The Ultimate Traveler’s Guide to Milan on a Budget

The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Milan on a Budget

Milan, Italy’s glamour queen, teases with high fashion and deeper pockets—it’s the place where your wallet may weep, but you will thrive (probably).

Beyond the lux labels and chic boutiques lies a city steeped in history, with ancient art and appetizing eats. Dreaming of sipping espresso without breaking the bank? Our Milan travel guide is here for you. Get ready to explore Milan’s marvels— regardless of your budget.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Milan on a Budget? It’s Possible! While Milan has a reputation for being expensive, with careful planning and some savvy choices, you can still experience the city’s magic without breaking the bank.

Suggested Budget per person per day:

  • Low: €55-€90 ($62-$101)
  • Middle: €90-€170 ($101-$190)
  • High: €170+ ($190+)

Detailed Costs: Milan Travel Guide Analysis


  • Low: Hostels or budget guesthouses (€35-€60)
  • Middle: Mid-range hotels or B&Bs (€90-€170)
  • High: Luxury hotels or upscale apartments (€700-€2000+)

Read: Best hostels in Milan.

Public Transportation:

  • Metro ticket: €2.00 ($2.25)
  • Daily pass: €4.50 ($5.00)
  • 3-Day tourist pass: €19.50 ($21.80)

Entrance fees:

  • Low (mostly free): Duomo cathedral (free, but €16 to access the rooftop), Piazza del Duomo, Navigli canals
  • Middle: Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery: €16 ($18), Santa Maria delle Grazie church (Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”): €14 ($15.50)
  • High: Teatro alla Scala opera house tour: €18 ($20), San Siro Stadium guided tour: €30 ($33)


  • Low: Grab a slice of delicious pizza al trancio (€4-€6) for a quick and satisfying bite.
  • Middle: Enjoy a pasta dish or a Milanese specialty like risotto alla Milanese (€12-€18) at a local trattoria.
  • High: Splurge on a Michelin-starred dining experience for a truly unforgettable meal (€150+).

Milan’s Food Staple: Panettone!

This sweet, dome-shaped bread, studded with candied fruit and raisins, is a Milanese tradition. Enjoy it:

  • Low: Pre-packaged slices at a supermarket (€3-€4)
  • Middle: Freshly baked from a local bakery (€6-€10)
  • High: A luxurious panettone from a renowned pastry shop (€12+)


  • Low: Grab an espresso at a local bar standing (€1.50-€2.00)
  • Middle: Sit down for a cappuccino in a cafe (€2.50-€3.50)
  • High: Treat yourself to a specialty coffee or a view at a rooftop bar (€5-€8)

Beer & Wine:

  • Low: Sip on a local beer at a pub (€5-€6)
  • Middle: Enjoy a glass of Italian wine at a mid-range restaurant (€7-€9)
  • High: Sample craft beers or a special vintage wine at a trendy bar (€10-€15+)

Exploring Milan: Things to See & Do

Milan, the beating heart of Italian fashion and design, boasts more than just high-end boutiques. Enjoy its rich history, artistic treasures, and culture with these must-do experiences:

Milan Things to Do

  • Duomo di Milano: Ascend the magnificent Duomo, the city’s crown jewel, and marvel at its intricate Gothic architecture and panoramic city views. Don’t miss the breathtaking stained-glass windows and the awe-inspiring rooftop gargoyles.
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie & The Last Supper: Witness Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic masterpiece, “The Last Supper,” within the enchanting church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Remember to book tickets in advance as this is a highly sought-after experience.
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Indulge in some window shopping or grab a bite in this luxurious 19th-century shopping arcade, adorned with mosaics, sculptures, and high-end designer stores.
  • Castello Sforzesco: Explore this imposing medieval fortress, housing museums dedicated to ancient art, Michelangelo sculptures, and even the history of musical instruments.
  • Pinacoteca di Brera: Art enthusiasts will find a treasure trove at this renowned art gallery, showcasing masterpieces by Italian greats like Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian.
  • Navigli District: Embark on a charming stroll along the Navigli canals, Milan’s historic waterways, now transformed into a electrifying nightlife hub with restaurants, bars, and trendy shops.
  • Teatro alla Scala: one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world. Guided tours are available, or catch a performance if you’re lucky enough to snag tickets.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Vineyard: Step into the mind of a genius at Leonardo da Vinci’s Vineyard, where he experimented with inventions and artistic concepts. Explore the restored vineyard and interactive exhibits showcasing his innovative spirit.
  • San Siro Stadium: Witness the passion of football (soccer) at the iconic San Siro Stadium, home to the legendary AC Milan and Inter Milan clubs. Catch a game or take a guided tour to experience the stadium’s electrifying atmosphere.
  • Brera District: Get lost in the charming Brera district, known for its cobbled streets, art galleries, antique shops, and trendy cafes. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon exploring its hidden gems and soaking up the local atmosphere.

