Five Free Milan Activities

Five Free Milan Activities

Milan has the reputation of being an unfrienfdly and expensive city.

As a Milan local, I would love to share with you five great free activities that will help you enjoy the city.


1) Walk or cycle the Naviglio Martesana

You may not know that Milan was once criss-crossed by a network of canals that were used to move goods to and from the city. They were originally designed and developed by Leonardo da Vinci and survived intact until the 1920's, when they were covered to reduce traffic.

Some still exist; Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese, hotspots of the city's nightlife, and Naviglio Martesana, my personal favourite. Martesana stretches for about 40 kms, from the city centre to the countryside, flowing past beautiful mansions, tranquil suburbs, gipsy camps and even a colony of coypus, giant rodents escaped from a fur factory in the Sixties.

A walk or cycle along the canal is a surreal experience for the variety of sights it offers, and it will definitely be far from the hustle and bustle of the shopping streets in the centre.


2) Check out Hangar Bicocca

There are several free museums in the city, such as the Art Nouveau Aquarium and the Natural History Museum in a beautiful park.

My favourite is Hangar Bicocca, a contemporary arts exhibition centre in the northern Bicocca neighbourhood. It is famous for its big installations, along the lines of London's Tate Modern; think giant plastic bubbles and rooms at -30°. There are free guided tours every Sunday at 5 pm. Tours are in Italian, but most guides speak English and are happy to answer questions.


3) Visit in April for the Fuorisalone

This is simply the coolest event of the year. It's a design festival taking place at various locations throughout the city; in 2014 it ran in April. There's something for everyone, from free cocktail parties to installations in abandoned buildings, from sound and light shows to design students exhibitions. One of the best areas to visit is Ventura-Lambrate; one of the coolest events planned this year is Il Salotto del Mobile, a family living room turned exhibition space for young designers.


4) Have a drink near some Roman Ruins

Milan's best area for nightlife is Colonne di San Lorenzo, a ten minute walk from the Duomo. Ditch the expensive cocktail bars and grab a beer from one of many shops, sit near the Roman colonnade to watch life go by. There is often impromptu live music and the Navigli area (see tip 1) is around the corner. Don't forget mozzie spray in summer!


5) Tour the city on vintage trams

Not quite free, as you still need to have a valid ticket. At 1.50€ for 90 minutes, they are a pretty amazing deal to ride around the city. Milan's vintage trams (lines 1, 19, 23 and 33) are the oldest continuously running public transport in the world, in service since 1928. Sit on their wooden benches and enjoy local life; line 23 is the best for sightseeing, running from Lambrate station through picturesque squares before the end of the line, just behind the Duomo.


Travel tip shared by The Crowded Planet