One Day in Milan: Perfect Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

Last Updated on September 12, 2023 by Goya

One Day in Milan: An Ode to Italy

Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore in Milan, Italy

Milan, the fashion-forward capital of Northern Italy, is a city that effortlessly blends historical charm with modern sophistication.

She greets you courteously but aloof like a true cosmopolitan city. It’s a nice change of pace that makes you appreciate what a multi-faceted country Italy truly is: From romantic Rome to charming Tuscany, to modern Milan, each with its own distinct flavour but all built around the very same core which unites them and makes them so authentically Italian.

If Tuscany is a fresh-out-of-the-oven focaccia still giving off a warm fragrance of olive oil, Milan is like a cold crisp glass of white that goes perfectly with it.

From its iconic landmarks and world-renowned fashion scene to its delectable cuisine and vibrant culture, Milan offers a plethora of experiences that will captivate any traveller.

This blog post will guide you through a perfect day in Milan, highlighting the best things to do, where to stay, the best time to visit, and an exciting itinerary to help you make the most of your time in this enchanting city.

Bike parked on the street on a beautiful day in Milan, Italy
Photo by Pedro Sanz

This blog post was originally crafted as part #8 of an Interrail Journey Series back in 2017, where my brother and I traversed through (then) bucket list destinations including Amsterdam, Bruges and Rome.

But you know how it goes; times change, and so does travel. That’s why this post didn’t just stay stuck in the past. It’s had a bit of a face-lift and has been pumped full of up-to-date info as of August 2023.

Whether you’re a familiar face or stumbled upon my little corner of the internet, get ready for a real treat — the freshest insights on how to spend a day in Milan are coming your way. Feeling hungry for more travel tidbits? Well, why not dive into my buffet of EuroTravel posts?

Can Milan Be Done In A Day?

While Milan offers a wealth of attractions and experiences, it is indeed possible to enjoy a fulfilling day in the city, especially for those on a tight schedule or a layover. By focusing on the must-see highlights and optimizing your time, you can immerse yourself in Milan’s charm and leave with a sense of fulfilment.

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One Day in Milan Itinerary: What to See & Do

Wondering how to spend one day in Milan? This bustling metropolis of fashion, culture, and history, may seem like a challenge to conquer in just one day. However, with careful planning and a well-structured itinerary, you can capture the essence of this vibrant city and create unforgettable memories!

You can start your day by exploring historic sightseeing attractions, such as Piazza del Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and Sforza Castle. The afternoon is the best time to enjoy the city’s design scene or museums. You can head to Brera for high-end shopping and the Pinacoteca di Brera for great art. In the evening, hit the trendy Navigli district for aperitivo and Milanese nightlife.

Morning: Exploring the Historic Heart of Milan

Start Your Day with an Early Breakfast

Start your day with a trip to one of Milan’s many bakeries and cafes to enjoy a typical Italian breakfast with a nice cup of coffee, to energize yourself for the day ahead.

In Italy, it’s considered uncommon to enjoy coffee with milk at any other time of the day, making the morning the ideal moment to savour a cappuccino.

Visit Piazza del Duomo & Duomo di Milano

Milano Cathedral / Duomo di Milano

Begin your exploration at Piazza Del Duomo, home to some of Milan’s most important monuments including the Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) — A lavish and iconic Gothic masterpiece, an architectural equivalent of a pair of white Jimmy Choo Avelines, that dominates the city’s skyline.

Climb to the rooftop to marvel at breathtaking panoramic views of Milan.

While we (sadly) we didn’t have the time to climb up, I have read that you can actually see the Alps from its spires on a clear day.

Getting Tickets for the Duomo

Sure, you can stand in line to buy tickets at the Duomo for your visit to the cathedral and its incredible rooftops, but trust me, those lines can get pretty long. It is one of Milan’s top attractions, after all! So, if you’re looking to maximize your time (and let’s face it, who has extra time when you’ve got just one day in Milan?), it is a smart move to book skip-the-line tickets ahead of time.

Go for Retail Therapy in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Walk to the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a stunning 19th-century shopping arcade adorned with intricate mosaics. This is the perfect place for some high-end shopping or window browsing.

Don’t forget to spin on the bull’s mosaic for good luck!

The famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Afterwards, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the charming streets, absorbing the city’s morning buzz.

