Milan isn’t just one of the most stylish, elegant cities in the world – it’s a bustling metropolis rich with amazing food, exceptional art and a thriving sports culture. In a city that abounds with so many hidden gems and adventurous options, deciding what to do and where to go is no easy feat. And if you only have one day in Milan… don’t worry, we’ll help you prioritise!
So… what is Milan known for?
The debate among this city’s aficionados around what Milan is known for is almost as relentless as the debate between Northern Italians and Southern Italians about, well, everything.
One thing they can agree on: Milan is all about the good life, however you characterise it. Old-world glamour and classic elegance in the realm of fashion? Tick. Charming cobblestone streets, Gothic cathedrals, and a historical association with some of the world’s most renowned artists, mathematicians and geniuses? Tick. Timeless Italian cuisine that will transport you, as in the film Ratatouille, to a sepia-toned first time you tried a classic Italian pasta dish? Tick!
Which brings us back to the question: what is Milan famous for? In short: Everything Italian – from the fashion to the food. So, when you’re planning your one day in Milan adventure, make sure you sample a little of everything.
Don’t miss these landmarks in Milan
If you only have one day in Milan, almost any Milanese would tell you to make this your first stop. The Milan Cathedral – also known as the Duomo – is arguably the most famous of landmarks in Milan, and with good reason.
Famously described by Mark Twain as “A vision!—a miracle!—an anthem sung in stone, a poem wrought in marble!”, it’s a universally acknowledged masterpiece. Construction of the Milan Cathedral began towards the end of the 14th century and took a staggering 600 years to complete. Standing at 108 metres in height, this stunning Gothic cathedral boasts a 40,000-person capacity, and is adorned both inside and outside with amazingly intricate details.
For many, the rooftop of the Milan Duomo is the highlight of this architectural beauty. The rooftop provides stunning vistas of the city below, including the Piazza del Duomo which boasts geometric tiles best appreciated from above. Check out the Milan Duomo rooftop shortly before sunset to watch the city slowly become soaked in golden light.
For those who appreciate the rich history and gravitas of organ music, be sure to check out Italy’s largest organ inside the Milan Cathedral. With a staggering 15,350 pipes attended to by expert organists, it’s a literal pipe dream.
Art and history enthusiasts: Look no further than Pinacoteca Ambrosiana for an intoxicating experience up close and personal with the greatest Renaissance art in Milan, possibly the world.
Featuring Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Raphael, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is the oldest public art gallery on Earth. See 1 of just 15 of Leonardo’s known paintings, Portrait of a Musician, as well as his legendary Codex Atlanticus, a 1,119-page diary boasting sketches and notes across the realms of architecture, anatomy, art and engineering.
Other resident masterpieces include Botticelli’s Madonna of the Pavilion, Titian’s The Adoration of the Magi, Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit, and Raphael’s The School of Athens. If you only have one day in Milan, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is undoubtedly the best way to get your art fix.
Football fans, this one’s for you. Enjoy two of the most legendary Italian club teams in their home stadium! San Siro is the atmospheric stomping ground of both A.C. Milan and Inter Milan. To see a match played by either team from one of San Siro’s 80,000-plus seats is to witness a true testament to sporting excellence.
San Siro Stadium is one of the critical landmarks in Milan, and well worth integrating into your Milan itinerary. If you’re truly strategic about your date and time (and don’t mind playing the waiting game), it’s also worth noting that San Siro will host the opening ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics.
However, if you’re more preoccupied with football than the Olympics, don’t wait too long – this football stadium in Milan has an opaque future, as construction has already begun on the Nuovo Stadio Milano, which is expected to replace this beloved (but well-worn) icon.
Must-see Milan hidden gems
Leonardo’s Vineyard, or, as the Italians call, it, La Vigna di Leonardo, is a stunning vineyard which dates back some 500 years. Tucked away in Milan’s verdant Casa degli Atellani, this private residence turned tourist attraction is a Milan hidden gem worth seeking out.
Leonardo da Vinci was not just a genius in the matters of the mind – he was also an enthusiast of a good drop. Today, Italian experts work carefully to replicate the rich flavours the vineyard’s namesake loved so very much.
Best of all, Leonardo’s Vineyard is located not far from the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which makes this the ideal destination for a digestif after The Last Supper.
The Crespi Bonsai Museum is a heavenly little oasis just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan Milan. Though not technically within the parameters of Milan itself (it’s located in San Lorenzo di Parabiago), this spectacular museum more than deserves a look-in. Dedicated to the subtle art of bonsai tree cultivation, the museum pays homage to the masters who have nurtured them over the years and will offer a moment of calm in your otherwise very busy day in Milan.
Some top museums in Milan
La Scala Museum and Theater is one of the ideal places to visit in Milan if you are passionate about the arts (or are looking to impress someone who is). La Scala is Milan’s only opera house, and like the subjects of the performances that play out on its varnished stage, it has lived a thousand lifetimes, where other opera theaters have lived only one.
The first iteration of La Scala burned down in 1776, arguably under mysterious circumstances, and its successor was destroyed during World War II. The most recent version of La Scala is arguably the most sumptuous, spectacular and secure. Not only does it continue to host theatrical performances – it also features captivating temporary and permanent exhibitions that warrant a visit.
