Milan is recognized worldwide for being one of the design and fashion capitals of the world.
It’s a major stop for people who visit Italy, thanks in part to being the second biggest airport in the country behind Rome!
Milan didn’t thrill me when I visited. I found it a bit run down.
But, in the last decade, it has become a beautiful, glitzy city.
Milan has a lot for travelers beyond just fashion. You have the beautiful Duomo and Sforzesco Castle, a 15th-century castle that now houses Michelangelo’s last sculpture. Then there’s Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper, located inside Santa Maria della Grazie church. Milan has no shortage of culture.
A lot of locals told me Milan was a city for work not play.
I can see that. It’s not Rome or Florence but, in my opinion, visiting Milan is worth a quick trip if you’re passing through to the Italian Alps or other parts of Italy.
It’s worth a few nights (maybe longer if you’re looking to show and enjoy the glitzy, fashionista side of the city!)
You can use this Milan travel guide to help you figure out what to see, do, where to stay, when to go, how to save money, and everything else you need to plan an exciting visit.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Milan
1. Visit the Duomo
2. Relax in Parco Sempione
3. Explore Sforzesco Castle
4. Admire the Last Supper
5. Watch some football
Other Things to See and Do in Milan
1. See Leonardo’s Horse
In the Piazella Dello Sporto you will find Leonard’s Horse, one of the world’s largest bronze equine statues, created by Nina Akamu. The design is based entirely on Da Vinci’s sketches from when he was commissioned by the Duke of Milan Ludovico il Moro in 1482. Da Vinci was meant to create the world’s largest bronze horse statue dedicated to the Duke’s father, Francesco, but it was never completed.
2. Roam the flea markets
While Milan is renowned for its high-end fashion and designer labels, it is also home to its fair share of flea markets. Fiera di Senigallia, the city’s most popular and retro flea market, sells disco gear and comic books, among many other treasures while Papiniano (near Fiera di Senigallia) is known for shoes and houseware goods. If you time your vacation for the end of the month, Antiquariato sul Naviglio is a good place to go antique hunting.
3. Visit Pinacoteca di Brera
Pinacoteca di Brera is one of the main art galleries in Milan. It contains works from Raphael, Mantegna, and Rembrandt. Its most famous artwork is Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christ, a dramatic painting that shows Jesus lying in rigor mortis on a mortuary slab. Admission is €10 ($13.45 USD) and it’s open daily (except Mondays) from 8:30am-7:15pm.
4. Visit Idroscalo Park
Idroscalo Park is centered on Idroscalo Lake, a man-made lake offering a green escape from Milan’s concrete jungle. There are plenty of places for cycling, hiking, and having a barbecue. During the summer, there are evening performances in the park featuring everything from modern dance to a live orchestra.
5. Walk along Corso Magenta
In the northwestern part of Milan, this street is home to several cafes, shops, and Baroque palaces. It’s a beautiful street to wander down and gives you this awesome sense of “being in Italy.” The Santa Maria delle Grazie church and convent, which houses The Last Supper, are here.
6. Tour the canals
Surprised to hear that there are canals in Milan? Well, there are — two to be exact. Based in the Navigli district, these canals offer a unique perspective of the city and are best enjoyed during the summer months when you can take a lazy boat trip (or even a Venetian gondola). Be sure to check out Boffalora Sopra Ticino village or the stately villas of the Robecco Sul Naviglio commune. The Navigli district is a quiet neighborhood and makes for a restful break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
7. Wander the Giardini della Guastalla
Also known as the gardens of the Guastalla, these are some of the oldest gardens in Milan. The gardens date back to the 16th century and have been open to the public since the early 1900s. Amongst the tall stemmed plants and blooms of flowers, you will also find a fish bath filled with carp and redfish, marble statues, and an area to play bocce. Giardini della Guastalla is located near the Duomo and the University district.
8. Take an in-depth walking tour
One of the best ways to get to know Milan is to walk around it with a local! You’ll get your bearings, a history lesson, and cool things pointed out for you to do along the way. Milan has a lot of walking tour companies. For free walking tours, check out Walkabout Tours or Strawberry Tours. (Be sure to tip your guide!) If you’re looking for more in-depth tour of the Last Supper and Duomo, check out Take Walks as they run the best one in the city.
9. Go shopping
If you are looking to do some serious shopping or even just window shop, go to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 11. This is an intense shopping center that took 12 years to construct. It’s home to fashion giants such as Prada and Gucci. Buy yourself a €12 ($13.45 USD) coffee and watch as the Milanese high society passes through.
For more information on specific destinations in Italy, check out these guides:
Milan Travel Costs
Hostel prices – A bed in a 10 person dorm start around €25 ($28 USD) while a 4-6 bed dorm is around €30-35 ($33.65-39 USD) per night. A private room that sleeps two costs from €54 ($60 USD). Hostels in the city usually have free wifi, and some will have breakfast.
