One Day in Milan: Seeing the Fashion Capital
Are you planning on spending one day in Milan? Great idea! Now, even though it’s a big city, I still think Milan makes a perfect day trip for visitors coming to Italy.
I’m not kidding either!
I really loved Milan, you guys! I don’t know if it’s because I had gorgeous weather or stayed at the best hostel ever, but Milan’s goodness surprised me. I had read so much about how “overrated” Milan is, and therefore I already had low expectations going into my trip.
I had a great time exploring (and eating my way through) Italy’s fashion capital.
So what did I do on my solo trip? I ate pesto gnocchis. I saw incredible art; I mean, helloooo, The Last Supper? I was enthralled by ancient Catholic relics. And I spent a lot time people watching in public parks. I wasn’t bored for even one minute.
Without further ado, let’s get into my 1 day in Milan itinerary, but first, it is time for me to answer the most pressing question (which I always do for these short city break posts): Will 24 hours in Milan be enough for you?
Is 24 Hours in Milan Enough Time?
Yes, you’re fine. More than fine.
Honestly, one day in Milan is more than enough time to enjoy the city’s atmosphere.
I think part of the reason that travelers are so disappointed in Milan is because they dedicate way too much time to the city.
Ultimately, Milan isn’t the type of destination where you need to spend a week or more, I promise. It’s not Rome. Most of Milan’s interesting sites are within walking distance of each other and can be seen in the duration of a single morning and afternoon.
But what if you already dedicated a lot of time to Milan? As in your accommodation is booked and ready to go?
Then do day trips to avoid negativity regarding Milan.
I’m serious. In the above case, if you have more than one day in Milan, that’s cool and all, but I’d recommend spending additional time outside the city.
For example, taking a day trip to Como is a beautiful activity to pair with your time in Milan. Bergamo is also a wonderful city that makes an easy day trip. You an even do a quick jaunt down to Parma to eat your heart out.
So, with all that said and done, let’s talk about specific places that you can easily visit with only one day in Milan.
1 Day in Milan Itinerary: What to See & Do
Below, I’ve listed a lot of cool sights that you’re able to see with one day in Milan.
As always, I’ve tried to include a variety of activities for you to enjoy. Feel free to tweak these suggestions based on your own personal interests.
As for me, I love historical and cultural places of significance, so if you consider yourself more of a foodie or outdoorsy traveler, then maybe throw in more activities that appeal to your own interests.
Read More: Learn a Few Italian Phrases for Your Trip
1. Reserve to See Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”
First and foremost, you need to come to Milan to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece “The Last Supper.”
We all know “The Last Supper.” It’s one of the most important pieces of in the world, after all. Even if you’re not a big art fan, it’s still super cool to see something in person that you’ve read about multiple times.
However, fair warning, you need to make reservations for “The Last Supper” well ahead of time. I’m talking months in advance of your visit to Milan. The hassle is worth it, though!
You’ll get a timed visit to see “The Last Supper.” I believe you’re only given 20 minutes or so to stay in the monastery. So a trip to see Da Vinci’s work won’t take a huge chunk of time out of your day.
Upon visiting, you’ll see “The Last Supper” on the end wall of the dining hall inside the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. I was super impressed by how big this work actually is. It takes up the entire wall.
2. See St. Ambrose at Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
After seeing The Last Supper, then I’d recommend taking a walk to Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. But you can’t be squeamish about dead bodies and bones! Fair warning.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio is one of the most ancient churches in all of Milan. I mean, it was constructed in 379. Yes, you read that date correctly. Sadly, the building was greatly damaged in World War II and reconstructed, but it’s still glorious to see the exterior.
You may enter the church for free. Of course donations are always appreciated.
Here, you’ll see the remains of St. Ambrose, dressed in golden bishop wear, on display. The full skeleton is morbid, but fascinating at the same time.
Be mindful of individuals praying in the church. For instance, the room containing St. Ambrose was pretty crowded with worshippers when I visited so I refrained from taking too many photos.
3. Walk on the Roof at Duomo di Milano
Where to go next? The Duomo, of course!
After all, Duomo di Milano is another one of the most popular attractions in the entire city of Milan. I’d actually argue that it’s the main symbol of Milan. It’s on so many postcards. The square is a lot of fun and packed with pigeons and street performers. The energy is great.
However, the best part of visiting Duomo di Milano is strolling on the roof. I mean, come on! Where else can you explore a basilica’s rooftop?! Nowhere I can think of.
You need to reserve your tickets ahead of time to walk on the roof. These tickets are (understandably) timed so not too many people are crowding on the top of the Duomo at once.
Take your time exploring the roof. See gorgeous views of Milan’s skyline, as well as intricate sculptures on the roof. I loved the gargoyles, haha.
