Known as the Italian capital of fashion and design, Milan never fails when it comes to setting trends. The streets of this northern Italian metropolis boast beauty and offer a sublime mix of historical and contemporary architecture with the imposing Duomo Cathedral at the centre of it. Wide avenues, picturesque cobblestone alleys, canal promenades and high-tech developments intersect one another. You would need at least a week to explore properly all of the city’s great sights and hidden gems, but if you plan it right, one day in Milan could be a great start.
What’s the best time to visit Milan?
Milan has a continental climate, which means cold and grey winters and hot and humid summers. Sunshine is rare from October to February, so better pick the warmer months. Given the city’s location in the Po Valley, summers can be unbearably hot with no wind at all. Therefore, if you cannot stand strong heat, skip July and August. That’s also the time of the year with the biggest tourist crowds. Ideally, the best months to visit would be May and September.
a Few facts about Milan
Milan is a city in northern Italy and the second-most populous city in the country. It is recognized as the world’s fashion and design capital, being a host to Milan Fashion Week and Milan Furniture Fair. Other than that, it is an important art, commerce, education, entertainment, finance, healthcare, media, research and tourism centre and one of the wealthiest cities in the EU. Milan houses many museums and art galleries that boast some of the most important works in art history, including the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. The two famous Italian football teams, A.C. Milan and Inter Milan, play their matches on San Siro stadium.
One Day in Milan Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Milan.
Visit the Duomo cathedral and Piazza Duomo right in the morning
The Duomo cathedral stands as one of the most impressive Gothic style cathedrals in the world and the highlight of Milan attractions. Reach the Piazza Duomo square early in the morning to enjoy the cathedral’s imposing facade in the vast square without huge crowds.
The interior brings super-high Gothic vaults, ornate columns and incredible Italian marble. Climb the cathedral rooftop for a stunning city view and more impressive carving closeups. However, expect long lines at any time of the year or purchase a skip-the-line pass.
Check out Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Right next to the Piazza Duomo, you’ll find Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest and most luxurious Italian shopping mall, a temple of high-end shopping and outdoor cafes. Built in 1877, the gallery is named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy.
Finest facade details, soaring iron-and-glass dome and the floor mosaics make it an incredible place to walk around. To avoid bad luck in life, find the bull mosaic in the centre of the gallery, put your heel in the bull’s groin and turn backwards three times.
Stroll Via Dante
Via Dante is a nice pedestrian street, pretty close to Piazza Duomo where you can eat your breakfast or just sit for a bit, drink your morning espresso and people watch. A great place for those interested in shopping, since the street is lined with fashion retail stores.
Visit the Brera neighborhood
Brera is the artsy neighborhood and one of the trendy areas of Milan. It’s famous for its fashionable cafes and restaurants, cobblestone streets and hip designer stores. You’re probably hungry by now and luckily in the Brera neighborhood you have plenty of choice. Pick one of the restaurants or trattorias along the street and order one of the traditional Milanese specialties: osso bucco (cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth) and risotto alla milanese (saffron-gilded risotto). After lunch, head to Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan’s well known painting gallery. Its collection of works includes several of the greatest masterpieces in the art history.
Explore Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione
Castello Sforzesco is the medieval castle that used to be a home of the Sforza family, the Dukes of Milan. Today, the castle houses numerous museums and art collections. However, since you’re limited by time, you can just explore the castle’s grounds, since they are free of charge, and pass through the courtyard to the Parco Sempione, Milan’s biggest and most beautiful park. Stroll through the park, buy some refreshments from the stalls and take some time to relax.
Visit La Triennale
One of the most iconic museums in Milan is La Triennale di Milano, a design and art museum housed in Palazzo dell’Arte in Parco Sempione. The extensive permanent collection showcases the history of Italian design, but the museum never fails to impress with its ambitious temporary exhibitions.
Spend the night in Navigli
Located around the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese canals, Navigli is the area packed with trendy bars, restaurants and cafes. Whether you’re into restaurant dining, or you just want to eat delicious cheese and salami platter at La Prosciutteria Milano Navigli (this is a must try!), you’ll find plenty of choice. If you opt for cocktails, there’s no better Italian classic than Aperol Spritz.
Where to stay in Milan?
B&B Hotel Milano Sant’Ambrogio
Via Olivetani 4, Milan City Center
B&B Hotel Milano Sant’Ambrogio is a stylish and modern hotel, located quite close to the city center. It’s walking distance to the Castello Sforzesco and Duomo Cathedral. Fine design, bright and modern rooms make it a perfect for all types of visitors. Some of the rooms have a terrace with a nice city view. The hotel features nicely decorated shared lounge.
Room Mate Giulia
Silvio Pellico 4, Milan City Center
Room Mate Giulia is a trendy hotel with exceptional interior decor. It is perfectly located – only a few steps from the Duomo Cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. All the rooms offer modern-style décor and designer furnishings, and some have a furnished terrace. The hotel features a fitness centre with a sauna.
Via Medici 4, Milan City Center
Ostello Bello is a charming, centrally located hostel, only a short walk to Duomo Cathedral. It offers an affordable stay in both private rooms and dormitories. The hostel features colorful decor and three furnished terraces with hammocks.
Day trips from Milan
Milan is truly an amazing city, and what is there to say about Italy that hasn’t been said already? You really should explore this beautiful country as much as you can. Day trips from Milan are an excellent way to do that.
Lake Como is situated at the foot of the Alps, so prepare yourself for some amazing photo opportunities. The town of Como is a pretty little place with lots of luxurious villas right next to the lake. Don’t miss out on the lake cruise because it’s really something special to observe the Alps from the boat. After that take a stroll enjoy what a true Italian town and maybe pick up a souvenir or two. You’ll love every minute of this!
Since they’re so close, why not head to the mountains? The Alps will take you to the border with Switzerland and to the picturesque town of Lugano. It too is positioned on a shore of a lake, and its cobblestoned streets are absolutely beautiful. Don’t forget to taste some world-famous Swiss chocolate – there are plenty of shops where you can buy something, but sitting for a cup of hot cocoa or coffee in extremely elegant coffeehouses is just as nice.
Cinque Terre is an extremely famous part of Italian coast comprised of five serene and immensely beautiful villages which are all a part of a national park and of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is this area. Keep in mind, they cannot be reached by car – it’s either train or boat. A cruise of this part of Italian Riviera is available, which is a great way to admire the way the villages were essentially carved into the rock.
The fabled city of Venice is just three hours’ drive away, so if you haven’t visited it yet it’s a great choice for your day trip from Milan. Enjoy its world-famous canals, ride a gondola, and visit Piazza San Marco. There is so much history wherever you turn that you will simply be amazed how this relatively small city can offer so much. For all of you who haven’t been here, this day trip is a must!
Verona, the city of love. The setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this ancient Roman city has a lot to offer. From the Roman Arena to the balcony which allegedly belonged to the real Juliet, i.e. the woman who inspired Shakespeare. Don’t forget to visit Lago di Garda, a beautiful lake which even ancient Romans used as a summer getaway.
Extra tips for visiting Milan
– Milan Metro is cheap and reliable, but most of the sights and attractions are walking distance.
– There is a strict dress code at the religious sites requiring shoulders and knees to be covered.
– Coperto (a service fee) is included in the price in bars and restaurants, so no extra tips are needed.
- – If you need someone you can rely on while in this city, just contact Welcome. They offer a variety of services, know everything there is to know about Milan and will be there for you whenever you need them.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).