Milan on a budget: 7 travel hacks to save on your trip
Milan is one of Italy's biggest and wealthiest cities and one of the absolute must-visit destinations in northern Italy. Along with the stunning Piazza Del Duomo di Milano, home of the incredible Milan Cathedral or Duomo, the city center is known for its incredible architecture and world-leading museums containing the work of artists of the stature of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Of course, Milan is also practically the world capital of fashion, and whatever you wear here, you're probably going to feel underdressed. Go window shopping in the glitzy Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and even if you're not a committed fashionista, you'll find yourself having some serious clothing envy.
Milan is also close to some of the top attractions in this part of Italy, including the stunning Lake Como and the industrial city of Turin. With all the museums, shopping options, and incredible food you'll find in central Milan, it's not hard to imagine that you could spend a lifetime here and never run out of top Milan attractions to see.
However, as one of the wealthiest cities in Italy, Milan is also one of the most expensive. Unless you can somehow find free accommodation, you can expect hotel prices here to eat up a good portion of even a generous budget. Still, that doesn't mean it's impossible to save money on your Milan itinerary. It just means you'll need a few travel tips on how to save money here.
Once you've bought your cheap flights and travel insurance, don't overlook another easy thing that can make your trip much more pleasant. Drop off your bags at a luggage storage in Milan so that you can more easily explore the main Milan attractions. Knowing your bags are being safely looked after makes it far easier to get the best out of the city.
Cheap places to stay in Milan
There's really no limit to how much you can spend on a hotel in Milan, especially if you want to stay close to the city center. Luxury hotels for the wealthy are everywhere in this stylish city. However, that doesn't mean there aren't some good budget options too.
Summer is the busy season for Milan tourism, so you'll find it easier to get cheap flights and accommodation if you travel off-season. Another good way to save some money is to consider staying outside of the city center. Milan has really excellent public transportation links, including trams and a subway network, so it's not a big deal to stay in a suburb and travel into the heart of the city to see the main attractions. If you're wondering where to stay in Milan, check out our neighborhood guide.
You could also consider booking accommodation with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals. This is one of the most common travel tips for budget travelers, and with so many short-term apartment rentals available in the city, it's a good option to have.
Here are some good options for places to stay in Milan on a budget:
Duomo Hotel & Apartments
Given that this is a four-star hotel located right in one of the most popular areas of Milan, just steps from Piazza del Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and the legendary Scala theater, it's astonishing just how cheap it is. In August, a room here will cost you only around $170, which is an incredible bargain considering what's on offer. A classic double room comes with free Wi-Fi, a private bathroom, and even a mini kitchen so you can prepare simple meals. They also offer an airport shuttle and laundry service for an additional charge. But it's the location that makes this hotel hard to beat if you're looking for budget accommodation in Milan.
Hotel Vecchia Milano
Only a little further out from the heart of the city than the Duomo Hotel, Vecchia is still within walking distance of Milan Cathedral and everything else on your Milan itinerary. This three-star hotel offers free Wi-Fi and a historic building full of charm to go with its convenient location. You can get a double room here for around $100 per night, even in the height of summer, and that rate includes an excellent breakfast that will keep you fueled up for a day of exploring. The rooms are basic, and the decor is a little outdated, but that's a small price to pay for this excellent location and a very comfortable hotel that will help you save money while you explore Milan.
Grand Hostel Coconut
Just a stone's throw away from Milano Centrale train station, you'll find this basic but bright hostel that provides some of the cheapest accommodation in the city while still being in a very convenient area. It's just a seven-minute walk from here to the train station, making it a great place to stay if you're traveling by rail. It also means you'll have easy access to Milan's public transportation network, so you won't have any trouble getting around.
There are mixed-gender and female-only dorms to stay in, plus a guest kitchen to prepare your own meals and a garden and terrace to enjoy the warm weather. In the middle of summer, you can expect a bunk in a dorm to cost you around $50, and in the off-season, it's even cheaper. If you're not too fussy about sharing your space, this is an excellent option that allows you to save a lot of money on your Milan trip.
Cheap things to do in Milan
Milan has some really incredible things to do, and you don't need to spend a fortune to do them. In fact, some of the best things to do in Milan are completely free. Like most Italian cities, Milan is a great place to wander around and just soak up the atmosphere, and you can also take advantage of free walking tours that will explain the history of the city center as you explore. A free walking tour is a great way to get to grips with what Milan has to offer and introduce you to some places you may want to come back and explore in your own time. Just remember to tip your guide.
For some of the great places to add to your Milan itinerary, try these ideas:
One of the most iconic buildings in the city, this gorgeous Gothic cathedral is an absolute must-see while you're in the city. It costs nothing to go inside and admire the incredible statues both inside and outside the building. For an additional charge of around €13, you can go on the roof of the world's largest Gothic church and enjoy the view over the city and get up close to some of the incredible statues up there. But even if you don't choose to go up to the roof, this impressive cathedral is still well worth visiting. Plus, at certain times of the year, such as Christmas and Easter, the Cathedral offers free concerts. You'll need to get there early as the seats are first-come first-served, but it's probably the best way to enjoy this beautiful building, and it won't cost you anything.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
This monastery is one of the most popular attractions in Milan for a single reason: it's home to one of the most famous paintings in the world. Leonardo da Vinci painted his Last Supper here, and this magnificent painting continues to bring visitors in thousands to see a Renaissance masterpiece for themselves.
