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Milano – just a shopping destination?

The Italian city of Milan is internationally renowned as the capital of fashion and a shopping destination, with hundreds of luxury brands awaiting shopping enthusiasts with famous labels and prices to measure. So, when we say Milan, we imagine an expensive destination where you shouldn’t go if you’re on a tight budget, because the main activities you can do there are shopping and attending fashion shows. But is it really so? To answer this question, we went there to evaluate the situation on the spot.

If you read us for a while now, you already know that we are traveling on a low budget, we value the beautiful experiences and memories, preferring to spend money on one more trip than on expensive things that don’t bring us joy or luxury hotels and restaurants where you can sleep and eat as well as you could at half the price.

So, can one visit Milan with little money? Is Milan a suitable destination for those with a low budget? Is it worth going to Milan if you are not interested in fashion and shopping? Yes, yes and yes!!!

Let’s start with the beginning and tell you what we did in Milan for two days and if it was worth the trip:

How to get to Milan?

Being a very popular destination, the city of Milan has three airports: Malpensa International Airport, Linate Airport and Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport. From our country (Romania), there are flights to Milan from almost every airport, as many Romanians work in Italy. We flew on Cluj – Milano Bergamo route, and because we bought the tickets several months in advance, we only paid about 20 € for a return flight, per person. The flight takes about two hours from Cluj. If you want to find out more tips on how to buy cheap plane tickets with Wizzair, we’ve written an entire article about it – click here.

How to get from Bergamo to Milan?

As mentioned above, from Cluj there is a low-cost flight to Milan landing on Bergamo Airport, which is a small town about 60 kilometers away from Milan, and to get from Bergamo to Milan there are buses and trains. This is the Bergamo Train Station:

As we had an evening flight, when we landed in Bergamo it was already dark outside and was no longer worth going to Milan the same evening just to pay for more expensive accommodation. So we decided to stay in Bergamo for the night. We found a cheap Airbnb apartment that we chose especially because the host offered free transportation by car from the airport, which relieved us of an extra expense. If you don’t have an Airbnb account, sign up here to get a big discount on your first stay.

The next morning, after serving us breakfast, our host offered to drive us to the train station to take the train to Milan. We traveled with Trenitalia, a train ticket from Bergamo to Milan was 5.50 € and the trip lasted about an hour, in very good conditions, without delay.

What to visit in Milan?

What can you do in the fashion and shopping capital if you are not interested in fashion and shopping? We’ll tell you: a lot! Milan has a historical heritage and artistic and cultural life that will keep you busy for a few days, passing by the luxury shops without even noticing them.

Milano Centrale Station

Our first contact with the city was the Milan Central Train Station, which can be called a tourist attraction itself and is the second largest railway station in Italy after Rome Termini.

Although the construction of this railway station started in 1912, it was slowed down by the hard times during the First World War, the building being completed and inaugurated only in 1931.

Every year, around 120 million people come to and leave from Milan Central Station.

Combining several architectural styles, the grandiose construction of the train station enchants and stops for a few minutes even the most hurrying travelers.

If you have the time and desire for walking, from the station to the center, you can go straight on a wide boulevard with beautiful buildings, and if you catch good weather, the road is a pleasure.

Vittorio Emanuele II Galleries

It is hard to not touch the “shopping” subject when talking about Milan. The good news is that you can visit the oldest and most grandiose mall in Italy just to enjoy its beauty without having to spend money if you don’t want to.

The Vittorio Emanuele II Galleries are the milestone of shopping in Milan, containing exclusive luxury shops and restaurants, but it is also a tourist attraction, with an impressive architecture, right in the heart of the city, being a passage between the squares that house two reputable monuments of the city: the Milan Cathedral (Duomo) and the Scala Theater.

Built between 1865 and 1867 and named after the first king of the Italian kingdom, Vittorio Emanuele II galleries are not to be missed when visiting Milan.

Milan Cathedral

Vittorio Emanuele II galleries are a direct passage to Piazza del Duomo, or the Dome Square, where the most famous attraction of the city – the Dome of Milan – is majestically rising.

The construction of this stunning building lasted more than 500 years, with every detail of nearly 12,000 square meters of the edifice being carefully and painstakingly worked by the most skillful craftsmen.

The church is adorned with 135 towers and over 2,000 statues, and the impressive stained glass windows of the building are said to be the largest in the world.

Inside, grandeur and architectural beauty combine with the sacred, inviting visitors to humble meditation, quietly, lonely, right in the midst of crowds of tourists.

For a complete experience when visiting the Dome of Milan, it is a must to visit the rooftop terrace.

A wonderful view opens between the Gothic turrets and the hundreds of statues of the cathedral, where the wind breeze and the comfort of sunshine make you feel on the top of the world.

Depending on the objectives you want to visit and whether you choose to climb the stairs or take the lift to the roof, the prices of tickets for Dome visit vary, find out here everything about tickets, rates, discounts and offers.

