10 Things to Do in Milan in a Day

What is Milan Most Famous For?

Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler
27 Nov, 2018

Milan is one of Italy’s most fashionable cities, home to some of the country’s major fashion brands. One of the best spots in the city center to find them in one spot happens to be the world’s oldest shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. But Milan’s not all about fashion, though. 

It’s among the great Italian cities where you can find rich history, art and culture through grand landmarks. These include the majestic Duomo and its grand collection of basilicas. Add the city's gastronomic traditions and you’ll have plenty of compelling reasons to put a trip to Milan on your bucket list. 

1

Start the day at Piazza del Duomo

Take in the buzz of Milan from its beautiful square

Piazza del Duomo is Milan’s grandest square, home to the city’s largest Gothic cathedral. Take your time soaking up the scene at a café, then visit the massive Duomo with its 135 spires and countless statues. You can head up to its rooftop terraces for amazing cityscapes. A lift inside takes you up 70 meters to these terraces for around €13. Numerous sculptors worked on the Duomo over the years – try spotting quirky elements such as tennis rackets and boxing gloves among the Gothic reliefs. 

Location: Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Italy

Open: Daily from 9am to 7pm

Phone: +39 02 7202 2656

  • History
  • Photo
  • Budget

photo by Mario555 (CC0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

2

Shop at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Walk through the glass-ceilinged arcade of the world's oldest mall

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is testament to Milan’s title as one of the world’s fashion capitals. This wondrous, glass-ceilinged arcade connects the piazzas of the Duomo and the Teatro alla Scala opera house, and is lined with cafes and high-end boutiques, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada. Enjoy a coffee stop before heading to the piazzas, and sip your cappuccino as the Milanese do: standing up by the bar. If you choose a spot at their terraces, be prepared to pay extra.

Location: Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Italy

Phone: +39 02 8846 3700

  • Shoppers
  • History
  • Photo
  • Luxury
3

Walk on the walls of Sforza Castle

Milan's 15th century castle and museum

Despite its name, Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle) looks more like a fortress with a large courtyard than a castle. The complex has a library and several museums. Some of these hold the works of Michelangelo and da Vinci, as well as arts and artifacts from Ancient Egypt. The castle is free to enter, but the museum charges around €10 (or free every first Sunday of the month). The castle’s around 800 meters northwest from the Duomo.

Location: Piazza Castello, Milan, Italy

Open: Tuesday - Sunday from 7am to 7:30pm

Phone: +39 02 8846 3700

  • History
  • Photo
  • Budget
4

Explore the Brera District

Shop for bargains at the Sunday market

Walking through Milan’s charming district of Brera introduces you to one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the city’s historical zone. Brera’s home to an academy of fine arts and an art gallery, which explains its artistic vibe. Vendors selling arts and antiques gather at Brera’s flea market on Via Fiori Chiari every third Sunday. Brera’s narrow streets are lined with small but stylish cafes and specialty shops, which light up after sundown for a unique and atmospheric walk through Milan.

Location: Via Brera, Milan, Italy

  • Shoppers
  • History
  • Photo
  • Food
5

Eat Milanese Risotto at Il Marchesino

Discover Milan's own specialty risotto

Northern Italy is well-known for its risotto, but one specialty to try in Milan is its own saffron-infused version. Each chef in Milan has his own special approach to preparing the dish, but a perfectly al dente Risotto alla Milanese should have the right savory balance between its use of lard and parmesan, and with the right pinch of saffron to bring its aroma and golden glow. For the experience, try the upscale Il Marchesino, right next to the Scala opera house, for its Risotto alla Milanese d'oro – garnished with real gold leaf! 

