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Milan is a vibrant city full of culture, art, fashion, and history. It’s no wonder that it has become one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe! With its stunning architecture and beautiful scenery, Milan offers something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s historic sites or shop at designer boutiques, there are plenty of free things to do and see in Milan.
From strolling through picturesque parks to visiting awe-inspiring churches without paying admission fees, here are some of the top free activities in this amazing Italian city. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!
Top Free Things To Do & See in Milan
1. Visit the Duomo di Milano
There’s nothing like a trip to Duomo di Milano to get the true taste of Milan. This majestic structure, built in the early 15th century, is considered one of the most iconic buildings in the city and an essential must-see for anyone visiting Milan. Its impressive size and ornate spires make it instantly recognizable and something you’ll never forget.
On top of that, its intricately carved statues and decorative interiors will be sure to keep you entertained for hours on end! So why not take a stop-over to the Duomo di Milano when you’re next paying a visit to this vibrant city – you won’t be disappointed.
The Duomo’s exterior is free to explore. Make sure to visit during the day and in the evening to see its impressive facade. No matter what time of year you plan to visit Milan, make sure you take a few hours out of your trip to experience the Duomo di Milano for yourself.
It’s an unmissable part of the city and will provide you with endless memories that will stay with you for a lifetime. Whether it’s in the summer heat or beneath a dusting of snow, the Duomo di Milano is something that should never be missed!
Bucket List: Duomo Terrace Climb
If you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to visit the terrace of the Duomo di Milano, which offers stunning 360-degree views of Milan. From here, you can admire the beauty and grandeur of this incredible building and soak in some breathtaking views of the city. You can also take a guided tour to explore the terrace and get an insight into its rich history.
For more information on visiting the Duomo di Milano and its impressive terrace, make sure you check out their official website. It has all the essential information you’ll need to make the most out of your trip, from opening times and pricing to special events and guided tours.
Tourists are also provided an option to either take the stairs or a lift to go up to the top. You can also book tickets in advance here, so no need to worry about queuing up when you get there!
So if you’re planning a visit to Milan soon, make sure the Duomo di Milano is at the top of your list. It’s an unforgettable experience and one that you won’t want to miss!
2. People Watch at Piazza De Duomo
Piazza De Duomo is a great spot to people-watch. As one of the largest and busiest squares in Europe, it’s packed with locals, tourists, street performers, vendors, and more. At the heart of this beautiful piazza rests a magnificent equestrian statue dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II, the first ruler of Italy.
On any given day you can find an array of activities taking place at the piazza: from live music performances to acrobatic displays to the occasional political protest. It’s always exciting to see what surprises await you here.
Tourists and locals alike gather here to take in the stunning architecture, sip their coffee, and watch the vibrant city life pass by. The vast piazza is open and spacious, making it a great spot for people-watching. Plus, the piazza offers a beautiful backdrop for any occasion: from leisurely strolls through the square to romantic dinners overlooking the Duomo Cathedral and its exquisite architecture.
Whether you’re looking for a bit of entertainment or just want to take in the sights, Piazza De Duomo is an ideal spot for people-watching. Most importantly, it is free and open 24/7.
3. Check out the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
After marveling at the spectacular Milan Duomo, make a beeline for the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This elegant glass-roofed shopping mall designed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni with beautiful terracotta and marble mosaics on the floor is not only one of the oldest shopping malls in the world but also a stunning work of architecture.
Constructed between 1865 and 1877, the Galleria of Vittorio Emanuele II in Milano is Italy’s oldest active shopping mall and it’s not difficult to see why. With its captivating glass-vaulted arcades and exquisite mosaic floors, this magnificent structure radiates beauty while also exhibiting functional design.
Visitors can explore an array of luxury stores, books, and artworks as well as restaurants, cafés, bars – even a hotel! Tourists are drawn to this destination by the thousands every year; indeed it has become one of Milano’s prime attractions.
