A budget guide to Milan: free museums and tours, entertainment and food, parking and bicycles
Free Milan

A budget guide to Milan: free museums and tours, entertainment and food, parking and bicycles

Milan is one of the most expensive cities in Italy and Europe. Accommodation in an authentic hotel, dinner in a beautiful restaurant, tickets to a museum, a trip to the opera — any item of expenditure costs a fortune. I’ll tell you how to get into the spirit of the always young and stylish Milan — and not go broke.

Free Wi-Fi

Open access to wi-fi in Milan is available at train stations and airports. Some trains and intercity buses offer internet access after a simple check-in. Hotels and hostels provide data for free internet access.

In the street, you can get online through the Open WiFi Milano service — more than 500 access points are located near metro stations and in squares. To use the service, you need to register in the system. Each user gets free 300 MB per day, the package is restored at midnight.

Slightly fewer access points, but the best connection is provided by the FreeLuna network. Pre-registration on the website is required to access the Internet.

  • Map of the connection points of Open WiFi Milano. Instructions on how to connect to Open WiFi Milano here (there is a manual in pictures on the website).
  • FreeLuna Provider.
Bergamo Airport
Bergamo Airport
Internet is free at Malpensa Airport
Internet is free at Malpensa Airport
Wi-Fi in the hotel is usually free of charge
Wi-Fi in the hotel is usually free of charge

Free accommodation

Through the Couchsurfing service, travelers are looking for city dwellers who are willing to provide overnight accommodation for a couple of days. You don’t have to pay for it, the service was created in order to meet people in another city and make friends.

You can stay for free from November 18 to 24, or even all year round — some hotels and guesthouses offer you a free stay in exchange for some services. Hotels rent rooms to guests for free, and they help the hotel by painting, doing minor repairs, making promotional videos or offering something of their own.

Hotel in Milan
Hotel in Milan

Complimentary dinner

The only way to eat for free in Milan is by hooking up through Touchsurfing with a hospitable local, who will probably feed dinner and show you around the city.

However, you can save a lot on your food costs if you know the local’s tricks. Many store owners use the LMSC (Last Minute Sotto Casa) app to notify subscribers when items in their store are about to expire, so they give them away at half price.

You can get a taste of Milan’s atmosphere with minimal effort thanks to the tradition of aperitivo. Most bars in the city have a special offer from 18:00 to 22:00: you can buy a drink and it comes with chips, bruschetta, appetizers or a full second course, which you can eat to your heart’s content.


Free water

In Italy in general and Milan in particular, you can drink water straight from the tap, and a half-liter bottle of water in the city center can cost up to 2 €. It’s better for your wallet and better for the environment to go for a walk with your own water flask. During the day it can be refilled free of charge in the city fountains. They are located all over the city — on squares, in parks, near universities. There should be a POTABILE sign near the fountain. If you cannot drink, it will say NON POTABILE.

  • Map of the city’s drinking fountains.
Drinking fountain in the park
Drinking fountain in the park

Free bicycle rental

The city’s bike rental service BikeMi gives free first half-hour bike rides. Subscription costs 4.5 € per day to use the service.

BikeMi bicycles
BikeMi bicycles

Free parking lots in Milan

All parking lots in the center of Milan are paid. Entrance to the historic city center, or zone C, is also toll-free.

There are interceptor parking lots on the outskirts of the city within walking distance of metro terminus stations — they are inexpensive for all-day parking, unguarded, and may close overnight.

There is free parking near the San Siro stadium, except on match days. Parking is free for 15 minutes near Milano Centrale train station and Malpensa airport.

Even the paid parking lots in downtown Milan are overcrowded in the afternoon
Even the paid parking lots in downtown Milan are overcrowded in the afternoon
Parking in Milan
Parking in Milan

Free guided tours of Milan

Almost every day in Milan you can get a free sightseeing tour with a professional guide. Tours can be booked with three companies — Milan Free Tour, Walkabout, Frog Walking Tour. Walkabouts are conducted in English, start from the Duomo 1—2 times a day and last 2—3 hours. It is worth registering in advance to guarantee participation in the tour. The tours are free, but if you like everything, tips are always welcome.

All tours start from the Duomo
All tours start from the Duomo
Walking around Milan takes a variety of routes
Walking around Milan takes a variety of routes

Free museums in Milan

In Milan, it is easy to make a rich cultural program without spending money on entrance fees. Entrance to some museums and churches is always free.

