View of the arcade in Milan with lanterns and a glass roof

How to Spend One Day in Milan: From Someone Who Lived There!

As Northern Italy’s largest and most important city, the lively metropolis Milan is a fantastic place to spend a weekend (or more!).

However, there may be some valid reasons you only have a day in Milan.

If your Italian itinerary is already looking a bit full, and you’re going to be busy visiting classic destinations such as Rome, Florence, and Venice, Milan may be one of the places that needs to get the cut.

Planning your trip to Milan at the last minute?

Here are my quick picks on what to do & where to stay!

 Top Milan Experiences:
1. Milan Duomo Cathedral & Terraces (skip the line entry)
2. The Last Supper Tour (must pre-book your time slot!)
3. Milan Aperitivo + Food Tour (best evening activity!)

🏨 Best Hotels:
1. The Carlton (luxury hotel with Grand Canal views)
2. San Marco Boutique Apartments (hip studios in lively Brera neighborhood)
3. La Casa Colorata (lovely apartment-style rooms with two saunas for guests!)

✈️ Flying in? Book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups — they’ll greet you at the airport, help with bags, & bring you into the city, all pre-booked!
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the facade of the milan duomo during the day time without too much of a crowd in front of it

Or maybe Milan is just your first gateway to a tour of Northern Italy, one that includes iconic destinations like Lake Como, Lake Garda, Verona, or the Dolomites.

Wherever your Italy endpoint, Milan is often a place where international flights land, so it’s hard to avoid.

Plus, it’s also home to some of Italy’s most iconic cultural sites, like the Duomo di Milano and the Last Supper, so a visit to Milan — even for just a day! — is absolutely worth it.

Take it from me: I spent nearly a decade living in Milan and even though I no longer call the city home, I visit it frequently on my return trips to Italy.

This one day in Milan itinerary will give you an overview of the key Milan landmarks that you don’t want to skip, as well as some tips for getting to and around the city.


How to Get to Milan

the milan train station with a beautiful open-style roof with iron work

Milan is Italy’s most important economic and financial center, as well as a super-developed industrial city in the northern Lombardy region.

For many people, Milan is their first stop in Italy, as the city has two large international airports, Milano Malpensa and Milano Linate. There’s also the nearby Bergamo airport which functions as a budget airline hub.

Milan is also home to an important train hub, Milano Centrale, which not only connects Milan to the rest of Italy, but also to other major European cities in the area.

If you’re flying into Milan with a lot of luggage or you just don’t want to deal with the stress of figuring out a new country’s public transit, you can pre-book a transfer into the city center through Welcome Pickups.

Pre-arranging transit with Welcome Pickups is one of my favorite travel hacks: when you arrive, an English-speaking driver already be at the airport awaiting your arrival (monitoring for any flight delays) and able to help with your baggage, all at the same flat rate as getting a taxi from the airport, all pre-paid and settled.

Moving Around in Milan

woman holding luggage on a street wearing a white shirt and jeans

The city has a very efficient urban transport system that includes metros, buses, trams, and local trains.

All of this public transit is perfect for travelers, since it all makes it incredibly easy to move around in town to explore different neighborhoods!

There are daily, weekly, and monthly passes available in the most important train and metro stations — of course, if you’re only visiting Milan for a day, you’ll only need a daily pass.

Helpful Tip: You can also download the official app to purchase tickets from your phone and have a useful city map in your pocket at all times.

Best Time to Visit Milan

view of one of the most famous buildings in milan, a church that houses in the last supper, seen through archways of a courtyard on a sunny day

Even though Milan is not as popular among tourists as Venice, Rome, Naples, or Florence, the city still attracts tourists year-round.

Although winters can be a bit fierce in the northern areas of the country, Milan in winter doesn’t actually have as much snow as you might expect, so winters can be a great time to beat the crowds and find cheaper accommodation.

What you do have to expect in Milan is rain. It’s one of Italy’s rainiest destinations in any season!

Keep this in mind when packing, and remember to toss a high-quality raincoat in your luggage, like this Marmot PreCip or this cute yellow rain jacket (trust me, you’ll be glad you did!).

Summers in Milan are shorter than in the rest of the country, but they can still be quite hot and humid.

If you plan to visit in the summer do some online research before deciding what attractions to visit.

Many exhibitions and museums close for a few weeks or operate with reduced hours in August.

The hard-working Milanese take their summer break (the two central weeks of August) very seriously.

This means it’s the perfect chance to walk around and enjoy the virtually empty streets and free places to sit in the metro and buses.

However, this does also mean that many shops will be closed, so if you’re dying to visit Milan for a chance to go shopping, then spring and fall might be your best bet.

