Milan doesn't have to be all about ritz and rolling out the euros. There are plenty of ways to save on fashion, food and transport in the cosmopolitan city. Here are just a few tips for making Milan a budgeter's best friend.
Budget Tips Milan
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 departures 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.)
For more information, visit the Provincia di Milano site.
Buy a blochetto: Tram, metro and bus tickets cost €1.50 for a single rides, but if you plan to get good use out of Milan's metropolitan transportation system, it's a good idea to buy a ten-pack (blochetto). The pack costs €13.80, and unlike other passes, you can use the tickets interchangeably on all forms of transport. There is also a 24-hour pass available for €4.50. For more information see our guide to getting around Milan.
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 most any night and you'll usually be greeted with free appetizers (stuzzichini) in the form of olives, cheese, bread and maybe even pizza or pasta dishes. These light meals make it pretty easy to live well and spend less in Milan. Check out our blog post on aperitivos for more information.
Here are admission prices for some of Milan’s favorite attractions.
The Last Supper: Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece is located in the refectory of the convent adjoining the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. (Note: Admission to the church is free, but tickets are required for the museum.)
Prices: €17.50 (adults); €14.25 (reduced) Note: Advance reservations are mandatory and subject to online fees (up to €9.50). Tickets can be booked online here.
Teatro alla Scala: The museum adjacent to Milan’s famed opera house contains an actual theater and an impressive collection of opera relics, including costumes, original scores and Verdi’s top hat.
Archaeological Park and Roman Antiquarium Alda Levi: Visit the walls of a Roman ampitheater and then explore a vast collection of Italian artifacts (including a section devoted to old Milan), housed in the former convent of the Monastery of San Maurizio Maggiore.
Prices: €5 (adults); €2.50 (reduced)
San Siro Museum: The museum devoted to the history of two Milan football teams is located inside a football stadium.
Prices: €7 (adults); €5 (reduced); free (under 6)
Sforza Castle: This 14th-century castle is home to several museums and a lovely garden. Admission to the castle grounds is free.
Museum Prices: €3 (adults); €1.50 (reduced); free (under 6); free to all from 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 2 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Friday
Never fear, Cheapos: Even though there aren't many free sights in Milan, we've found a few to keep you satiated. And, remember, it costs nothing to wander through the various piazzas, and to gaze up at the Duomo or pass by Sforza Castle.
Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro: This church has been the site of many a pilgrimage since 1242, when an angry gambler was said to have swatted the baby Jesus in Santa Maria's altar piece, causing him to spurt blood. Today, you can be the judge—for free—as to whether or not there's any blood in sight. Other highlights of the church include the spectacular Baroque façade and transept, bits of Byzantine frescos and a baptistery from 1480.
Via Speronari: The Via Speronari is one of the oldest streets in Milan. Located just a quick block from the Duomo, the strip offers lots of window shopping and plenty of Baroque architecture. Venture into a classic tavolo calda (hot table) like Prinzi, where freshly baked bread and tasty take-out grub are readily available.
Leonardo's Horse: In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci completed a giant equestrian monument, commissioned by the Sforza family. But, in 1499, the statue was destroyed by invading French troops. In 1999, American Renaissance expert and collector Charles Dent recreated the horse with da Vinci's original designs. The new work stands proudly on display at the Piazzale dello Sport, which is just a short tram ride from Milan's Duomo or city center (tram #16) or a 10-minute walk from the Lotto Metro stop. For more about the horse and its history, see this article.
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is the most widely accepted form of student ID and provides discounts on sights, accommodations, food and transportation. Applicants must be working toward a degree at a secondary or post-secondary school and must be at least 12 years of age. The card costs US$22 and is valid until the end of the year issued. All cardholders have access to a 24-hour emergency helpline. In the US call 1-800-223-7986 or visit the ISIC online
For non-students 25 years and younger, the International Youth Travel Card, IYTC, also offers many of the same benefits as the ISIC. The card costs US$22 and is valid for one year from the date of issue.
Travelers with student cards, such as ISIC and IYTC qualify for big discounts from travel agencies. Most flights from budget agencies are on major airlines, though peak season deals might be on less reliable chartered aircraft.
Senior travelers will find some discounts in Milan. Be sure to carry your passport to offer proof of your age. Sometimes, seniors must be members of a particular association in order to receive discounts. Members of the AARP get discounts on hotels, airfares and car rentals. They can be reached at in the United States at 1-888-687-2277 or visited online.
Finding a Budget Hotel in Milan
Where to stay: Yes, Milan can be an expensive city, but if you know where to look, the city has has plenty of cheap hotels—many of the them with charm to spare. In general, the cheapest hotels are centered around the Central Station, but we also love the quiet Citta’ Studi neighborhood for its charming scenery and sweet, family-run hotels. Both areas are well situated for getting exploring the rest of the city, too.
Know when to go! It's no secret that Milan hosts a number of industry events and conventions throughout the year, and when the city is busy with fairs and fashion shows, you can bet its hotel rates are sky high. If you can be flexible, your best bet is to check rates for a number of dates, if you can be flexible. Also, check the Fiere ("Fair") Commission site (click through to the calendar) for a list of shows, conventions and expos, or the Fiera Congressi's site for even more specific dates and shows.
Check out our hotel overview for more information on finding a cheap hotel in Milan.
Related posts from our blog
- A “worth it” rail connection: Milan to Brig, Switzerland (and beyond)
- Get moving with BikeMi, Milan’s public bike share program
- Free admission to Milan’s Sforza Castle
- What to order at an Italian café: A quick guide to Italian coffees
- When to get the best hotel rates in Milan
Popular hotels in Milan (by views)
Milan blog posts
- Germanwings’ Blind Booking: A low-cost flight to a mystery destination
- European travel update: Springtime changes to transport hubs
- French Connections: New train services from December 2012
- Ligurian Diversions: Santa Margherita Ligure
- Crossing the Alps by Train: Three rail routes from Switzerland to Italy
- EuroCheapo Turns 10: Cheapos who made it possible
- European Tourism Outlook: Summer 2011
- Brig, Switzerland: A major rail connection worth exploring
- Milan: Get moving with the BikeMi public bike share program
- The Cheapo 100: Our favorite budget hotels in Europe