Location: Via Filodrammatici, Milan, Italy

Open: Monday - Saturday: from 8am to 10:30pm

Phone: +39 02 7209 4338

  • Couples
  • Food

photo by Khryz Garcia (CC BY-SA 2.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

6

Must-See: Leonardo da Vinci Museum

See da Vinci's curious flying machines from up close

The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology is one of Milan’s most inspiring and engaging historical sites. From the outside, it’s a Renaissance monastery. Inside, you’ll find a rich showcase of interactive and educational exhibits. There’s plenty to see and learn about, from real-life 3D realisations of da Vinci’s mechanical designs, to aviation, particle physics, locomotion, and multimedia that lets you explore the galaxies. Kids will love exploring the life-size WWII submarine. Full tickets are from €10.

Location: Via San Vittore, Milan, Italy

Open: Tuesday - Friday from 9.30am to 5pm, Saturday - Sunday from 9.30am to 6.30pm

Phone: +39 02 485551

  • Families
  • History
  • Photo
7

Decipher the mysteries of da Vinci's The Last Supper

View the famous mural in Santa Maria delle Grazie church

This Renaissance church in downtown Milan is famous for its monastery that’s home to Leonardo da Vinci’s mural, The Last Supper. The church is a 5-minute walk from Cardona station and is free to access. However, you’ll need advanced booking (tickets from €16) to enter the refectory. You have 15 minutes as part of a group to see the famous fresco. Many try to reveal hidden messages in the painting, inspired by the thriller novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Location: Via Giuseppe Antonio Sassi, Milan, Italy

Open: Daily from 7am to 12pm and 4pm to 7:30pm

Phone: +39 02 467 6111

  • History
  • Photo
8

Go for aperitivo at Deseo

Enjoy an afternoon tipple in true Milano style

You can complete your Milanese experience with an aperitivo: the classic and well-cherished Italian predinner tradition. It all began in 18th century Turin, the birthplace of vermouth. However, Milan manages to reign top spot for modern aperitivo, with its great collection of downtown bars. One of the city's favorites is Bar Basso on Via Plinio, home of the Negroni Sbagliato. For around €10, enjoy your glass accompanied by cicchetti (small platter of nibbles). For a young and stylish crowd, try Deseo on Corso Sempione. It’s a good spot to try out the legendary Aperol Spritz, and you can find your way through their extensive all-you-can-eat buffet, for around €11.

Location: (Around the city center) Milan, Italy

Open: Varies among venues, but aperitivo is mostly between 6pm and 9pm.

  • Couples
  • Food
  • Luxury
9

Dine with a view at Terrazza Gallia

Enjoy cocktails at a rooftop terrace with a unique Milanese skyline

Terrazza Gallia is a rooftop terrace restaurant and lounge on the 7th floor of the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, which offers a unique cityscape overlooking the Piazza Duca d’Aosta and the cathedral-like Milano Centrale Railway Station. It’s the place to be for chilling out, well away from the more touristy hubs of Milan. Enjoy aperitivo with a classical Il Milanese or their signature Ultimo Treno per Livorno and continue on for dinner in their elegant dining room.

Location: Piazza Duca d'Aosta, 9, Milan, Italy

Open: Daily from 11am to 1am

Phone: +39 02 6785 3514

  • Couples
  • Photo
  • Food
  • Luxury

photo by elkimmelito (CC0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

10

End the day watching opera at Teatro alla Scala

Experience the acoustics at Milan's legendary opera house

Watch an Italian opera, an orchestral concert, or classical ballets at Milan’s 18th century opera house. The façade may not be as dazzling as Milan’s other great landmarks. But enter its auditorium, and you’ll be amazed by its interior. Overlooking the stage, theatre boxes are arranged over four levels, and all are heavily gilded and adorned with maroon drapes. Mind that not all seats have great views, and most rear seats have no backs. The Platea and Palchi seats offer best views, but at a price – from around €150. 

You can visit the museum and theatre prior to performances and book an evening show on the same day at the Biglietteria Filodrammatici (Amateur Dramatics Theater), next door. 

Location: Via Filodrammatici 2, Milan, Italy

Open: Performances start around 8pm (museum open daily from 9am to 5.30pm)

Phone: +39 02 88791

  • Couples
  • History
  • Nightlife
  • Luxury

photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST (CC BY 3.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

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