Know Before You Go…

people inside the milan duomo visiting the city's most famous church and landmark, wearing appropriate covered up clothing

Despite not being Italy’s most touristed city, Milan is still rather popular. After all, it’s home to impressive art galleries, significant museums, and one of the most magnificent churches in Italy.

While all of that means you’re in for a great day in Milan, there will be long lines at the most important attractions, no matter the time of the year (yes, even winter).

The best suggestion I can give you is to plan your one day Milan itinerary in advance — that way, you can buy your entrance tickets to the key sights at least a few weeks before the trip and avoid the long lines.

Some landmarks, like time slots to view the the Last Supper, do sell out — so you’ll want to make sure you book anything important ASAP (luckily, buying online means you can take advantage of free cancellation if needed).

Also, if you are planning to stay the night in Milan, book your hotel in Milan in advance (and here’s our guide on where to stay — I suggest the Duomo area for quick visits to the city!)

How to Spend One Day in Milan

Start your day at the Duomo di Milano.

beautiful view of the milan duomo from the side a key european landmark

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the right place to begin your one day in Milan tour is in the heart of the city center.

We’re talking, of course, about the city’s unique white marble cathedral, Milan’s Duomo, as well as the impressive Duomo Square (Piazza del Duomo) that surrounds it.

One of Italy’s most remarkable religious buildings as well as one of the largest churches in the world, the magnificent Cathedral of Milan is a breathtaking example of Gothic style.

The building was conceived from the inspiring ideas, dreams, and nightmares of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, a former Duke of Milan.

Although it was begun back in 1386, the construction of the Duomo took over six centuries to be completed — and the result is why the Duomo is so unique to behold.

stained glass and sculpture at the very front and center of the church, extremely colorful and detailed

This lengthy construction period led to the building also featuring unique examples of other architectural styles that came after the Gothic period, including expressions of Baroque (as you’ll see in the Crypt), as well as Renaissance styles

The Duomo is the most popular attraction in the city and pretty much every visitor wants to at least check out the impressive stained glass windows from inside the church.

Best of all, you can even walk on its white roofs to experience a different perspective and view of the city center and Milan’s skyline.

The terraces of the milan duomo with brilliant blue sky with some patchy clouds

You can do so by booking a Cathedral and Rooftop Terraces guided tour like this one if you want some historical context given to you while you visit the sight.

If you prefer to DIY, you can access the building (and its terraces, which shouldn’t be skipped!) with a skip-the-line ticket without the tour to save some money.

Wander through the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

View of the arcade in Milan with lanterns and a glass roof

Opposite Piazza del Duomo, head to another famous place you’ll absolutely want to visit during your whirlwind day in Milan: the beloved covered arcade Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II.

This passageway’s appeal isn’t just because of its aristocratic flair and refined architectural style, but also because it’s the best way to get to Milan’s famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala, the next stop on this mini Milan itinerary.

Fun Fact: The construction of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II started back in 1865 and it took twelve years to be completed.

Another Fun Fact: It’s the oldest active covered passage devoted to shopping in the country, housing both important high-end brand boutiques and a few traditional cafés. 

Admire the opulence of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala.

the interior of the la scala theater in milan with gilded boxes and red seats and beautiful lighting

As I’ve just mentioned, at one of the ends of the gallery stands the Duomo and its square.

At the opposite side, you’ll find the small but gorgeous Piazza alla Scala and the Scala Theater, the most important opera house in the country… which is saying something, as this is the country that invented opera!

Usually referred to as La Scala, this temple to opera and ballet in Milan first opened its doors to the public in 1778.

While the theater is also home to one of the most prestigious ballet academies in Europe, it also has its own chorus, the famous Filarmonica Della Scala orchestra.

It’s possible to book tickets for the ballet or the opera to experience a wonderful night at La Scala — check the schedule for the theater here.

The 2023-2024 season begins on December 3, right in time for Milan’s winter!

If you don’t have time for a show, or there are just no shows when you are visiting Milan, you can simply visit the theater and its museum by booking a guided visit that includes a skip-the-line ticket!

For those curious about the stories and myths of this legendary venue, this Italy Hidden Experiences tour reveals tons of historic details and curious secrets about the theater.

Although there’s still a lot to see near the Duomo and La Scala, a day would never be enough to explore the medieval squares and other impressive churches in the area. 

If you’re still in the mood to see the best of Milan in a day or less, your next stop will leave you speechless…

Visit the Santa Maria delle Grazie to see the Last Supper.

the red brick building of the church which holds the last supper inside iet

In fact, if you can only visit Milan for one day, there’s one more thing that you don’t want to miss in addition to the Duomo, and that is one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, the Last Supper. 

