What to See and Do in Milan in One Day
We have been to Milan a few times before, but all of our visits were pretty short. When I say short I mean only for a few hours. If you plan to only visit Milan for a short period of time I recommend reading my previous article: “A short trip to Milan”. Last summer, we had the chance to go back to Milan and spend 24 hours there, we had enough time to enjoy the city and ticked off the top things to do on my list. I am sharing our experience with you, here.
Where to stay in Milan
We only had 24 hours to move around Milan, we didn’t want to waste time commuting or travelling to and from the centre. For this reason, when searching for a hotel we checked its distance from the places we wanted to visit. As a result, we booked a hotel called Uptown Palace, next to one of the Metro station in the city centre, from which we could also walk to the main attractions. We arrived in Milan around 6 pm, we went to our hotel straight away and checked in. We left our luggage in the room and headed out for dinner.
Dining in Navigli District
Before our trip, I spent some time researching and asking some locals about the best place to dine in Milan, and all of the answers lead me to the “Navigli District”. I was looking forward to seeing Navigli after hearing and reading good things about it.
Navigli is an old area along a canal with a lot of restaurants and bars. We walked to the district. Once we got there, we were shocked and started wondering how we missed checking out this charming place during our previous visits. You can probably find more locals than tourists in the area who go there after work for an “aperitivo”, which involves spending some time relaxing accompanied with a glass of wine and some snacks. Some of these restaurants and bars include a food buffet for free (mostly snacks) when you buy a drink.
Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano or Milan Cathedral is the main attraction in the city, and it is located in Piazza del Duomo (Duomo Square). We knew that we had to wake up early in the morning to be able to visit the cathedral as the queue to get inside can get quite long. We managed to be there early and purchased our tickets around 8:10, only 10 mins after the Duomo opening time. There were already a few people ahead of us to buy the tickets, but we didn’t have to queue to enter the church after that. This is usually not the case if you arrive an hour (or more) later.
The Duomo is one the largest Christian churches in the world, where Napoleon Bonapart was crowned King of Italy in May 1805. It is one the most beautiful cathedrals ever built and it has been decorated with 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures.
You should keep in mind that to visit the Duomo, you need to dress up respectfully and follow the church dress code.
After visiting the inside of the church, we headed to its rooftop, where the view was quite impressive. You can take a lift to go up to the top, but I would still recommend wearing some comfortable shoes as you will still have to climb some stairs after getting off the lift and the walkways are quite narrow.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
After visiting the Duomo, we went directly to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is located next to the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls and some people believe it also is the world’s most beautiful mall.
We left the main square and headed to the red-brick Sforza Castle, which was built in the 15th century. You can buy a ticket and visit the indoor art museum, but we decided to walk around the castle and visit its outdoors.
We walked through the castle and continued our way towards Parco Sempione, the historical green park in the heart of Milan. The park can get busy during summers and sunny days, but the day we were there the weather was not great so we had the whole park to ourselves. We went to the canal to do some bird watching and then headed to the Arco Della Pace (Arc of Peace), a historical city gate of Milan.
Lunch in a traditional Italian Restaurant
I don’t think I should emphasise how tasty Italian food is in this post, and Milan is not an exception. You should remember that each city or region in Italy has its own traditional dishes. We wanted to try at least a couple of authentic local dishes.
Finding a traditional Italian restaurant in the city centre is not hard. We went to Solferino, a restaurant that has been running in Milan since 1909. We ordered two of Milan's signature dishes to share: Risotto Alla Milanese (rice with saffron) and Cotoletta Alla Milanese (veal cutlet). Both dishes were really delicious and I would recommend trying them out.
As you must already know Milan is the capital of fashion, so you can’t leave the city without doing some shopping or at least some window shopping. I have mentioned earlier that you should visit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the most beautiful malls in the world. You can go shopping there if you can afford it, but you might only be able to find luxury brands.
If you instead want to do some serious shopping you can stroll in the famous shopping street Via Montenapoleone or walk around the Brera District of Milan.
Wandering around the city
Milan is a beautiful and historic city, which offers a wide range of activities. Strolling around the city is one of the best ways to explore Milan and learn about its culture. There are various shops, cafes, and gelaterias (ice cream shops) in every corner. We enjoyed wandering around the streets for a while and while doing so we found a cute cafe, where we had some Italian coffee and desserts.
Milan’s Train Station
It was around 5 pm when we got on the metro to get to Milano Centrale, the main train station, where we ended, but also started, our trip. The station is a must-see as it is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, and you will be amazed by its architecture. I always enjoy walking around Milan’s train station because it looks like a live museum.