Milan is one of the largest cities in Italy, located in the plains of Lombardy, and it is one of the most highly developed urban centres in Europe. The city is known all over the world as one of the most important fashion capitals and as the leading centre of fashion in Italy.
Milan is also one of the major artistic centres of northern Italy; its main landmarks include the Duomo, the second largest church in Italy and world’s third, Teatro alla Scala, one of the most important theatres in the world for operas and Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Last Supper.
The metropolis of Milan is also home to many important business centres, financial institutions and Italy’s stock market.
What to do and what to see
If you want to know what’s not to be missed, opening times and entrance fees, temporary exhibitions and permanent museums, the top attractions and the off the beaten track places that you must see, just visit the YesMilano webpage, where you can book your ticket to Leonardo’s Last Supper, download the bus/metro map, check the events going on, discover places and museums…. all in one page! From here you can also download apps on Milano and have access to the public free WiFi system.
Milano on the budget
Yes, you can enjoy Milano even on a budget!
In Milano you can sleep in every kind of hotel: from the luxurious ones fancied by designers and top models to a large selection of budget hotels, many of those with style to spare.
Budget hotel prices – The average rate for a standard double room runs between €50 and €100 per night, with the most basic rooms going for as low as €40 per night. Milan’s cheapest hotels are located around the Central Station. It is possible to find several gems, including the family-run Hotel Garda and the sunny welcoming Hotel The Best. Several cheap properties are located in the quiet neighborhood of Città Studi, just east of the city center. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms starting around €12 per night and entire homes (usually studio apartments) starting around €30 per night.
You can also check hostels: www.italian.hostelworld.com, the university campus: www.campluscollege.it, or on www.airbnb.com for apartments to rent or for offers on booking.com and tripadvisor.com. Have a look at Eurocheapo.com which is one of the booking sites that lists hotels all over Europe and reviews them with a sharp eye.
If you avoid the more fancy restaurants, Milano is full of small restaurants where you can have a full meal without spending too much. Pizza is always a good choice: a Margherita and a beer usually will cost less than 15 €. It’s easy to have a great meal anywhere in Italy for less than €15 a day. Quick eats like pizza by the slice, paninis, and light snacks will cost between €3-€7. Consider getting a panzerotto at Luini (close to the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele). Regarding the groceries, the most convenient are Eurospin, Inn’s, LD Market, Lidl or Penny Market.
Milan is a well-organized and orderly city. You may not only find accommodation with a little budget but also travel by public transportation, which is neither complicated nor expensive. Start your trip on the right heel and hit up the tourism office. The main branch is located at Piazza Castello, and a second branch is located in Stazione Centrale in the departure area. Both offices are open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. until 6 pm. on Sundays and holidays. (Note that on weekends and holidays, the office closes between 1.30 pm. and 2 pm.)
Here are several cheap ways to move around Milan:
Milan is served by four underground lines which cross the city from one side to the other, with 95km (59 miles) of track. Each is identified by a colour: MM1 (red), MM2 (green), MM3 (yellow), MM4 (blue) and MM5 (purple). You can download the Metro map here.
In operation: from 5.30 am to 00.30 am
Frequency: every 2 minutes at peak times, every 4-5 minutes at other times.
- Buses and trams
ATM provides an integrated network of surface transport, based on 120 lines including trams, trolley buses and buses. ATM has also created an on-demand night bus service. Like a taxi, the bus will collect passengers and drop them off at a destination of their choice. In operation: from 4.00 am to 01.45 am
Frequency: every 3 minutes at peak times, every 6 minutes at other times.
Cost: A single trip costs €2.00 (for 90 minutes), and can be used on buses and trams, with a single trip on the Metro, provided you make the connection within the proposed timeframe. A night bus service is available on Friday and Saturday, and buses run hourly from 2 a.m. until 5.10 a.m.
You can buy a Milano Card valid 24, 48 or 72 hrs. that will offer you free entrance or discount tickets to the major museums and attractions. Evening tickets can be purchased after 8 p.m. They cost €3 and are valid for unlimited travel until the end of service on the day they are stamped.
- Bike sharing
The Milano bike sharing system is called: “Bikemi” is an easy, practical and ecological system that helps to improve the quality of the environment. You can rent “normal” bikes or electric bike. Costs, info and app download here.
