One Day In Milan Itinerary, Plus The Best Day After Attractions - My Family Travels

A one day in Milan itinerary should include couture fashion design, fresh pasta and great art. What’s not to miss in Milan? Leonardo’s “The Last Supper.” What’s the other top thing to do in Milan? Celebrate that Milanese ritual, the apertivo, by hitting a stylish bar and savoring delicious cocktails. Kids welcome, too! If this sounds like your idea of what to do in Milan for one day, we’ll show you how.

My map of the real highlights, main attractions to see and things to do with one day in Milan, Italy. Plus favorite places for the next day.
My map of the real highlights, main attractions to see and things to do with one day in Milan, Italy. Plus favorite places for the next day.

After your must-see’s, of course, Milan has many other delights to appreciate. Let’s start with things to do in a day in this city of fashion, finance and fine living.

Getting Around: Your One Day in Milano

Due to heavy bombing during WW2, Milan’s mix of old and new architecture is not Italy’s most picturesque. The good news is that you won’t waste time strolling aimlessly as you might in la bella cittaRome.

Most Milan attractions are compact enough to explore by foot, on the efficient electric trolley system and, if you’re clever, by calling a taxi. Other than “The Last Supper,” a bucket list experience you’ll have to plan weeks in advance, organize Milan’s top things to do in the order below.

One Day in Milan: Highlights in Fashion, the Arts and Gastronomy

If you’re in Milan for one day, concentrate on exploring the area around the Duomo, the city’s central cathedral. Fit in in the top fashion sights, museums, a drink and dining around your timed entry ticket to “The Last Supper.” Note that many churches and museums may be closed Monday and on the frequent Italian holidays.

Take frequent breaks, that’s part of the fun. Milanese work hard and play hard, so it’s no wonder that a favorite custom is the mid-afternoon cappuccino at a pastry shop. You know what they say… “when in Milan do as the Milanese do…”

Milan Art Highlight: See the Masterpiece “The Last Supper”

Cenacolo or “The Last Supper” by Leonardo is Milan’s bucket list attraction and the one thing to do if you only have a day to spend in Milan.
Cenacolo or “The Last Supper” by Leonardo is Milan’s bucket list attraction, so you’ll have to plan ahead for tickets.

“The Last Supper” (Cenacolo in Italian) is Leonardo da Vinci’s famous mural. It’s painted on a wall in the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, and only be seen with a tour guide. Pause at the entry to study photos of the horrific Allied bombing in the 1940s. Italians say it was only the Hand of God that saved Leonardo’s masterpiece from destruction.

You have 15 minutes to experience the very faint, worn mural in the church’s refectory. Turn around to admire a fresco of the “Crucifixion” (1495) by Giovanni Donato, also painted around 1495, that has retained its color and spectacular beauty. Rather than diminish the power of “The Last Supper,” it proves how fragile Leonardo’s new, dry fresco style of painting turned out to be.

Don’t miss the church’s other highlights, the most prominent of which are an exceptional dome and architectural work by Bramante.

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How to Get Into “The Last Supper” – Advance & Last Minute Bookings

Plan several weeks ahead to buy entry tickets (23 Euros) at the official Cenacolo website. Entry includes a required 30-minute guided tour with headset and 15 minutes with the masterpiece.

The alternative for last minute planners is to find a local tour operator’s time slot. Book a guided tour, such as the half-day Last Supper Skip-the-Line with Tourist Italy, or a Milan City Tour on Viator. This is the best way to find last minute availability if you only have one day in Milan.

One Day in Milan: The Church Not To Miss, The Duomo

Crowds outside the Piazza del Duomo, the city of Milan's top attraction and the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world.
Crowds outside the Piazza del Duomo, the city of Milan’s top attraction and the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world.

The Duomo is Milan’s central cathedral. The construction of this massive Gothic wonder took five centuries to complete. The end result is the third largest church in the world rising right out of the center of the city. The adornment of the Duomo is magnificent as well, with 135 marble spires, 55 stained glass windows, 3,400 statues, and indoor seating to accommodate a congregation of 40,000. Currently being “cleaned”, the Duomo is draped in video billboards for the latest cellphones and shoes, an unexpected desecration of the old with the new that is very Milanese.

