Milan isn’t known for being affordable. Italy is not an inexpensive destination for holiday travel. Visitors can save money even in Milan – there are many attractions and activities that are completely free.
It will surprise you to see that many of these items are not only worth your time, but also top attractions . You don’t have to feel lazy when you visit the Lombardy capital, without a trust account.
These are some of the free things you can do – there is never an admission fee. There are also a few places that offer hours of free access on certain days. Save money and get an extra scoop of gelato.
Milan offers many free activities
- Duomo Milan’s most famous landmark, the multi-spired Duomo, is open to all. Although it is vast and contains many notable pieces of art, it won’t take long to explore. (Unless you are escaping a downpour, or taking a break in the midday sun. Doggonit, the Duomo is no longer free…
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele I – While shopping at the shops inside this arcaded mall is expensive, just strolling through the beautiful mosaic floor and glass ceilings won’t cost you a penny. You can also spin the bull’s balls at the Galleria’s center for luck.
- Castello Sforzesco The 15th century castle complex has many museums (see the below list), but you don’t have to pay anything to explore the grounds within the castle.
- Parco Sempione– This is Milan’s favourite green space. It’s basically the Castello Sforzesco backyard. Locals enjoy playing soccer, jogging and picnicking on the large open lawns. There are also some outdoor summer festivals.
- Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio This church is dedicated to Milan’s patron saint and was built by him. Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio was built by St. Ambrose and consecrated in 379. It is one of the oldest churches in the city.
- Giardini Pubblici is another popular and huge green space in the city centre. It lies between the Duomo, Stazione Centrale, and the Giardini Pubblici Pubblici. The Museum of Natural History (see below), and the Planetarium (entry fees) are located within the park grounds.
- Window-Shopping at the Quadrilatero d’Oro – Again, bringing home any designer items could be expensive… But, between the window-shopping (some displays are incredible) and people-watching, this Quadrilatero d’Oro area is a great place to spend a few minutes.
- Palazzo Reale Milan’s Royal Palace is located right next to the Duomo. While some spaces are used for art exhibits which charge admission, there is also an open-air Palace Museum (Museo della Reggia), that displays the architectural evolution of palace apartments starting in the 16th century.
- Cimitero Monumentale This huge cemetery is located in the northern part of central Milan and makes for an exceptional outdoor sculpture garden. Although it doesn’t boast a star-studded resident list like Pere lachaise in Paris, Cimitero Monumentale is a great place to enjoy an art-centered walk (as long you’re not against cemeteries).
- Leonardo da Vinci’s Giant Bronze Horse – Not far from Milan’s huge San Siro Stadium is an also-impressively-large bronze statue of a horse. The design was based on one Leonardo da Vinci created in 1482 for the Duke of Milan. However, it didn’t materialize in his lifetime.
- Brera Astronomical Museum– The Palazzo Brera houses the Brera Observatory & Astronomical Museum. The museum is open weekdays and was constructed in the middle of the 18th century.
- Brera Botanical Garden– The Palazzo Brera houses the 18th century Orto Botanico di Brera. It is associated with the University of Milan. It is open Monday through Saturday.
- Piazza Gane Aulenti The new Porta Nuova district is all about office buildings. However, there is a striking new piazza that has been built into the landscape and is becoming more popular with locals. The development also includes a park.
- Santa Maria delle Grazie – You will no doubt make a pilgrimage here during a Milan trip in order to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”, which is located in the adjacent refectory. You can also visit the church from 15th century, which is free.
- San Bernardino alle Ossa If you prefer your budget-friendly attractions to be more macabre, you will want to make a stop at the church of San Bernardino alle Ossa with its small chapel adorned with human bones. Although the space is very small, it has a high ceiling and almost all of the walls are covered with bones.
- Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio A fourth-century church built on this site is believed to have housed the tombs of the Three Kings. You can see elements of later reconstructions in the 12th, 16th and 19th centuries that have influenced the design of the church today.
- Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore First consecrated in early 5th century. This basilica has been rebuilt many times over the years. Inside, there is a large pipe organ and original mosaics from the 4th century.
- Colonne di San Lorenzo – Roman ruins in Milan? Yes, indeed. These columns date back to the 2nd Century and were moved to their current location in the Basilica of San Lorenzo during the 4th Century.
- Basilicas Park This park is located in the southern area of central Milan and gets its name because it’s situated between two basilicas, Basilica di San Lorenzo or Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio.
- Photo Gallery at Ten Corso Como. Carla Sozzani is an artist and long-time fan of art. She opened 10 Corso Como with a photo gallery. It changes frequently and sometimes features themes related to architecture or design.
- HangarBicocca is an enormous former factory that has been transformed into a contemporary art space with support from Pirelli, the Italian tire manufacturer. Permanent and temporary exhibitions are available at all times. However, HangarBicocca may be closed for private events.
- MACAO – If you enjoy art that has a healthy dose subversion, underground culture and politics, then visit the MACAO project located in a former slaughterhouse outside of the city centre.
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There are many free things to do in Milan
- Castello Sforzesco There are many museums within the castle complex, including an Egyptian Museum and an Antique Furniture Museum. A Modern Art Museum houses a Pinacoteca collection. Each one has a separate entrance, but is free on Tuesdays after 14:00, and Wednesdays after 16:30.
- Museo del Risorgimento– The Italian word “Risorgimento”, which means “resurgence”, refers primarily to the fight for Italian unity. This museum tells the story about Italy becoming Italy. It is open every Tuesday at 14:00, and every Wednesday-Sunday at 16:30.
- Galleria dell’Arte Moderna Milano is a museum dedicated to 19th-century art. It is located in an ex-royal villa, once occupied by Napoleon. Every Tuesday after 14:00, and every Wednesday-Sunday at 16:30, it’s free.
- Museum of Natural History This museum is located in the Giardini Pubblici and is Milan’s oldest civic museums. It is open every Tuesday after 14.00 and every Wednesday-Sunday at 16:30.
- Archaeological museum This museum is located in an 8th-century convent and displays artifacts from and around Milan. It is free Tuesday through Sunday after 14:00, and Wednesday through Sunday after 16:30.
- Civic Aquarium Milan’s small aquarium is located in Parco Sempione. It used to be open every day for free. It’s now only available on the first Sunday in every month.