Milan is an easy sell. The fashion capital of Italy is famed for all things glitz and glam, and even just one day in Milan will treat you to some incredible things to do. The city is set in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, and it is easily accessible worldwide.
The main attractions in Milan include the fabulous Duomo di Milano, the World of Leonardo da Vinci, and Italy’s oldest shopping mall – a quick fun fact for you. You are in for a huge treat if you want to build a Milan itinerary. Whether you want to snap photos of colorful buildings, a day trip to picturesque canals in other cities (we are looking at you, Venice), or see the painting of the Last Supper up close, Milan has much on offer. The list of the best things to do in Milan is anything but short.
Best Things to Do in Milan
Planning to visit Milan? Congratulations, the city is full of attractions, from within the city center to its outskirts, neighboring regions, and day trip destinations. Milan is essentially a large circle of wonderful things to do. In this guide, we will pick the best of its attractions and activities to compile a valuable list for your itinerary. These are the top 28 best activities to do in Milan – how many are you going to fit in?
1. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele iI
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is allegedly one of the oldest shopping malls in the world, let alone just Milan. The grand shopping center has a famous glass domed roof and dates back to the 19th century. If you want an indoor activity for your Milan itinerary, shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a great option.
It’s worth noting that the shopping center is primarily dedicated to luxury clothing brands, so be prepared to window shop if you are on a budget. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is worth visiting even just to soak up the architecture and admire the architecture, too. Don’t worry if you are on a budget to mid-range spending mission.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is feasible if you have one day in Milan since it is within walking distance of the Duomo di Milano and Teatro alla Scala. Most of the walking tours of Milan include the mall. If you decide to take a walking tour this is the the best one in Milan.
2. Teatro alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala, aka La Scala Opera House, is where to go for evening entertainment in Milan. The vast theater is nothing short of lavish, with those typical red plush seats and a traditional, multi-level auditorium with rows of individual seating boxes. Teatro Alla Scala dates back to the 18th century and is one of the prettiest buildings to see in Milan. It predominantly showcases Italian opera shows and ballet performances, and you can just keep an eye on its schedule to see what’s coming up during your stay. Think regal and luxurious, this theater is brilliant.
Watching a show at the theater is easily one of our top recommendations for activities in Milan. A museum and library are also on-site, which is a big win. You can grab your tickets here before you arrive.
3. Museum of Musical Instruments
The Museum of Musical Instruments is one of the most fun and lighthearted places you can visit in Milan. The collection showcased at the museum was once the lifetime collection and pride and joy of Natale Gallini. Upon Natale’s passing, the group was transferred to the possession of the City of Milan. Natale’s generosity sparked a massive movement of donations – eventually growing the modern collection to its current size.
You can walk through hundreds of exhibits, including rare instruments passed down through multiple generations of distinguished families in Milan. If you are interested in music history, this place is magical. But equally, it is immersive enough to suit those interested in museums. Admission is fairly priced, and the museum runs free entrance on the first and third Tuesday every month after 2 pm. For budget travelers, Sundays are also free entry, so keep that in mind.
4. Santa Maria delle Grazie
Santa Maria delle Grazie is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site and basilica, which also houses one of the most famous paintings in the world – Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painting. The building is iconically made from terracotta, with a striking red-brown-brick exterior. You have to book tickets to enter, and we’d advise doing so as far in advance as possible, as tickets sell out weeks in advance. It is one of the most famous Leonardo da Vinci paintings in the world, after all. While there are no further notable art collections in Santa Maria delle Grazie, people flock to see just the Last Supper painting and Gothic interior.
If you are looking for iconic things to do in Milan, even if you just have one day in Milan, Santa Maria della Grazie is a must for your Milan itinerary. It is Leonardo da Vinci; you must just carve time for it.
5. Branca Tower
We won’t lie; Branca Tower looks a bit strange. From some angles, it looks like a pylon. However, Branca Tower is the best viewpoint available in Milan. The tower can be scaled with the help of an elevator and staircase combination, taking you to 109 meters above the ground to enjoy expansive views of the city. It was built as part of the 1933 Triennale art event but has remained a leading tourist attraction ever since.
Branca Tower is one of the best Milan attractions for brilliant views. Make sure to bring a good camera.
