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Milan on a Budget

Milan is the business, banking and fashion capital of Italy. It is glamour. It is the home of luxury brands, posh clubs and €20 cocktails. But believe it or not, it is possible to enjoy one of Europe’s most posh cities while on a budget.

I scoured the city for bargains on a recent trip to Milan, and, lucky for my wallet, I found many.

>> And if you’re looking for more money-saving tips for this notoriously expensive city, here are some free and cheap things to do in Milan.

One of Milan’s most time-honored traditions is taking an aperitivo, or cocktail, after work. But this isn’t your average happy hour. In proper fashion, the Milanese turn it into an event. Throngs of fashionable Italians crowd the main drags during aperitivo time; check out the Navigli and Porta Ticinese areas for the most happening places. And for a fixed price, or the cost of a drink, you can help yourself to a spread of snacks, which range from olives to pizza margherita to filling spaghetti alle vongole. Voila! Free dinner.


  • La Biciclette, Via Conca del Naviglio 10
  • Slice, Via Ascanio Sforza, 9
  • Exploit, Via Pioppette, 3

While Milan is most famous as the home of Armani, Gucci, Prada and other Italian luxury brands, it also has a fair share of discount outlets. Here, you can find brand name items marked down many times over. It requires a little patience to sift through the piles of junk (sequined hotpants?) but the pay-off is worth it. I found €30 blouses and €100 leather purses.


  • Il Salvagente, Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16
  • Fioretta Coen Musil, Via Dan Calocero 3
  • DMagazine, Via Montenapoleone 26

A bit of advice: it’s okay to skip the trip to the top of the Duomo. It’s a huge tourist trap, and at €5 each for the lift, a bit of a rip-off*. Instead, stroll through the Zona Tortona to check out the latest design trends, or check out the Castello Sforzesco, which is open to the public. Admission to the six museums, which showcase everything from musical instruments to Egyptian art, is also a bargain at only €3 (€1.50 reduced).

* Editor’s note: This depends on your definition of tourist trap; personally, I think wandering around on top of the Duomo is a lovely way to spend 30-40 minutes – but yeah, the elevator ticket price is a bit steep!

The author of this post, Jessica Arriola Marati, is a freelance writer based in Rome, Italy. Born in San Francisco and raised in the Pacific island of Guam, she caught the travel bug early and has spent most of her life immersing herself in the study of her two heritages, Chamorro and Italian. Jessica has written for several magazines & traveled extensively. She can be reached at