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One Day in Milan Itinerary: Rooftop of Duomo

The Ideal One Day in Milan Itinerary

Italy

We first spent one day in Milan in 2016, toward the beginning of what we thought was going to be a six month trip around the world.

Two years later (literally to the week!) we returned to Italy’s fashion capital with exactly one purpose: to take the vague, newbie-style blog post I wrote about our one day in Milan in 2016 as a hobby blogger and turn it into a useful guide for people planning their own one day in Milan itinerary (like you!).

Since our first visit, we’ve gone from hobby bloggers to professional bloggers, and from people who were excited about their second trip to Italy to people who just finished up their fifth trip and who are unapologetically Italy obsessed (seriously: we’ve spent more than three solid months traveling through Italy in the last year alone).

In other words, it was high time to return to Milan.

Several days in the city, tons of research, and a delicious anniversary dinner (happy five years of marriage to us!) later, we’ve succeeded in putting together a complete guide to one day in Milan–if you have a short visit to Milan coming up, this is how to make the most of it!

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Galleria

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 square, is easily one of the most iconic images of Milan.

There are several sights included in a full Duomo Complex ticket, which means you only need to buy one pass to see them all!

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: 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.

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Duomo

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!).

Rooftop

The cathedral rooftop is, without a doubt, the highlight of Milan’s Duomo complex and arguably the highlight of spending one day in Milan–it is 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, there is an option to pay an additional fee to ride an elevator to the roof.

Milan in One Day: Rooftop

Archaeological Site

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!

Other Inclusions

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!

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Couple at Duomo
Two years and many, many miles of travel ago.

Take a short walk to see the ossuary at San Bernardino alle Ossa.

6-minute walk from the Duomo Complex.

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.

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.

Spooky, right?

If you don’t like bones, though… definitely skip this one!

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Ossuary

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.

Milan in One Day Itinerary: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Pay a visit to the Piazza della Scala.

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, and also glance at Milan’s famous opera house (I’ll confess: amongst all the beauty and opulence of Italy, I find the exterior of this opera house a bit plain).

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 the medieval castle, 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!

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Castello Sforzesco

Stroll through Parco Sempione & check out the Porta Sempione.

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) is Milan’s version.

Roughly corresponding to the placement of a similar gate dating back to the Roman times, this 19th-century arch is beautiful and definitely worth a quick look during your one day in Milan!

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Arch

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 and the Museo Astronomico, which I think speaks for itself.

Read Next: 2 Weeks in Italy: The Ultimate 14 Day Itinerary for First Time Visitors

One Day in Milan Itinerary Cheese Plate

About The Last Supper: How to See It During One Day in Milan

Seeing Da Vinci’s famous painting while in Milan is harder than it look, which is why we didn’t include it in our 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.

Try to score tickets yourself through the official website.

Fair warning: this is nearly impossible.

I’m currently writing this post in June, and the next available tickets are in the last week of September… and only two days are available. Scheduling beyond September 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.

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Church Interior

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, more importantly, 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!

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 tour includes The Last Supper and a full walking tour of Milan.

There are also some more specific tour options, like one that pairs Castello Sforezsco and The Last Supper for a tour.

One Day in Milan Itinerary: Milan Skyline

Getting Around Milan

The sights listed in this one day in Milan itinerary are all within walking distance of each other, and we didn’t use any other type of transportation to get between them.

Milan is a big city, though, so unless you’re paying a pretty penny to stay in Milan’s most touristy neighborhoods, your lodging is likely to be a different story when it comes to walkability.

Luckily, Milan’s metro system is excellent (it reminds us a lot of Rome’s, go figure), and we recommend using that to travel longer distances.

Uber Black is also available in the city if needed.

Read Next: 2 Days in Rome: Your Complete Itinerary

Milan in One Day Itinerary: Yellow Tram

Getting In & Out Of Milan

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–lucky you, because it’s one of the most beautiful train stations we’ve ever seen!

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.

Where We Stayed in Milan:

Hotel America — This was our hotel in 2016. By staying 20-30 minutes away from the Duomo and other major sites, we were able to cut costs and still see everything we wanted. We booked a private room at Hotel America and took the tram into the center of town, which worked perfectly. The hotel was basic and clean, and the staff was friendly. If you’re looking for a budget option in Milan, Hotel America is a solid choice!