Free things to do in Milan

  • Explore Neighborhoods: Discover the unique character of Milan’s various neighborhoods. Stroll through the historic Navigli canals, wander through the artistic Brera district, or soak up the exciting energy of Navigli at night.
  • Duomo Rooftop: While the interior requires a ticket, you can still admire the majestic Duomo’s exterior and stunning views for free from the surrounding piazza.
  • Free Walking Tours: Join a free walking tour and gain valuable insights into Milan’s history, culture, and hidden gems. These tours often operate on a tip basis, allowing you to pay what you feel is appropriate.
  • Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio: Explore this beautiful basilica, one of Milan’s oldest churches, featuring Romanesque architecture and a serene courtyard.
  • Sforza Castle Gardens: Take a relaxing stroll through the expansive gardens surrounding Sforza Castle, offering a tranquil escape from the city’s buzz. Explore its sculptures, fountains, and peaceful atmosphere.
  • Castello Sforzesco Courtyards: While the museums housed within Sforza Castle require an entrance fee, the courtyards are free to explore. Enjoy the open space, admire its architecture, and soak up the local atmosphere.
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie: While “The Last Supper” requires a ticket, the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie itself is free to enter. Admire its Renaissance architecture and beautiful artwork.


  • Pinacoteca di Brera: Renowned for its collection of Italian art, from the 14th to the 19th centuries. (Free admission on the first Sunday of each month)
  • Castello Sforzesco Museums: A collection of museums housed within the castle, covering topics like ancient Egyptian artifacts, Michelangelo sculptures, and the history of musical instruments. (Discounted tickets available for combined visits)
  • Museo del Novecento: Dedicated to 20th-century Italian art, showcasing works by artists like Lucio Fontana and Amedeo Modigliani.
  • Pinacoteca Ambrosiana: Housing a diverse collection, including da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, a fascinating compilation of his drawings and notes.
  • Fondazione Prada: This contemporary art complex offers a unique experience for art enthusiasts. The rotating exhibitions showcase modern and contemporary art, architecture, cinema, and more. The complex itself is worth exploring for its striking architecture, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Keep an eye out for occasional free events as well!

Milan Day Trips:

  • Lake Como: A beautiful region dotted with charming towns, historic villas, and breathtaking scenery. Take a boat tour on the lake, explore the town of Bellagio, or hike up the trails for stunning panoramic views.
  • Verona: Relive the romance of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in Verona, a charming city steeped in history and architecture. Explore the iconic Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater still hosting performances today, wander through the romantic Juliet’s Balcony, or simply get lost in the maze of charming streets.
  • Turin: Discover Italy’s industrial heart and cultural gem in Turin. Visit the Egyptian Museum, housing the world’s second-largest collection of Egyptian artifacts after Cairo. Get to know the city’s rich history at the Palace of Venaria Reale, or indulge your sweet tooth with Turin’s famous gianduja chocolate.
  • Bergamo: Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, Bergamo offers a unique blend of medieval charm and breathtaking mountain views. Explore the historic Citta Alta, the upper town accessible by funicular, admire the stunning Venetian Walls, or simply relax and enjoy the panoramic vistas.
  • Bologna: Foodies rejoice! Bologna, nicknamed “La Grassa” (the fat one), is a paradise for your taste buds. Learn the secrets of pasta-making at a cooking class, indulge in creamy tortellini and fragrant ragù, or simply wander through the bustling food markets, savoring the culinary delights of this Emilia-Romagna gem.

Where to Stay: Accommodation Guide

The City Center: The heart of Milan throbs around the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. While undeniably charming and convenient, this central area comes with a hefty price tag for accommodation.

