Bouncing Borders

Milano in One Day – Free Self-Guided Walking Tours!

3 December 2020 8 Comments Post Thumbnail

Milan is an ancient city located in Northern Italy and is recognised as one of the worlds greatest fashion capital. If you are a fashionista then this place is definitely for you! The quadrilatero della moda is made up of the most elegant shopping streets – packed with high-end designer boutiques like Prada, Gucci and Versace. It exhibits both modern and traditional architecture with a vast amount of art and history. It comes as no surprise that Milano is one of the top-visited locations in its region. 

There is a lot to offer beyond the fashion quarter! For those more interested in history then masterpieces like the Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria Delle Grazie that houses Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper”, will be more appreciated by you. Milan is definitely worth visiting even if it is just to see these two places. 

If Milan has not appealed to you so far, then the price will! A one-way flight can cost as low as £12.99 per person (August 2020). It being so cheap to fly to you may want to consider adding it to your trip, even it is only for a day. 

Here I have created a Milan travel guide to help you plan the perfect itinerary for your budget-friendly trip. Designed to ensure you visit all the top attractions and make the most of your visit in just ONE day! 

Self-Guided Walking Tours

Let’s be honest, everyone loves something free, right? I know I do! So self-guided walking tours are definitely the way forward. Not only can you maximise your time and see all the sights personalised to you. It is also the safest way to sightsee right now, thanks to coronavirus! You also won’t have to worry about the excess carbohydrate intake from all the delicious pizza and pasta dishes you will be eating as this way of exploration will keep you fit. It is personally my favourite way to adventure and I could not recommend it enough to other travellers.

Bring your headphones and download the app ‘Rick Steves Audio Europe’ for greater information on the areas you love. It offers free audioguide access boasting general culture and sights. It aids less touristy exploration and allows you to become more immersed in the local way of life. For example, ‘ Milan’s Duomo Neighbourhood’.

Below are two tours that support the most important sectors of Milan – Sights and fashion! It is possible to complete both tours in a day, or you may favour one over the other. If you like to take things slow 48 hours is perfect. Enjoy!

Tour Duration: 3 Hours

Travel Distance: 5.5 km

Featured Sights:

  • Duomo di Milano
  • Palazzo Reale di Milano
  • Chiesa di San Gottardo In Corte
  • Santa Maria presso San Satiro
  • Piazza Mercanti
  • Teatro La Scala
  • Pinacoteca di Brera
  • Castello Sforzesco
  • Santa Marie delle Grazie
  • Naviglio Grande
Walking Tour Milan

Milan is a super compact city compared to others like Rome and Naples where you could be walking all day and still not cover a minuscule amount of what they have to offer. The true city centre of Milan spans less than 3 km so walking will not be a problem. It is typically the business capital of Italy and most locals would consider it a place of work and prefer to escape Milan when possible. This may suggest it is not a typical must see of Italy, but I would definitely recommend to give it a go. I think people either love it or they don’t…

Duomo di Milano

The Gothic Duomo of Milan dominates the Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) and tells a story of faith and art. The square marks the centre of the city and is highly important regarding art, culture and social aspects of Italy. It includes some of the most important buildings of Milan, such as the Royal Palace and Milan Cathedral. It is also where the most prestigious commercial activities take place. It originated in the 14th century and has gradually developed ever since, making it the greatest tourist attraction of the city.

The construction of Milan cathedral began in 1386 and took nearly six centuries to complete. Final details were accomplished in 1965 and has been dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent. The church is the largest in Italy, the second-largest in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world, so you can only imagine the beauty of this building. You can climb the 201 stairs/70 metres to reach the rooftop and take a closer look at the intricate details of the spires, myriads of statues, as well as being rewarded by the breathtaking panorama view at the top. Don’t worry, if you want to take a shortcut or are limited with time you can also take a lift to the top.

The standard entry ticket (culture pass) costs €10.50 per person and includes entrance to the cathedral, archaeological area, duomo museum, the church of San Gottardo and exhibitions. Reduced tickets are also available for children, students and senior citizens at €4. If you wish to climb to the rooftop it is €15 for standard entry and €7 for a reduced ticket. Fast track options and guided tours also available at an extra cost.