If you’re in Milan for only one day, you may have to skip an interior tour. Take selfies outside instead.

Dining Tip around Piazza Duomo

To recover from the crowds at the Duomo and Galleria, try every Pasticceria you can and compare. That’s doing as the locals do. The best known is Marchesi 1824 which wears its birthday in its name. New owners, the Prada fashion house, have opened a ‘new-old’ branch in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Note that there are several other notable Pasticceria nearby in Piazza della Scala.

Milan – Church Lovers’ Bonus Thing To Do in One Day

The Touring Club of Milano is comparable to AAA. Their volunteers support many small churches and historic sites in need of restoration. Check with your concierge to see if their latest project is open.

One of our favorites is the Church of San Maurizio of Monastero Maggiore. The church was once part of the city’s most important Benedictine convent and houses some of the few remaining paintings by Bernardino Luini. The 16th-century Renaissance painter was part of Leonardo’s circle, earning this church the nickname “Sistine Chapel of Milan.” Walk behind the congregation to the screened-in choir gallery where nuns, obscured from the view of the congregation, once sang surrounded by the most beautiful paintings.

Fashionistas One Day in Milan – The Top Shops

Here for Prada, Gucci, Fendi, Zegna, Etro and more gems from the couture mafia? Set your gaze on the city’s famed glass-roofed, cross-shaped atrium of shops near the Duomo.

What Makes the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Special

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was a radical design and engineering marvel in the 1860s. Sadly, architect Giuseppe Mengoni died just before its opening. That hasn’t stopped modern malls from Toronto’s Eaton Centre to Dallas’ Galleria from copying his design.

Still the city’s commercial and social hub, it’s packed with elegant shops (open daily 10am to 7pm or 8pm) you’ll want to savor. Galleria cafes also provide a great opportunity to sit back and observe modern Milanese culture firsthand. Be sure to check out the commotion around the mosaic floor tiles under the central octagon dome. It’s said that to ensure good luck, you must turn your heel three times on the bull’s testicles featured in the Turin Coat of Arms.

Top Shops at Via Monte Napoleone If You Can Afford It

In contrast, the High Street known as Quadrilatero, like 5th Avenue, is for strolling past magnificent windows. Via Monte Napoleone, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Spiga and Via Borgospesso are aglow with luxury shops. The neighborhood is said to have the world’s second most expensive retail real estate (after New York), causing many traditional family-owned brands to close. Today, visitors find only the classic Milanese jewelers Buccellati, Cusi, and Pederanzi. Instant fashion classics like Valentino, Missoni, Gucci and many others, however, surround them.

Dining Tip on Via Monte Napoleone

Grab a curbside table at Cova Café to people watch over an espresso.

One Day in Milan Shoppers’ Bonus: Corso Como and Brera

One of the top Milan things to do for fashionistas is visit the trendy shop 10 Corso Como.
One of the top Milan things to do for fashionistas is visit the trendy shop 10 Corso Como.

The winding Corso Como is one of the city’s quieter shopping streets.  Among the high fashion boutiques, the style-setting fashion, accessories, and art gallery founded by Vogue Italia editors is legendary. It’s still known by its #10 street address, Dieci Corso Como.

In contrast, Brera is like the more bohemian West Village. Stroll the cobblestones full of unique Italian design, housewares, artisan T-shirt and casual-wear shops. Poke your head into the colonnaded courtyard of the Accademia di Brera, an art school where Leonardo studied. If you’ve planned ahead, you may score tickets to the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of Milan’s favorite painting collections.

Dining Tip in Brera

You can wait in line for 45 minutes at Osteria da Fortunata for its legendary fresh pasta, or try Il Kaimano, one of the tiny bistros in Brera serving fresh pizzas and artichoke salads for an authentic Milanese lunch.

Feast Your Way Through Milano in One Day: Peck

With only one day in Milan, you'll want to stop by Peck, the legendary grocery, and buy souvenir sauces or sample some of its prepared food.
With only one day in Milan, you’ll want to stop by Peck, the legendary grocery, and buy souvenir sauces or sample some of its prepared food.