In case you hadn’t noticed a naming convention in Milan, any sector, space or monument in Milan that benefited in some way from the incredible genius of the city’s prodigal son, Leonardo da Vinci, is bound to bare his name in some form. So it is with the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci, the largest museum of its kind in Italy. Located in a transformed 16th-century monastery, the museum comprises a celebration of the great inventor and his works.
A whopping 50,000m-squared, this famous museum in Milan features over 16,000 historical objects, and 13 interactive laboratories where you can visualise yourself with a silky Renaissance man beard and a funky little hat, and create experiments akin to those of the man himself.
With models of the visionary’s most famous inventions – from rudimentary flying machines, war machines and more – the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci also features wonders not associated with the eponymous man and his brilliant mind. See an actual chunk of moon rock and the Vega space launcher, or survey some of Earth’s most remote and jaw-dropping sights with satellite snapshots.
What is old is new again – at least, on the inside.
GAM Milano defies convention, or the lack of convention, that one comes to expect from modern art galleries. Its edifice features no cubic iconography, glass panelling or lipstick-red or electric blue slashes of colour. In fact, the 18th-century villa which houses GAM Milano, much like the city in which it is found, only reveals its secrets once you step inside.
But once inside, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna teems with spectacular works, predominantly from the 18th to 20th centuries. Showcasing spectacular works from Picasso, Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh and Manet, you could spend hours in GAM Milano and emerge in the kind of content reverie that only seems to happen after being exposed to truly great art.
Make sure to buy your ticket in advance to skip the line!
Two days in Milan? Three days in Milan? We’ve got you covered
Realising that one day in Milan might not quite satiate your curiosity? You wouldn’t be the first. For those looking to extend their trip to 2 or 3 days in Milan, the following supplements are a fantastic way to embrace everything Milan is famous for without coming up against a time crunch.
If you’re a lifelong learner (or perhaps merely the indecisive sort) the Milan Museums City Card is fantastic value for the cost.
The card provides admission to the Civic Museums of Milan, which comprise the GAM Milano – Gallery of Modern Art Milan, the Civic Archaeological Museum Milan, Milan Natural History Museum, Museums of the Castello Sforezsco, the Museo de Novecento and – though not quite a museum – the Civic Aquarium of Milan, to boot!
If you’re looking to visit Milan on a budget but don’t want to miss a thing, the Milan Museums City Card is definitely a way to hit all the highlights without hurting your pocket.
Remember how Myspace used to make you ruin your friendships by ranking your top 8 friends? Well, Milan decided to do the exact opposite of that by ranking the top 8 sites and attractions for you – and then bundling admission for all of them into one handy pass!
The 48-hour Milan Pass is one of the best ways to hit the top landmarks in Milan without feeling like you’re stomping along the same old, stale tourist trail. With free access to the city’s hop-on, hop-off bus, you can coast right into some of the most impressive spots Milan is famous for, such as the Duomo terraces and museum, Art and Science Museum and San Siro Stadium… Or, if you prefer, disembark at any time to explore whatever interesting little via or gelateria catches your eye.
Day trips from Milan
If you’re wondering: “Is Milan worth visiting if I don’t know where to travel onwards after?”, then wonder no more. Not only are there plenty of landmarks and hidden gems in Milan, but the city itself is a fantastic launch pad to see the surrounding area. Take one (or a few) day trips from Milan to experience beautiful cities, towns and the Italian countryside itself.
Located north of Milan – almost touching Switzerland – is Lake Como, a watersports and luxury beachside destination in the summer and an alpine paradise for snowsports aficionados and snow bunnies during the colder months of the year.
A beloved destination of the rich and famous, a day trip to Lake Como is a chance to visit the Bellagio, take a guided walking tour of Como town and take a funicular ride to delightful Brunate.
The city of Verona might ring a bell for those with a literary bent. Immortalised in Shakespeare’s most renowned play, Romeo & Juliet, Verona is a medieval city suspended in time. Its cobblestone streets and Roman arena evoke the peculiar feeling that the bygone era of our star-crossed lovers is not so far in the past as we think.
This 11-hour tour from Milan to Verona includes a visit to Verona’s famed Roman Arena and promises to perch you both atop and below Juliet’s famous balcony. Visit the Parco Giardino Sigurtà to stroll along the beautiful walking trails, gardens and mazes, and enjoy a coffee and a pastry at any number of fine cafes.
Before the day is done, visit Lake Garda, where olive trees adorn the edges of the lake and opportunities abound to explore the breathtaking town of Sirmione. Reputed for its thermal baths and medieval castle, to spend an afternoon in Sirmione is to experience the authentic Italy.
Milan might be one of the fashion capitals of the world, but the hottest deals are just a hop over the border, in Switzerland. FoxTown Mendrisio Mall is an easy-peasy daytrip from Milan where fashionistas can access massively discounted luxury goods from major brands like Prada, Versace, Gucci, Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.
With elegant stores, plentiful dining options and even a casino to entertain yourself between bargains, FoxTown outlet is a fabulous day trip from Milan for anyone with a passion for looking good, and feeling good in the process.