6. Piazza Mercanti
Most people know of the Piazza del Duomo, but what about the Piazza Mercanti? The square is surrounded by famed medieval buildings and has a much more quiet, fairytale vibe. The building bordering Piazza Mercanti dates back centuries. For instance, the Palazzo della Ragione was built in 1233. Others also date back to the 15th and 17th centuries, with a pit in the center of the square that dates back to the 16th century. Piazza Mercanti, which translates as Merchants Square, was a meeting point for politics and business.
Visiting Piazza Mercanti is free and a quick activity to tick off in Milan. It requires little effort and offers high rewards. It is also just a short walk from Duomo di Milano, so combining with the classics is easy.
7. The Vertical Forest
The Vertical Forest (aka Bosco Verticale) has become quite a trend on social media platforms. What is it? Two twin high-rise flats sporting thick greenery and miniature trees create the image of a ‘vertical forest’. It is an unusual way to develop inner-city greenspace but an eye-catching and bold effort. Each apartment in the high-rise has its own balcony and greenery to care for, which equally provides privacy and natural screening for the residents to enjoy their private outdoor space.
You can’t go into the high-rises for apparent reasons. However, it is well worth using public transport to reach Bosco Verticale and admiring the spectacle from outside. The best views are from Area Cani and TreeVilla Park, where you can also spot funky street art.
8. Monumental Cemetery
A cemetery may seem a slightly weird addition to a list of must-see attractions. However, Milan’s Monumental Cemetery is definitely worth a visit. The cemetery is situated in the north of the city, near Chinatown, and it is a breeze to reach via public transport, earning it its first green tick for accessibility. As an attraction itself, it is most famed for its gravestone architecture. Trust Italy to impress with funerary sculptures, right? Everything from mourning women to what appears to be a scene of the Last Supper. Slightly morbid, but all-in-all a fascinating visit, Monumental Cemetery is a must when visiting Milan.
It’s also free to visit, which is always a huge plus, especially if you travel on a budget.
9. Royal Palace of Milan
The Royal Palace of Milan is called the Palazzo Reale di Milano in Italian and is a grand complex and former royal residence turned art gallery. For a reasonable entry fee, you can sweep through grand halls and Bridgerton-style staircases, embodying your true inner royal. The gallery is a fantastic chance to take a look inside the historic interior of an 18th-century palace. And that’s before you even start to admire the artifacts and exhibits. It is easy to see why we’ve added it to this list. Palazzo Reale di Milano ticks off a few different experiences with just one visit.
The palace is in central Milan, a short distance from the Duomo and main piazzas. Because of its convenient city center location, Palazzo Reale di Milano is easy to include in your itinerary even if you have only one day in Milan.
10. Dine Out
Needless to say, one of the best things to do in Milan is to dine out. Milanese aperitivo runs from 6 pm until 9 pm and is your pre-meal warm-up. Aperitivo usually consists of evening cocktails in Milan, primarily using vermouth or aged wine. Food-wise, this could include anything from salami, bread, olives, and pies. We’d suggest grabbing an aperitivo somewhere scenic, like II Bar in Piazza Duomo. The views come with more expensive prices, but II Bar has views of the Duomo di Milano. You can then move somewhere more authentic and budget-friendly for your main meal.
Food should be a priority – even when you are just visiting Milan for one day. You should plan to eat out at least once. If you are a foodie then we definitely suggest jumping on this Food Tour. It is one of the best we have done.
11. Leonardo Da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology
Leonardo da Vinci is one of Milan’s most famous residents. You can trace some of his genius concepts and early findings at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, including scale models and sketches of submarines and planes. Leonardo da Vinci was truly an icon in the early technological and scientific spheres. This museum is the perfect place to truly understand his impact and imprint on the world, with a massive collection of exhibits and interactive yet educational entertainment.
The museum is located in west Milan, easily reached via public transport from the city center. It is located next to a small cluster of other museums and galleries, like Rossana Orlandi Master Gallery, so consider stopping to visit a few other nearby attractions to justify the, albeit short, journey out.
12. Poldi Pezzoli Museum
The Poldi Pezzoli Museum will be up your alley if you like art in elegant settings. Its grand walls are adorned with Flemish paintings and valuable Italian artwork, including works by Piero Della Francesca and Botticelli. The museum is a piece of art featuring a modern-Gothic-style interior with dark wood furnishings, plenty of red carpets, and a photogenically moody aesthetic. Simply put, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is excellent art in a great setting.
