Modern, lively, and famously fashionable, spending one day in Milan isn’t quite like spending a day in any of Italy’s other popular tourist cities!
With an energy and style all its own, the capital of the Lombardy region offers art, architecture, and food in spades, as any classic Italian city is likely to do–but it does it all with a modern flair that is all its own.
The heartbeat of Italy’s modern economy, visiting Milan for a day will show you a very different side of the country than spending a day Rome, Florence, or Venice will–and hopefully, it will leave you with an appreciation for another side of this wonderful country.
After several visits to Italy’s fashion capital ranging from spending 24 hours in Milan in the height of summer to spending several days savoring the city in winter, we’re confident that this one day Milan itinerary can give you a great introduction to the city.
Here’s how to make the most of one day in Milan, Italy!
Table of Contents
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The Ideal One Day in Milan Itinerary
Start at the Duomo Complex.
With only one day in Milan, there’s no better place to start than its famous Duomo complex!
Regal and imposing, the front view of the Milan Cathedral, complete with pigeons hanging out in the Piazza del Duomo, is easily one of the most iconic images of northern Italy.
There are several sights included in a full Duomo Complex ticket, which means you only need to buy one pass to see them all!
We’ve detailed each section of the Milan Duomo that you’ll have a chance to visit below.
Unfortunately, the popularity of the Duomo means that you’ll have long lines to deal with, especially to enter the interior of the cathedral itself.
For that reason, with only one day in Milan to work with, we recommend purchasing a skip-the-line pass in advance: the upcharge is reasonable, and the time saved is completely worth it.
Plan ahead: book your Duomo Complex fast pass now!
Not worried about lines? You can still skip one by purchasing a normal ticket in advance.
Interior of the Cathedral
The interior of Milan’s Duomo is as majestic as you would expect from the outside: ornate columns and incredible inlaid Italian marble floors rule the show.
Please note there is a strict dress code requiring shoulders and knees to be covered.
Either dress for your one day in Milan with this in mind, purchase a skip the line pass that includes a borrowed covering or prepare to pay an extra fee to get one at the door (first time I’ve seen a house of worship charge for those, but alas!).
The rooftop terraces of the Milan Cathedral are, without a doubt, the highlight of Milan’s Duomo complex and arguably the highlight of spending one day in Milan–they are simply exquisite!
Intricately carved and incredibly beautiful, it is worth every single step to the top (which is actually quite short as far as cathedral climbs in Italy go–only around 250 steps).
If you would like to avoid climbing altogether, some Duomo complex tickets include access to an elevator to the roof.
Underneath the Duomo itself sits an impressive archaeological site!
Long before there was a Duomo, there was plenty of other activity and buildings in the square–and you can explore them, in person, underneath the cathedral.
The entrance is found at the back of the Duomo, and you enter from inside the church.
A full Duomo complex ticket also includes a visit to the Duomo Museum, which includes statues and artifacts that called the Duomo home in centuries past, and the Church of San Gottardo in Corte.
I wouldn’t call either of these must-dos, especially with only one day in Milan.
However, since they are already included in your ticket, consider keeping an eye on the time and adding them to your Milan itinerary if you have room!
Take a short walk to see the ossuary at San Bernardino alle Ossa.
6-minute walk from the Duomo Complex.
Once you wrap up exploring the Duomo Complex, it’s time for a quick side stop at… another church?
This is perhaps a bit offbeat and often left off of itineraries attempting to cover Milan in one day, but Jeremy and I find ossuaries fascinating and can’t bear to leave it off, even just as an alternative option.
This small ossuary is tucked inside the Church of San Bernardino and is home to a seriously impressive number of bones.
The small chapel is decorated with human bones, including skulls stacked into gigantic crucifixes–it truly is a sight to behold.
The ossuary dates back to the 13th century, though its current formation comes from the 17th.
The skeletons are believed to primarily have come from people who died at the nearby Brolo hospital, which no longer exists–with one exception.
The bones encased above the door are said to have come from executed prisoners.
If you don’t like bones, though… definitely skip this one!
(Side note: if this is exactly your kind of tourist attraction, you might want to add Cimitero Monumentale to your Milan wish list, too!).
Loop back to step inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
7-minute walk from San Bernardino alle Ossa
Light, airy, and pretty, the 19th-century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a downright luxurious place to do some shopping.