Buy tickets online at here to avoid disappointment.

TIP – If you are on a budget and avoid entrance you will still not be disappointed by the outstanding view from the outside of the Cathedral. The size and intricate prints are something I will never forget.

Information Point

  • Address:

    Piazza Duomo 14/a – 20122 Milano

  • Contact:


Winter Opening Times (November – April):

  • Monday – Friday

    9:30 – 16:30

  • Saturday – Sunday & Holidays

    9:00 – 17:00

Summer Opening Times (May – October)

  • Everyday

    9:00 – 18:00

Palazzo Reale di Milano (Royal Palace of Milan)

The Royal Palace of Milan is situated next to the Duomo Cathedral and is one of the most important art and cultural centres of the city. Today it displays contemporary and modern art exhibitions from international famous collections in the form of paintings, sculptures, photography and video art.

The Palace was formerly called ‘Palazzo del Broletto Vecchio’ and was the seat of the government and royal residence until 1919. Unfortunately, it has been heavily damaged and reconstructed several times since it was originally built so does not display its authentic magnificence. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Palace was renovated in Neoclassical style by the architect Giuseppe Piermarini (who also designed Milan’s La Scala Theatre). During world war II in 1943, the Royal Palace of Milan was heavily bombed and remained abandoned. It wasn’t until the 21st century, almost fifty years after its destruction, new restoration projects took place to restore its beauty. The purpose of such project was to create the Palace Museum as it is today to present the four historical eras the Palace lived through – the Neoclassical era, Napoleon’s period, the Restoration and the Unification of Italy.

The palace has been restored to its original 18th century decor in the same glory. The main highlights include the Court Theatre, the Room of the Ambassadors, the Great Captain’s Room, Flemish Hall, Hercules Hall, the Palatine Chapel and the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II (and the largest library in southern Italy).

Book online at here to avoid queues and fast track your visit. Standard entrance fee costs €14 and €12 for a reduced ticket.

TIP – If you are on a budget you do not need to enter unless art exhibitions are your thing then it is totally worth it. You can still gaze at its remarkable historical presence from the outside.

Information Point

  • Address:

    Piazza del Duomo, 12

  • Contact:

    +39.02 884 45 181

Opening Times – Subject to change so ensure you check online first.

  • Thursday

    11:00 – 22:30

  • Friday – Sunday

    11:00 – 19:30

Chiesa di San Gottardo In Corte

The church was built by Azzone Visconti in 1330 and took only six year to complete. It was originally blessed to the Virgin Mary until Azzone Visconti suffered from gout, thus is now dedicated to San Gottardo, the patron saint of gout and gall.

The most striking feature is the Lombard Gothic bell tower famous for being Milan’s first example of the public clock (before sun-dials) and marks the first hour after sunset. The octagonal tower has since kept its original appearance but the interior has been completely remodeled in the neoclasicist era by Giocondo Albertolli.

Highlights include the the tomb of Azzone Visconti, the painting San Carlo Borromeo in Gloria, a 14th century fresco of the Cruxifixion, and the 20th century stained glass murals.

Entrance fee is included within the culture pass for Milan Cathedral and is recommended to use the official ‘Duomo di Milano’ app. A single entrance fee is also possible costing a standard €5 or €2 for a reduced ticket (also includes entrance to the Duomo Museum).

Information Point

  • Address:

    Via Francesco Pecorari, 20136

  • Contact:

    +39 02 72022656

Opening Times – Subject to change so ensure you check online first.

  • Open every other day

    10:00 – 18:00

  • Closed Wednesday

Santa Maria presso San Satiro (Church of Saint Mary near Saint Satyrus)

This church dates back to the 9th century and lies the site of worship erected by the archbishop Anspertus. Since 1476 the Italian Renaissance structure houses the medieval shrine to Saint Satyrus, confessor and brother of Saints Ambrose and Marcellina.

Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan commissioned a new church for his city. His ambitions were greater than the tiny location on a busy street that was presented to him. It took a special architect and painter to form such a wonder, Donato Bramante . He created a church with an astonishing act of visual deception, implementing a solution by painting an architectural optical illusion. It was small on the outside and visualised large on the inside – some may compare to the Tardis.

