Milan is a must on any Italy itinerary. Even if you only spend one day in Milan, it’s still worth doing it. You can get a pretty good feel of the city in 24 hours and visit some the landmarks that make it so famous.
On Day in Milan: First Impressions
Like most big cities in Europe, Milan is a place of big contrasts. Some parts of the fashion capital of Europe are really glamorous. But there are also areas that leave a lot to be desired.
The centre of the city is very beautiful, but even here you’ll see striking contrasts: beautifully ornate building next to rundown structures spoiled by graffiti.
What to See in Milan in One Day
Milan lives somewhat in the shadow of its prettier neighbors Florence, Venice and Verona. But despite its industrial reputation, the city is surprisingly nice and has a few landmarks that will blow you away. If you start your day early you’ll be able to see quite a lot of Milan.
• Visit the Duomo
The Duomo is a symbol of Milan. It is almost on every postcard. If you have seen a picture of Milan, you most likely saw the Duomo. This is the largest cathedral in Italy and it took six centuries to build.
The elaborate Gothic cathedral is at the very core of the city. Streets either radiate from the cathedral or circle it. The Duomo has gorgeous details and towering spires. A very different in aspect from the Duomo of Florence.
Due to its popularity, visiting the Duomo of Milan is quite a challenge. Masses of tourists flock the piazza around it every single day of the year. But getting inside the cathedral and especially climbing up to the rooftop is a must, so don’t give up on it.
The easiest way to bypass the crowds is to purchase your tickets online, in advance, or to book a guided tour. Another way to avoid the crowds is to visit Milan in October, or November, which is the shoulder season in Europe.
The interior of Milan’s Duomo is as majestic as you would expect it to be, with tall columns, incredible marble floors, and amazing stained glass windows.
The dress code in the church is strictly enforced, so make sure you cover your shoulders and knees before entering the cathedral.
But perhaps the most spectacular part of the cathedral is its rooftop, with pointed arches and spires, beautiful statues and intricate stone carvings. You can easily spend an hour up here, walking around and admiring the gorgeous view of Milan from above. To get up to the roof you can either climb the 250 steps, or pay an additional fee to ride the elevator.
• Walk around the Piazza del Duomo
After descending from the rooftop, you should take time to walk around Piazza del Duomo, the large square in the front of the Cathedral. Piazza del Duomo is an artistic, cultural, and social hub that always pulsates with life.
There are tourists watching the Dome, local artists selling their art, and people sitting and the cafés and restaurants around the piazza.
• Visit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is perhaps the most popular attraction in Milan, after the Duomo. The magnificent five story structure is a shopping arcade made of glass and iron and decorated with mosaics and statues.
Giuseppe Mengoni –the architect who designed the project– intended the arcade to connect Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala, the square in front of the opera house in Milan.
The entrance from the Piazza del Duomo is framed by a very impressive triumphal arch. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is worth walking through even if you are not doing any shopping.
• Wander Through Piazza della Scala
A short 5-minute walk from Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II will take you to Piazza dellla Scala. This is a beautiful square with nice buildings on each sides and a statue of Leonardo Da Vinci in the center. The piazza gets its name from the La Scala opera house that sits on the northern side of the square.
In contrast with its plain and unimpressive façade, La Scala in Milan is the most prestigious opera house in the world. Almost every great opera singer in the past 200 years has performed at La Scala at some point in their career.
• Go Shopping
If your interest is shopping, you can spend an entire day in Milan just doing that. In fact, here are people who add Milan to their European itinerary just to go shopping here. The city is known as the fashion capital of Europe, and there is a reason for that.
Milan is packed with high-end designer stores and fancy boutiques, but not only that. This an excellent place to find good bargains for designer clothes, shoes, and accessories. And you don’t even need to go very far from the city center to stumble upon them.
Good shopping streets include Via Dante between the Duomo and Castle, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II near Piazza Della Scala, and via Monte Napoleone near the Duomo.
• Admire Leonardo Da Vinci’s Famous Painting The Last Supper
One of the biggest attractions in Milan is the refectory wall of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Leonardo Da Vinci famous painting “The Last Supper” is painted directly onto this wall, but not many visitors to Milan know this secret.
It took the artist four years to complete this masterpiece that miraculously survived the bombings of World War II. Overtime has undergone several restorations.
If you plan to visit the convent, be advised that in order to keep the “Last Supper” at the appropriate temperature and humidity, the curators allow only 30 people at a time every 15 minutes. You must purchase tickets in advance in order to visit The Last Supper.