Budget-Friendly Alternatives: Don’t fret, budget travelers! Milan offers several neighborhoods packed with character and charm, all at wallet-friendly prices:

1. Navigli: Once an industrial district, the Navigli canals have transformed into a trendy hotspot. By day, explore vintage shops and charming cafes. By night, the canals come alive with buzzing bars and a youthful energy. Ideal for those seeking a lively atmosphere and a taste of Milan’s nightlife scene.

2.Navigli Martesana: Neighboring the bustling Navigli, Navigli Martesana offers a calmer, more local vibe. Explore the Darsena, a canal basin dotted with houseboats, and wander through the verdant Parco delle Cave. Perfect for travelers seeking a balance between nightlife and relaxation, with easy access to the city center via metro.

3.Porta Venezia: This multicultural district boasts a unique blend of historical elegance and modern energy. Admire the majestic Porta Venezia gate, a remnant of the city’s ancient walls, and explore the diverse ethnic restaurants and shops. Ideal for budget-conscious foodies seeking authentic experience.

4.Loreto: Located near the central train station, Loreto is a convenient and well-connected neighborhood. Discover the impressive Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, housing Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” and enjoy the abundance of cafes and restaurants catering to both locals and visitors. Perfect for travelers prioritizing access and affordability, with historical and cultural gems within reach.

Read: Best hostels in Milan.

Eating and Drinking

Milan may be a fashion capital, but when it comes to food, you don’t need a designer budget to savor delicious and authentic Italian cuisine. Here’s your guide to keeping your taste buds happy without breaking the bank:

Water: Unlike some destinations, tap water in Milan is safe to drink, so fill your reusable water bottle and stay hydrated for free. Consider investing in a filter bottle for extra peace of mind.

Affordable Eats: Travel Milan

Dine Like a Milanese:

  • Embrace Trattorias: Skip the fancy restaurants and head to cozy trattorias, often tucked away on side streets. These family-run establishments serve traditional Milanese fare like “cotoletta alla Milanese” (breaded veal cutlet) and “risotto alla Milanese” (saffron risotto) at reasonable prices. Look for the daily “menu del giorno” (fixed menu) for even better deals.
  • Panino Perfection: Grab a “panino” for a quick and satisfying bite. These Italian sandwiches come in endless varieties, filled with cured meats like prosciutto crudo, cheeses like mozzarella, and various vegetables. Head to a local “paninoteca” (sandwich shop) to choose your fillings and watch them assemble your masterpiece.
  • Pizza on the Go: Savor a slice of “pizza al trancio,” Milan’s specialty. This thick, fluffy pizza cut into squares is sold by weight, making it perfect for a budget-friendly and filling lunch. Look for bakeries or “pizza al taglio” (pizza by the slice) stands, often located near metro stations.
  • Skip the Tourist Traps: Remember, tourist areas often come with inflated prices. Venture beyond the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and explore neighborhoods like Navigli, Brera, or Porta Venezia for more affordable and authentic dining experiences.

Market Marvels:

  • Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio: Explore this historic market, dating back to the 12th century. Browse stalls overflowing with fresh produce, local cheeses like “gorgonzola dolce” (mild Gorgonzola), cured meats, and delicious street food options like arancini (fried rice balls) and panzerotti (fried dough pockets filled with savory ingredients).
  • Naviglio Grande Food Market: enter into the co0l atmosphere of the Navigli canals while browsing stalls selling fresh produce, local specialties like Milanese salami, and international delicacies like fresh sushi. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many food vendors or enjoy an “aperitivo” (pre-dinner drink with snacks) at a canal-side bar.
  • Esselunga Desenzano: This large supermarket chain offers a wide variety of affordable groceries, perfect for stocking up on snacks and ingredients for cooking your own meals. Look for their private label brand, “Esselunga,” for even better deals.

Affordable Eats:

  • Panettone: Indulge in Milan’s signature sweet bread, panettone. This domed-shaped bread, studded with candied fruit and raisins, is traditionally enjoyed during the Christmas season, but can be found year-round. Skip the expensive gift boxes and grab pre-packaged slices at supermarkets for a budget-friendly treat.
  • Aperitivo Time: Many bars offer “aperitivo” in the late afternoon, typically between 6-8 pm. This includes a drink, usually an Aperol spritz or glass of wine, and a buffet of small bites like mini pizzas, pastas, and salads. It’s a great way to enjoy a light dinner at a fraction of the cost of a full restaurant meal. Look for bars with “aperitivo” signs and ask about their offerings.
  • Gelato Glory: Don’t miss out on Milan’s legendary gelato. While not always the cheapest treat, skip the fancy shops and opt for smaller gelaterias offering delicious flavors at more affordable prices. Look for places with fewer tourist crowds and ask locals for their recommendations.
  • Extra Money-Saving Tip: Follow the lead of the Milanese and enjoy a picnic in one of the city’s beautiful parks like Parco Sempione or Giardini Indro Montanelli. Pick up food from the markets or bakeries and enjoy a leisurely afternoon surrounded by nature. Bonus points for grabbing a bottle of local Italian wine!