If you stand at the entrance of the church you will have the impression of a much larger space giving the illusion of the altar far behind than is physically possible. Special lighting inside the church also aided this special effect. However, the magical illusion soon disappears when you step aside from the main entrance.

Information Point – Entrance is FREE

  • Address:

    17/19, 20123 Milano, Italy, 20123

  • Contact:

    +39 02 874683

Opening Times – Subject to change so ensure you check online first.

  • Open everyday

    09:00 – 18:00

Piazza Mercanti (Merchants Square)

Piazza Mercanti is central public square located in the heart of the ancient city between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Cordusio. It is an architectural medieval treasure trove with four distinct buildings which have stood since they were erected:

  • The 13th-century Broletto Nuovo (Palazzo della Ragione)
  • The 15th century Gothic Palazzo dei Notai (“Notary’s Palace”)
  • The 17th century Baroque Palazzo delle Scuole Palantine
  • The 14th century Logio degli Osii, where city officials used to address the public

A myriad of statues and other monuments are also present, built by Giovan Pietro Lasagna and Luigi Scorzini. The historic medieval architecture is what will attract you to this picturesque square.

Teatro La Scala (Opera House and Museum)

A world-renowned opera house built in 1778 and became a prominent meeting place for the noble and wealthy. It is regarded as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and has witnessed the performance of Italy’s greatest operatic artists. La Scala Orchestra, made-up of 135 musicians, is also considered one of the world’s best for opera productions and attain an impressive international position for its symphony. The theatre is currently one of the richest and most envied collections so you will surely love your visit here.

Originally spectators would watch the show standing up while being illuminated by thousands of oil lamps. Oil lamps were then replaced with gas lamps, followed by electric lights in 1883. Further renovations took place in 1907 providing its current layout with nearly 2,000 seats. However , as you would suspect, it was heavily bombed in world war II and has since had major renovations.

The outside of the building is considered rather plain compared to the theatre’s exquisite architecture inside. You can either watch a show, partake in a tour or visit the attached museum to get a feel of this wonder. I would also recommend taking a break to relax in the Piazza della Scala.

Information Point

Buy tickets in advance online here

  • Address:

    Filodrammatici Street, 2, Milan 20121

  • Contact:

    +39 02 88791

Opening Times – Subject to change so ensure you check online first.

  • Monday – Friday

    09:00 – 12:30

Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery)

Brera Art Gallery contains the greatest masterpieces of Italian and foreign art. Collections of prime paintings obtained from churches and monasteries during the Napoleonic rule between 13th and 20th centuries.

The exhibition has 40 rooms and stores more than 500 paintings of the Venetian and Lombard school, including Piero della Francesca’s “Madonna with Saints”. The art is presented in chronological order until the Renaissance period so you can track the evolution of artistic techniques which makes it an interesting learning point. There is also a section dedicated to modern art, including paintings from Modigliani and Picasso. Audioguides and maps are available upon request to transport you through the wonder of artistic progress.

The Brera neighbourhood where it is situated is also a beautiful area to explore, especially for food and drink.

Information Point – Entrance is FREE if you book online (may be subject to change)

Buy tickets online here

  • Address:

    Pinscoteca di Brera, Via Brera, 28, 20121

  • Contact:

    +39 02 72263203

Opening Times – Hours subject to change.

  • Wednesday – Saturday

    09:30 – 18:30

  • Sunday

    14:00 – 18:30

  • Closed on Mondays

Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle)

Sforzesco Castle was originally built in the 15th centurt by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th century fortification. However, has been destroyed and restored several times since. Across centuries, the castle has survived numerous battles, occupations and destructions. For example, Napoleon causes severe damage to the external structure of the old fortress and used the quarters for troops. In 1905 it was finally given back to the city of Milan and became a major epicentre for art and culture.

The fortress was extensively renovated and re-modelled by Luca Beltrami and now houses seven distinct fine art museums open to the general public, including, the Museum of Antique Art, the Museum of Musical Instruments, and of the Picture Gallery. It is also home to Michelangelo’s unfinished work “Rondanini Pieta” and many of Leonardo da vinci’s intricately detailed ceiling paintings. Each room is a artistic treasure boasting exhibitions, monuments, sculptures and ceiling art. The interior is absolutely beautiful and one for all the art folks.