Visitor numbers are tightly controlled to protect the painting, so you'll need to book well in advance. A full-price ticket to see the painting and the museum that explains how it came to be painted here costs €15, with a two-euro reduction for people between 18 and 25. It's also free for anyone under 18, people with disabilities, and students of art and history.
The former home of the powerful Sforza family, this is one of the most impressive castles in all of Italy and is located right in the heart of Milan. Amazingly, it's free to visit this stunning castle, and you can easily spend hours walking the expanse of grounds here, making it an essential addition to your Milan itinerary.
The castle also contains many museums, including a museum of ancient weaponry, a museum showing off the expansive art collection of the Sforza family, and the last unfinished sculpture by famed artist Michelangelo. It only costs five euros to visit these incredible museums, making it one of the best bargains in all of Milan.
Cheap places to eat in Milan
As is the case in every major Italian city, it would be harder not to find delicious food in Milan than it is to stumble across it. And although the city has its share of haute cuisine restaurants, it also has plenty of cheaper options. Whether you're looking for the best street food in Milan or more traditional Milanese cuisine, you'll find it here - cheaply.
Trattoria La Madonnina
This restaurant may not look like much from the outside. In fact, it looks more like a rundown record store than a place to eat, with the front window decorated with albums. But once you step inside, you'll find yourself in one of Milan's best traditional trattorias, serving incredible home-cooked Milanese food at very affordable prices. The handwritten menu here changes constantly according to what's in season and what the cooks feel like making, but at around nine euros for a hearty plate of pasta or €12 for the most expensive dishes, you can have an incredible meal here without spending very much at all.
This local chain is one of the best places to eat pasta in Milan, and with a location in the center of the city, it's popular with both local students and budget travelers. The meals are fully customizable. You can choose your own pasta and sauce, and you'll never pay more than €12 for a filling meal.
Pizza e Mozzarella
Pizza is a Neapolitan food, not a Milanese one. But this restaurant makes Neapolitan-style pizza in traditional woodfired ovens just the way it's supposed to be. A plate-filling margarita pizza costs only five euros, and you'll struggle to finish it.
Cheap bars in Milan
The bars of Milan are often places for trendy people to see and be seen, and that doesn't usually make for cheap drinks. However, the city's popularity with international travelers and the high student population means that you can definitely take advantage of some affordable aperitivos here and there. And you should definitely take advantage of the proud Italian tradition of the aperitivo because many bars in Milan provide snacks with your drinks that can vary from a bowl of olives all the way up to a full hot and cold buffet.
This chic bar is packed with trendy young Milanese on any day of the week, but don't be put off by the glamorous appearance. Deseo offers a happy hour that runs from 5:30 to 10 PM, and they provide an excellent buffet during those hours. Your first drink will cost you €12, even if it's a glass of water, but that covers your access to the buffet. After that, your drinks will cost the menu price, which is €8 for beer and wine and €10 for cocktails. If that doesn't sound especially cheap, you should be aware that the range and quality of food on offer at the buffet means you could easily make this dinner and save yourself the price of a meal at a restaurant.
This modern bar also offers an extensive food buffet that makes it a great place to eat. They also have a really incredible menu of cocktails that covers multiple pages on the menu. Happy hour runs from 5:30 to 10 PM, and a Bellini or a Wild Yguana will cost you €10 within these hours. As is often the case in Milan, you'll also get access to some incredible food, so you may not need dinner at all.
It would certainly take a lot to earn the title of the best buffet in Milan, but this café has to be a contender. The buffet is absolutely huge, with both hot and cold options that will make for a satisfying meal no matter what you like to eat. It's only eight euros to access the buffet and eat as much as you like, and cocktails here will cost you around seven euros, making this a very affordable place to eat and drink.
Bonus budget tips for Milan
Visit free attractions: Milan has many free attractions that you can visit, such as the Duomo di Milano, Sforza Castle, and Parco Sempione. You can also enjoy a free walking tour of the city.
Use public transportation: Milan has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, and the metro. Buying a daily or weekly ticket can save you money if you plan to use public transport frequently.
Shop at markets: Milan has many markets where you can find fresh produce, clothing, and other items at affordable prices. Try the Mercato Metropolitano or the Navigli Flea Market.
Along with some great free things to do in Milan, the stylish city has cost-saving options for accommodation, food, and drinks. So while Milan can be expensive if you want to go high-end, it can also be surprisingly cheap to explore. Just drop off your bags at a convenient luggage storage in the city and enjoy what Milan has to offer.