The museum’s strong sense of character means that even non-art enthusiasts can appreciate the aesthetic and experience. However, art enthusiasts get the strongest recommendation here since the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is a bit of a bucket list ticker when it comes to seeing works by different famous artists.
13. Bar Luce
For those familiar with the name ‘Wes Anderson’, you have to check out Bar Luce. This little café was designed by the esteemed film director and runs like a time machine, transporting guests back to the 1950s with décor and menu. It is one of the more unusual things to do when visiting Milan and something many weekend getaway visitors miss. Have a visit, treat yourself to a coffee and cake or two, enjoy the arcade games, and lap up the aesthetic. This is probably the closest any of us will get to being in a Wes Anderson film, so make the most of Bar Luce.
The café is next to the Milano Porta Romana station, which is easily accessible from the city center. If you have a car, you may wish to combine it with a visit to the Vaiano Valle, just south of the city.
14. Braidense National Library
For bibliophiles with one day in Milan, add this to your list of top contenders. Braidense National Library is one of the best things to do in Milan for any book lovers, and the vast building is one of the largest libraries in Italy. You can enter for free and enjoy just walking through the different displays, which are incredibly grand, with floor-to-ceiling shelves and ornate wooden designs and features. Between the antique book displays and the chandelier lighting, Braidense National Library has created a reputation as one of the grandest Italian libraries.
If it’s raining or you just want to do some light work, study, or read when in Milan, Braidense National Library is the place to go. The library’s workspaces and study areas are open to everyone.
15. Pinacoteca di Brera
Pinacoteca di Brera is a grand palazzo used by Napoleon in its heyday. The building is stunning, with columned walkways and an expansive courtyard area. But nowadays, the highlight is its precious art collection, which includes works by Raphael and Piero della Francesca. You can wander through the grand corridors and exhibition rooms, admiring some of the most famous artwork in Italy. And, rather than paying for the expense of a tour guide, you can opt for an audio guide for next to nothing. It is a real win-win.
Pinacoteca di Brera is a fabulous attraction for your Milan itinerary, especially if you are an art enthusiast.
16. Naviglio Grande
If you have one day in Milan, it is unlikely that you can fit this little gem into your itinerary. Naviglio Grande is almost the only remainder of Milan’s historic canal system. Its name literally translates as ‘big canal’ and dates back over 850 years; it is a big deal when understanding Milan’s early history and roots. You can walk the canal banks, enjoying al fresco bars and dining opportunities. And there are always small markets running if you want a more authentic and laidback shopping experience than hitting the main shopping center.
Naviglio Grande is easily reached in 30 minutes from the city center. You can take a bus and then the metro for 15 minutes or drive, which also takes 30 minutes.
Staying in Milan for more than a few days? Then a day trip is definitely in order. Bologna is known for its culture and art. The city is full of beautiful churches, medieval squares, galleries, and delicious Italian cuisine. It is home to the Bolognese sauce – which should be enough to convince you to grab a day trip and meal there.
It only takes an hour and 15 minutes to reach Bologna from Milan by high-speed train, which is actually more time effective than driving, which takes nearly 3 hours. Because of the rail connection, Bologna is one of the best day trips to take from Milan. You can easily spend a whole day there; just set off early in the morning and get on the last available train at around 11 pm.
Milan is exciting, but planning day trips from Milan is even more exciting. Italy is a beautiful country, full of incredible cities and tourist attractions, so it makes sense that you want to maximize your time. And what better way to do so than by catching the train to Verona for the day? Verona is just under an hour and 15 minutes away from Milan via high-speed train, so you’ll have a full day of sightseeing in the city.
Verona is most famed for Juliet’s Balcony at Casa di Giulietta. The stone balcony on this 14th-century stone house is said to have inspired Shakespeare for the iconic ‘Romeo, Romeo’ scene. Verona also has other artistic attractions, like its large amphitheater.
19. Watch a Game at San Siro Stadium
What would a trip to Milan be without a football game? San Siro Stadium plays home ground to AC and Inter Milan. If you are lucky, you can bag tickets to watch a game. To do this, you’ll obviously need to travel in the football season, or at least the shoulder season, so you can watch a couple of friendlies. If you aren’t visiting when a game is on, don’t despair. You can also tour the stadium and learn more about the club’s history.
San Siro Stadium is located just outside the city center. It is about 30 minutes away by public transport or by car.