• People Watching in Milan
If you enjoy people watching, Milan is a great place for that. Where else can you do that without being too obvious, but in a big city?
I just love sitting down at a sidewalk café and watch tourists and locals passing by. They seem totally unconcerned of who’s looking at them. Everyone has a story and when you watch them you can king of guess who they are.
How to Get Around in Milan
Milan has a great public transportation system (ATM) which includes 4 metro lines, trams, busses and trolleybus lines. The cheapest way is to buy an ATM travel pass, valid on all means of transportation inside Milan.
But unless you plan to spend more than just one day in Milan, you won’t be needing any type of transportation. All the sights I listed in this one day itinerary are located in the center of Milan, within walking distance of each other .
Cities From Where It’s Easy to Take a Day Trip to Milan
Given its excellent location (within 2-3 hours by train from many European cities), Milan makes a great day-trip destination. That means that if you board the train in the morning, you have plenty of time to visit the city and then return home in the evening.
Here are several cities from which you can easily visit Milan and the approximate travel duration for each one:
- Florence to Milan: 2h 45m
- Venice to Milan: 2-3 hrs.
- Bologna to Milan: 2-3 hrs.
- Verona to Milan: 1-1.5 hrs.
Where to Leave Your Luggage When Spending One Day in Milan
If you arrive in Milan by train and want to store your luggage somewhere in order to visit the city, you can always leave it at the station. Most train stations in Italy have secure baggage storage for long and short term. This is especially convenient for people who are in transit and can only spend one day in Milan.
Once you get off the train, follow the signs to Deposito Bagagli. When we were there, the cost was around 5-6 € for the first 5 hours per piece of luggage. You will receive a ticket with the number of your luggage, so make sure you don’t loose it!
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I love Milan. I have been twice. My last visit was one year ago this March. So much has changed in that year. It’s very sad. I will return though when we are all through with this pandemic. Milan still calls me.
We all hope this pandemic will be over soon, Larry. I miss traveling.
I’ve always wondered whether it was worth adding Milan to my itinerary of Italy if I ever go back to Italy again within the next few years. I had always thought that the Duomo was just the attraction but after reading your post, I’m having second thoughts 🙂 Might be worthwhile to take a day trip or perhaps spend one night in Milan after all.
Du lich Chau Au
The Duomo is one of my favorite places to visit. One day you are great, but go a bit too tired feet: D
One Day in Milan seems like such a shame. So much city, so little time. (And we could probably spend all day marveling at Il Duomo!) But, if all you have is one day, it’s great to have a guide like this to make the most of it. Definitely saving this for later…but making every effort to stretch it out over a few days. 🙂
Milan is such a great city! I´ve been many times and always for a day or two, while on the road! Love those busy cafés and old architecture… your post just made me realize that I need to go back again for the city itself
Bryna - Dotted Line Travels
I regret not stopping off in Milan when I visited Italy. The Duomo looks so beautiful. Especially the view from the top where you can see the arches and spires up close. Pinning this for later!
Mapping The Map
A day seems few time to visit Milano but if you prepare the trip well you can do lots of things. All the city centre attractions can be easily reached by foot. This is a very useful post.
What a lovely guide to Milan. We were just considering visiting for our anniversary but I opted for something else! Would love to see the Duomo one day! It’s so pretty!
Milan is an easy day trip from where you are, Lolo. You can go there at any time.
The one thing I think you have to see in Milan is the Duomo. It is just such an impressive building both inside and out. I thought it was neat to be able to go on the roof and take in the views.
I agree, Anisa. If you were to see only one thing in Milan it should be the Duomo.
I haven’t been to Milan so glad to know what there is to do in a day there – the Last Supper would obviously be a big draw for me. My cousin used to work and live nearby in the countryside outside the city and was also coming home in Armani and Gucci he bought during the sales 😉
That woman is wearing some really short shorts 😉
The countryside outside Milan must be really beautiful. Did you ever visit your cousin there?
I love Milan! And I completely agree, it is the right place for shopping.
Such gorgeous architecture in this city! I love your photos, can’t stop looking at them, especially the one of the shopping center.
Milan is one of my favourite cities, culture, shopping and good food. Milan has it all.
I would love to go to Santa Maria delle Grazie and see The Last Supper. The style in Milan looks spectacular.
Milan is one of the few major Italian cities I have not visited yet… looks beautiful… perhaps one day when we go back!
It is a major city indeed and a great place for shopping.