This UNESCO World Heritage site includes both the church Santa Maria Delle Grazie and the famed Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. 

The painting is located on a wall of the refectory that was originally part of a large monastic complex, which belonged to the Dominican order.

Considered one of the most important works of art in the city, this Milan landmark attracts hundreds of tourists all year round and at any hour of the day. 

With this popularity in mind, it’s easy to see why booking your entrance ticket in advance and getting to the place at least 30 minutes before the beginning of the tour is crucial for a flawless experience.  

Plan ahead and book an organized visit at least a couple of weeks (better yet, at least a month) before the actual trip! Note that a tour is the only way to visit the famous painting.

the beautiful artwork of the last supper in milan, a famous painting of jesus with his disciples sitting around him

Keep in mind that the guided visit includes a visit to the old refectory where all visitors are allotted a 15-minute time frame to admire the painting. 

The tour also gives you the chance to learn about the incredible history behind the masterpiece as well as the reconstruction works that were necessary inside the building after the bombing of Milan during WWII.

Not far from this church, you can walk to the nearby Basilica of Saint Ambrogio, another important religious building in the city.

The basilica is among the oldest churches in town as well as Milan’s best-preserved example of Lombard Romanesque architecture. 

Fun Fact: Saint Ambrogio is also Milan’s patron saint and is celebrated all over the city with special events in December!

Step into Sforza Castle and Sempione Park.

the front of the sforza castle in milan with a fountain

Just steps from Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, one of Milan’s most distinctive locations is the medieval Sforza Castle (also known as Sforzesco Castle), a place you shouldn’t pass up the chance to explore.

There are several interesting museums located in the old rooms and different wings of the fortress, most of them related to the medieval history of Milan, including paintings, musical instruments, and other masterpieces.

Since you’re on a tight schedule and you might not have enough time to visit the Duomo, the Scala Opera House, the Last Supper, and the museums, it might be best to save the museums inside the castle for your next trip to Milan!

For this one, you can simply enter the huge building and wander around the different courtyards and incredible corners that remain open to the public. 

Visit the lovely Sempione Park and its key monuments.

the triumphal arch in milan's sempione park

Once you’ve checked out the different open spaces, ancient arches, and wooden bridges part of the castle, it’s a good idea to walk to the back area of the fortification and explore the immense Sempione Park.

This immense green area is Milan’s most important park, a perfect place for a picnic, a walk in nature, or simply for a restful stop after so many hours walking on the (fairly uncomfortable, though rather photogenic) cobblestone streets of Milan.

In the park, don’t forget to pay a visit to the impressive Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace), a triumphal arch also known as Porta della Pace (or Gate of Peace)

The gate dates back to the nineteenth century in its current form, but it has ancient roots.

The gate you see today was built over an ancient gate located on the former Roman Walls that once surrounded, protected, and granted access to the ancient Roman city of Mediolanum, today Milan.

A curious fact about the arch is that it faces the so-called Strada del Sempione, or Sempione Road.

This route is still in use today and connects Milan to Paris through the Sempione Pass in the Alps, something the many locals don’t even know!

End the day the Milanese way with an aperitivo.

two hands clinking together an aperol spritz for aperitivo time at the end of the day in milan

The Milanese society enjoys spending time and chatting with friends every day after work or during the weekend before going to dinner. 

The way they love to do so is by gathering in any of the many bars and aperitivo spots in the city.

Here, for a fixed price it’s possible to enjoy a drink (which can be wine or a cocktail) and nibble on tasty snacks and finger food. 

This is the typical Milanese aperitivo, a ritual that no local misses when the opportunity comes up!

If you’re not sure where to go for the best aperitivo experience, one great option is to book this aperitivo tour with a variety of local street food to sample along the way, and you won’t be sorry, because it packs in a lot! 

In fact, during this guided experience, you’ll discover the different ways of relishing the aperitivo Milanese and taste different versions of the aperitivo including cocktails made with typical Milanese spirits (like Aperol, Cinzano, Amaro).

On top of all this, you’ll get to sample wines from the northern regions of the country, paired with delicious local Italian cheeses, cold cuts, and other snacks. 

What’s more, at the end of the tour you will be given the chance to try an espresso coffee and a piece of patisserie!

Having an aperitivo in Milan is one of the most traditional rituals that you can experience during your trip.

If you ask me, it’s the best way to transition from the afternoon to the evening, and it’ll certainly be one of the things that makes your one day in Milan utterly unforgettable! 

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