4. See Great Fashion at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Nearby the Duomo, is another popular attraction for tourists and its easy to understand the appeal of this place. I think Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is one of the most gorgeous spots in Milan to take pictures.
The Galleria is the oldest active shopping mall in Italy. The dome windows and wall art will make you feel as if you’ve walked into a majestic palace.
And fashion junkies? You’re in for a real treat! While visiting the Galleria, you’ll wanna see the gorgeous window displays at the high-end shops such as Prada and Valentino and Versace.
As for food, I wouldn’t recommend eating here if you want to save money. Instead venture further away for legitimately better meal options with lower options.
Be sure to – ahem – step on the bull too. Do a google search and you’ll see what I mean. Gotta keep the blog PG-rated, sorry.
5. Learn About Opera at Teatro alla Scala
Music fans will especially love Milan! Don’t skip over Teatro all Scala. It’s one of the most famous opera houses in the world.
Check their website in advance to see what shows are playing.
What’s cool is that, even if you can’t see an actual show, you can still visit an awesome museum at the opera house. You’ll see several treasures from throughout the opera house’s history.
On my visit, I was able to take a peak at the stage itself as the crew was preparing for the evening’s show. Teatro alla Scala is, without a doubt, a gorgeous place.
6. Take a Stroll through Sforzesco Castle
Got beautiful weather and wanna soak up the sun? Then take a walk throughout Sforzesco Castle’s grounds!
Sforza Castle is steeped in history. It was built in the 15th century by the Duke of Milan. In those days, Milan was considered an independent country. Remember Italy wasn’t unified until the end of the 1800s!
For budget travelers, you’ll be happy to discover that the castle grounds are completely free! Go and explore, and pretend you’re a knight protecting Milan from invaders. Or just chill under a tree. You might get weird looks with the “knight idea,” sorry.
Sforzesco Castle has plenty of museums, too, if you’re super into art and history.
7. Reflect on Life at Cimitero Monumentale
Disclaimer! Don’t judge me for having a fascination with cool old cemeteries. They’re peaceful places where it’s easy for me to reflect on life.
Anyway, if you have time with your one day in Milan, then take a walk to Cimitero Monumentale. It’s about a mile or so away from Sforzesco Castle, but you can take the metro nearby if you’re so inclined and want to save time.
This cemetery is known for its many artistic tombs and monuments. The tormented emotions are vivid on each piece of art.
However, even though this cemetery draws a lot of tourists, you still need to show respect while walking through Cimitero Monumentale. This includes taking photos. I don’t think I need to specify appropriate behavior for grave sites. Do I? I hope not.
Although most tombs are extremely old (from the early 1900s or 1800s), not all of them are. This means that there are still mourners who dutifully come to the cemetery to pay their respects to deceased loved ones. Just be mindful of their presence.
Accommodation: Where to Stay w/ 1 Day in Milan?
Like any other big city, Milan has an abundance of accommodation options for you to choose from. You shouldn’t have a problem something that suits your needs.
First, pick a budget and stick to it. Even though Italy’s cheaper than many other countries, Milan is a pretty expensive city given the large number of tourists and business travelers. Don’t let sticker shock ruin your trip.
For solo travelers, Milan has some great hostels available. I stayed at Ostello Bello Grande near Milan’s Central Station.
Ostello Bello Grande was great for solo travelers, as well as groups who are traveling on a lower budget. For example, the staff was incredibly friendly and hosted free dinners. It was super easy to make conversation over pasta and fresh salad. Highly recommended!
Personally, I suggest staying close to a metro station or a train station. You don’t want to have to walk far to leave Milan at the end of your one day excursion.
How to Get Around Milan
Milan is a big city. This is very true. However, luckily for you, Milan is also very easy to navigate.
And, you know what, if I didn’t get lost, then I have zero worries about you!
Most travelers will arrive from the international airport to Milan’s Central Station, which is a tourist attraction in its own right. It’s vast steel frame makes you feel tiny as you wander through the station. You can get anywhere on the metro from Central Station.
Disclaimer: With only 24 hours in Milan, make sure you validate all tickets for the trains at the Central Station and subsequent metro stations. You don’t want to pay a ridiculous fine.
Ready to Go to Milan? Make Sure to Purchase Travel Insurance
One Day in Milan: Worth It at All?
A lot of potential tourists wonder if visiting Milan is worth it all.
And this is an understandable situation. Compared to Rome and Florence, Milan doesn’t have as much of an exciting reputation among travelers.
Personally, I wouldn’t go to Milan if you only have a week in Italy and you’re flying in and out of Rome. Stick closer to Rome in that specific case.
However, if you’re coming to northern Italy, then spending 24 hours in Milan is well worth it! I certainly don’t regret coming to this city.
Read More: Buy Your Lonely Planet Guidebook for Italy
I hope you have a better idea of what to do with one day in Milan! Have you ever visited Milan? Do you want to? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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