20. Piazza della Scala
Piazza della Scala is a stunning pedestrianized square right outside of the Teatro Alla Scala, which we’ve already mentioned. It is well combined with a visit to an opera or ballet performance, but equally an attraction in its own right. The grand square has a dramatic Leonardo da Vinci statue in its center, with water features and manicured greenery. It is a prime spot to grab a coffee, pick a bench, and people-watch. Of course, this is also a great way to avoid sit-down fees at popular cafes and restaurants – although you should keep that a secret.
Piazza della Scala is a public space and totally free to enjoy and visit. A fountain in the square provides free drinking water.
21. Corso Buenos Aires
‘Shop until you drop’ as the saying goes, on the largest shopping street in Milan. Milan takes its fashion seriously, so it may not surprise you that it is home to one of the streets with the highest concentration of clothes shops in Europe. There are over 350 stores to window shop, try on, and purchase from along Corso Buenos Aires. You’ll need a whole morning to get the best experience. There are shops to suit all budgets, which is the perfect touch, making it more suitable than Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II for actual shopping, not just admiring the scenic shopping center.
Corso Buenos Aires cuts through central Milan and is super simple to reach. Just make sure to treat yourself to a coffee or two.
22. Sforzesco Castle
This massive fortress is a Medieval-Renaissance masterpiece and one of the best attractions that you can visit in Milan. Sforzesco Castle has some of the most stunning architecture you can see in the city, and you can walk through the fortress courtyard and walls, fully immersing yourself in early Milanese history. The attraction also houses artwork by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and offers an on-site history museum. Sforzesco Castle packs a punch. It is best to dedicate at least half a day to the castle, as there’s just so much to do and see once you arrive. You can grab your ticket here.
23. Arco della Pace
The Arco della Pace is a must when visiting Milan. The triumphal arch was built by Luigi Cagnola and formally requested by Napoleon, which gives it some bragging rights. The grand arch has three arches – the largest in the middle – and celebratory figures of horses and riders atop the structure. There are also inscriptions and sculptures adorning its walls.
The Arco della Pace is totally free to admire and has an actual stamp of wow factor. If you like aesthetic landmarks and history, the Arco della Pace is the attraction for your Milan itinerary.
24. Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milan is the sight to see in the city and the postcard image of weekend getaways to Milan. The grand cathedral is a top sight, perhaps even the number one sight to see in Milan, just because of how symbolic it has become of the city. If you have just one day in Milan, Milan Cathedral will be on your itinerary. Whether you venture inside or admire its exterior, visiting this cathedral is one of the best things to do in Italy.
It is thought that the Duomo di Milan dates back to 1386 when initial construction is believed to have commenced. Since then, it has undergone multiple works to restore and maintain the iconic building. The efforts have evidently been worthwhile, as it is the third-largest cathedral in the world and the second-largest in Europe. We do highly recommend you buy the Fast-Track tickets as the lines can be extremely long to get in.
25. Lake Como
One of the most famous Milan tours is a day trip to Lake Como. If you have more than a few days, this is one of the best day trips you can take, and you can appreciate the romantic mountain scenery and upscale hospitality. As fantastic as the inner-city Milan attractions are, a day trip to Lake Como is magical. It is one of the most famous regions in Italy.
The best way to reach Lake Como is by car, which takes 2 hours each way. If you set off early in the morning, you’ll have enough time to enjoy a full day. But if that sounds like too much intensive driving and sightseeing, you can book a guided tour with transport here.
Again, this is not an activity you can choose if you only spend one day in Milan. However, if you stay for a few days or more, you should go on a day trip to Venice. Everyone loves Venice. The city is fragmented by gorgeous canals, navigated by privately owned boats or irresistible yet over-priced gondola rides. Venice is a definite guilty pleasure, and if you’ve not visited it before, Milan is the best place to visit since it is connected by high-speed train. You can be in Venice in just 2.5 hours by high-speed train, which is a dream. Pack a good book or download a Netflix series; you’ll be well entertained. And if you set off early enough in the morning, you can easily have a full day in Venice.
27. Triennale di Milano
Triennale di Milano is one of Milan’s largest and most impactful museums. The museum houses exhibits on everything design-related, from furniture to towers – remember we mentioned Branca Tower? Some of the pieces are modern and abstract, and the Triennale di Milano is one of Milan’s most constantly evolving art museums. If you want cutting-edge art, this is where to go. There’s a great mixture of permanent and temporary exhibits, too, which helps to keep everything fresh.