The Legend of the Lucky Bull’s Balls
If you plan to go to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy, then you most likely have heard of the unique phenomenon known as “stepping on the bull’s balls”.
But why is this tradition so popular? Let me take a few moments to explain it all!
While no one knows how the tradition got started, many people believe that stepping on the bull’s balls (testicles) and spinning around three times with your right heel on a bull’s scrotum is said to bring good fortune.
In this day and age, hundreds of curious visitors flock daily to behold the small dancing-bull mosaic in hopes that it will give them good fortune. So, why not pay a visit to the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle and search for the bull’s mosaic on its ground floor?
Nonetheless, please treat it with care. Unfortunately, this practice has caused some wear and tear that resulted in a hole where people have been tapping their feet daily.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an essential part of Milan’s history and culture, providing visitors with a glimpse into its past as well as some of the best shopping in town. Whether you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs or just take in the beautiful architecture, make sure not to miss out on this amazing piece of Italian history.
4. Stroll Down Via Dante for Some Window Shopping
A great free activity to do while visiting Milan is taking a stroll down pedestrianized Via Dante, which connect Piazza Del Duomo to Castello Sforzesco.
Not only is it a perfect spot for some window shopping – with an array of retailers ranging from high-end boutiques to thrift stores, there’s something for everyone – but it also offers a fantastic people-watching experience.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself caught up in the street culture of this charming area, with its inviting alleys and plethora of cafes! It’s the perfect way to spend a leisurely afternoon while taking in picturesque views of the city.
5. Castello Sforzesco
Built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, Castello Sforzesco is one of the largest citadels in Europe. The castle has undergone numerous renovations over the centuries and today houses several museums, art galleries, and cultural institutions. It also serves as a venue for concerts.
The castle grounds also feature a vast park, complete with lush greenery and several monuments. A visit to Castello Sforzesco is sure to be an enriching experience for any visitor looking to explore Milan’s fascinating history.
While it is not free to enter the museums inside the castle, it is free to roam around the atmospheric castle complex. Visitors who wish to check out the museum should prioritize seeing Michelangelo’s last unfinished work- the Pieta. The sculpture is believed to be a meditation on death and the salvation of the soul.
6. Relax in One of Milan’s Many Parks such as Parco Sempione
Milan is a beautiful city filled with fantastic sights, shops, and restaurants. However, sometimes it’s nice to relax and one of the best ways to do this is in one of Milan’s amazing parks.
Parco Sempione for example, located conveniently next to Castello Sforzesco, offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. With lush green lawns perfect for picnics or lounging long into the evening, you can also take a stroll around the artificial lake found in the park.
Here you may spot ducks quacking around while admiring some of Milan’s most iconic landmarks such as Arco della Pace in the background. There are plenty of locations to catch some real peace and quiet off the beaten track – head to Parco Sempione and experience it now!
Have an extra day? Spend a day in Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli
Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli is one of Milan’s best-kept secrets. This beautiful park, located near Porta Venezia, is filled with serene pathways, diverse plant species, and plenty of green lawns.
This is the perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing and relax in nature. Bring your bike along with you and explore this amazing space on two wheels – it’s one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a day in Milan!
7. Visit Basilica Di Sant’Ambrogio
Milan is renowned for its world-class churches and basilicas, so if you’re looking to explore some of the city’s most impressive religious sites, then you should definitely check out Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio.
This historic church dates back to 379 AD. It features incredible works of art, including a twelfth-century fresco depicting the life and death of St. Ambrose, as well as an altar inlaid with marble and decorated with gold. There is also a crypt with tombs of several archbishops.
Whether you’re looking for spiritual enlightenment or just appreciate grand architecture, Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio will not disappoint. Check Google for opening hours before you head out there.
8. San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (“The Sistine Chapel of Milan”)
Another underrated must-see church in Milan is San Maurizio. It is considered by many to be the Sistine Chapel of Lombardy (the region where Milan is located). Before you head out there, make sure to check Google for opening hours.
The Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is truly a sight to behold – from its vibrant colors, glimmering gold accents and intricate designs that adorn the pillars, ceilings, and walls. Some even refer to it as ‘The Sistine Chapel’ of Milan! Every inch of this breathtaking church has been masterfully crafted with attention to detail that will leave you mesmerized.
Although the exterior of this church in Milan may not look grandiose, it pales in comparison to what lies within. Entering through its doors is an awe-inspiring experience that exceeds even the magnificence of the famed Duomo. You won’t believe your eyes when you step inside!
This church, at one time home to the most significant women’s convent in Milan, was divided into two separate parts – one for nuns and another for worshippers. This strict partition did not vanish until the late eighteenth century. So do not miss the “Hall of the nuns” behind the altar – it is breathtakingly splendid.
The interior of the church is decorated with frescoes painted by Bernardino Luini and his workshop between 1513 and 1529. These frescoes depict scenes from the life of Saint Maurice, including his martyrdom in Thebes and his subsequent canonization. Other works include images of saints, prophets, angels, and cherubs. The monastery is also home to a notable collection of paintings by artists such as Raffaello Sanzio and Andrea Mantegna.
9. Columns of San Lorenzo (Colonne Di San Lorenzo)
The Columns of San Lorenzo (Colonne di San Lorenzo) are a major landmark in Milan, Italy. Located in the city’s central square, Piazza San Lorenzo, the columns stand at 22 meters tall and have become an iconic symbol of the city.
Originally built in 12th century as part of a Romanesque church, the columns have remained largely unchanged since then. The two columns are made of brick and feature decorative arches and Corinthian capitals at their tops.
The Columns of San Lorenzo have served as a backdrop to some of Milan’s most important historical events, such as Napoleon’s 1805 coronation ceremony. They also served as a stage for performances by some of the city’s most famous musicians, including Gioacchino Rossini and Giuseppe Verdi.
The Columns of San Lorenzo are also a popular tourist attraction in Milan. Visitors to the columns can take in their beauty and admire the history behind them. The columns are illuminated at night, making them even more of a spectacle.
The Columns of San Lorenzo are a must-see for anyone visiting Milan. They represent the city’s rich history and culture and remind visitors why Milan is such an important destination in Italy.
10. Take a Walk Through the Navigli Canal District
Taking a leisurely walk through the beautiful Navigli district of Milano is the perfect way to spend an evening in the city. This vibrant area has something for everyone, from the captivating canals and picturesque bridges to countless restaurants and bars bustling with activity during nighttime.
As if that weren’t enough, you’ll have the chance to witness one of the most stunning sunsets Milan has to offer. It’s no wonder why this is one of the top free things to do in Milano! So take your time and wander through this beloved neighborhood full of Italian elegance, history, and culture – it certainly won’t disappoint!
Get Free Appetizers
Contrary to popular belief, a free lunch can be yours in Milan. Navigli is the go-to spot for its gorgeous canals and chic bars. The local specialty here? Aperitivo – an alcoholic beverage consumed before dinner that comes with complimentary food!
All you have to do is buy any drink around sunset at one of the nearby establishments (look inside for a buffet table if it’s your first time). And voila! You don’t just get what you paid for; you’ll also enjoy all-you-can-eat treats without breaking the bank.
Each of the bars possesses its own distinct qualities, but you can expect to find a spread including bruschetta, various kinds of cheese, cold cuts, and slices of bread that are sure to delight. Savor your beverage at your leisure as you nibble away for free while taking in the sights – an enjoyable evening awaits!
Extend Your Stroll Along the Canals in Darsena
The canals in Darsena are one of the most picturesque places in Milan. Connected to Navigli, this place is filled with plenty of restaurants and bars.
In the warmer months, you can take a leisurely stroll along the canals while admiring the historical buildings and boats passing by. This area also has amazing sunset views, making it one of the perfect spots to enjoy an evening glass of wine or dinner al fresco!
Whether you’re looking to take a relaxing walk or have a romantic evening, Darsena and Navigli have it all.
