Milan on a Shoestring

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Dig beneath Milan's flashy exterior to discover a charming city with our budget guide.

Milan on a Shoestring

Don’t be put off by Milan's expensive reputation; this city is a great addition to any road trip

Eating out

One of the main expenses during any trip abroad is food – you want to try the local cuisine in a pleasant setting, without your heart jumping into your throat at the sight of the bill. Milan can get busy, but not necessarily in the same way as the popular tourist spots of Rome or Venice, so more often than not you'll be rubbing shoulders with the city's locals.

Coffee

Milan is packed with coffee shops and cafés, many of them boasting designer status and a price tag to match. Luckily, you can find reasonably priced coffee at Open, where you can get an espresso for one euro. This place is a café and bookshop, with communal seating spaces, and is set slightly out of the way down Via Monte, southeast of the center. For a traditional experience, head to De Cherubini, where you can get a croissant and coffee for under five euros. Remember when ordering your coffee to drink it at the bar, as once you sit down, the price shoots up!

Lunch

If you want to save money, you'll probably be avoiding the many upmarket restaurants that Milan has to offer. However if you're keen to try one out for a special experience, go at lunchtime when many have good set menu deals for around €20. Traditional Milanese food can be found at Antiva Trattoria della Pesa, where you'll enjoy incredibly well-cooked, richly-flavoured food for a medium range price. If you're really pulling the belt in, head to Bar della Crocetta, where you can get a delicious stuffed paninifrom a menu of 100 different variations. If you can't make up your mind, create your own from the vast range of ingredients.

Dinner

Dinner in Milan can be really special, even on a budget. This is partially down to the fantastic tradition of aperitivo . Get a drink at one of Milan's many bars, and enjoy free tapas-style foods to nibble on. These can range from small local delicacies, to slices of pizza and biscotti. One place that does this well is the wine bar, Caffè della Pusterla. The wine here is to die for, and for under six euros, from 6 – 9pm, you can get a drink and unlimited nibbles from the mouthwatering buffet bar. Another great place for an evening meal is La Latteria, which serves up classic northern Italian cuisine.

View of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II ceiling

Explore

The cheapest way to explore any city is on foot, but Milan also has a pleasant tram system that is a relatively cheap way to see the city. A place of beauty, it's easy to spend hours strolling through Milan's narrow streets, but there are some great parks to visit, too. Head to Parco Sempione, perhaps with some food from the Mercato Papiniano food market, and enjoy the green surroundings with a picnic. The park features a modest lake, and beautiful views of the Arch of Peace and Sforza Castle.

Another cheap activity is the city's aquarium, Acquario civico. This, the third oldest aquarium in Europe, is located to the side of Parco Sempione, and is home to over 100 different types of sea life. There's also an impressive library which is open to the public. The city is home to hundreds of small art galleries, many of which are free to enter. If you want to see varied contemporary art, head to Galleria Monica de Cardenas, which can be found down Via Francesco Viganò.

Perhaps the most notable monument of Milan is the Duomo. The price to get to the top can vary, but usually stays around the €10 mark. You might think this a little pricey, but the views from the top on a clear day are incredible and you might even be able to see the Alps. The cathedral is absolutely vast, and even after seeing pictures you'll be staggered by its scale firsthand. The fifth largest in the world, the cathedral took almost six centuries to complete. Definitely worth visiting!

To many, Milan is first and foremost known for its shopping. Italy's financial center is lined with designer shops from the likes of Gucci and Prada, and whilst perusing the streets of the Quadrilatero d'Oro is fun for window shopping, if you want to buy anything you should head farther east to Viale Bianca, or Via Senato. Some might find the style of these streets a tad trashy, and those might want to head to Via Tortona, where all the new designers set up camp. Fashion outlets such as Il Savagente are keen to sell bargain designer wares, so keep your eyes peeled!

A place of amazing beauty that is free to visit is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This large historic shopping mall is full of upmarket shops, restaurants and towering glass ceiling vaults. In the centre, there's a vast octagonal glass and cast iron dome which is a beautiful example of a traditional 19th century arcade. Whilst you might not be able to afford a shopping trip here, it's a great place to grab a coffee.

Parco Sempione, with the Arch of Peace in the distance

Sleep

It can be tricky to find somewhere to sleep in Milan that is both chic and inexpensive, but if you look hard, it can be done. One way to do this is by looking online to find last minute deals, but there are some hotels that are low cost all year round. For somewhere basic, Hotel Demò and Canada Hotel have good reputations as affordable places to stay. If you want somewhere with a little more character, Hotel Charly is a pretty option, where you'll get vintage chandeliers, fresh flowers and a sweet garden space out the back.

If you're travelling alone and want to meet new people, a hostel can be a great alternative to a hotel. Spend under €30 at Ostello Bello and get a bed in a bright, friendly dorm, with free breakfast at any time. For just over double that, you'll get a private double room with its own desk. For those with a group of friends, or a family, renting an apartment in Milan can actually save you money, depending on the time of year. Brera Apartments are stylish, well-equipped, and you can spend less than in most hotel rooms for a chic double-bed apartment with the benefits of your own private accommodation.

Getting there and around

Take a shuttle to Calais from Folkestone in just 35 minutes with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, your gateway to Europe. Berlin is under 10 hours in the car from Calais, so it's a great final destination for a road trip!

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Photo Credits:
street markets © mongo gushi
Peck bakery © yisris
Parco Sempione © Bryan Allison
Sforza Castle © fedewild
Duomo di Milano © Dennis Matheson
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II ceiling © Roberto Taddeo
living spaces in Ostello Bello © Luca Volpi
All pictures licensed for commercial use at time of publication.

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