But spending your time admiring the castle courtyards, gardens and outer architecture are also well worth your time.

Information Point – Entrance to the grounds is FREE

Buy tickets online here

  • Address:

    Castello Square, 3, 20100

  • Contact:

    +39 02 88463700

Opening Times

  • Castle: Everyday

    07:00 – 19:30

  • Museum: Tuesday – Sunday

    9:00 – 16:30

Santa Marie delle Grazie (Church of Saint Mary)

Of all churches in Milan, the Church of Saint Mary is most inspiring. It is a UNESCO world heritage site built in Gothic and Renaissance styles between 1466 and 1490.

It contains the mural of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci which was painted between 1493 and 1497. Instead of using fresco, the normal Renaissance technique for wall paintings, Leonardo used tempera which gave him the greatest freedom for alterations. However, the medium began to deteriorate after 20 years so has undergone numerous attempts in restorations to preserve it. Luckily it still stands today.

Much of the church was destroyed during world war II, only some of the walls survived, including the one that holds The Last Supper and has since been restored and renovated to protect it.

Entrance ticket costs €25 for a standard, €12 for a reduced ticket (18-25 years) and free for individuals under the age of 18. This also includes an audioguides. I would advise to book online to avoid as tickets sell out quickly.

Information Point

Buy tickets online to avoid disappointment here

  • Address:

    Piazza Santa Maria della Grazie, 2

  • Contact:

    +39 02 4676111

Opening Times

  • Mondays


  • Tuesday – Saturday

    09:00 – 19:00

  • Sunday

    9:00 – 13:45

Naviglio Grande

Naviglio Grande translates to “big canal” in English which connects the Ticino river to the docks. It is a major man-made rice route established over 850 years ago and served as an important trade and transport purpose within the city.

Now this picturesque canal boasting with life and history plays a more social role. Locals and tourists enjoy romantic strolls along the canal which hosts a number of excellent cocktail bars, laid-back pubs, restaurants and shops. It has a famous electric atmosphere where you can find live music and other entertainment. Keep an eye out for the happy hour offers – if you like your cocktails and unlimited buffet, you can get this for a merely €10€12 per person.

It is not just renowned for its food and drink, you have the opportunity to take a memorable canal cruise to visit the historic sectors of Milan up until the old docks. There is also a weekly market, The Mercatone dell’Antiquariato, that attracts many visitors and takes place every last Sunday on the banks. The flea market has over 350 stalls selling wide variet of items, so there is definitely something for everyone!

It is slightly off the beaten track but thriving , so should be at the top of the alternative experiences in Milan.

TIP – Bring mosquito repellant! You will be swarmed by mosquito’s in this area.

Self-Guided Shopping Tour

Milan is the headquarters for every historic italian fashion brands like Prada and Fend, so it is no surprise Milan is a fashionista’s dream. The quadrilatero della moda (fashion quadrilateral) is formed from Milan’s most pristigious shopping streets – the most renowned being Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga. Saying that, Milan still caters for every kind of customer and also has more affordable shops, including H&M and Zara.

A trip to Milan will not be complete without exploring the fashion district!

Tour Duration: 2 Hours

Travel Distance: 3.5 km

Featured Sights:

  • Galleria Vitorrio Emanuele II
  • Corso Vittorio Emanuele II
  • Via Monte Napoleone
  • Via Alessandro Manzoni
  • Via Dante
  • Via Torino
Shopping Tour Milan

Galleria Vitorrio Emanuele II

Italy’s oldest, most famous active shopping mall and major landmark in Milan, housed within a four-story double arcade. The galleria is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy. This mall is home to the most prestigious designer shops, including Prada, Gucci and Versace. Make sure this galleria is your port of call for high-end shopping.

La Rinascente

La Rinascente is a historic, 150-year old department store that boasts 10 stories of high-end stores – authentic Italian and international stores in ranging from fashion, homeware and food. You will no doubt find all you need in one magical department store.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II

Corso Vittoria is a short walkaway from the Piazza del Duomo and is a street where you will find the more affordable highstreet stores, such as, Zara and H&M. It is definitely considered a worthwhile stroll.

