8 Free Things to do in Milan: Milan is undoubtedly the city of glamor and extravagance, as can be expected from one of the most famous fashion capitals in the world. But the city also offers many interesting attractions and experiences within everyone’s reach, even for those budget-conscious visitors. We have tried to go beyond the glittering facade of this chic metropolis to find the best things to do when the available budget is small.
As with any other city, you decide how much to spend in Milan. Here we explain how to visit beautiful attractions, with a minimum expense, if not free. To begin with, you can already save a lot by moving on foot: the main places of interest are all within walking distance. Once you arrive, we suggest what there is to see.
Admire art and history at Milan’s civic museums
Since 2014, free admission to a number of museums has been established throughout Italy on the first Sunday of each month. In Milan, this rule is followed by some of the most important museums in the city, such as the Milan Modern Art Gallery, the immense Pinacoteca di Brera, the Natural History Museum of Milan and the Civic Aquarium in Viale Gadio.
On all other days, most museums offer free admission one hour before closing (typically at 5 pm). In others, admission is free after 14:00 on Tuesdays and Fridays. Check out which hotels are available near the Pinacoteca di Brera here.
Admire the mosaics in the churches of Milan
It often happens that some of the small churches in the center of Milan go unnoticed because they are shaded by the many surrounding bars and shops. Instead, they are very interesting for historical architecture and Renaissance interiors and above all, they can be visited without spending a cent. Among these, the basilicas of Sant’Ambrogio and San Simpliciano stand out. The important thing is to be dressed appropriately (no shorts or shirts that are too skimpy) otherwise access is forbidden. The venue hosting Leonardo’s Last Supper, Santa Maria delle Grazie, is free to enter, except for the part of the refectory. To sleep near this church you can consult the specific page on our website dedicated to the structures close to Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Look at the windows in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
After admiring the majesty of the Duomo from the square, you can enjoy a walk in the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a shopping paradise. This gallery, defined by some as “the oldest shopping center in the world”, houses the most famous luxury brands and the biggest high fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Prada.
If you don’t want to spend high zero figures in luxury shops, you can still take a pleasant walk and take some photos under the vaulted glass ceilings of the gallery and its glazed dome. It has a very special charm even in the evening, with the delicate lighting of the shops and in its surroundings, you will find many accommodation facilities.
Enter a world of nobility at Castello Sforzesco
This imposing fortress erected by the Duke of Milan in the 15th century contains enchanting gardens bordered by footpaths. Inside it houses several civic museums with extraordinary exhibits, for example, an Egyptian museum and a museum of musical instruments. To explore it all, it takes at least half a day but if you have little time or want to save money, you can take advantage of the free entrance every day from 16:30 and Tuesday after 14:00 and comfortably stay nearby.
Feed the ducks at the Sempione Park
This large green area is located behind the Castello Sforzesco. Parco Sempione is an ideal destination for those seeking a free refuge from the crowds of central Milan. Walking in the gardens along the connecting paths you will meet artificial lakes and fountains, an aquarium and a library, all inside the park and can be visited for free.
For only € 5 you can also visit the Torre Branca, the steel tower that stands in the center of the park, from which you can enjoy a magnificent panorama of the city. To reach it on foot you can also sleep in one of the hotels in the surroundings of Parco Sempione.
Admire the art of nature at the Brera Botanical Garden
Cultivated by the Jesuits in the 16th century, this botanical garden offers the opportunity for peaceful walks in the shade of ancient trees, between flower beds and pools of water. Although not very large, it is worth a visit for the exotic species it contains or even just for an escape from the chaos of the city.
The Brera Botanical Garden has preserved much of its historical structure. Some restorations in recent times have made it freely accessible to everyone, including wheelchair visitors. It will be easily accessible from one of the hotels located in the area around the garden.
Take a tour of the Navigli
The Navigli are not only in operation and are used for the transport of goods since their construction, but they are also beautiful to look at. The old transport boats no longer exist. In their place today we see boats that transport tourists to discover the city. The picturesque Navigli district is certainly one of the most pleasant places to stroll in Milan.
For almost their entire length, the canals are lined with small bars, restaurants, and shops, especially on the Naviglio Grande. The Naviglio Pavese is a bit more urban, but both offer a magical atmosphere at sunset. There is also a wide range of solutions for overnight stays in the Navigli district.
Explore the sumptuous halls of the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Milan is located southwest of the Duomo, on the opposite side of the square from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. In addition to some exhibition spaces with paid access, the building houses the Museo Della Reggia, which can be visited for free.
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