One Day in Milan: Making the most of 24 hours
Milan showcases the best that Italy has to offer: food, romance, food, sights, art, food, architecture, history, food… The prospect of squeezing in all the top sights and activities without leaving anything out may seem daunting. But if you only have one day to spend in an Italian city, Milan is a great bet. Here’s how to make the most of just one day in Milan.
Top Things to See and Do:
A visit to the Duomo is top of the must-see list for many travellers to Milan, and with good reason. This stunning cathedral is every bit as impressive in real life as the photographs suggest. During our one day in Milan, we didn’t make it inside the cathedral, as we were told by several people the interior is not as impressive as the exterior. Perhaps if we had longer in Milan, we would have explored inside, but as the day was ticking on, we decided to skip it.
What we were keen to do was to climb the stairs (€9, or take the lift for a slightly higher fee of €14) to get to the roof of the Duomo and see the skyline of Milan. However, the queue stretched the entire length of the cathedral. So, again, we headed onwards.
Galleria Vittorio Emaneule II
You won’t have to travel far for the next impressive sight of Milan. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, located just opposite the Duomo, is Italy’s oldest shopping mall. Though the designer shops are far out of the price range of most visitors, the picturesque building itself is well worth a visit.
Pilazzo di Brera
The next must-see on our whistle-stop tour of Milan was Pilazzo di Brera. This gigantic palace is home to an art gallery, botanical garden, observatory, and one of the largest libraries in Italy, the Biblioteca di Brera. The multitude of attractions are all centred around an impressive courtyard, with artworks and noticeboards, giving information about the Pilazzo.
Stopping for a quick cappuccino (I can’t believe we were in Italy for half a day before trying a coffee!), we continued our one day in Milan by strolling onwards towards Sempione Park.
After exploring the nearby funfair, we turned towards Sforzesco Castle as the sun was going down. The castle was built over several centuries, and each view offers a different aesthetic, from the exterior fortress walls to the intricately decorated ceilings.
Twilight is a fantastic time to visit the castle. As the light fades, the castle, fountain, and surrounding grounds are illuminated, giving the whole area a dreamy, romantic feel.
Canals at Navigli
A canal-side stroll seemed like the perfect end to our one day in Milan. Though perhaps not as scenic as more famous canal areas in Europe, Navigli is still worth a visit. Walking by the waterside, past an array of restaurant terraces, our thoughts quickly turned to food.
And so we ended our one day in Milan in a candlelit courtyard, sipping cocktails and eating cheese. If there’s such a thing as a perfect Italian city to squeeze into one day, Milan may just be it.
Suggested Itinerary for One Day in Milan:
Begin at the main town square, the Plaza Duomo. Here, check out Milan’s most famous sight, the Duomo Milano (though skip the interior). Before you leave the plaza, pay a visit to the shopping mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Walk onwards to the Pilazzo di Brera (roughly a 15 minute walk away). If you have time, pay a visit to one of the many attractions (the library in particular is recommended). If you’re short on time, the courtyard is still worth a visit.
Continue onwards to Sempione Park to check out Sforza Castle (just an 8 minute walk away). Give yourself plenty of time to explore the castle grounds.
End your day at Navigli (a 30 minute walk or short metro journey away). Here, you can explore the canals at night and to sample the delicious food Milan has to offer.
Milan Independent Travel Tips:
Although Milan is a large city, the above itinerary can easily be covered on foot.
The Metro is easy to navigate, and reasonably priced. Buy a one day ticket for just €4.50 if you plan to use the Metro several times.
Milan may not be super cheap, but can easily be explored on a tight budget. The sights listed above are all free to enter.
The nearby lakes are well worth a visit, so, even if you do have more than one day to spend in Milan, it is still worth squeezing the city into one day, and spending the next on a day trip to Lake Como.