- Car sharing
Milano offers different possibilities of Car Sharing. All of them offers an app to check if there is a car available near by and to book and pay it. The most used are: Car2Go and Enjoy.
Money Saving ideas
- Flock to flea markets: There are multiple-and surprisingly cheap-markets in Milan. Perhaps the most well-known flea market, where well-priced jewelry, leather goods, books, clothes and furniture abound, is the Fiera di Sendallia. It takes place every Saturday morning off of Viale G. d’Annunzio, along Milan’s wharf. Ask at the tourism office for more market information.
- Stock up on stuzzichini: The Italian version of a “happy hour” comes with its fair share of fine food. Order a drink at a bar around 6 or 7 p.m. on any night and you’ll usually be greeted with free appetizers (“stuzzichini”) in the form of olives, cheese, bread and even pizza or pasta dishes. These light meals make it pretty easy to live well and spend less in Milan. Be aware of restaurants near the Station Square since sometimes these could be tourist traps and vastly overpriced. Head about half a mile outside of this area for authentic and less expensive food.
- Take the Radiobus: These run until 2 am. With tickets costing at most €3, these are a good alternative to taxis after a night out.
- Do some cheap shopping: If you don’t want to miss out on the fashion experience, head to the Brera District for some less expensive, but trendy boutiques.
- Get a city pass: If you are going to do lots of sightseeing, the Milano Card or the Milan Pass will give you discounts or free entry to the top museums, tours, and attractions. It is priced to save you money when compared to buying separate tickets.
- Drink the tap water: The water in Italy is safe to drink so avoid those expensive bottles of water and refill from the tap! You’re wallet and the environment will thank you.
- Buy lots of wine: You can buy a great bottle of wine for €4.
- Go on a free walking tour: This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and to avoid missing any must-see stops. Milan Free Tour has a 3.5-hour tour that can show you what the city has to offer. Make reservations in advance.
Areas of Milan
- Centro Storico: The center of the city with the great Duomo in its heart makes for a great shopping and sightseeing area. The shops on Galleria Vittorio Emanuele up to the ones on Via Montenapoleone will keep you occupied for hours.
- Navigli: One of the best districts of Milan, with lots of aperitivo bars, antique shops, art galleries and vintage clothing stores. It is a very relaxed area where you can hang out during the day with a nice cup of Italian coffee and go for great aperitivo’s at night!
- Porta Ticinese: This district has a more alternative feel to it then the rest of the city. Full of the greatest vintage shops and lots of laid-back bars and cafés. With two universities on either sides of the neighborhood (Statale and Cattolica) it is definitely a student district. On summer nights this is most evident on Colonne di San Lorenzo, where all the students gather for a drink.
- Brera: Brera is a beautiful district in the city center, with the most picturesque streets. It is a very artistic district, full of museums, theatres and art and design galleries. Like the Naviglio area, it is full of cute aperitivo bars, just in a different style. While the Naviglio area is more for students that go for a bite to eat before going to the clubs, Brera hosts the many artists, designers and museum staff that work in the area.
- Corso Como: Set in the district of Porta Garibaldi, Corso Como is one of the most fashionable areas of the city, where the fashionistas go for a drink after work hours. It is a good place to start your weekend, since many clubs are situated here as well. A few of them are: Hollywood, Eleven, Loolapaloosa and Tocqueville.
- Porta Venezia: One of the most gorgeous residential areas of the city is located around Porta Venezia. With the Giardini Pubblici on one side and the beginning of Corso Buenos Aires (the biggest shopping street of Milan). A lot of luxurious hotels are set here and they serve as fashion show venues during Fashion Week, so a few times a year it’s full with paparazzi, limousines, international stars and of course lots of security.
- Parco Sempione: Parco Sempione is one of Milan’s beautiful parks, just behind the Castello Sforzesco. Not only is it a nice day to relax and sunbathe in summer, there are also some great bars and clubs located here. A few of them are: Just Cavalli, Old Fashion and Bar Bianco.
How to say it?
Here are a few basic words in Italian that may be useful.
