Self-Guided Tour of Milan: One-Day Itinerary On Foot

Milan is an incredible city, known far and wide for its excellent fashion, art, and history. From stunning architecture to world-renowned museums, you will never run out of amazing places visit. If you are in town for a quick trip, take yourself on this self-guided tour to explore the best of Milan, and of course, devour some of the best local bites. Pack some good shoes because the best way to see Milan is on foot!

The outside of a castle
Despite having one of Italy’s best metros, we recommend taking a self-guided tour of Milan since the city is highly walkable. Photo credit: Dimitris Kilymis

Dreamy Start: A Castle in the Park

To start your exploration of Milan, you can’t miss the Castello Sforzesco and Sempione Park. Castello Sforzesco dates to the 15th century – today you can wander the courtyards on your own, but if you have some time, it houses excellent museums. You’ll find the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Musical Instruments, both of which give you a peek into Milan’s rich culture and heritage. For art history lovers there is the last Pietà Rondanini of Michelangelo – his final, incomplete masterpiece.

If you’d rather grab a bit of fresh air, take a walk through Sempione Park that surrounds the castle. Surprisingly you’ll find the hustle and bustle of the city muffled down here.

Once you’ve taken a bit of a walk, it’s time for a caffè, wouldn’t you say? Head into the nearby neighborhood of Brera to grab a specialty coffee at Cafezal Torrefazione.

Cafezal is a specialty coffee shop that roasts its own coffee. In 2019 they were recognized as one of the best cafes in the whole EU and they serve as a cozy place for a quick break.

When you’ve got your caffeine fix, it’s time to explore Milan’s historic district of Brera.

Castello Sforzesco houses many of Milan’s museums and art collections. Photo Credit: Henrique Queiroz da Silva

Brera: An Art-Filled Pause

No self-guided tour of Milan would be compelte without a visit to the Brera neighborhood. Brera’s charming cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and artistic atmosphere will make you fall in love with the city.

Here’s where you will find the Pinacoteca di Brera, which houses an impressive collection of paintings from Italy and beyond. If you’ve got at least an hour and a half, try to reserve a quick visit to the Pinacoteca – you won’t regret it.

Beyond art, Brera is also known for its trendy cafes, boutiques, and restaurants, making it a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. This is also a perfect time to grab some lunch!

Elegant Brera is one of Milan’s most elegant and chic neighborhoods. Photo Credit: Danielle Jensen

Piazza del Duomo: The Center of It All

After you’ve had your lunch, it’s time to stroll down to Piazza del Duomo. On your way to see the famous Duomo of Milan, you might want to peek into the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.

While of course, Starbucks is not exactly Italian, the coffee house decided to open a local roastery right in the heart of Milan to win over locals. It’s a beautiful location, and inside it is much more than just a cafe. You can take a tour of the roastery and learn about the history and art of coffee-making, or simply enjoy a cup of your favorite blend.

Just a few steps away, you’ll enter the impressive Piazza del Duomo and lay your eyes on Milan’s historic Duomo church.

Milan Cathedral

The Duomo is one of the most iconic landmarks in Milan, featuring a unique blend of white marble and pink Candoglia marble. The outside decoration of the cathedral boasts an impressive collection of over 3,500 statues. Even more impressive, the Duomo is the fifth-largest cathedral in the world.

You will likely have to wait in line if you haven’t booked in advance. However, if you have the time, climbing to the top of the Duomo is a must-do.

The majestic Duomo took almost six centuries to complete. Photo Credit: Jiuguang Wang

Cafes, Gallerias, and Milan’s Fashion District

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

To continue your self-guided tour of Milan, it would be hard to miss the elegant Galleria of Milan located to the left.

Even if the shopping might be out of budget, it’s worth a walk through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This stunning arcade, named after the first king of Italy, was built in the late 19th century by Giuseppe Mengoni.

The highlight of the Galleria is the central dome which is adorned with intricate mosaics and frescoes. It depicts four continents of the world, while the floor mosaic below depicts the various coats of arms of the Kingdoms of Italy – Turin, Florence, and Rome, plus Milan. You might notice the bull of Turin – where visitors spin right on his genitals. This is because spinning three times is said to bring you good luck!

As you walk around, you’ll notice that the Galleria is home to some of Milan’s most luxurious shops, including Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Here, you can find the latest designer collections, but also peek into some delicious cafes – like Marchesi.


Marchesi is a historic pasticceria (pastry shop), originally located in the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood. Due to their popularity, they opened a location in the Galleria. Here, you can enjoy a sweet pastry and coffee in a vintage and elegant atmosphere while watching the traffic of the Galleria pass by.

The Galleria is Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery. Photo Credit: Thue

Navigli District: Perfect Mix of Past & Present

Once you’ve had your fill of the center, it’s time to head towards Milan’s famous canals, the Navigli district. This is the perfect place to head to for a delicious apericena – a Milanese tradition you can’t miss.

To get there you’ll walk through Port Ticinese and pass by the ancient Colonne di San Lorenzo. These are a series of Corinthian columns from the 4th century. While originally just a collonade, today they outline a small piazza for the Basilica of San Lorenzo, creating a social space that fills during the evening.

Continue on and you will soon reach the Navigli.

The Navigli were once an even more extensive system of canals used to transport goods and materials throughout the city. Today the two main canals are lined with trendy bars and restaurants, making it a favorite destination for both locals and visitors.

Beyond wining and dining – you should keep an eye out for Navigli’s excellent art scene. The district is home to several art galleries and studios, where you can see works by local and international artists. Plus on your way down through Porta Ticinese, and at the end of the Navigli, you’ll catch lots of intriguing street art.

Navigli district of Milan with canal, streetside restaurants, boats, and more, at night
With photo-worthy canals and waterside restaurants, Navigli is well worth a stop on any self-guided tour of Milan. Photo credit: Siavash

Dinner or Aperitivo

Now, are you ready for that apericena?

Truth is there are so many excellent bars in this area, but today we’ll share just two of our favorites:


A true Navigli tradition, Rita always offers a lively and warm atmosphere. In addition, they make some fantastic craft cocktails and offer a small selection of aperitivo snacks alongside.


Wine lovers should head over to Vinoir, a local natural wine bar. They offer a great selection of Italian small producers, and the staff is always enthusiastic about helping you find the perfect glass or better understand the wine.

If you love it here, you should stay for dinner.

If you decide to keep exploring and try more of the great food Milan has to offer, consider a trip down to Erba Brusca. It is a bit far, so if it is getting late you may want to consider a taxi. If it is the weekend, be extra sure to call ahead a book a spot. 

Erba Brusca

Erba Brusca is a hidden gem on the edge of the Navigli. It is a restaurant that lives and breathes sustainable food. They have an in house garden and choose local in-season ingredients, changing their menu weekly. 

A houseboat on Milan’s famous canal district, Navigli. Photo Credit: opethpainter

Exploring More Milan

The truth is the city has much more to discover than what you’ve seen today. But we hope this self-guided tour of Milan gave you a great taste of the highlights. If you are looking for more, check out our Milan tours of the Last Supper, Duomo, Sforzesco Castle, and more!

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