Not Free: Sample Milan’s Delicious Food – From Pizza to Gelato
When planning a trip to the gorgeous city of Milan, be sure to make some room in your schedule for sampling some of the delicious food on offer.
From legendary Italian pizza and pasta dishes to freshly-made gelato, there’s something to please even the most discerning palate.
Don’t forget to take a seat at one of the many outdoor cafes or bistros too, where you can indulge in one or two Milanese specialties while taking in this city’s stunning sights. Buon Appetito!
Not Free Bucket List: Da Vinci’s Last Supper
Located in Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Last Supper is an iconic artwork that has stood the test of time and had a major impact on art and culture.
The painting itself is considered one of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces, a symbol of his innovative style and technique. In addition to its artistic significance, the painting has great religious importance as it illustrates the traditional biblical story of Jesus’ “Last Supper” with his 12 apostles.
The painting is particularly appealing to those who are looking for a spiritual experience. Standing in front of the painting and examining it closely can help to bring about a sense of awe and appreciation for the beauty and meaning behind the artwork.
Overall, The Last Supper is sure to be a memorable experience for any traveler looking to have an amazing time in Italy. Whether you’re interested in art and culture or just want to appreciate the beauty of the painting itself, this is one destination that should definitely be on your bucket list.
Heads Up: Tickets sell out fast so book about 3 months in advance here.
Free Milan Walking Tour
Download this free Milan walking tour itinerary that connects all of the highlights in this article.
B. Piazza Del Duomo
C. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
D. Castello Sforzesco
E. Parco Sempione
F. San Maurizio Al Monastero
G. Santa Maria delle Grazie
H. Basilica Di Sant’Ambrogio
I. Colonne De San Lorenzo
J. Naviglio Canal
How We Flew to Milan Using Credit Card Points
I primarily use credit card points for free and discounted travel.
As long as I am responsibly paying off my credit card bills on time, my travels are all paid for by the banks that provide these points as a form of rebate or rewards.
This practice of leveraging credit card points to acquire free travel is commonly called travel hacking.
For this trip to Milan, I flew on Emirates First Class by redeeming 85,000 Emirates miles and $88. Anyone who is frugal and financially responsible can do travel hack too.
I earned my Emirates miles through credit cards. If you are new to travel hacking, feel free to reach out to me or join our free Travel Miles and Points Facebook Group.
How We Stayed at Park Hyatt Milan for $0 Using Credit Card Points
Just like with airline miles, I also earn hotel points so I can stay in hotels for free.
Previously, the only way to earn these hotel “loyalty” points was by consistently staying at specific hotel chains.
Without a doubt, that can take a lot of time and money before you could even rack up hotel points enough for a night or two.
Thankfully, that is just now a thing of the past. Anyone can earn these hotel loyalty points by accruing points from credit card sign-up bonuses.
I typically take advantage of the generous credit card sign-up bonuses that various banks offer. These bonuses are usually in the form of “points” that can be exchanged for various rewards, including free hotel stays at Hyatt properties like the Park Hyatt in Milan.
I view this as having the banks and credit card companies pay for my travel expenses. This, my friends, is one of my favorite frugal travel hacks.
For the Park Hyatt, we redeemed 25,000 Hyatt points per night. We only paid 5 euros each person per night to cover the Milan City Tax.
If you would like to know more about using points for hotels, feel free to reach out to me via this form. I offer free consultations via email. Alternatively, reach out to us at our Free Travel Miles & Points Facebook Group.
Milan is a wonderful city to visit, with beautiful architecture and vibrant culture. Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience or just want to relax in one of the city’s many parks, it’s definitely worth exploring!
The Duomo di Milano, Via Dante, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Parco Sempione, Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, Navigli district, and churches are all must-see sights for your itinerary.
So don’t wait – plan your trip today and discover the beauty of Milan firsthand. Bon Voyage!
EDITORIAL DISCLOSURE – Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. The content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.