Is Milan Expensive? Get The Most Out Of Milan on a Budget

Known for its art, architecture, and of course, high fashion; Milan is a perfect Italian city break to get a taste of the finer things in life. A sprawling metropolitan city, Milan has plenty to see and do for lovers of creativity and fine art. However, its heritage and prestige makes it one of Italy‘s most expensive destinations, with food and accommodation prices being some of the highest in the country.

If you dream of strutting the streets of Milan, browsing designer stores or just soaking in the beautiful scenery with an Aperol Spritz, don’t let the expense stop you. Here’s how to take a weekend break in Milan on a budget…

Flights & Transport

Our affordable weekend break in Milan was planned around a gig we were going to, so we didn’t have tons of flexibility. However, cheap flights to Milan are actually quite common, and we managed to snag a good deal booking two months ahead of our travel dates

Cheap Flights To Milan

Our return flight to Milan Malpensa Airport cost us £49.48 each, flying with RyanAir, departing on Friday morning and returning Sunday evening. No extra costs for choosing seats or luggage, as we travelled with just a small backpack each.

Milan Airport Transfers

The train from Milan Malpensa to Milano Centrale takes just under an hour, and costs €13 each way. The Terravision bus takes around the same time, and costs €10 each way.

Public Transport in Milan

Milan is a sprawling city, and while the central area with the main attractions is walkable, if you’re staying in cheaper, further out accommodation or exploring some of the city’s more residential areas, you may need to use public transport to get around the city.

A single fare (valid 90mins) on Milan’s Metro costs €2.20. Like the London Underground, the Milan Metro takes contactless cards as payment – just tap at the gate, and there’s a daily fare cap of €7.60. If you’ll be making numerous journeys on multiple days, a three day pass may be your best option at €13.

Fares are the same for city buses and trams, which also take contactless payment.

Finding Cheap Accommodation in Milan

Accommodation in Milan can be expensive, especially if you’re choosing to stay in a hotel. As with most trips, the earlier you book, the better your options. We booked our trip two months in advance and quite a lot of hotels were booked up – so the earlier, the better for finding budget accommodation in Milan.

We settled on Hotel Arno, a slightly dated but perfectly clean and comfortable hotel located close to Milano Centrale station, with a tiny lift and a spiral staircase to our floor. It cost us €225 for two nights for a double room with shared bathroom – but we did get an upgrade to a private bathroom! Definitely not the cheapest, but if you’re willing to stay in a hostel, you could probably get a much cheaper bed for your Milan trip.

Best Budget Hostels in Milan

Ostello Bello is Hostelworld’s highest-ranked hostel in Milan, with dorms starting from €39 per night / privates from €45 per night.

Combo Milano sits on the South side of the city and is one of the cheapest hostel options in Milan, with dorm beds starting at €20 per night.

Madama Hostel & Bistrot is an eco-friendly hostel with recycled furniture and a single-use plastic ban. The rooms are adorned with artwork and murals and the hostel runs guided art tours. Dorms start at €47, privates from €85

Best Budget Hotels in Milan

Hotel Arno – from €45 per night
Biocity Hotel – from €77 per night
Hotel Lancaster – from €123 per night
iQ Hotel Milano – from €134 per night

Cheap and Free Activities in Milan

From flummoxing facades to a surprising burst of colour, discover these free and cheap things to do when you’re visiting Milan on a budget:

Free Activities in Milan

Milan Duomo – okay, so it costs €3 to enter Milan’s awe-inspiring cathedral, but it costs nothing the intricate facades from the outside!

Loggia dei Mercanti – the secret ‘whispering gallery’ here will whisk your secret words above the heads of the crowd.

Acquario Civico – small sea life centre in a grand building – free on first and third Tuesday of the month after 2pm, all day on first Sunday of the month.

Castello Sforzesco – taking a stroll around this former fortress and royal residence is free – however, if you want to check out some of the paid exhibits, entry is free every first and third Tuesday of the month from 2pm.

Palazzo Morrigia – you can book a ticket for free entry, and explore the Museum of Milan and the Costume Moda Immagine collection.

Via Lincoln – check out the colourful and eclectic block known as ‘Milan’s Notting Hill’,

San Lorenzo Columns – Gaze up at these 16 Corinthian columns, salvaged from a Roman residence.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – take a stroll along this striking shopping gallery. Don’t even think about how much everything in the shops costs.

Parco Sempione – soak up the sun and dine al fresco with a picnic in the lush gardens, also home to the Arco della Pace – basically, Milan’s own version of the Arc de Triomphe.

San Bernardino alle Ossa – not for the squeamish, the ossuary here is filled with bones – making for a morbidly fascinating visit.

