Milan is Italy’s capital of fashion, shopping and luxury, but it’s actually easier than you think to visit the city whilst sticking to a budget! Getting to Milan isn’t particularly expensive as it’s well connected to Italy’s major hubs (thanks to low-cost airlines and high-speed trains). Once you’re in the city, you could be tempted to squander your cash on the numerous fancy things to do. But for those looking to keep their wallets happy, we’ve put together a guide to the 10 best things to do in Milan for FREE!
1. Parco Sempione
The green heart of Milan. The 386,000 square metres of parkland make up a gorgeous slice of Milanese heaven – perfect for sports, picnics and strolls. It’s also a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the city. While you’re there, get yourself over to the Sforza Castle (one of the largest in Europe), the peaceful pond, the statue of Napoleon III and the aquarium!
2. Duomo di Milano
Perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of Italy, Milan Cathedral is a MUST see.. There is a small fee to climb up to see the view of the city from the top, but it’s absolutely worth it! Remember that it’s a working religious building, so you’ll need to cover your arms and legs to enter. If you want to avoid paying, head over to the top floor of La Rinascente (the shop next door) where you can soak up the beauty of Milan from above (and a snazzy view of the Duomo itself).
3. Ospedale Maggiore
The building also known as Cà Granda is half a millennium old, and part of the historic State University of Milan. Once upon a time it served as a hospital for the city, at the behest of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. It’s definitely a blast from the past, housing numerous original pieces of art and architecture. Make sure to check out the internal cloister, a gem that shouldn’t be overlooked.
4. Alleys of Brera
Brera almost feels like its own separate town within the metropolis of Milan. The quaint little alleyways, clubs and old community vibes really grab you, making it very difficult to leave! It’s actually here that you’ll find the Pinacoteca di Brera, an incredible art gallery known for its works by the masters: Piero della Francesca, Raphael and Caravaggio. There’s normally an entrance fee, but on the first Sunday of each month it’s free!
5. The canals at sunset
Just a few quiet minutes spent wandering around the canals of Milan, and you’ll understand why they are such a source of inspiration for many artists. Try to visit at dusk, as the setting sun reflects brilliantly off the surface of the water. You’ve also got to check out some of the exquisite historical sights in the area, such as the Colonne di San Lorenzo!
6. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This one is definitely a rite of passage in Milan! In the Galleria, you’ll see a graphic of a bull on the ground. The bull has a little wear and tear around its… urmm… nether regions, thanks to all the passers-by who spin on them (on their heels) to bring good fortune into their lives. As the legend goes, if you can complete the entire 360 degree turn in one go, you’ll be even luckier!
7. Vicolo dei Lavandai
History buffs will love all that Milan has to offer. The Alley of Lavandai dates back to the 1700s, and served as a popular laundry site for the locals. You can still see the stones that were used to rub dirt out of the clothes. The site actually remained active until the end of the 50s! #themoreyouknow
8. Piazza dei Mercanti
This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful squares in the city. Just being there will transport you back to a simpler, medieval time, as you gaze at the Palazzo della Ragione, the Casa Panigarola and the Loggia degli Osii! Thankfully, the architecture of the square has remained intact, meaning you can still experience the acoustic phenomenon: If you speak into a column, someone listening will be able to hear you on the other side of it. Don’t believe us? Try it!
9. Fiera di Sinigaglia
Okay, we know that markets aren’t exactly the best way to save money, but hear us out! The market itself is awash with everything from old vinyl to vintage clothing, so it’s pretty easy to get lost in the old-timey magic and low prices. It’s free if you don’t spend anything 😉 – even just walking the streets around the old flea market is a picturesque fave for locals (and your Instagram feed!)
10. Via Montenapoleone
You’d be insane to miss out on seeing Via Montenapoleone! The price tags might be a little dear for those travelling on a budget, but the street is so iconic you’ve got to catch a glimpse at least! The windows and details of each building’s facade are breathtaking, and who knows, maybe you’ll find a killer deal 😉
Check out the incredible hostels in Milan!
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