Is Milan your next travel destination? Has this wonderful Italian city been on your bucket list for some time and you’re finally ready for an Italian adventure? Follow our Top 10 Things to do in Milan, on a budget!
Whether you’re in Milan for the weekend or planning a longer trip there, these tips will help you choose some of the best activities to do in this eclectic European city.
Top 10 Things to do in Milan
1. Experience Aperitivo
What is an aperitivo? It started as a drink meant to increase your appetite. Now, aperitivo is some kind of happy hour in Milan! Usually starting at about 6 pm, all you have to is find a good restaurant, order a drink (a glass of wine, cocktail, etc.) and food is included in the price.
Some bars offer a free selection of tapas, like chips, tiny Paninis, olives or a platter of cheese and ham, to go with your drink. But others have an open buffet: all you can eat, included in the price of one drink!
Our recommendations are Maya Cocktail Bar (in Navigli) and Hora Feliz (a 10 minutes walk away from Duomo di Milano); they have an open buffet at the price of one drink: 10-12 euros, a nice selection of cocktails and very welcoming staff. We had a lovely experience!
If you want to know more about the art of aperitivo, we suggest this article, which beautifully explains the origins and customs behind it.
2. Pizza and more Pizza
While on the topic of food, Pizza is a must when you are in Italy! It’s as good as it gets in its homeland!
In Milan, you’ll find Pizza and pasta restaurants everywhere, catering for all tastes and price ranges. Our recommendation for delicious and affordable Pizza is Spontini (close to Duomo di Milano). Their pizza slices are huge, personalized with your favorite ingredients and they taste so good!
3. Go architecture hunting
Milan is a city where old and modern architecture meet. It’s an exciting traveling experience to walk from the iconic Duomo di Milano and the medieval fortress of Sforzesco Castle, all the way to Gae Aulenti Square, home of the contemporary sky-scrapers and eclectic new building designs.
Bookmark these places and plan your walking itinerary. It’s an experience we highly recommend. A long walk, but aperitivo is right on time to complete the journey!
4. Visit the Vertical Forrest (Bosco Verticale)
Next to Gae Aulenti Square, you’ll discover the vertical gardens: a couple of residential towers with a unique architectural feature: trees and greenery from the bottom to the top. It’s an impressive sight to see and a beautiful idea to help the environment by purifying the air in the big cities.
5. Street art and art exhibitions
One of the 10 things to do in Milan that can be quite exciting is hunting down exhibitions and art pieces around the city. When planning your trip, do a little research on Google to see the events happening in Milan that weekend, check out the exhibitions that interest you, and bring your student card if you have one, to get a discount.
Otherwise, just roam the streets of Milan and some exciting art pieces will reveal themselves to you anyway.
6. Shopping and street-style inspiration
One thing we love about Milan much more than other cities is how laid-back people are and how interesting street fashion is.
As you may know, Milan is an important city for the fashion industry, so if you have a budget for shopping, you’ve come to a great place! Although Milan is home to a lot of luxurious, expensive brands and stores, there are also a LOT of reasonably priced clothing stores and affordable Italian brands. So, don’t be afraid to explore!
7. Duomo di Milano: view from the rooftops
If the weather allows you to, you can experience Milano from above, with a delightful view of the Duomo. Our suggestion is to try a rooftop bar near Duomo di Milano: Obica Mozzarella Bar is cheaper than most rooftop terraces in the area and the view is amazing!
Another idea would be to visit the rooftop of the Duomo di Milano. Usually, you’ll have to spend some time queuing to get up there, but it’s not an extremely long wait. Otherwise, you can book your ticket in advance online (about 12 euros). To be honest, we prefer the first alternative!
8. Experience the Italian lifestyle
Are you familiar with Airbnb experiences? Airbnb is a platform that allows you to book accommodation for your trips, from homeowners in the city you travel to. They have recently introduced experiences, which I believe are amazing ways to engage with the locals when you travel somewhere.
We didn’t have the chance to try any experiences yet, but there are a couple that we’ll definitely check out the next time we’re in Milan: Homemade Family Pasta & Tiramisu (a 3h cooking group cooking class, taught by locals) and Milan by Night: Local Bar Hopping. Check out the other experiences as well, if you’re interested to know Milan through the eyes of locals and make some friends!
However, if you don’t have the budget for such experiences, our suggestion is to visit Navigli. It’s a picturesque, artistic neighborhood, with lots of pubs, terraces, and bars, where you can relax, meet new people, explore a different side of Milan, and enjoy aperitivo.
9. Spin on the Bull’s Balls
Here’s one fun thing you can do for free in Milan: spin on the Bull’s Balls. When in Milan, you’ll surely pass through the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, located right next to Duomo di Milano. You can join the other tourists that are spinning three times on the mosaic below, hoping for good luck, or to return to Milan another time soon:
10. Take a day trip to Lake Como
Finally, it’s time for a day trip out of town!
Lake Como is one of the most popular lakes in Europe, located at the foothill of the Italian Alps, and surrounded by beautiful little town-resorts, such as Como, Bellagio, Lecco, and many others. Como is the closest to Milan, and we got there in about 40 minutes by car.
If you don’t plan to rent a car in Milan, Lake Como can be easily reached by train. You can find all the information you need about getting there, ticket prices, trains, etc. here.
If time allows you to, consider this day trip. Trains are not expensive, and you can leave in the morning and be back in Milan by evening. An extra tip: visit Lake Como on the sunniest day of your trip; everything looks much better in the sunshine!
Ready to tick off your 10 Things to do in Milan?
Use #journeyplane or tag us on Instagram so we can check out your Milan adventures! Any amazing experiences or activities you’d like to share? Write us in the comments what you thought of this city!