Map of free attractions in Milan

Studio Museo Francesco Messina (Studio Museo Francesco Messina)

It is located in a former church. The museum displays copies of his sculptures, including a monument to Pope Pius XI from St. Peter’s Basilica, and a copy of the Dying Horse — the original stands near the building of the country’s main TV station.

  • Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Mondays.

Casa Museo Boschi Di Stefano (Boschi Di Stefano House Museum)

The couple Antonio Boschi and Miriedo di Stefano collected paintings, graphics and sculptures for many years, and in 2003 donated them to the city together with the mansion. The 11 rooms of the museum contain about 300 exhibits — paintings by Italian artists Umberto Boccioni, Giorgio Morandi, Lucio Fontana, musical instruments and antique furniture.

  • Open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday is a day off
  • Museum website

Museum of Ethnography (MUDEC/Museo delle Culture)

Here you can get acquainted with the artifacts of culture of the countries of the East, Asia, Africa, Central America.

  • Free admission applies to the permanent exhibition only
  • Open daily from 9:30 a.m., Monday from 2:30 p.m.

Palazzo Morando Costume Moda Imagine (Palazzo Morando Costume Moda Imagine exhibition)

The first floor exhibits a collection of paintings, sculptures, and furnishings from the 17th to the 19th century. On the second floor you will learn how fashion trends influenced the development of the textile industry in Italy.

  • Open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday is a day off
  • Museum website

Cathedral of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie)

The Basilica is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco of the Last Supper. Tickets inside are sold out months in advance. The courtyard is open to the public.

  • The cathedral is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Tickets to see the masterpiece are 12 €, entrance to the basilica grounds is free.

Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio)

One of the oldest basilicas in the city. The crypt contains the relics of St. Ambrosius of Mediola and the relics of the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius. On the throne are gold and silver scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and St. Ambrosius, the dome and walls are lined with a mosaic «Golden Sky». Here it seems that time has stopped.

  • Open from 8:00 a.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m.
  • Schedule and events are on the website

Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro (Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro)

The temple was planned to be built in the form of a cross, but one side was replaced by a street. The architect did not deviate from the original plan and simply painted the fourth wall in such a way that at first sight one cannot recognize this optical illusion. The image of the Madonna and Child is also kept here — in the middle of the XIII century the icon was stabbed with a knife, and blood appeared on the body of the Virgin Mary.

  • Open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Duomo (Duomo di Milano)

The snow-white Gothic Duomo is the city’s most iconic and largest cathedral. It is not cheap to enter the temple and climb to the observation deck. However, you can spend a couple hours in Piazza del Duomo looking at the 345 statues and spires that adorn the cathedral from the outside. The statues were built over the course of the cathedral’s construction (it was built over 6 centuries, so there is a mix of saints and historical figures.

It is free to enter the crypt of St. Carlo and the archaeological part of the cathedral from the north elevator. From here you can get an idea of the interior of the cathedral.

  • Entrance to the crypt is from 11:00, on Sunday from 13:30
  • The archaeological area is open daily from 11:00 to 18:00

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II)

One of the oldest shopping centers in Europe is topped with a glass dome and decorated with mosaics. It houses the most expensive boutiques in Milan. In one part of the mall, the coat of arms of Turin — the Turin bull — is laid out on the floor: it is believed that it fulfills wishes. How? Read here.

  • The gallery is open 24 hours a day and the stores are open from 10:00 to 22:00
Victor Emmanuel II Gallery
Victor Emmanuel II Gallery

Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale)

This place can be called Milan’s largest open-air museum: tombstones and monuments in the form of pyramids, an angel or Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Albert Einstein’s father, Ferdinando Bocconi, Davide Campari and the writer Alessandro Manzoni are buried here.

  • Open daily, except Monday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
At Monumental Cemetery
At Monumental Cemetery
Necropolis at the Monumental Cemetery
Necropolis at the Monumental Cemetery

Free day in the museums of Milan

The first Sunday of the month is marked by free admission to the city’s public museums. Thanks to the #DomenicalMuseo program, you can visit most of Milan’s public museums and archaeological sites for free, where on normal days tickets cost from 5 €.

Some museums in Milan offer free admission to exhibitions on the first and third Tuesday of the month after 14:00. To find out if a particular museum offers this option, please visit the website.

Entrance to all the parks is free — Milanese sunbathe on the lawns, watch the fish in the pond and replenish the water in the fountains.

Contemporary Art in Milan
Contemporary Art in Milan
Milan’s banking district
Milan by day
Milan by day
Just one of the churches in Milan.
Just one of the churches in Milan.