If you are hoping to memorialize your trip to Milan with a pricey purchase from Prada, Versace, Gucci, Armani, or many others, this is the place to do it!
Even if you’re not planning on doing any shopping, the Galleria is worth walking through!
The glass ceiling gives the entire place a soft glow, and the path through the Galleria leads right from the Piazza del Duomo to the nearby Piazza della Scala.
(It’s also worth pointing out that the beloved Naples pizzeria, Gino Sorbillo, has a location here if you’re looking for a quick and tasty lunch).
Pay a visit to the Piazza della Scala and the Le Scala Opera House.
4-minute walk through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Piazza della Scala only requires a quick pit stop during your one day in Milan, but since it is so close to the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it’s worth taking note of!
Here you can take a quick look at a statue of Leonardo Da Vinci, rest your feet if you like, and finally, find yourself face-to-face with Milan’s famous Teatro La Scala, or the La Scala Opera House.
If you’d like to step inside and see one of the world’s most famous (and arguably one of its most beautiful) opera houses for yourself, you can check the ticket schedule here (to make sure you visit at a time with access to the theatre as opposed to just the museum).
Alternatively, you can book a guided tour for a more thorough visit!Fss.fer, CC BY-SA 4.0
Wander through the grounds of Castello Sforzesco.
13-minute walk from Piazza della Scala
Before there was a unified Italy, there was still a Milan… and a series of Dukes of Milan to rule it.
Their home was Castello Sforzesco, which looks every bit the part of a medieval castle, with thick walls and room for a moat and all, while also being plopped right in the middle of what is now modern Milan.
There are plenty of museums inside the castle, but with only one day in Milan, you likely won’t have time to enter any.
Luckily, the grounds are free to explore!
If you’re interested in history, we recommend doing a little reading on the Dukes of Milan while you’re there–the power struggles make Game of Thrones look like child’s play!
Stroll through Parco Sempione and check out the Arco della Pace.
11-minute walk through the park to Porta Sempione
After strolling through Castello Sforzesco, you will dead-end into one of Milan’s prettiest parks, Parco Sempione.
Bursting with flowers in the spring and summer, this park is a great mix of shaded walking paths and sunny, grassy fields perfect for laying on.
We recommend strolling through from Castello Sforzesco to the Porta Sempione on the opposite side (perhaps with a gelato in hand).
One of the things we have picked up on while traveling is that just about everywhere has their own version of the Arc de Triomphe (some of them predating Paris’ version), and Porta Sempione (the actual arch is named Arco della Pace, or Arch of Peace) is Milan’s version.
Roughly corresponding to the placement of a similar gate dating back to Roman times, this 19th-century arch is beautiful and definitely worth a quick look during your one day in Milan!
Wander through the Brera Design District.
13-minute walk from the Arco della Pace
Home to Milan’s Academy of Fine Arts since the 18th century, the Brera Design District is the perfect way to end your one day in Milan.
Known for its fashionable cafes, restaurants, and nightlife, you couldn’t ask for a better finishing point to a whirlwind day in Milan.
If you get here early enough, there are some interesting museums to check out in the area, including Milan’s well-known painting gallery at Pinacoteca di Brera, the beautiful Braidense National Library, and the Museo Astronomico.
Optional: head over to the Navigli District for a canal-side dinner.
Did you know that Milan has canals?
They may not be as numerous or famous as those in Venice, but Milan’s trendy Navigli District has a flair all its own!
Unlike the rest of this itinerary for Milan in a day, the Navigli District is a metro ride away from the rest of your sightseeing, which is why we’ve placed it firmly under the “optional” category.
You can have a wonderful day in Milan by sticking around trendy Brera for the whole evening… but if you’re the type of sightseer who wants to see it all, consider heading over to the canals.
About The Last Supper: How to See It During One Day in Milan
Seeing Da Vinci’s iconic fresco while visiting Milan is harder than it looks, which is why we didn’t include it in the above suggested one day in Milan itinerary.
Access is tightly controlled, tickets are hard to come by, you must book your visit in advance, and when you do get in, you are allotted a strict 15 minutes to admire The Last Supper in person.
If you’re an art fan, that’s probably not a deterrent–we are talking about one of the most famous paintings in the world, after all–so you have basically three options to pull a visit off.
Here’s how to visit the Last Supper during your one day in Milan!
