Milan is the center of fashion and finance and with its relaxing city vibes it is the perfect destination for a one day trip
Where to stay: Navigli is the Brooklyn of Milan. Naturally, you want to stay here and the best and most affordable option for this is BePlace Navigli Apartments.
How to get around: Subways and walking will work for Milan since it is very flat.
How to get there: Milan has a fairly big airport. You could also land in Bergamo and take the train to Milan which will take around 90 min. Compare your flight options on Skyscanner.
How long to stay: we decided to stay for 6 days in the Lombardy in order to visit Lake Como, Milan, Bergamo and Lugano. Here’s our full itinerary. However, if you only plan to explore Milan 1 day should be enough to cover everything.
Arrival in Milan
Because we arrived in the evening in Milan, our itinerary starts in the afternoon. If you arrive in the morning just scroll a little further and feel free to do the following activities at the end of your day.
Have an aperitivo and dinner in Navigli
Navigli, also known as ‘little Venice’, consists of the two canals Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese that were designed by Leonardo da Vinci During the day Navigli is a fairly calm neighbourhood but as soon as 5pm hits, the Milanese head to the hip district for their aperitivo, the most famous one: the Aperol Spritz. You will find several restaurants offering an all you can eat buffet for around 10€ with one cocktail included. We went to Spritz Navigli Milano, paid €11 per person and enjoyed two very good cocktails and some basic Italian food. The food is not groundbreaking, but the experience is still unique.
Watch the Sunset on Naviglio Grande
After your dinner, you can head to La Gelateria Della Musica for some very good ice-cream or you can grab another drink at Backdoor 43, which claims to be the world’s tiniest bar, at merely four square metres, including the bathroom! You can also enjoy a stroll through the tiny side streets including Vicolo dei Lavandai, where people used to wash their clothes. Although we didn’t see any boats, apparently you can do a canal boat tour on the Darsena, but if you prefer to watch the sunset, the Naviglio Grande is the best spot for it.
Evening stroll through Ticinese
Next to Navigli you will find Ticinese, a bohemian area in the Centro Storico district where students gather in low-key trattorias and late-night hangouts. The streets are dotted with vintage shops, independent boutiques and cool pop-up stores. Ticinese means “door to Ticino” and you can still visit the Porta Ticinese, a former gate to the city facing the Ticino River, today. When in Ticinese, you should walk by the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore, an early-Christian church with an octagonal chapel covered in mosaics from the 5th-century. Directly opposite you will see Colonne di San Lorenzo, remnants of Roman ruins from the 2nd century.
Piazza Duomo di Milano at night
Because Milan is fairly small, the Piazza Duomo with the imposing Duomo di Milan, Europe’s 4th largest Cathedral, is just a short walk away. We recommend visiting at night since the view is quite spectacular. The Cathedral is entirely made out of marble and was build to impress the Germans and the French. The spires carry important people on top, while a golden Virgin Mary overlooks the Duomo. You can climb up to the top for a view over Milan.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
On the right side of the Cathedral you will see the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping gallery named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It is open 24 hours and houses some upscale designer brands. In the gallery you will find a tile with a Torino (Little bull), which represents the city of Tolino. The saying goes that if you step on it, it will bring you luck. Judging by the deep carvings in the Torino, the Milanese and its visitors seem to be strongly auspicious.
We started our next day with fresh croissants and coffee and headed out to Sforzesco Castle. Built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, later renovated and enlarged, Sforzesko Castle was one of the largest citadels in Europe in the 16th and 17th century. You do not need a ticket to enter the castle grounds, however you do need a ticket if you want to visit the art museums that are housed within the castle. Behind the castle you will find a vast and peaceful park, so you might want to carry your lunch. Opening times: 7am – 7:30pm.
A morning of Churches
After the castle we visited a series of churches that were all close-by:
Church #1: The church San Maurizio and its cloister, which are within walking distance to the Sforzesko Castle, are the only remains of the famous women’s monastery, the Monastero Maggiore. Unfortunately, the church was closed when we visited in August 2021 so we couldn’t see the inside. The outside was not spectacular at all. In the cloister next to the church you can find the archeological museum.
Church #2: Basilica di Sant Ambrogio is mostly built in brickwork of different origins and colors, with parts of stone and white plastering and dates back to 1080. Immediately beside the church, there is a white marble column with two holes. According to a myth, these were made by the Devil hitting the column with his horns because he could not seduce St. Ambrose into temptation. Thus, this column is called the Devil’s Column. Visiting the church inside is free, but you have to wear decent clothing (shoulders and legs covered).
Church #3: Santa Maria delle Grazie was the final church we visited. It is also a Dominican convent in Milan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its popularity stems from the fact that it houses the mural of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, located in the refectory of the convent. Unfortunately, this church was closing when we arrived around 12pm, so we could only see it from the outside, which this time was definitely worth it.
Lunch at Panino del Laghetto
We had the best panini’s at Panino del Laghetto. You can choose from over 30 different panini types made out of the best Italian ingredients but if you can’t make up your mind the nice Italian owner will gladly recommend a special panini to you. You will pay 6€ for one and although we haven’t tried all the panini’s in Milan, we doubt you will find anything better. This place is really a sight for itself. Opening times: 11am-4pm. After that we headed out to Lake Como, which we recommend to visit if you are in Milan.
If you are interested in combining your visit with a holiday to Lake Como please check out our 3 to 6-day itinerary to Lake Como Region.