Homestay Vittorio Veneto — This was a strange place: not a hostel, not a hotel, not a homestay. We had a private room and bathroom, but the bathroom was detached from the room. It was clean and well-located (about a 15 minute walk from Milano Centrale, and three metro stops from the Duomo), but confusion at check-in and the strict 10:00am check out time means we probably wouldn’t book this one again.

You can also check out more ideas on where to stay in Milan from Europe Up Close!

One Day in Milan: The Ideal Itinerary

15 Comments Write a comment

Kate has been traveling full-time with her husband Jeremy (the other half of Our Escape Clause) for more than 2 years. She tries to keep a balance between going on new adventures and exploring favorite destinations (like Italy!) in depth, and is always on the lookout for the next beautiful overlook and delicious meal.

15 Comments

  • Annaliese July 7, 2016

    Interesting – I’ve flown into Milan three or four times (en route to Lake Garda) but never stopped to explore the city. I don’t know why but I always thought it might be more style over substance? But next time I’m heading that way, I might just add Milan to the itinerary =)

    • Kate Storm July 7, 2016

      I definitely recommend it! I’m sure there are Milan lovers who would disagree, but I don’t think you would need long to get a taste of the city.

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  • Lauren June 23, 2018

    Been so tempted to go to Milan as quite often really cheap flights pop up from the UK – now I have no excuse as this itinerary is perfect, such beautiful photos too!

    • Kate Storm June 24, 2018

      It’s definitely worth a quick weekend break–keep an eye on those flights! 😉

  • Harmony, Momma To Go June 23, 2018

    I WISH i had this guide last year – we took a day trip to Milan, we were staying with my cousin in the suburbs. we had tix for the Last Supper, but by the time we got to the Duomo the lines were crazy and they were closing early for a papal visit. We did get to the castle, and that was really beautiful. I want to get down to the Navagli next time as well! I have been to the Duomo a long time ago and was sad to be shut out.

    • Kate Storm June 24, 2018

      Oh, no! So sorry you didn’t get to see The Last Supper–maybe next time things will go smoother.

  • Michelle June 23, 2018

    Milan is so beautiful and you have done a great job of capturing it. I love that you put together a 1-day itinerary as well! Great post! Congratulations on your anniversary!! 🙂

    • Kate Storm June 24, 2018

      Thanks, Michelle! Five years sure has gone fast. 🙂

  • Constance June 23, 2018

    I still need to visit Milan! I especially appreciated the tips on seeing The Last Supper since that would definitely be high on my list since I’m a major art buff. It’s hard to believe that it’s booked out SO many months in advance, but knowing me I may just have to book a tour. Thanks to you I now know what to expect!

    • Kate Storm June 24, 2018

      I know, right? It’s insanely popular, that’s for sure.

  • Ali Abdul August 3, 2018

    Do you have recommendations on where to eat in Milan if following this itinerary? Is it very expensive to eat around the Duomo/ Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II?

    • Kate Storm August 3, 2018

      Hey Ali!

      Yes, the prices are a little steeper than normal right in front of the Duomo.

      We haven’t spent too much time digging into the restaurant scene in Milan, but we did have a truly incredible meal at La Cantina di Manuela and can absolutely recommend it!

  • Steve October 31, 2018

    Hi, Thank you for information!!! My wife and I are flying into MXP in May 23-24. What area in Milan do you suggest we stay? At this time we don’t have a hotel. On the 24 from Milano Central Station we head to Bologna Central via Italia train. Any recommendations where to stay close to train station (Bologna Central) because next day to Venice? Thank you

    • Kate Storm November 1, 2018

      Hi Steve!

      For that short of a time in Milan, I’d recommend staying closer to Milano Centrale Station than to the main sights. Most of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other, so you can just take the metro to them from Milano Centrale if you’d like to go sightseeing. It’ll be less expensive and also make leaving the next morning much easier.

      We rented an Airbnb in Bologna, so no personal recommendations there, but the city is small–just about anything in the city center will be reasonably close to the train station. You can walk right from the train station to the main square (Piazza Maggiore)!

      Hope you guys have an amazing trip!

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