Late Morning: Art and Culture

Wander Through Brera District

Walking from Piazza del Duomo to your next stop (Sforza Castle) in Milan offers a delightful detour through the enchanting Brera District.

As you leave the bustling square behind, you’ll meander through picturesque streets lined with historic buildings, boutiques, art galleries, and inviting cafes.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Pinacoteca di Brera for a dose of Italian art, and take a moment of tranquillity in the Giardino di Brera.

Eventually, you’ll arrive at the majestic Sforza Castle, an imposing historical fortress housing museums and art collections, making this stroll a captivating blend of culture and history that embodies Milan’s unique charm.

Visit Sforza Castle

A visit to Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) in the heart of Milan is a step into the city’s rich history. Originally constructed by the influential Sforza family in the 15th century, this imposing fortress has transformed over the years into a cultural treasure trove.

Within its walls, you’ll find a remarkable array of museums, including the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, housing celebrated Italian artworks, and the Museum of Ancient Art, showcasing medieval relics. The inner courtyard, adorned with sculptures, offers a serene respite, while the castle’s rooftop terraces provide panoramic city views.

A visit to Sforza Castle is a captivating journey through Milan’s past, where history, art, and architecture converge in a compelling exploration of the city’s heritage.

Explore Sempione Park and the Arch of Peace

Regardless of whether you choose to explore the castle museum, be sure to stroll to the castle’s far end during your visit to reach Sempione Park. Milan’s largest park, it offers free entry and is particularly inviting on sunny days, providing an ideal setting to unwind.

At the park’s conclusion, you’ll discover the Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace), an elegant triumphal arch constructed in the 19th century. While it bears some resemblance to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, it stands as a splendid Milanese landmark deserving of a brief visit.

Lunch: Savoring Milanese Cuisine

While in Milan, don’t forget to indulge in a sumptuous Italian lunch at a local trattoria. Sample classic dishes like risotto alla Milanese or ossobuco, and savour the rich flavours of Milanese cuisine, paired with a glass of wine.

No time to stop? Following a different route? Go for a quick bite in Spontini for a thick slice of mind-blowing gooey goodness that sets us up for the rest of the day:

Giant slice of pizza at Spontini in Milan, Italy

Afternoon: Cultural Highlights

Check Out “The Last Supper” at Santa Maria delle Grazie

After lunch, make your way to Santa Maria delle Grazie to witness Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper”,

Discover “The Last Supper” at Santa Maria delle Grazie

A visit to Milan would be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Santa Maria delle Grazie, home to one of the world’s most iconic artworks, “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. This historic Renaissance church is not only a marvel of architecture but also a sacred space that holds the essence of art and faith.

Inside the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, you’ll encounter “The Last Supper,” a masterwork that transcends time. Leonardo da Vinci’s meticulous fresco captures the poignant moment of Jesus Christ’s last meal with his disciples, exhibiting unparalleled attention to detail, expressions, and light play. The painting’s remarkable preservation and its emotional resonance continue to captivate visitors.

To fully appreciate this masterpiece, it’s crucial to plan ahead. Due to the artwork’s delicate nature, only a limited number of visitors are allowed at a time, and reservations are highly recommended.

It is no secret that seeing one of Da Vinci’s most influential – and perhaps even the most controversial – work is no easy feat. Due to the artwork’s delicate nature, only a limited number of visitors are allowed at a time, so reservations are highly recommended. If you were late to book however, you can try your luck with a city pass or city tour that includes a ticket to see The Last Supper:

Explore Columns of St. Lawrence (Colonne di San Lorenzo)

After your visit to Santa Maria delle Grazie, consider making your way past the Columns of St. Lawrence (Colonne di San Lorenzo). These ancient Roman columns stand as enduring symbols of the city’s rich history.

Columns of St. Lawrence (Colonne di San Lorenzo) in Milan

Located in a bustling square, this archaeological site not only offers a glimpse into Milan’s past but also provides a vibrant atmosphere, especially in the evenings when it becomes a hub for local gatherings and socializing. It’s a perfect spot to soak in the city’s energy and continue your journey through Milan’s cultural and historical treasures.

Evening: Aperitivo and Nightlife

Indulge in Milan’s Aperitivo Culture

In the evening, don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the beloved Milanese tradition of aperitivo. Milan takes this pre-dinner ritual to a whole new level, and you can partake in the experience at a trendy bar or café, perhaps even at a chic venue like Terrazza Duomo 21.