Transportation Tips for Milan

Milan boasts a reliable and efficient public transportation network, making getting around the city a breeze. Here’s your essential guide to navigating Milan, complete with detailed information and budget-friendly tips:

Understanding Milan’s Public Transportation

1. Metro (Metropolitana): Milan’s metro system, with its 4 color-coded lines, is the fastest way to travel, connecting major landmarks like the Duomo and San Siro Stadium. Tickets start at €2.00 (US$2.25) for single journeys, but consider purchasing:

  • Day Pass (€4.50, US$5.00): Valid for unlimited travel within Milan for 24 hours, ideal for packing in sightseeing.
  • 3-Day Tourist Pass (€19.50, US$21.80): Offers unlimited travel for 72 hours, perfect for exploring at your own pace.

2. Trams and Buses: Extensive tram and bus networks cover the entire city, reaching areas beyond the metro’s reach. Tickets cost the same as the metro (€2.00, US$2.25) for single journeys, allowing transfers within 90 minutes. Popular lines include:

  • Tram 19: Runs from Cadorna Station to Duomo and Castello Sforzesco, offering scenic views.
  • Bus 54: Connects Duomo with Navigli, the trendy canal district, perfect for nightlife exploration.

3. Taxis: While convenient, taxis are the most expensive option. You can flag one down on the street or find authorized taxi ranks at airports, train stations, and major tourist spots. Negotiate the fare before your trip, or ensure the taxi uses a meter. Expect fares to start around €10.00 (US$11.25) for short trips within the city center.

4. Biking: Milan is becoming increasingly bike-friendly. Rent a bike from numerous vendors, including:

  • Bikemi: This city bike-sharing program offers bikes at various stations throughout Milan. Download the app to register, locate stations, and unlock bikes. Prices start at €4.50 (US$5.00) for a 24-hour pass.
  • Private Bike Rental Shops: Several shops in the city center rent out bicycles. Prices vary depending on the shop and bike type, but typically range from €10.00 (US$11.25) to €20.00 (US$22.50) per day.

Tips for Saving:

  • Purchase Tickets at Machines: Avoid queues by purchasing tickets from metro station machines or authorized vendors (“tabacchi”). These vendors are easily identified by their bright yellow signs with a white “T” logo.
  • Validate Your Ticket: Always validate your ticket upon boarding trams and buses by stamping it in the designated yellow machines. Unvalidated tickets are considered invalid and may result in fines.
  • Consider a MilanoCard: If you plan on visiting museums and using public transport frequently, consider purchasing a MilanoCard. This card offers discounts on public transport (including unlimited travel options), museums, and other attractions. Prices start at €39.00 (US$43.75) for a 24-hour pass.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Milan

Malpensa Airport (MXP):

  • Malpensa Express Train: The fastest and most convenient option, reaching Cadorna station in central Milan in about 40 minutes. Prices start at €13.00 (US$14.60) one-way and €26.00 (US$29.20) return.
  • Buses: Shuttle buses connect Malpensa to various locations in Milan, including Stazione Centrale. Ticket prices start at €10.00 (US$11.25) one-way.
  • Taxi: While convenient, expect fares to start around €80.00 (US$89.60) for the journey to central Milan.
    Linate Airport (LIN):
  • Airport Bus (AirBus): Connects Linate to Stazione Centrale in about 20 minutes, with tickets costing €9.00 (US$10.15) one-way.
  • Taxi: Fares to central Milan typically start around €30.00 (US$33.75).

Bonus Tip: Download the ATM Milano app (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi) for real-time information on public transportation schedules, ticket options, route planning, and live updates on any disruptions. The app is available in English and Italian.

