13 Incredible Free Things to do in Milan, Italy
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While it may seem like an expensive place to visit, there are many free things to do in Milan! With almost 1.4 million inhabitants, Milan is Italy’s second-largest city and the capital of the Lombardy region in the north of the country.
Known worldwide as a fashion mecca today, Milan is also Italy’s leading cultural and media metropolis, a vibrant university city, and an international financial center with the headquarters of the Italian Stock Exchange.
I live 2 hours away by train and always enjoy coming back for a weekend to beautiful Milan. This interesting city offers everything you can think of.
Keep reading to learn more about the best cheap free things to do in Milan on a budget!
Piazza del Duomo
The most famous landmark of Milan, one of the best places to visit in Italy, is the magnificent Milan Cathedral. It is one of the largest churches in the world in terms of square meters. It was built between 1463 and 1482, and since 1980 it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The price for visiting this unique building is € 5.00 but admiring the magnificent facade from the outside is free. Beautiful pictures can be taken from the cathedral square, especially in the afternoon when the shining white cathedral shivers in the sun.
If you have some leftover food, throw it in the air to also have a large number of pigeons in the picture. Take a tour around the magnificent building and city landmark to be able to understand its size truly.
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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Even though the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is home to some incredibly expensive stores, window shopping and admiring the beautiful building are free.
The huge department store in the heart of Milan has existed since 1867, making it one of the oldest in the world. Located between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza del Opera, the magnificent shopping arcade is decorated with marble, mosaics, and an impressive glass dome.
In the center of the cruciform building, on the floor, there is the coat of arms of the Savoy with a white cross on a red field and the famous bull.
If you want to return to Milan, you have to turn once with the heel of your shoe on the bull’s privates, which are included in the mosaic. At least, that’s what people say, and it definitely worked for me.
The impressive Castello Sforzesco in the northwest of the old town is one of the largest citadels in Europe. It was built as a defensive castle in the 14th century under the rule of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The tower with the entrance portal Torre del Filarete is particularly impressive.
Free of charge, you can stroll through the thick castle walls. Inside the Milan City Castle are several museums that house collections of famous painters, numerous sculptures, exhibitions of ancient art, and antique weapons collections.
In general, you have to pay an entrance fee, but you can visit the museums of the Castello Sforzesco every first and third Tuesday of the month after 2 pm and every Sunday, the whole day, for free.
Relax in the large Parco Sempione, just behind the Castello Sforzesco, if you need a break or some peace and quiet from the bustling fashion city. It’s a great place to stroll or just lie on the grass, take a break and enjoy life.
In 1893, the 40-hectare park was laid out like an English garden in a romantic style. In summer, there are many open-air concerts and exhibitions here. By the way, the park has its own free Wi-Fi network.
Arco della Pace
After Napoleon had himself crowned King of Upper Italy in Milan in 1805, he commissioned the construction of a triumphal arch. The “new gateway to Milan,” the Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace), stands today at the northern exit of Parco Sempione.
If you are already in Parco Sempione, you should pass by this beautiful structure, which with its 25m height, is much smaller than the world-famous triumphal arches of Paris and Berlin.
I Navigli Viertel
The nightlife district I Navigli is in the southern part of the city center. The Navigli is a system of canals and waterways that took seven centuries to build. In the past, they were incredibly important for the economy, connecting Milan with Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, and the Ticino River.
Today, countless bars and restaurants are located around a small lake and its converging canals. This is where Milan’s nightlife takes place. Just sit down and enjoy the hustle and bustle!
There is always an incredible amount to see when people flock to the bars from 5 p.m. for Aperitivo. Until deep into the night, the neighborhood is loud and lively.
The Central Cemetery is a must-see for every Milan tourist. On the huge green area (250000m2!) in the middle of Milan, there are impressive family vaults and countless beautiful stone sculptures. Like a monumental open-air museum! It also houses Europe’s first crematorium.
There is information at the entrance, so you don’t miss the tombs of prominent people and families, such as Motta’s family tomb or the final resting place of the Campari family.
Moreover, here lie famous personalities such as Salvatore Quasimodo, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959, Arturo Toscanini, one of the greatest conductors of all time, and Giuseppe Meazza. Also called Peppino or Peppìn, he was an Italian coach and soccer player, considered by many as the greatest Italian player of all time.
Brera is the former artists’ district of Milan. Today it is the perfect place for window shopping. The many small boutiques feature trendy galleries and art and antique stores.
It is also home to Milan’s leading art museum, the Pinacoteca di Brera. Its 38 halls display many of Italy’s most important artworks. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Piazza Gae Aulenti
This large, new square with its futuristic architecture stands in big contrast to the beautiful historic buildings and structures further south in the old town.
In the new banking district between steel and glass, the Torre Unicredit also stands as Italy’s tallest skyscraper. A walk to Piazza Gae Aulenti is especially worthwhile in the evening when a light and water show powered by solar energy takes place in the square.
The two green-planted high-rise towers are intended to improve biodiversity in the metropolis of Milan.
On display are around 900 trees, each already between 3 and 9 meters high when planted, and more than 2000 other plants planted on the terraces, balconies, and facades of the buildings. At ground level, the planted area would be 7000 m²!
From 14:00 on every first and third Tuesday of the month and every Sunday, all day long, some museums in Milan grant free admission to their exhibitions.
These include, for example, the Castello Sforzesco, the Museo Novecento (Museum of the 20th Century) and the Museo di Storia Naturale (Natural History Museum). In general, free of charge is the Fashion Museum in Palazzo Morando and the Astronomical Museum in the Brera district.
Santa Caterina delle Grazie
Except for the famous Milan Cathedral, the city’s other churches do not charge admission, making a visit to them one of the best free things to do in Milan.
Considered one of the best examples of Renaissance art and a repository of unique works of art, the church Santa Maria delle Grazie was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1980.
However, the beautiful church is better known for housing Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “The Last Supper” in the former refectory (dining room) of the adjacent monastery. Unfortunately, this artwork is not free to see!
Free City Tour
Every day, from Tuesday to Sunday at 10:00 am, you can join a city walking tour which is absolutely free. Knowledgeable, English-speaking tour guides will take you to the city’s most important sights.
Tips for the guide are, of course, welcome but not obligatory after the 3-hour tour. Reservations, however, are mandatory. Make your reservation for the free Milan City Tour here.
This post was all about the best free things to do in Milan. We hope you enjoy your trip to Italy! Don’t forget to share this post and save it for later.
About the Guest Author
This post was written by Linda from insieme Piemonte.
Hi, I’m Linda. My husband and I are the owners of a small guest house on the hillside of Pinerolo in beautiful Piedmont. Parallel of hosting travelers in our 2 guest rooms, I run the hiking blog Hiking the Alps. We just love hiking and being outdoors, and by writing about our favorite tours, preferably in the European Alps, I try to inspire others to do the same.
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