Peek into case di ringhiera in Corso Como
Corso Como connects Piazza Gae Aulenti with Porta Garibaldi and is a great street to explore.
If you are hungry, you can easily find here lovely cafes and restaurants (Caffe Corso Como and California Bakery are only two of the many in the area I can recommend) but also hides a gem: a casa di ringhiera.
Case di ringhiera are peculiar buildings, typical of Milan and dating back to the beginning of the Twentieth century.
The buildings are characterized by balustrades or railings (In Italian: ringhiera) running across the width of the building, one per floor.
These houses were originally dormitories for the workers of the nearby factories but over the course of time have been re-purposed and are not architectural gems going for exceptionally high rent.
They are a little hidden from view and this adds to the charm –head to 10 Corso Como and see for yourself!
With a stop a the duomo, Piazza Gae Aulenti and the case di ringhiera, you get an incredible sense of how varied Milan really is!
From Corso Como you can walk or probably better take the metro back to the city center for your next stop: the famous Castello Sforzesco (Sforza castle)
The castle dates back to the XVI century and there are several ways you can enjoy it.
At the most simple level, which I believe is also the best if you only have one day in Milan, you can enjoy its courtyards and admire its outside from its grounds and Parco Sempione, nearby.
If instead you have time and love art, you should make time to visit the inside and take in the stunning masterpieces in its 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
Head to Piazza Mercanti
After a stop at the castle, I recommend you make your way back towards the duomo as this allows you to see a couple more interesting things.
The first one falls again in the realm of sightseeing and it is beautiful Piazza dei Mercanti, which is a stunning medieval square.
The second one hit the other thing Milan is famous for: shopping!
The street connecting the castle to Milano duomo is full of high street shops and a paradise for mid-budget shoppers who may want to get a piece of Milan fashion but cannot afford the labels and designers showcasing their creations in Via Montenapoleone and il Quadrilatero della moda.
Milan Fashion District (Quadrilatero della moda)
For those who can or for those who can’t but are curious, the last stop of our day brings us to Via Montenapoeleone (aka: Il salotto di Milano, Milan’s sitting room), the hear of fashionista Milan.
Milan is all fashionable but this is the area where you have all the main labels and the real fashion artistry happens.
The street in itself is nothing special, this is not an area you come to unless you are into fashion, but for clothes and fashion lovers, it is a real treat.
Here you have amazing shop windows, elegant boutiques and you are most likely to fins fashion people such as models.
You see a staggering Amount of them in Milan, especially during fashion week, and it makes for great people watching!
Milan in one day last stop: la darsena
During this day in Milan I have got you to walks extensively and this means by the evening time you will be well ready to indulge in a proper Milanese dinner.
The best way to do so is to head to I Navigli, probably the most popular and famous area of Milan for evening entertainment.
I navigli are famous in Milan as they are a part of the city on water: while I will not go as far as comparing this part of Milan with Venice, i navigli developed over canals and now are a lovely area for al fresco dining and evening aperitivo.
This is the best place to end your day In Milan and one that will complete your one day tour of the city.
Other things you can do in Milano in one day
- Take a hop on hop off bus tour: check itinerary and price here
- Football lovers should not miss a tour of San Siro stadium: check what is included in the visit here
- In good weather, consider discovering Milano by bike: check options here
- Admire the masterpieces in the Brera art gallery: find info and tickets here
- If you are in Milan on a hot day, consider taking a break in the lovely Giardini della Guastalla, a tiny but stunning park with fountains and statues. This is a lovely place for a break and a small oasis of peace in the center of Milan
- If you are into architecture, venture just to the other side of ‘quadrilatero della moda’ and marvel at some of the buildings in elegant Viale Majno. They are covered in stunning vegetation and they are among the most expensive in the city – if you fantasize of living the life in Milan, this is the place to do it!
- Architecture lovers should not miss Palazzo Arcivescovile, just beside the duomo, and its stunning inner cloister
- If you want to get a sense of how dynamic cultural life can be in Milan, look no further than Fondazione Prada. Here, under the patronage of Miuccia Prada and Maurizio Bertelli, you can discover new artists and see masterpieces of contemporary artists.
What to eat in Milan
Milan has excellent food, of all kinds. Some of the specialties you must not miss when visiting Milan are as follows.
Risotto alla Milanese
I start form a classic: risotto! In Milan you find all types of risotto and if you never had risotto in Italy before , this is the place to get it.
You will find it offered in many forms and with the most varied flavors but the traditional one that takes the name form the city is the one with saffron, with its distinctive yellow color.
To make it even more special order it with ossbuco, another Milanese specialty you cannot miss in the city.