Triennale di Milano is just a 25-minute public transport ride from Milan city center or less than 15 minutes by car. It is next to Chinatown, where you’ll also find the Monumental Cemetery on the opposite side of the neighborhood. These two places make perfect additions to an itinerary that includes Triennale di Milano.
28. Piazza del Duomo
It might seem redundant to mention that you should visit Piazza del Duomo after already saying to visit Duomo del Milano. After all, the cathedral takes up an entire end of Cathedral Square. However, it is so vast and full of its own activities that it is worth mentioning separately. It is also the departure point for many walking tours – some free or donation only. So keep that in mind when visiting Milan.
As for the square, you can admire a vast equestrian statue, feed the pigeons, and admire the grand buildings around you. There’s so much space in Piazza del Duomo, but it does get busy. We’d suggest getting there early if you’d like photos without a swarm of people in the background.
The Ideal 1-Day Milan Itinerary
With just one day in Milan, you will have to hit the ground running. You have enough time to see the main attractions. Still, some quick considerations are worth reviewing before we get started on the ultimate one-day itinerary.
You should look at the best deals for queue jumping in the high season; otherwise, you’ll waste hours waiting in lines. You should consider the dress code, especially for religious sites. If you only have a day, the last thing you want is to get turned away and waste time finding an outfit change. You may sacrifice some main attractions to enjoy ‘hidden gems’. More than one day is needed to see the whole city.
All make sense? Then, let’s look at the ideal one-day itinerary for a first-time visit to Milan.
Grab breakfast at Bar Luce, the café designed by Wes Anderson. Then, head to the Santa Maria delle Grazie to spot Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painting before visiting the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology.
After lunch, shop on the Corso Buenos Aires or at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You can’t visit Milan without appreciating fashion.
You can grab aperitivo and dinner at II Bar in Piazza Duomo, which overlooks the Milan Cathedral. Then, head for an evening of opera or ballet before enjoying some of Milan’s nightlife.
Best Attractions in Milan: FAQs
Milan has a reputation for being fashionable, yet also quite nitty gritty, with a darker, big city vibe – much like the stereotype of Paris. It is a fascinating city. The character, culture, and sheer amount of things to do set Milan in its own league. Before you enjoy Milan, though, let’s look at the most commonly asked FAQs together. These quickfire answers could provide the answers you need for an ultimate trip experience to visit Milan.
Is 2 days enough for Milan?
You can see parts of Milan in just two days, but that doesn’t mean you should. You can have a whistle-stop tour of Milan in two days, spotting the main attractions like the Duomo di Milano. But with longer, you’ll get a better insight into Milan and its culture and a day trip out of the city center.
What is Milan best known for?
Milan is best known for fashion, art, and its nitty-gritty culture. It is a famous city break, and most visitors stay for a long weekend, taking advantage of short and cheap European flights.
Is 3 days in Milan too much?
Three days in Milan is definitely not too much. With three days in Milan, you have barely scratched the surface, likely just seeing the main attractions and sampling cuisine. If you stay longer in Milan, you can spread your focus to other cities, taking day trips to places like Bologna and Venice.
Is it expensive to eat in Milan?
Eating can be expensive in Milan, especially if you eat out for every meal. This is mainly because restaurants in touristy areas charge a premium. There’s also a sit-down charge, which is applied per person at most central restaurants. Yes, you read that right – think of it as a table tax and a way of justifying why you should reserve a valuable table space when the restaurant has many possible customers. It is a bit of an insurance policy.
Why We Love Milan, Italy
Are you excited to visit Milan? If you aren’t already, you should be. Milan is a beautiful city, brimming with cultural and artistic activities and attractions, as well as many nearby areas of natural beauty. If you want a getaway, you’ll remember Milan is one of the leading options, and we hope you have a wonderful time. Tick off the classics like the Duomo di Milano and stretch yourself with day trips, lesser-trodden activities, and excursions.
Looking for more Milan inspiration? We’ve got lots to keep in mind. You can read our guide on the best luxury hotels in Milan because you deserve a bit of luxury to slink back to after sightseeing. If those day trips got you thinking about cool destinations, there’s also our guide on the best hikes in Cinque Terre – another famous region in northern Italy.
Remember to tick as many of these attractions off your list as you can. The most significant challenge with Milan itineraries is that most people only visit for a short weekend, which is an absolute travesty considering the amount of things to do in the city. The best mantra for Milan is to stay as long as possible and see as much as possible. Enjoy.