Milan is a beautiful city with a lot to offer. Although it can be expensive to visit, there are also many free things to do in Milan. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this city without spending a lot of money. Here are ten things you can do today in Milan for free.
Free things to do in Milan
Admire Bramante’s perspective masterpiece in the church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro
Santa Maria presso San Satiro, Via Torino, (approximately around street number 18) (Duomo)
Despite its proximity to the cathedral, this church is surprisingly very easy to miss. This Renaissance masterpiece often goes unnoticed because of the simple appearance of the facade. The fact that it’s slightly set back from via Torino doesn’t make it easy to find. But you’ll want to see it!
The inside is adorned with magnificent decorations and paintings, but the sacristy is the main reason to pay a visit to this church.
The perspective work of Bramante is why this masterpiece is widely known. During the construction of the church, they realized that there wasn’t enough space for the sacristy.
Bramante came up with a wonderful solution to the challenge by using an incredible perspective play. He painted a perspective fugue with just 97 centimeters of depth to make it seem like the vault was ten times deeper.
This a really clever piece of art that will leave you speechless!
A humbling experience at San Bernardino alle Ossa
Milan, like any other Italian city, is dotted with many churches. But San Bernardino alle Ossa stands out for the oddness of its decorations.
Even though it’s small, the chapel is definitely a place to visit, especially if you’re a fan of unique and eerie sights.
The church, located 5 minutes from Duomo, contains a chapel that serves as an ossuary.
Skulls, shinbones, and other bones held together by nets are used as decorations on the walls of this little chapel.
Some of them are arranged to create large crosses and the letter “M” for Mary, standing out starkly against the dark walls. High above the worshipers and guests, the skulls lie solemnly and watch.
The silence and the sights of this place make it quite unsettling.
Visit Milan’s lavish palaces
Towers, iron, concrete, and offices come to mind when you think about Milan’s palaces. But Milan is much more than that. Eegant palaces that have stood the test of time can be seen all across the city. Often hiding in plain sight, it’s so easy to miss them if you’re not paying attention!
These fabulous places were formerly the residences of nobles and rich families. But many of them are still in use today, and visiting them is like traveling back in time.
Unfortunately, most of these palaces are now part of museums or are only viewable on rare occasions.
But since we’re in the mood for free stuff right now, let’s talk about some sights that won’t cost you a dime.
Palazzo Clerici, Via Clerici, 5 (Duomo)
The Visconti family, one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious aristocratic families, owned the manor home that existed on this site until the 18th century when Marquis Anton Giorgio Clerici made extensive renovations to it.
The marquis transformed it into the most lavish mansions in Milan at the period, and, among other things, commissioned Giovanni Battista Tiepolo to decorate the famous Tapestry Gallery.
The building is currently owned by a private institute, but they regularly organize free 30 minutes guided tours of the sumptuous building.
The tours are free but need to be booked in advance by writing an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to the institute’s website for more info.
Palazzo Marino, located in Piazza della Scala, is one of the most important symbols of Milan’s political power.
This is the building where the city’s mayor has his offices, but is open to the public.
The palace organizes free guided tours every day of the week, during which qualified personnel accompanies the visitor inside the structure.
During the visit, you will learn about the architectural and historical aspects of the building and also get to see some of the most spectacular rooms, such as the large council hall.
The city often organizes free events and exhibitions inside the palace, especially during Christmas time. The dates for this year haven’t been published yet at the time, however, we will update this article as they become available.
The guided tours are free but need to be booked in advance. You can book your visit on the official website
Palazzo Isimbardi, Corso Monforte, 35 (Porta Venezia)
Palazzo Isimbardi used to be a beautiful country house located outside the city walls, it’s now the headquarters of the Metropolitan City of Milan.
Built in the 15th century, the Palazzo Isimbardi is now home to a significant art collection. The original structure includes “Cortile d’Onore”, a courtyard preserving 16th-century terracotta tiles; the 18th-century stucco and Murano chandeliers in “Sala dell’Antegiunta”, and the 18th-century paintings of Crivellone and Giambattista Tiepolo in “Sala della Giunta”.