Hello = Ciao
Good morning = Buongiorno
Good evening = Buonasera
Goodbye = Arrivederci
Thank you (very much) = Grazie (mille)
Please = Per favore
Sorry = Scusi (if you’re speaking to a young or a friend)/ Scusa (otherwise)
At the restaurant: “Can I/we have the bill?”= “Posso/possiamo avere il conto?”
“Where can I buy/find …. ” = “Dove posso comprare/trovare…? “
“Where are the toilets? “ = “Dov’è il bagno?”
“How do we go to…. ?” = “ Come si può fare per raggiungere… ?”
Hope it will help you!
Top Thing to Do and See (for free!) in Milan
The things listed here won’t cost you a thing no matter when you visit Milan – they’re free year-round.
- Milan Duomo: A massive Gothic cathedral, this looms over the Piazza del Duomo. With over 3,500 statues, 135 spires, and 5 bronze doors, it is not surprising to find that it took 500 years to complete. You will be left speechless by its magnitude. Milan’s iconic cathedral is free to enter, although if you want to tour the Treasury or take the elevator up to the roof you’ll have to pay.
- Castello Sforzesco: Built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, the castle now houses 12 mini-musuems and a vast archive of artifacts. Collections include everything from the Renaissance period, Michelangelo’s unfinished last work and Raccolte d’Arte Antica (a sculpture gallery), to the Museums of Musical Instruments and Antique Art. Admission in the Castle has a cost, but strolling the castle grounds is free.
- Enjoying Milan’s Parks: Milan has several big parks right in the city center. In nice weather, they’re popular with locals and visitors, and in the summer you’ll often find musical acts or other performances going on. The most important is Parco Sempione. This park is host to Sforzesco Castle, Aquarium, Triennale di Milano, Torre Branca, tons of esoteric bars, and a lot more. This is a great area in which to wander for hours and it is nice to relax on the grass when you get tired.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: This beautiful shop-filled building lies next to the Duomo and although it is expensive to buy anything in any of its stores, it is wonderful walking through it and just enjoying the gorgeous architecture (imagine if all “shopping malls” looked like this!).
- Palazzo Reale: This “Royal Palace” was actually once the center of Milan’s government; it was partially torn down to build the Duomo next door, so although it doesn’t look as impressive it’s older than the famous cathedral. The building now houses a tourist information office, so it is worth a stop anyway, and you can also tour the palace museum for free and see a former theatre on the second floor.
- Villa Belgiojoso Bonaparte Museum: This palatial former private residence is now a museum displaying artwork from the 18th and 19th century – and yes, the “Bonaparte” in the name refers to Napoleon and his family who once called the villa home.
- Monumental Cemetery: The Cimitero Monumentale is just north of the city center near the Garibaldi train station, and is worth a stop if you like cemeteries. It is quite large and has some famous graves.
- Milan’s Aquarium: The aquarium (“Acquario” in Italian) in Milan is not too big if compared to the top aquariums of the world (especially since Milan isn’t on water) but it is still a fun (and free) diversion. It also happens to occupy a very cool-looking building.
- Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse: Milan is best known for da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” but this enormous horse sculpture is another da Vinci in the city – and this one is free to check out. It is the world’s biggest bronze horse statue, based on designs Leonardo made in the late 15th century.
- Santa Maria delle Grazie: You may not have heard of this church, but if I tell you it’s the one attached to the building housing “The Last Supper” it’ll be very familiar, indeed. Seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece will cost you but visiting the church next to the refectory building is absolutely free.
- Visiting Other Churches: The streets in Milan’s city center may look like they are all banks and shops, but there are churches tucked here and there, and most of them are completely free to enter. Highlights are the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (one of the oldest in Milan and named for the city’s patron saint), San Simpliciano (inside this church are some of the Roman ruins in Milan), and San Bernardino alle Ossa (small church with ossuary inside).
- Sights that are free on “Fridays after 2pm”: There isn’t a master list of attractions that fall under this category, but some of the museums and galleries in Milan that usually charge an entry fee are free after 2pm on Friday and others have different days of the week when they offer free entry. Some sights in this category are: the Museum of the Unification (Risorgimento), Natural History Museum, Archaeological Museum, and the Museums in the Castello Sforzesco.