Milan by Tram

Milan by Scooter

Best Time to Visit Milan

Finding the perfect time to visit Milan depends on your priorities and preferences. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons:

  • High Season (June – August):

Pros: Pleasant weather, active outdoor scene, bustling atmosphere.
Cons: Crowded attractions, higher prices for flights and accommodation.

  • Shoulder Season (April – May & September – October):

Pros: Milder temperatures, fewer crowds, good deals on travel and accommodation.
Cons: Occasional rain showers, some attractions may have shorter hours.

  • Low Season (November – March):

Pros: Lowest prices on travel and accommodation, fewer crowds at museums and attractions.
Cons: Colder weather with possible fog and occasional rain, some shops and restaurants may have shorter hours.

National Holidays & Peak Festivals

  • New Year’s Day (January 1st): Expect large crowds and higher prices.
  • Epiphany (January 6th): Traditional La Befana celebrations might affect opening hours.
  • Liberation Day (April 25th): Public holiday with potential closures.
  • Republic Day (June 2nd): Public holiday with potential closures and celebrations.
  • Christmas and New Year’s Eve: Festive atmosphere, but expect high prices and crowded attractions.
  • Fashion Weeks: Milan hosts two major Fashion Weeks in February/March and September/October. These periods see a surge in visitors and inflated prices, especially for accommodation.
  • Salone del Mobile (Milan Furniture Fair): Held annually in April, attracting design professionals and causing increased hotel occupancy.
  • Navigli District Summer Season: From April to September, the Navigli canals transform into an animated nightlife hub, potentially impacting nearby accommodation prices.
  • Sant’Ambrogio Fair: Held in December, a traditional Christmas market with festive food and crafts.

Milan Canal

Essentials, Money & Safety Tips

Milan is a fashion capital with a rich history and culture. But like any major city, it’s essential to be prepared to ensure a smooth and safe backpacking adventure. Here’s your guide to essential items and specific safety tips:

Milan Passes

  • MilanoCard: This all-in-one card offers free entry or discounts to various museums and attractions, unlimited public transportation within Milan, and shopping discounts at select stores. Perfect for sightseeing enthusiasts who want to explore efficiently.

Backpacker Essentials:

  • City Map & Navigazione Giorno Pass: Invest in a good city map and a Navigazione Giorno Pass (24-hour public transport pass) for easy navigation and budget-friendly travel. Download the ATM Milano app for real-time updates and route planning, including trams, buses, and the metro.
  • Universal Adapter: Milan uses standard European two-prong plugs, so pack a universal adapter to keep your devices charged.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Tap water in Milan is safe to drink, so fill up your reusable bottle and stay hydrated. Consider a filter bottle for extra peace of mind in some areas outside the city center.
  • Small Combination Lock & Money Belt: Secure your belongings with a small combination lock for hostel lockers and a money belt to keep your valuables close while exploring the bustling streets.

Safety Tips

  • Beware of Pickpockets: Be especially vigilant in crowded areas like the Duomo square, Navigli canals, and public transportation, particularly during peak hours. Keep your valuables (phone, wallet) close to your body in a zipped pocket or money belt, and avoid displaying them in open bags.
  • Mind Your Bags: Keep your backpack or belongings in front of you, especially on crowded buses and trams. Avoid leaving them unattended at cafes or restaurants, even for a “quick” moment.

Common Scams

  • Fake Petition Signatures: Politely decline individuals approaching you on the street with petitions and requesting signatures. These could be tactics to distract you while an accomplice steals your belongings.
  • “Friendly Locals” Offering Help: Be wary of strangers offering unsolicited help, such as carrying your luggage, taking your picture, or showing you “hidden gems.” This could be a ploy to distract you while an accomplice pickpockets you.

Things Not to Do

  • Public Drinking: Milan has strict regulations against public drinking, so avoid consuming alcohol on the streets or public squares. This can result in fines and confiscation of your drinks.
  • Jumper Scams: Be aware of individuals, often with children, approaching you in tourist areas and trying to place bracelets or scarves on your arm. Politely refuse and walk away firmly. Do not pay for unwanted items.
  • Valuable Display: Avoid displaying expensive jewelry, cameras, or electronics openly in public spaces, as this can attract unwanted attention. This includes using your phone while walking in crowded areas.
  • Metro Mayhem: During peak hours, the metro can get very crowded. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid using your phone while boarding or disembarking. Be careful not to get caught between closing metro doors…

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