You can visit Palazzo Isimbardi for free on the first Friday and third Wednesday of every month, by booking the tour in advance by calling +39 02 7740 616 or +39 02 7740 2448. To know more, visit their website
Browse the stands of Milan’s oldest and most famous Fair on Saturdays
The Sinigaglia Fair in Navigli is worth checking out if you find yourself with a spare Saturday morning. This longstanding event has become a staple of the Milanese weekend, regularly occurring on Saturdays in the historic district of Navigli.
You will find everything from old, vintage, and modern clothing to antiques, exotic relics, rare succulents and herbs, natural beauty products, valuable coins, and so much more among the booths along the canals at this market.
8 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays all year long
Free Things to do in Milan: Museums and Exhibitions
Pirelli HangarBicocca, Via Chiese, 2 (Bicocca)
The Hangar Bicocca, dedicated to contemporary art, is one of Milan’s most important and active art sites.
The building, which was once a production area for train components, has been converted by the Pirelli foundation into a huge exhibition space. Its rooms hold regular exhibitions of international artists.
Inside, you’ll find three separate exhibition halls. One of these, Anselm Kiefer’s “Seven Heavenly Palaces,” is permanent. This installation, which has been in place at the Pirelli hangars since 2004, is the biggest of Kiefer’s works, and the signature of the Pirelli foundation.
Seven massive towers, ranging in height from 13 to 19 meters, rise precariously in this vast space suffused in dim light; their structures of concrete slabs symbolize a mystical journey to god.
After visiting this permanent installation, in the two side halls, you can see other fascinating exhibits by other modern artists.
To visit the Hangar Bicocca and all its exhibitions, you will pay nothing.
However, if you want to avoid waiting in lines, you should make a reservation ahead of time.
For more info on how to book and on opening time visit the Pirelli HangarBicocca website
Palazzo Morando, Via Sant’Andrea, 6 (Porta Venezia)
Palazzo Morando Fashion and Costume Museum is located in the heart of Milan, near Via Montenapoleone.
The museum’s chronological route guides visitors from the 1500s to the present day, through various sections that host priceless collections of clothes, accessories, paintings, and fashion illustrations.
In this museum devoted to Milan’s past, you can see the city as it was in the old days, with its streets filled with coaches, horses, and gentlemen in double-breasted suits, and make comparisons between the city’s streets then and now.
The museum is particularly famous for the fashion history exhibitions it periodically organizes in collaboration with major fashion houses.
The museum is open from Monday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM, and admission is free.
I Tesori della Ca’ Granda
Although Milan is home to many stunning works of art, some of these gems have been kept hidden for decades.
Three years ago, this museum opened its doors to the public in order to share these masterpieces with the world, for free.
There are five permanent rooms displaying portraits by renowned painters such as Giovanni Segantini, Francesco Hayez, Giuseppe Molteni, Mosé Bianchi, Carlo Carrà, il Pitocchetto, Filippo Abbiati, Emilio Longoni, and Mario Sironi.
There are sculptures to complement these portraits, and a temporary gallery will feature themed exhibitions in addition to the permanent display.
Watch the sunset from Parco Monte Stella
Parco Monte Stella (QT8, red metro line)
Located to the northwest of Milan, Monte Stella is a popular hilltop that is surrounded by a peaceful park perfect for taking pics, going for a walk, or having a picnic. If you like parks, it’s a great area to get out of the chaos of the city and enjoy some quiet time.
Although summer is when most people visit, this location has a year-round appeal. Different ornamental trees blossom and change color in the spring and fall.
Monte Stella is perfect for watching the sun set over Milan because of its elevation and the city’s flat landscape.
Parco Monte Stella is the place to go if you want a free, breathtaking panorama of the city.
Getting There: The metro’s red line stops at Parco Monte Stella – the stop is QT8.If you’re new to the city, here’s more info to help you figure out how to get around Milan with public transportation.
Featured photo by @silvia.e.il.disagio