Via Monte Napoleone

To put it simply, this street is the fashion centre of Milan. It is a series of upscale stores that trace the old city walls built by Roman Emperor Maximian. In 2018, it was named Europe’s most expensive shopping street, famous for its prestigious designer fashion and jewellery stores. It is also the most important steet that makes up the dashion district known as Quadrilatero della moda.

Even if you feel these top labels are unafforable to you, it is still worth a visit to this chic and magnificiant little street to get the best feel of Milano and its fashion.

Via Della Spiga

Another one of Milan’s luxurious streets that make up the fashion quadrilateral sector with all the best Italian brands. Spend a bit of your time window-shopping in this magnificent street.

Via Alessandro Manzoni

Via Alessandro Manzoni is considered a central part of Milan and is part of the fashion Quadrilatero that spans from Piazza della Scala. The street is named after the famed 19th-century Italian poet Alessandro Manzoni and great for an evening walk. It is a bustling and fashionable street packed with restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as high-end fashion stores.

La Rinascente

La Rinascente is a historic, 150-year old department store that boasts 10 stories of high-end stores – authentic Italian and international stores in ranging from fashion, homeware and food. You will no doubt find all you need in one magical department store.

Via Dante

Via Dante is a charming pedestriant street in central Milan located near the city’s Castello Sforzesco. It is a popular tourist destination named after the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri. Well known for its fashion, cafes and bars. It is the perfect connection from the castle to the Duomo!

Via Torino

Via Torino is located in the heart of Milan near Piazza Duomo and Corso Vittorio. It is considered one the busiest streets with more affordable brands like Foot Locker and P&B.

How to Travel Around

Purchase tickets for public transport tickets (bus, tram or subway) using the ATM app or at metro stations. Each tickets costs roughly €1.50 for 90 minutes, where you can ride unlimited transport. You can also purchase a a 24-hour pass for €4.50 or 48-hour pass for €8.25.

Alternatively, if you purchase city pass it will include all free public transport. Visit milanocard for more information.

Taxi’s are also available but extremely expensive so I would recommend avoiding. In all honesty, once you are in the centre of Milan, everywhere is typically walkable, which I believe is the best way to get around.

Suggested Eateries

Being plant-based eaters, meat is strictly off the menu. Below are some of the best recommended vegan/vegetarians eats in Milan

Typical Budget

Living comfortably on a backpacker’s budget, expect to spent approximately £50 (€56) per person, per day. This takes into consideration accomodation, food/drink, public transport and entrance fees. Keep in mind this is just an average, some days you may spend more, some days you may spend less. Everyone is different!

Accommodation and food will always be the most important (and expensive) part of budgeting. Alcohol is also pricey, so try to keep that minimal if possible.

As a couple we managed to stay under budget during our Milano stay, below is an example of one days spend.

Our Typical Spend
  • Hotel


  • Lunch


  • Drinks


  • Cocktail


  • Total

    €39.00 pp

Budget Tips

Here are a few points that might appeal to you and aid the cut in costs of your trip. Milan is considered expensive so I hope they help!

  • Book accommodation out of the city centre – Milan has great public transport links.

  • Book accommodation that includes breakfast.

  • Avoid public transport (especially taxi’s) in the city centre as everywhere is within walking distance.

  • Take a reusable bottle as there are water fountains everywhere.

  • Eat larger meals at lunch and a smaller meal in the evenings – they are the same size but cheaper!

  • Buy your breakfasts and/or lunches from a local supermarket.

  • Look out for lunch deals – for example, there are some near Duomo Cathedral that offer a drink and pizza or pasta for €12.

  • Branch out and avoid eating near the Cathedral as that is where the most expensive restaurants are situated.

  • If you are looking for cheap cocktails, visit Naviglio canal where they are on offer for €5 each.

  • Also along Naviglio canal, there are ‘happy hour’ deals which offer a cocktail and unlimited buffet for €10-12.

  • Get a city pass, for example €11 for one day – offers free public transport, free or discounted entry to top attractions and so much more.

  • Look out for reduced prices in to top attractions – for example, this may include students or 18-25 year olds.


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