The view from Terrazza Duomo 21 in Milan
The view from Terrazza Duomo 21: The most perfect place for people watching with a cocktail in hand.

Here, you’ll find not just refreshing drinks but also an array of delectable appetizers that range from classic Italian bites to creative fusion cuisine. The ambience is as captivating as the food, with stunning views and a lively atmosphere that perfectly captures the essence of Milan’s cosmopolitan spirit.

Aperitivo is more than just a meal; it’s a social event, a chance to unwind, and a delightful way to savour the flavours of Milan in the most stylish and convivial manner.

Explore Navigli District

If you find yourself with an evening to spare in Milan, venturing out to the enchanting Navigli district is an excellent choice. Renowned for its picturesque canals and lively ambience, Navigli offers a unique and romantic setting to explore.

Navigli, Milan
Photo by Nicholas Loh

Take a leisurely stroll along the charming waterways, where the historic bridges and colourful buildings create a captivating atmosphere. As you wander, don’t miss the opportunity to peruse the quaint local shops, art galleries, and boutiques that line the canal banks.

Navigli comes alive in the evening, with restaurants, bars, and cafes offering a wide array of dining and entertainment options, making it a perfect destination for a memorable night out in Milan.

Enjoy An Evening of Entertainment in Milan

Indulging in Milan’s rich cultural scene during the evening can be a truly enriching experience. A visit to the historic Teatro alla Scala is a must for lovers of classical music and opera, where you can witness world-class performances in a setting steeped in history.

Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for contemporary tunes, Milan’s vibrant live music scene has you covered with a plethora of venues featuring diverse musical genres.

From jazz clubs to intimate acoustic settings, the city offers a range of options to suit every musical taste, ensuring you’ll find the perfect soundtrack to your Milanese night out.

Grab an Ice Cream Ahead of Your Next Adventure

Or, like us, after soaking in the beauty of the cathedral one last time, you can make your way back to the station via the beautiful La Scala (Teatro alla Scala) with a delicious GROM ice cream in hand and leave the city to its rightful owners now leaving work and ready for the evening.

Locals and tourists outside of La Scala (Teatro alla Scala) in Milan
Having ice cream at GROM is one of the best things to do during your one day in Milan!

One Day in Milan [Mapped]

Practical Information: Visiting Milan

Best Time to Visit Milan

The best time to visit Milan is from April to June when the weather is warm, but not too hot. During the summer months, Milan can get extremely hot, and many restaurants and shops close during August, when locals take their vacations.

Where to Stay in Milan

For the best experience, stay in the city centre so that you can easily access all the major attractions. Some great options include hotels near Piazza del Duomo and Brera. If you’re on a budget, check out some great hostels around the city.

Getting Around Milan

The best way to get around Milan is on foot. Most of the top sights in Milan are within walking distance of each other. Alternatively, you can take the metro, trams, and buses, which are well-connected throughout the city.

Practical Tips for Visiting Milan

Make sure to pack appropriately for the weather. It gets warm during summer, so carry a hat and sunscreen. Wear comfortable shoes, especially if you’re planning to walk around the city. To save money, get a Milano Card. The card gives you access to public transport, a free drink and discounts at restaurants and museums.

Tram in Milan

Final Thoughts: One Day in Milan

Milan offers an enchanting blend of history, art, fashion, and gastronomy that is sure to captivate every traveller. From admiring the architectural marvels to indulging in culinary delights and immersing yourself in cultural experiences, Milan promises an unforgettable day filled with elegance and sophistication.

Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast, an art lover, or a history buff, a day in Milan will leave you with cherished memories and a longing to return to this splendid Italian city.

If you’re visiting the city for a longer period, feel free to explore Milan at your own pace, and don’t forget to try some delicious Italian cuisine along the way.

Next stop: Venice!



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Welcome to my little corner for all things London, travel, food and wine! Why not join me on Instagram where you can follow my travel- and food-capades in real-time? Or leave a comment/send a message? I would love to hear from you! Lots of love, GG

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  1. Your post immersed me into the wonderful atmosphere of Milan! Separately thanks for the wonderful photos

    Posted 9.10.22 Reply
    • Goya wrote:

      So glad to hear that – thank you for taking the time to read and comment! 🙂

      Posted 10.17.22 Reply