Museo del Duomo

The Milan Cathedral Museum tells the story of the impressive monument over the centuries, how generations after generations of architects, artists and regular people have contributed to its construction, with original exhibits, sketches, paintings, statues and stained glasses that can be seen up close.

The museum is also in the Dome Square, on the ground floor of the Royal Palace, and its visit includes the Church of San Gottardo in Corte.

»»Tip: For all the museums described below, including the aquarium, we bought a single tourist card, which costs 12 euros, is valid for three days after the first validation and provides free access to all civic museums in Milan: all the museums at the Sforza Castle, Museo del Novecento (the 20th Century Museum), the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (GAM), Museum of Culture (MUDEC), the Archeological Museum, Museo del Risorgimento, Palazzo Morando, the Francesco Messina Studio, Museum of Natural History, House and Museum Boschi di Stefano. These cards can be purchased from ticket offices in any of the museums listed above and will save you a lot of money compared to single tickets.

Castello Sforzesco

Since the mid-1300s, on the castles present location started the building of a fortress that later served as the residence of the Visconti dynasty, a powerful noble family that led the city of Milan for 170 years.

Today’s name of the castle dates back to the time when the last daughter of the family married a military leader and illustrious political man named Francesco Sforza.

Now, the grand building has become a cultural center and a symbol of the city, which houses an impressive number of valuable museums and exhibitions, including a Museum of Ancient Art, a Museum of Furniture, a Museum of Musical Instruments and many more.

Museo del Novecento

Museo del Novecento, or the Museum of the Twentieth Century, is located in the heart of the city, two steps from the Duomo of Milan, within the Palace dell’Arengario in Piazza del Duomo, 8.

The museum features works by Italian artists of the 20th century, which are dominating the exhibition spaces.

In addition to the works of art and culture people from Italy, museum visitors can admire the works of famous international artists such as Kandinsky, Matisse or Picasso.

Museo Civico di Storia Naturale

The Museum of Natural History of Milan is located in a very beautiful building, raised in the nineteenth century exactly for this purpose. Behind the museum is a nice park preferred by locals and tourists alike for relaxing walks or sports activities.

This is probably the most interesting museum for visitors of all ages, with permanent exhibitions about the evolution of life on earth, about how different natural phenomena appear, about the relationship of man with the environment in which he lives, about a multitude of life forms, from tiniest bugs to enormous dinosaurs and many other exciting topics that captivate and hold you some good hours inside the museum. It is the oldest museum in Milan and has the only dinosaur skeleton in Italy.

The address of the Museum of Natural History in Milan is Corso Venezia, no. 55, near Porta Venezia – one of the city’s historic gates.

Acquario Civico

The Aquarium of Milan is the third oldest aquarium in Europe, built in 1906. Neptune, the Roman God of the Seas watches the entrance to the building that is home to more than 100 species of marine life.

Inside, several tanks are home to different species of fish, starfish and seahorses, crabs or corals.

Although it is not as big and impressive as modern aquariums such as the ones we visited in Malta or Mallorca, it has a special charm and is worth visiting.

The aquarium is located in Sempione Park in the central area of the city, very close to Sforzesco Castle.

Palazzo Morando

Morando Palace, a typical residence of the 18th century Milan Aristocracy, presents today two exhibition areas that bring visitors into the ambience of those times.

The lower floor of the building features 1700s lifestyle and clothing, as well as creations by famous designers, with the museum perfectly fitting into the fashionable neighborhood on Via Sant’Andrea at number 6.

On the upper floor, you can admire a century-old apartment with furniture, paintings and personal belongings present in the beautifully decorated residences of the privileged ones of those times.

Where can you travel from Milan?

Being located in northern Italy, Milan is a stone’s throw away from Switzerland, and both states are in the Schengen area, so there is no customs clearance between them, only a traffic indicator tells you that you entered the neighboring country. Our recommendation is to visit the city of Lugano in Switzerland, located on the shore of the lake with the same name in a very beautiful natural setting, about which we will tell you in the next article.

If you want to stay in Italy, the Lake Como area is unbeatable. The mountains that guard the lake, every little village on the shore that looks like a jewel, the tranquility and the beauty of those places will give you unforgettable experiences! We visited Menaggio, Colico Piano and Lecco and will tell you in a future article all about the experience we had there.

Is it worth visiting Milan?

Our answer is a big “YES!”. Although we only spent two days in Milan, they were two very busy days – full of culture, art, pleasant walks on beautiful streets – not at all shopping and fashion shows. Although it is a very modern city, Milan also has that ancient charm given by historic buildings with impressive architecture, cobbled streets and bohemian air. We especially enjoyed city trips by old wooden trams with wooden benches and real lamps with glass lampshades.

»»Tip: Finally, one more tip to help you save money on vacation. Because Milan is a big city and the distances between the objectives are quite long, the best option is to use public transport to move from one place to another. A one-way ticket costs 1.50 €, but if you want to visit as many places as possible, it will cost you a lot. Therefore, we recommend that you buy a 48-hour ticket, which costs 8.25 € and allows an unlimited number of trips in all public transport in the city for two days.

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