Option 1: Try to score tickets yourself through the official website.
Fair warning: this is nearly impossible.
I’m currently updating this post in May, and there are zero tickets available through the end of July. Scheduling beyond July isn’t available at this point.
If you’re planning your one day in Milan well in advance, it’s time to try to reserve your tickets on the official website.
If you’re planning closer to the time of travel (like us), this likely won’t be an option for you.
Option 2: Book a third-party tour of The Last Supper.
Third-party companies sell tours of The Last Supper, and though they charge significantly more than the base price, they do typically include a guide that explains some of the history behind the work.
And, importantly, they allow you to access the painting without planning months in advance.
This is a great option if you are set on seeing The Last Supper during your one day in Milan, but want to wander independently for most of the day.
Book your guided tour of The Last Supper now!
Option 3: Book a broader Milan day tour that includes The Last Supper in its price.
The final option to see The Last Supper is simply to book a tour that includes it.
Most tours that cover the highlights of Milan in one day will include a visit to The Last Supper along with the bulk of the other sights on this one day in Milan itinerary.
And, though this is the most expensive option of the three, you do get more value for your money than simply booking a tour of The Last Supper only!
This popular tour (offered by one of our favorite tour companies in Italy) includes The Last Supper and a full walking tour of Milan!
Where to Stay for 24 Hours in Milan, Italy
When deciding where to stay in Milan during a short trip, the goal is simple: as central as you can afford (but note that hotels in Milan are definitely on the expensive side for Italy).
We’ve had the chance to stay in several hotels in Milan, in different neighborhoods and at different price points, during our trips–and by far our favorite place to stay is Hotel Manin!
This family-run property is located in a quiet area across from Indro Montanelli Park (which is a big hit with our dog Ranger), while still being within walking distance of the best things to do in Milan in a day.
The rooms are spacious, the terrace peaceful, and the breakfast expansive.
For a less-central but more budget-friendly alternative, Hotel America offers a solid stay with friendly staff and basic but clean rooms.
Getting Around During One Day in Milan
With the exception of the Navigli District, the attractions listed in this one day in Milan itinerary are all within walking distance of each other, you likely won’t need any other type of transportation to get between them.
When it comes to get to and from the train station and your hotel, though, you’ll likely find that Milan’s expansive metro system and above-ground train system (which reminds us vividly of our year spent living in Lisbon!) come in handy.
Getting In and Out Of Milan, Italy
Whether you’re entering and leaving the city by train or plane (and it’s probably one or the other), you’ll likely be going through Milano Centrale Station–and lucky you, because it’s one of the most beautiful train stations we’ve ever seen!
(Though do note it’s not the only train station in Milan, so double-check before heading out!).
If you’re flying out of the city, shuttle buses to both Bergamo and Malpensa airports run every half hour from Milano Centrale, and there are several companies offering the service.
We used Autostradale and found the service incredibly easy–and at around 5 Euros/person for a one-hour ride, an absolute bargain for Milan.
FAQ For Visiting Milan in a Day
What are the best things to see during one day in Milan?
If you only have one day in Milan, your priorities should absolutely be the Duomo Complex and, if you can get access to it, The Last Supper.
If you only have a couple of hours in Milan, head right to the Piazza del Duomo and soak up the views!
Can you walk around Milan easily?
While Milan is a big city, its most popular attractions are fairly close together.
You’ll definitely spend most of your 24 hours in Milan walking from place to place as opposed to using a car or train!
Can you see Lake Como and Milan in a day?
While you can easily take a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, seeing both Milan and Lake Como in one day would be difficult.
If you’re absolutely determined to make it happen, we recommend starting early, doing a quick pass of the Duomo Complex and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and then hopping the train to Varenna.
Concentrate your taste of Lake Como in the village of Varenna, with a visit to Villa Monastero, and then head back.
You’ll only get a tiny taste of each destination that way–but it is technically doable.
Is one day in Milan enough?
Whether one day is enough in Milan is definitely a subjective question, but on a standard trip to Italy lasting 2 weeks or less, we’d say that yes, one day in Milan is enough.
Milan is a lovely city, but its modern vibe means that it’s often not a favorite among foreign travelers looking for Italy’s more traditional and picturesque side.
(And that’s true for us, too–we’ve visited many times and always enjoy a day in Milan, but to be perfectly honest, it’s far from our favorite city in Italy).