‘Bollito’ means ‘boiled’ or ‘poached’ and is a meat dish made with several cuts cooked, as the name suggest, though boiling. It is a simple and absolutely irresistible dish, served with several sauces on the side.
Trippa alla Milanese
La trippa (interiors) are one of those plates that divide people but if you are on the adventurous side, a plate of this is worth it!
I am not one of the adventurous ones in this case (my dad is however a fan) and I am told a great place for it is Antica Trattoria La Pesa (Via Pasubio 10)
Cotoletta alla Milanese
If the Viennese have a snitzle, the Milanese have the cotoletta, a thin cut of veal breaded and fried, a favorite with adults and kids alike.
Where to eat in Milan?
Milan has a huge amount of places to eat and the ones hat follow are only some of those we find ourselves over and over again when in the city.
Breakfast in Milan
For breakfast in Milan, check out:
- Pavé, Via Felice Casati 27
- Bianco Latte, Via Filippo Turati 30
- Panini Durini, several locations in Milan
- Bar Luce (in Fondazione Prada)
- Gattullo, PIazzale di Porta Lodovica
RELATED: before you go, you may want to read what a typical Italian breakfast looks like
Lunch / snack in Milan
- California bakery, several locations
Princi bakery (pizza, salads etc): very expensive but also very nice bakery right in the center of town.
- Obica Mozzarella bar, several locations
- Baobab organic burger, Corso Garibaldi 12
- La Rinascente bar and cafe, beside the duomo
- Briscola Pizza society, several locations
Aperitivo is a must in Milan. Places worth checking out are:
- Cinc Brera, bar with outdoor terrace in beautiful and stylish via della Madonnina- great for cocktails but they also serve coffee and lovely non alcoholic drinks such as chinotto: a must have!
- 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.
- Radetky, café during the day and bar at night
- Signorvino, with excellent wines and apertitivo in the duomo area
- Il pescetto (fish), Via Alessandro Volta, 9
- La Vecchia lira (Traditional), Largo la foppa, 5
- Aquarius (fish), Corso Sempione 49
- Temakinho (Brazilian-Japanese fusion) Addresses in Brera and Navigli
- Posto di convrsazione (pasta, traditional): Naviglio Grande
How to best visit Milan in one day: practicalities
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.
RELATED: You can find more info about weather in Milan and what to expect in each season here.
One day in Milan: how to get from the airport to the city center?
If you are spending the night in Milan, you can skip this paragraph as you will already be in the center of town.
However, if you are planning on arriving to Milan in the morning, and start your day from the airport, you may want to take a minute to read it.
It will save you lots of headaches and will make your one day in Milan go smoother!
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 don’t like the idea of taking the metro, you can easily just explore the city center of foot, resting assured you can see many landmarks this way.
If you can however, I do recommend using the metro (or the tram) to cover bigger distances as the additional areas will add very much to your itinerary and experience.
If you only need the public transport system for the occasional hop, I recommend you simply get a ticket before boarding the metro (the stations are all equipped with machines, they usually accept both cash and card).
If you want to have more flexibility and think you may want to visit museums and attractions inside, you can instead consider the Milan card
If you want to save time, you can also get the Milano Card here, which includes public transport and gives you discounts on several museums and attractions.
What is Milan best known for? Interesting fact about the city
Milan is a fashion capital
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.
The best area to catch a glimpse of their creations is the so called ‘Quadrilatero della moda’, a city center neighborhood with all the most famous boutiques.
You are never overdressed in Milan
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 great for music lovers
Milan is home to Europe’s largest opera house, La Scala, which attracts renown Directors, musicians and music lovers from all over the world.
From the outside, La Scala doesn’t seem a particular impressive theater but don’t let its plain exterior fool you: the inside of the theater is stunning and on gala and concert night a very strict elegant dress code is enforced.
Milan used to be on water
Milan used to have many canals connecting the Ticino river with lake Como and Maggiore. The canals were built over 700 years and were completed in the XIX century. however, they were soon closed to make space for cars and nowadays only a few of them are left (Naviglio Grande, Naviglio pavese, Naviglio Martesana)
Leonardo da Vinci built the first water lock in Milan
Leonardo lived in Milan for many years and produced here many of its creations. As well as the Last supper, the most famous of all in Milan, he built here the first water lock, in use in the Navigli.
Milan dates back to 600 B.C.
Milan has the oldest skyscraper in Italy
Milan was the first city in Italy to have its own skyscraper, the Grattacielo Pirelli
Milan has an incredible tram network
The Milan tram network is famous for being one of the most developed in Western Europe and it is still functioning
Milan is great for football lovers
As it is the home of two of important Italian football teams: Milan and Inter
I hope you enjoyed my recommendations and tips for visiting Milan in one day. Safe travels!