A lot of travelers skip over Milan for some reason. It has a reputation as just being designer stores, industrial zones, and not much else. To be honest, I was never really planning on going to Milan. On our recent trip to Cinque Terre we decided to spend one day in Milan because that’s where our flight landed. Surprisingly we ended up falling head over heels for the city. If you only have one day in Milan, here’s how you should spend it.
Some helpful tips to start out:
- First of all, base yourself near the Duomo. The majority of the sights to see are here because it’s located right in the city center.
- Get the one day urban line pass. This is good for all of the public transportation within the city (metro, bus, and suburban line) and it only costs 4.5 euro!
Start your day the Italian way
Grab a milky cappuccino and a fresh pastry inside the Il Mercato del Duomo. Located right next to the Duomo and the gallery, you won’t miss this multi-level food market. The price is reasonable considering the location and there’s lots of comfy seating.
Admire the magnificent Duomo
After you’ve had your caffeine and carb fix, head outside and take in the views of the extravagant cathedral. The church is amazing from the outside, but you can also pay 3 euro to go inside if you want to. This is the main sight of Milan and is definitely not to be missed if you have one day in Milan (or even one hour).
Stroll through Italy’s oldest shopping mall
Lined with fancy eateries and designer stores, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II can’t be missed. You’ll find it to the left of the Duomo when you’re looking at the front straight on. The architecture is incredibly impressive and hard to take your eyes off of — just make sure to look down once in awhile to dodge the endless groups of people taking selfies.
Get your mid-morning gelato fix
If you only have one day in Milan, make sure you stop for gelato at Ciacco. This gelateria is an 8 minute walk from the cathedral and serves up the most deliciously creamy gelato I’ve ever had in my life.
Don’t just take my word for it. Their gelato was rated the best in Milan in 2017. Bonus? About half of their flavors are vegan – and not just the usual fruity flavors. Grab a vegan pistachio or massa de cacao and you’ll never go back to regular ice cream.
Admire the artwork at the Monastero Maggiore
Completely free to enter, the San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is covered floor to ceiling in amazing artwork. The church is sometimes even called “Milan’s Sistine Chapel” because of the incredibly decorated walls and ceilings. The paintings are mostly religious with slight hints of profanity so keep an eye out for some weird ones.
Grab takeaway from the famous Luini
This sandwich and focaccia shop is a local legend and is always packed – but for good reason. The shop was founded in 1888 and specializes in “panzerotti”, which are similar to calzones. If you’re looking for a vegan bite, I had the olive bread and vegetable baked Luini, which was basically a calzone but so flavorful and fluffy. Jake had the tomato and mozzarella baked Luini and loved it. There are no tables or chairs to sit at so grab a panzerotto and keep exploring the streets.
Hang out in the trendy Navigli District
The Navigli area is a very popular hangout place with locals — mainly the trendy hipster ones. With tons of bars and restaurants to gather in, the area really comes alive at sunset and after. Grab a(nother) cone of gelato (you’re on vacation, come on!) and stake out a spot on the canal.
Eat local for dinner
Just like in any big city you’ll find tons of tourist trap restaurants. We happened to find Bellavista Cafe on accident but we were pleasantly surprised to be the only English speakers in there. The pizza was delicious, the service was good (for Italy), and the prices were reasonable. Don’t let the proximity to the Duomo fool you — this place was packed with locals!
Have you ever visited Milan? Let me know if I missed out on any must-sees in the comments below.