Budget hotel prices – A night in a two-star hotel in a double room starts from around €50 ($56 USD). You can expect to pay double in the high season.
On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms starting around €20 ($18 USD), and private rooms starting from €31 ($35 USD) per night. Entire homes (usually studio apartments) start from €80 ($90 USD) per night.
Average cost of food – Lunch in the city starts around €15 ($17 USD), with dinner in a restaurant costing anywhere from €25-40 ($28-45 USD). It’s normal to pay around €75 ($84 USD) for dinner in an upscale place if you’re drinking. It’s easy to have a great (and expensive) meal anywhere in Milan, but it’s also easy to eat for less than €15 ($17 USD) a day if you make an effort.
Quick eats like pizza by the slice, paninis, and light snacks will cost between €4-7 ($4.50-7.85 USD). Consider getting a panzerotto at Luini (close to the Duomo and the Galleria), or pizza at Mr. Panozzos (in the Citta’ Studi area). Fast food (i.e. McDonalds) will cost €9 ($10 USD) for a value meal. You will pay close to €60 ($67 USD) per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods. If you find a discount grocer like Eurospin, Lidl or Penny Market, you’ll pay a little less.
Backpacking Milan Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker’s budget in Milan, expect to spend around €62 ($70 USD) per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm, eating out cheap meals (or maybe one or two nice dinners) but mostly cooking your meals in a hostel’s kitchen, public transportation, free walking tours, and a few paid attractions.
On a mid-range budget of about €134 ($150 USD), you’ll get a two-star budget hotel, a private room at a hostel, or Airbnb, some dinners at restaurants, a few drinks, some taxis or Ubers, free walking tours, a couple of attractions per day, and maybe a guided tour. You’ll be able to do most things in the city but you won’t living large either!
For luxury, you’ll spend at least €295 ($330 USD) per day. On this budget, you’ll get a beautiful four-star hotel, meals at high-end restaurants, any tour or activity you want, taxis, and more. I mean this is Milan. If you want to spend money here, you easily can. After this, the sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need per day. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day, who knows!). We just want to give you a general idea of how to budget your money. Prices are in USD.
Milan Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
This is one of the most expensive cities in Italy, but don’t let that discourage you from visiting. Here are some ways to save money in Milan so you don’t break the bank:
- Don’t eat in Station Square – The restaurants around here are tourist traps and are vastly overpriced. Head about half a mile outside of this area for authentic and less expensive food.
- Avoid the taxis – Taxis are generally expensive and there is an additional surcharge at night (the minimum ride is €6.50/$7.30 USD as instead of the normal €3.30/$3.70 USD), so try to find alternative means of travel.
- Take the Radiobus – Radiobus is an on-request bus network that runs from 8pm-2 am to provide safe and reliable night transportation. With tickets costing at most €3 ($3.35 USD) plus a valid ATM ticket, are a good alternative to taxis after a night out.
- Do some cheap shopping – If you don’t want to miss out on the fashion experience, head to the Brera District for some less expensive but trendy boutique stores.
- Get a city pass – If you are going to do lots of sightseeing, the Milano Card or the Milan Pass will give you discounts or free entry to the top museums, tours, and attractions.
- Pass on the bread – Some restaurants will charge you extra for bread or breadsticks on the table but not tell you about it until the check comes, and you’ve polished it off.
- Drink the tap water – The water in Italy is safe to drink so avoid those expensive bottles of water and refill from the tap! Your wallet and the environment will thank you.
- Take a free walking tour – A walking tour is the best way to get familiar with a new city while learning lots of interesting history in the process. Milan Free Tour is a great option.
- Couchsurf – Make a local friend and get a free place to stay by couchsurfing! There’s a big community here, so it’s easy to find a host!
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and is the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
Where To Stay in Milan
Milan has lots of great hostels in it (a lot more now then when I first started going too). My recommended places to stay in Milan are:
How to Get Around Milan
Milan’s public transportation is run by the Azienda Trasporti Milanesi (ATM) and uses the same ticketing system across all modes of transportation: bus, tram, and subway. Each ticket costs €1.50 ($1.70 USD) for 90 minutes. You can ride as many buses/trams/trains in that period as you like.
You can also purchase a 10-ride pass for €13.80 ($15.50 USD) or a 24-hour pass for €4.50 ($5 USD). A 48-hour pass is €8.25 ($9.25 USD). There’s a week pass as well, but it doesn’t cover unlimited rides, so you’re better off with one of the options listed above.
Radiobus tickets (a night bus service) cost about €3 ($3.35 USD) and runs from Milan to neighboring towns.
You can use the ATM app to purchase tickets or buy them at the metro station.