If Eataly is your jam, then Peck, which dates to 1883, is your marmalade. A classic temple of food in the tradition of Fauchon and Harrod’s, Peck sells cheeses, excellently crafted prepared foods, veal chops pounded thinner than anywhere else for Veal Milanese. Visitors love the decorative packaging, enormous displays of sweets, elaborate cakes and visually stunning salads in shiny glass cases. Any souvenir from here is an investment in fine dining.

If You Only Have One Day, Shop For Food Gifts in Eataly

The designer food hall Eataly debuted in Torino to instant acclaim in 2007. With 43 gastronomy malls around the world, it’s the perfect place to buy a house-brand jar of truffle oil or package of breadsticks. Bring home colorful foldout maps of Italy (1 Euro each) marked with the specific breads, wines, pastries, cheeses and other treats which originate in each region. The Milano Eataly sells a much wider array of Italian products and fewer prepared meals than other Eataly branches. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook to enjoy it. Friday nights, this cultural hub also serves dinner over a classic movie in their on-site theater.

One Day in Milan For Museums? Find Inspiration with Leonardo

Explore the genius of Leonardo da Vinci through 3D models and multimedia displays of his work. Photo by Lorenza Daverio for Leonardo 3 Museum.
Explore the genius of Leonardo da Vinci through 3D models and multimedia displays of his work. Photo by Lorenza Daverio for Leonardo 3 Museum.

If shopping and an aperitivo pause are on your One Day In Milan list, skip the major city museums and head to the bite-size Leonardo collection in Piazza della Scala.

Museum Leonardo 3 is an interactive attraction showcasing more than 200 3D reconstructions of Leonardo da Vinci’s most extraordinary inventions and artworks. Sophisticated multimedia displays and graphics explain their workings and innovation to young learners. Ask about reduced family tickets and discounted evening admission; kids 5 and younger always free.

End Milan Day One with an Aperitivo at Camparino

Elegant cocktails are served at Milan's legendary aperitivo bar, Camparino.
Elegant cocktails are served at Milan’s legendary aperitivo bar, Camparino.

We all know la dolce vita is based on spending time enjoying food in good company. That makes the aperitivo – small bites and cocktails Italians enjoy – a high art in Milan. Locals say the drink must be a digestif, preferably not sweet nor very alcoholic, served with small appetizers. Have an aperitivo prior to dinner (typically between 6pm and 9pm) to tease the palate for what’s to come.

While there are hundreds of such bars in Milan, one of the most Milanese is Camparino, the flagship of the Campari Company. Makers of both Campari and Aperol, their intimate bar in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a museum of tradition turning out innovative cocktails. Head to the elegant second floor space where children are welcomed with a menu of non-alcoholic drinks. Relax on a velvet banquet while staff who love their job tempt you with a classic Negroni, Campari shakerato or the more mundane (wildly popular) Aperol Spritz. Salute at tutti. Reservations a must.

Milan with More Time: Explore, Discover and Savor the Style

Piazza del Duomo, your first stop in Milan, is home to great art and amazing shops.
Piazza del Duomo, your first stop in Milan, is home to great art and amazing shops.

Families with more time, and those who don’t mind walking, should budget three to five days in Milan. Rushing defeats the purpose of being here. Instead, slow down and savor Milan’s attractions, not least of which is the city’s fabulous Italian style.

Day Two at the Duomo and Milan’s Center City

Start the next day, as usual, at the Duomo. To go inside and appreciate its grandeur, you must buy timed entry tickets. Even better, book the two-hour Fast Track Duomo Tour. Start in the oldest part of the cathedral at ruins of the Baptistery of San Giovanni alle Fonti. You’ll climb five flights to the many Duomo rooftops, well worth the effort. They afford breathtaking views of the city.

Then keep walking. Piazza Duomo and its surrounding streets are home to the Museo del Novecento, La Scala Opera, Museo Leonardo, the Prada Osservatorio (the main Fondazione Prada gallery is just outside the city) and many more sites.  Let your personal interests guide your stops.

