Want to explore Milan on a budget? Here are Marco Polo’s top tips for the best ways to explore this fantastic city without spending a fortune:
There is no entrance fee for the Orto Botanico di Brera, a magnificent oasis of calm in the middle of town, behind the Pinacoteca di Brera. Open Mon–Fri 9am–noon and 3pm–5pm, Sat 10am– 5pm | Via Brera 28 | Metro: M 2 Lanza, M 3 Monte Napoleone, Tram 4, 12, 14.
Entrance to the Museo del Novecento and the museums in the Castello Sforzesco are free on Fridays from 2pm and on the other days entrance is free one hour before closing time. Visitors under 25 years of age always enjoy free admission.
Check out the websites of the contemporary art foundations of fashion houses such as Prada (www.fondazioneprada.org) or Trussardi (www.fondazionenicolatrussardi.it) for details of the interesting temporary installations – these events are often free of charge. (Second website in Italian.)
FOOD AND DRINK
Insider tip: Follow the office workers in their lunch break to one of the affordable self-serve restaurants, such as the Farina e Commodore | Closed Sat and Sun | Via Turati 7 | Metro: M 3 Turati.
Many sophisticated upmarket restaurants offer inexpensive dishes during pausa pranzo or lunch break.
Standing at the counter is cheaper than sitting at tables as some things are around half the price: espressos, cappuccinos, ice creams etc.
BOTTIGLERIA DA PINO: An old-fashioned trattoria with substantial regional meals at reasonable prices, in the city centre. Closed Tue for lunch and Sun | Via Cerva 14 | Tel. 02 76 02 19 11 | Metro: M 1 San Babila.
TRATTORIA L’INCORONATA: This restaurant’s small, frequently changing menu is based on what is offered in the markets that morning. Daily | Corso Garibaldi 127 | Tel. 0 26 57 06 51 | Metro: M 2 Moscova.
ANTICA HOSTERIA DELLA LANTERNA: You should know at least a little Italian if you’re thinking of coming here because there is no menu: the hostess will tell you what is on offer. You can’t go wrong with any of the home cooked traditional Milanese and Lombardy dishes. Closed Sat for lunch and Sun | Via Mercalli 3 | Tel. 02 58 30 96 04 | Tram 15, Bus 94.
An Armani suit or Prada shoes often just remain a dream once you have seen the price tag. But this is not the case at the many outlet stores, where expensive pieces are sometimes marked down by as much as 50%. Souvenirs such as wallets, ties or scarves cost little more than the average quality goods in the department stores. For example at D Magazine (Via Monte Napoleone 26 | Metro: M 3 Monte Napoleone) or Matia’s Outlet (Piazza Mirabello 4 | Metro: M 3 Turati).
Twice a year during the saldi (in January and the end of June/start of July) the big brand shops have sales with 40–60% discounts.
In the wine shop La Vineria on the Naviglio Grande you can get a glass of wine for 1 euro at the small sidewalk tables, or 5 euros for a litre. Via Casale 4 | Metro: M 2 Porta Genova.
During the winter season, you can enjoy free organ concerts in Milan’s churches as part of the series of concerts, ‘Cantatibus Organis’.
An evening in La Scala for 10 euros? If you are under 30, you can get a ticket to the anteprima or dress rehearsals. www.lascalaunder30.org
A free viewing point, that is especially atmospheric in the evening, is the café terrace of the department store, La Rinascente, on the cathedral square. Open until 10pm, it gives an up-close view of the illuminated cathedral and the activity on the square.
Albert Hotel: It comes as an unexpected surprise to find such a pleasant hotel on a busy street close to the train station. The friendly service is impressive! 62 rooms | Via Tonale/Via Sammartini | Tel. 02 66 98 54 46 | www.alberthotel.it | Metro: M 2, M 3 Centrale.
The Best Hotel: Close to the main train station and the Corso Buenos Aires shopping area, with affordable, convenient and decent rooms. The hotel even has a small and delightful garden. 28 rooms | Via Marcello 83 | Tel. 02 29 40 47 57 | www.thebesthotel.it | Metro: M 1 Lima.
The Ostello della Gioventù Piero Rotta youth hostel has been renovated in an eco-friendly manner, in the west of Milan. Via Salmoiraghi | www.hostelmilan.org | Metro: M 1 QT8.
On the Hostelbookers website you will find a whole range of low budget hostels at prices starting from 28 euros per person.
Buy the Milan Marco Polo Pocket Guide.