Subway – Milan’s subway system is the fastest and easiest way to get around town. There are four lines, and two of them stop at the Duomo. There are also easy connections to the Milan Central Station and other neighborhoods, like Porta Romana.
If you’re going to or from the airport, the Malpensa Express train is a great way to zip in and out of town to catch your flight. It costs just €13 ($14.60 USD) from the airport to Milano Centrale, and a return ticket costs €20 ($22.40 USD).
Taxi – Taxis are expensive, costing on average €20 ($22.40 USD) to get around town. Uber, the taxi alternative, is available in Milan and is often cheaper too. You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
When to Go to Milan
The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit Milan, from April to May and then September to October. You will avoid peak tourism season when you come during this time, and the weather will still be warm. The average temperature in May is 71°F (22°C), while in October it’s 66°F (18°C).
The summer months (June to August) are hot, with the highest daily average being around 84°F (29°C) in July. Temperatures cool off considerably from November to March, with lots of fog. It’s much quieter in Milan during these months.
If your biggest draw to Milan is for its shopping and fashion opportunities, Fashion Week takes place twice a year (for autumn/winter and then spring/summer) and is a big deal. I have never been, as it’s not really my thing, but the celebrations are legendary. You will want to book accommodations far in advance as the city fills up during this time and everything becomes a lot more expensive.
How to Stay Safe in Milan
Milan is a very safe place to backpack and travel. Pick pocketing is the most common crime you’ll face, and you should be vigilant around Central Station and the area around the Piazza Duca D’Aosta.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Avoid Parco Sempione at night, especially if you’re alone. The same goes for the Arc of Peace.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Milan!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Milan Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Milan. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- ItaliaRail – A great resource to use when planning your trip via train around Italy is ItaliaRail. You can compare prices, routes, and schedules and save up to 60% on your tickets.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low €5 ($6 USD)! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, and up to three 3 free bags.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- Take Walks – This is my favorite day tour company in Italy. What makes them so good is they get you inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere. Their guides rock too!
- Fat Tire Tours – Fat Tire Tours offers fun and interactive bike tours around the city. You’ll get to see the all main sights with the help of an expert local guide.
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Milan Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Milan Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
Inferno is the first part of Italian writer Dante’s 14th-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. It tells the story of Dante’s journey through Hell, guided by the ancient poet Virgil. Here, Hell is depicted as nine circles of torment located within Earth – it’s a dense read, but it’s pretty incredible. The book mentioned here is the beautifully translated version of Dante’s masterpiece. You can also get your hands on the full volume with all three epic poems. It’s been inspiring people for 700 years!
City Of Fortune: How Venice Ruled The Seas, by Roger Crowley
Roger Crowley explores Venice’s fascinating 500-year-old advance to the pinnacle of power to become a city unrivalled for drama and majesty. City of Fortune traces the Venetian imperial saga, from the Fourth Crusade to the fall of Constantinople, to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503, which eventually led the Ottoman Turks to becoming the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. You’ll also learn about how a small city of “lagoon dwellers” became the richest place on the planet. This isn’t a boring history book – it’s a vivid, beautifully written account of Venice and its people through the ages.
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon is summoned to an assignment at a Swiss research facility to analyze a symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist – and discovers the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati. Then the brotherhood announces they’ve left a time bomb inside Vatican City, and Langdon must take off to Rome to find it. Even if Dan Brown isn’t your thing, this book will get you pumped to go sightseeing in Rome.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
Have you ever dreamt of buying up a crumbling villa in Italy and restoring it to its former glory? That’s exactly what Frances Mayes did 20 years ago with an abandoned property named Bramsole in the Tuscan countryside. This story recounts her restoration journey, along with what it’s like adjusting to live in rural Tuscany. Mayes is a poet, gourmet cook, and a travel writer – you will literally be drooling over her prose and evocative language. Mayes paints the dreamiest picture of life in Italy. You have to read this book.
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, by Beppe Severgnini
Written about Italians by an Italian, Beppe Severgnini wants you to forget all the romantic notions of Italy and its people. This laugh-out-loud book takes you beyond the historical attractions and scenic areas, and into places where Italians are at their best and worst: including the highway, the airport, and the small town. Severgnini describes the chaos of the roads and the “theatrical spirit of the hypermarkets” in a way that will give you some deep insight into the Italian psyche.
A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
Well-bred Lucy Honeychurch sets out on an adventure touring Italy with her overbearing cousin, and soon falls in love with the handsome (but entirely unsuitable) George Emerson, and yet somehow becomes engaged to Mr. Cecil Vyse. Lucy is easily lured away from the upper-middle-class Edwardian society by her longing for the man she left behind. This is a funny, satirical read that takes the English notion of respectability and turns it on its head. This is Forster’s most beloved book!
Milan Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Italy and continue planning your trip: