If you’re traveling around Europe, you’ll find that Milan Malpensa has flights to lots of destinations all over the continent. It seems to be one of the cheaper airports to fly in and out of, so it’s naturally a popular spot for a layover. You may also find yourself briefly visiting Milan if you’re heading to Cinque Terre or Lake Como, two of the most beautiful places in Italy.
Milan is not my favorite Italian city, I’ll be honest. It doesn’t have the wow factor for me like Venice and Rome. The Duomo and the main square are very impressive, but after you’ve covered those things there aren’t as many attractions to see. It’s also known for being rather grey, with gloomy skies and grey buildings to match.
That being said, you can still have a very nice time on your one day in Milan. I’ve been twice now and both times I enjoyed it. I just wouldn’t opt to spend several days here. Obviously this is just my opinion though and I’m sure there are lots of people who would disagree with me.
The following one day Milan itinerary covers the top sights plus an evening in Navigli. You can walk all of it on foot, although you might need to hop on the metro to get into the city if you’re staying further out. Try to get up early so you can cover as much ground as possible in one day.
Milan Itinerary 1 Day
To give you a quick overview, this is a map of your walking route:
Definitely make sure you wear comfy sneakers and if you’re visiting in summer, bring a water bottle because it can get very hot. My gelato melted in about 10 seconds!
Start your day at Castello Sforzesco, which was originally a fortress built by the Viscontis. It was later the residence of the Sforza dynasty – the ruling family of Renaissance Italy. The Sforza Castle now houses museums libraries, galleries and exhibitions.
The Pinacoteca art gallery features works by artists such as Mantegna, Cesare da Sesto, Canaletto and Bellotto, whilst the Museo d’Arte Antica boasts masterpieces from Rondanini Pietà and Michelangelo.
From the castle make your way to the Duomo, which is a jaw-dropping gothic cathedral dominating Piazza del Duomo. It’s the largest Cathedral in Italy boasting 135 spires and 3,400 statues. It was commissioned in 1386 by Gian Galeazzo Visconti but took around 500 years to complete, only being finished in the 1880s.
Make sure to climb the steps and take a walk along the roof so you can see the marble pinnacles up close and absorb the panoramic view of Milan. The view is a highlight of any trip to Milan.
If you choose to take the stairs access costs €9 or if you take the elevator up it costs €14.
Lunch Near the Duomo
By this point you might be feeling a bit peckish, so you could eat lunch somewhere close by. There are a bunch of restaurants close to the Piazza del Duomo and some have terraces with Duomo views. Try one of these:
Alternatively if you’d prefer some grab and go food to save time (and money), head to Spontini, which is a pizza-by-the-slice chain that was started in 1953 by the Banti family. Spontini serves the famous “sfincione”, which is a modern take on the Sicilian pizza. The pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven and topped with tomatoes, onions and anchovies.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Next, walk through the grandiose Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. This shopping arcade connects Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala and has a beautiful glass and iron dome ceiling.
Built in the 19th century, the Galleria consists of two arcades shaped like a Latin cross and is one of the most beautiful shopping centers in the world. Here you can find several restaurants as well as luxury fashion boutiques including brands such as Prada and Gucci.
Beneath the central dome you can see an interesting mosaic featuring the Savoy coat of arms and animals that represent some of Italy’s major cities. Supposedly if you put your right foot on the bull and turn 360 degrees with your eyes closed you’ll have good luck!
Piazza della Scala
Piazza della Scala is the second most famous square in Milan after Piazza del Duomo and can be accessed by walking through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
To the northwest of the square you’ll see the opera house Teatro alla Scala and in front of you you’ll see Palazzo della Banca Commerciale Italiana, which is one of Milan’s oldest banks. To the southeast of the square lies Milan’s city hall, Palazzo Marino. The statue in the center of the square is a monument of Leonardo da Vinci by sculptor Peitro Magni.
Milan is considered by many to be the Fashion Capital of the World and is certainly the fashion capital of Italy. No trip to Milan would be complete without seeing the famous shopping street Via Montenapoleone, which is lined with designer stores and boutiques.
You’ll find famous luxury brands here such as Gucci, Valentino, Prada, Cartier, Dolce and Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Dior. Of course, these brands are very expensive but it’s still fun to gaze at the window displays and observe stylish Italians strolling up and down the street.
If you’re looking for a more affordable shopping street, Via Torino is where you’ll find high street brands such as Zara, H&M and Mango.
Cocktails at Bar Martini
Not far from Via Montenapoleone you’ll find Bar Martini which is a collaboration by Martini® and Dolce&Gabbana. It’s a great place to rest your legs and enjoy aperitivo. Try their version of the Aperol Spritz, called DG Spritz 2.0, which contains ginger infused gin and lemon rosolio to add a little twist. The menu also features an entire section dedicated to Martini cocktails.
This bar/restaurant is ultra chic, with dark interiors and D&G dragon flooring. It also has a beautiful courtyard garden where you can sit outside. I love this spot and it’s one of my favorite things to do in Milan.
Dinner in Navigli
The highlight of my 24 hours in Milan was dinner in the Navigli area of the city. This pretty area along the canal is popular with the locals and is full of restaurants, bars and cafés. You can find plenty of reasonably priced food here and aperitivo time runs from around 6pm to 9pm. As it’s a little further out, you’ll need to take a taxi or a tram to get there.
You choose the drink you want, pay a set amount and then help yourself to food from the buffet at the bar, which usually consists of pasta, pizza slices, salad, cold meats etc. During the summer all the young Milanese sit outside with a cocktail and plastic plates of food.
Getting to Milan
Milan’s main airport is Milan Malpensa International Airport (MXP), which handles long-haul international flights. There are also two other airports – Milan Linate (LIN) which is close to the city center and Bergamo (BGY), which is is located 30 miles east of Milan. Linate is mostly for domestic flights within Italy while Bergamot is popular with low cost carriers coming from around Europe and the UK.
Your other option for getting to Milan is the train. The main station is called Milano Centrale and is the largest train station in Europe by volume. Trenitalia is the main website, or you can book using ItaliaRail, Omio or Rail Europe.
How to Get Around Milan
If your hotel is near the Duomo then you’ll be able to just walk around Milan because the attractions are all close to each other.
If you’re staying further out you’ll need to take taxis or public transportation. The network of buses, subways and trams is called the ATM and is inexpensive. A single urban ticket will cost you just €1.50. You’ll probably only find yourself using the subway, which will take you to all the main attractions. If you plan on staying longer than a day, you could get a book of 10 tickets, which costs €13.80.
Where to Stay on Your One Day in Milan
Since you only have one day in Milan it would be ideal to stay downtown but obviously things get more expensive the closer to the Duomo you get. Here I’ve selected a few options, including boutique hotels and hostels to cover all budgets.
Vico Milano – Chic boutique guesthouse located on the site of a former factory that produced the legendary Legnano racing bikes. The hotel features a gym and a speakeasy-style bar serving organic wines, curated cocktails and Italian snacks.
VIU Hotel Milan – This chic hotel has an outdoor pool, which is perfect if you’re visiting in summertime and want to escape the heat. Rooms are stylish and tastefully decorated in neutral tones.
Aethos Milan – A 32-room boutique hotel and private members club located in the popular Navigli district. Rooms are soundproofed and feature vintage furniture and rejuvenating beauty products. Most also have private balconies. The hotel also boasts a restaurant serving modern Italian cuisine and a bar where expert mixologists throw together craft cocktails.
Moscova Luxury B&B – Bed and breakfast located in the Brera Design District in the heart of Milan. Rooms are modern and quiet, with comfy beds and extra-large mattresses. If you book directly through the hotel’s website you’ll receive free breakfast and parking.
The Square – Located close to the Duomo, The Square’s facilities include meeting spaces, a lounge bar and a restaurant serving gourmet cuisine. Rooms are modern and comfortable with en-suite marble bathrooms.
Palazzo Cornalia – Palazzo Cornalia has a luxurious feel, with lots of brass, marble and velvet throughout its interiors. The hotel offers 36 stylish rooms including deluxe rooms, the elegant suites and the intimate lofts.
Ostello Bello Grande – With an enviable location just 100 meters from Milan Central Railway station, this hostel is located just a short walk from Piazza Duomo. If you’re arriving into Milan by train, you won’t have to walk very far to get to your hostel. There’s a 24/7 bar, breakfast buffet, free fruit and coffee, plus Italian aperitivo and tapas.
Queen Hostel – Situated in the center of Milan on Viale Regina Margherita, Queen Hostel has a 24/7 bar, free breakfast, Happy Hour, free walking tours and free WiFi.
YellowSquare Milan -Yellowsquare Milan is located in Porta Romana district of Milan. Facilities include co-working spaces, a concert hall and a nightclub in a desacralized chapel.
Babila Hostel & Bistrot – Housed in a neo-Gothic building from 1895, Babila Hostel often hosts live music events, art exhibitions, karaoke and table-football matches. The hostel also features co-working spaces and a restaurant open for lunch and dinner.
Best Time to Visit Milan
My first visit to Milan was in the middle of August when it was swelteringly hot. Most of the locals actually vacate the city during July and August and head off on vacation to the beach. The second time I visited Milan I went in April when the spring weather was much nicer. I wore a light jacket in the evening and could see the sights without sweating.
The best time to visit Milan would be the spring months of April/May or the autumn months of September and October. November to March can get chilly and foggy so you would definitely need to pack some warm clothes. If you travel in November, take an umbrella or a light rain jacket as this is the wettest month of the year.
Your FAQs About Milan, Answered
Yes one day is enough to see the major highlights. There aren’t as many attractions in Milan as places like Venice, Rome or Florence and the city center is quite walkable. If you’re into art though, you may want to spend 2 days in Milan so you can visit some of the museums. With two days you can get more of a feel of Milan and explore more foodie spots too.
Milan is mostly walkable if you’re just sticking to the downtown area and major attractions. However, the city of Milan measures 70 square kilometers, so if you’re staying further out you’ll need to take the subway, which is easy and inexpensive.
Any city is worth seeing once. While Milan isn’t as exciting as Rome or Venice, the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are beautiful and worth a visit. If you’re into fashion and shopping you should definitely check out Milan as it’s the fashion capital of Italy.
Start by visiting the Castello Sforzesco, then walk to Piazza del Duomo to see the famous Duomo. Afterwards, walk through Milan’s 19th century arcade, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and out to Piazza della Scala. Next, visit Via Montenapoleone, the most famous shopping street in Milan. Grab a cocktail at Martini Bar, then spend your evening in the area of Navigli, which is full of restaurants, bars and cafés lined up alongside a pretty canal.
Milan is the most expensive city in Italy and is home to lots of designer stores and luxury boutiques. You’ll pay a premium if you want to stay or dine close to the Duomo. If you’re visiting on a budget you can still do Milan cheaply by grabbing pizza-by-the-slice and just window shopping and wandering the city.
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