Cheap Activities in Milan

Museo Civico di Storia Naturale – Milan’s Natural History Museum costs €5 to enter (free the first Sunday of the month)

Day trip to Lake Como – one of my favourite things we did during our weekend in Milan was taking a day trip to Como to check out the famous Lake Como. Trains cost around €5 each way!

Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology – entry to Italy’s largest science and technology costs €10.

Teatro alla Scala – if you book in advance, you can visit the museum at one of the world’s most influential opera houses for €16.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper – the most expensive thing on the list, but if you want to see this iconic mural with your own eyes, you need to be organised. It costs €15, and reservations open up every three months.

How to visit multiple museums on a budget in Milan

If you want to check out some of Milan’s top paid attractions, a Milan Pass City card costs €89. Valid for 48 hours, it includes entry to the following: Duomo Cathedral and terrace; Leonardo 3 exhibition; La Scala Theatre and Museum; Ambrosiana Art Gallery; Casa Milan (AC Milan headquarters and museum); Science and Technology Museum – plus hop-on/hop-off bus access OR public transport for the full 48hr duration.

Eating and Drinking on a Budget in Milan

Food and drink can definitely add up on a trip to Milan. The average cost of a three course meal for two comes in at €80, while a meal at a more inexpensive restaurant is around €20-30pp. For fast food, a McDonalds combo meal comes in at around €10. However, there are ways to keep costs down while still enjoying delicious Italian and Milanese cuisine.

For a start, avoid eating at restaurants close to major tourist destinations, especially the ones with hosts outside grabbing you off the streets (always an instant turn-off for me). Instead, try exploring some of the more residential and suburban areas to find hidden gems.

When it comes to choosing your dishes, lots of trattoria menus in Milan restaurants offer ‘first course’ and ‘second course’ options. This isn’t a starter-and-main type deal as you might think! The ‘first course’ dishes tend to be pasta or pizza based, and ‘second courses’ are usually the more traditional meat and fish-based mains. A first course is often filling enough to serve as a single main course, with significantly cheaper dishes available – helping you stick to your budget in Milan.

Most restaurants will have a small ‘cover charge’ of €2-4, including bread for the table, so be aware of this when dining out!

For a cheap breakfast in Milan, a local bakery is an excellent option – expect to pay €2-3 for a pastry. For an affordable lunch, you can pick up a panino for around €5-7, or a piadino (like a crepe) for €3.50-5.

If you’re wanting to eat AND drink, look out for ‘aperitivo’ hours in bars, where unlimited food is served as you buy your drinks (try Princi, Yguana Café, or Deseo).

Cheap restaurants in Milan

Pizza e Mozzarella – Locals love this Neapolitan pizzeria, with three locations across greater Milan. Pizzas from €3.50 – €7.50. Beers from €2.50, wine from €3.
Un’Altra Pasta – Pasta dishes available in two sizes, from €5.50-€12 per dish – great for ordering a handful of smaller pasta dishes to share.
Cesarino – delicious and filling paninis near the Duomo from €5-8.
La Bufalota – pizzas from €6-10.
Blue M – open for lunches, with €12 lasagna, stuffed focaccia under €10 and no cover charge!
Tram – on-the go Venetian sandwiches for €3.50 – popular with locals for a quick bite.
Mi-Ramen Bistro – ramen dishes from €11.
MABUHAY! – Filipino and Japanese dishes at affordable prices.
Flower Burger – Colourful vegan burger joint, with burgers from €4.90 – €9.50. Meal deals available from €9.50. Multiple locations
Giardi – a fully plant based brunch and breakfast spot, with dishes from €7.50-€13.50. I love their ‘Not Avocado Toast’!

Cheap bars in Milan

Saloon Milano – did someone say perfectly-mixed Aperol Spritz for €4? Absolutely. Via Panfilo Castaldi, 30
Bar Dolly – close to the Duomo with cheap drinks. Piazza Santa Maria Beltrade, 10
Tramé – Pisani – a sandwich shop close to Milano Centrale with a bar and covered street seating, get a Hugo Spritz (with elderflower liquer) here for €6. Via Vittor Pisani, 14
Buttiga Beer Room – a microbrewery with a cool vibe Via Paolo Sarpi, 64

Terrace bar with Aperol Spritz signage

Budgeting in Milan: Summary

Milan CAN be a very expensive place to visit, especially if you intend on doing some shopping and eating in fancy restaurants. However, you can also easily visit Milan on a budget if you plan ahead and choose where you spend your money effectively. With a rich cultural history, it’s a city worth checking out – whatever your budget.

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