Group of tourists working with chefs at the cooking school at Eataly, the food hall to visit with one day in Milan, Italy.
Visitors with more time can take classes at the cooking school at Eataly, the one food hall to visit if you only have one day in Milan, Italy.

More Milan Art Highlights: Step Inside Anywhere And Discover Art

Art treasures await, whether you step into Castello Sforzesco or one of the city’s hundreds of churches. The Duchy of Milan experienced its golden age between the 14th and 18th centuries, thanks to two of its most powerful families, the Viscontis and the Sforzas.  It became the capital of the kingdom of Lombardy under Napoleon and, finally, part of the new independent nation of Italy in 1861. 

Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, Temple to the Magii

The Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio in Milan, Italy.
Cherry trees highlight the ornate red brick facade of the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio. Their tour is one of the top things to do in Milan, Italy.

The beautiful Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, one of Milan’s oldest churches, is one of the best examples. Because it once housed relics of the Three Kings, it is dedicated to the Magii and has a star, rather than a cross, on its steeple. You can’t miss the city’s tallest bell tower (240 feet / 73 metres) built between 1297 and 1309 and its beautiful architecture spanning many eras.

Interior treasures include the extravagant Pontarini Chapel, and the body of Saint Peter of Verona, a lesser saint who was murdered for his religious beliefs. Ask the volunteer guides about Sr. Pontarini, a colleague of the Medici family, who rests in a two-level tomb supported by graceful statues of half-nude Virtues. Look up to the ceiling fresco of the Madonna and Holy Child with horns – revealing the Devil in disguise. All ages enjoy the underground Roman-era necropolis, where sarcophagi and tomb relics were uncovered during church renovations.

Dining Tip Near Sant’Eustorgio

When you’re ready for a break near Sant’Eustorgio, head to Pasticceria Adolfo Stefanelli. It’s a contemporary café with light sandwiches, quiches and fabulous pastries, cakes and chocolates suitable for any meal.

Save Day Two in Milan for Castello Sforzesco

Michelangelo's Pieta Rondanini is one of the artist's most beautiful sculptures, on view at Castello Sforzesco in Milan.
Michelangelo’s Pieta Rondanini is one of the artist’s most beautiful sculptures, on view at Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

This large red brick Castello Sforzesco — a public park behind towering walls — was once home to the Sforza family. Salons that surround the palace house works by Bellini, Correggio, Magenta and many other artists. Among the many small museums requiring nominal admission, choose La Pieta Rondanini. Michelangelo carved a rough but eloquent Jesus cradled in his mother’s arms just before his death in 1654. Discover the antiquities collection at the Museo d’Arte Antica, which contains an excellent collection of Egyptian funerary objects and prehistoric relics from Lombardy.

Staying Longer in Milan: Tour Modern Milan

A good guide is invaluable to seeing the real Milan, where contemporary style butts up against Renaissance art, pop culture, cuisine and the gracious Milanese themselves. We were lucky to have Nuki from Tourist Italy guide our three-hour “Modern Milan” tour. She knew the backstory to special buildings, the back door to trendy boutiques and the back alleys leading to the best cioccolato shops. 

Top Thing To Do in Milan after 2 Days: Shop Till You Drop

Whether you’re looking for shoes, clothes, art, furniture or interior decor, Milan is full of riches. This guide provides are more shopping ideas from the locals. After you’ve combed our favorite districts for fashion and design — Brera and Corso Como — keep shopping.

Via Garibaldi, Budget International Shops

Baked goods and chocolates at Biffi, one of Milan's original pasticceria.
Baked goods and chocolates at Biffi, one of Milan’s original pasticceria.

Garibaldi, unifier of both Italy and Argentina in his day, is the namesake of this broad boulevard that runs through the city. Depending on where you begin, shop H&M and Carrhart, or browse discount trendy teen shops. It’s definitely the place for cheap souvenirs if you don’t expect couture-quality tailoring.

Dining Tip for Via Garibaldi

The most notable of the many pasticceria along this avenue are Biffi (from 1847) and the original outpost of Marchesi 1824. Both have served the Milanese for more than 150 years.

Window Shopping at Piazza Gae Aulenti

Glass and steel buildings at Piazza Gae Aulenti, one of the more modern neighborhoods in Milan, Italy.
Architecture fans may want to window shop at Piazza Gae Aulenti, the city’s most futuristic development, if they only have one day of sighteeing in Milan.

Coming from New York, we like to see what’s new in cities. In Milan, visiting Porta Nuova, a neighborhood of high rise, ecologically friendly apartments draped in gardens is a surprising thing to do. It surrounds Piazza Gae Aulenti, a large, oval-shaped plaza lined with international shops and multinational skyscrapers. They are anomalies in the city’s otherwise graffiti-splattered districts. Look for The Eye. The two-story public artwork wrapped in brass pipes amplifies voices so visitors can whisper to each other from one level to another.

Milan’s Other Museums for Day 3, 4 or the Next Time

For more than 70 years, the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e delle Tecnica Leonardo da Vinci has been one of Europe’s premier scientific and research institutions. It is housed in a former Benedictine monastery with a beautiful garden all ages will enjoy. The nerdy family will appreciate the reconstructions and models of Leonardo’s airplanes, submarines and other engineering masterpieces. Explore deeper for the life-sized carriages, planes, optical devices, typewriters and other exhibits of mechanical and technical achievement. Closed Monday.

Fondazione Prada Milano for High Style Arts

For more than three decades, Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli have been presenting contemporary art and events on behalf of Fondazione Prada. They call their Milan museum, opened in 2015, a “laboratory of ideas” where art and archaeological exhibitions, scientific projects, live performances, films and educational activities coexist. Allow a half-day to see the permanent installations and temporary shows since it’s a half-hour taxi, subway or tram ride outside of town. Closed Tuesday, restaurant on-site open evenings.

More Art Museums to Savor After Two Days in Milano

Colorful shops, galleries and graffiti ornament the narrow lanes of the Brera district.
Colorful shops, galleries and graffiti ornament the narrow lanes of the Brera district.

Discover the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Milano in a villa once occupied by Napoleon and his stepson. Highlights from the excellent collection of modern art from the 18th to 20th-centuries include works by Cezanne, Gauguin and Pellizza da Volpedo. The English Garden is especially popular. Closed Monday.

Fascinating collections of artifacts from past civilizations adorn the Civico Museo Archeologico, current occupants of a16th-century monastery. Well-labeled exhibits include Greek, Etruscan, and Roman pieces found throughout Italy, as well as an excellent collection of the jewelry of Roman Milan. The museum also manages other historic sites around the city. Note the unusual square, 4th-century AD Roman Circus Tower, open occasionally for guided tours. Closed Monday.

Hotels If You’re Staying More than One Day in Milan

Hotel suite at 10 Corso Como, one of the most fashionable addresses in the fashion capital of Milan. Photo c. 10CorsoComo
Hotel suite at 10 Corso Como, one of the most fashionable addresses in the fashion capital of Milan. Photo c. 10CorsoComo

Almost every part of the city works for a hotel stay because the city is compact enough to explore by foot or on the efficient electric trolley system. One neighborhood we love is Navigli, where you can still see Milan’s original Grand Canal. The Hotel Maison Borella is right on its banks. Their larger Maison Privee rooms sleep four and rates include breakfast.

The Hotel Spadari al Duomo is small, but popular for its terrific Via Spadari location next to the Peck food hall and one block from the Duomo. Our friends especially like their lavish breakfast buffet and small garden. Some rooms have balconies; check for availability.

Star Hotels E.C.H.O. is the most sustainable choice, a ‘green’ hotel located about10 minutes by public transport south of the Duomo near the Central Station. They feature an organic restaurant and loaner bicycles. The hotel, in fact, also supports the neighborhood and its residents with a district food bank and other services. At Star Hotels, a member of the Beyond Green Hotels portfolio, all fabrics, construction and operating procedures combine to minimize the environmental impact.

Last but not least is 3 Rooms, the three furnished suites above the shops at Dieci Corso Como. Stylish décor, the hippest of street addresses and a custom breakfast served in their garden make it a special place to stay.

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