Milan is Italy’s most cosmopolitan city, it is both hardworking and glamorous – powerful in businesses from finance to fashion and, of course, football.

You might suspect that a visit to Milan is viable only for those who have money to burn and a superior attitude. However, those restricted to a budget will find plenty to do in Milan. Many of the cultural attractions are free to enjoy and you can always root out a bargain meal if you look in the right neighbourhood. There are designer shops and swanky bars if you like that thing, but Milan will surprise you with its locals enjoying a good bargain at the market and friendly venues that encourage good conversation and unpretentious dancing!

But what gives Milan its certain something is its status as the epicentre of Italian fashion and interior design. International fashionistas, designers, supermodels and paparazzi descend upon the city twice a year for its spring and autumn fairs. Valentino, Versace and Armani may design and manufacture their clothes elsewhere, but Milan, which has carefully guarded its reputation for flair, drama and creativity, is Italy’s natural stage. This is certainly one of the best places in Italy to shop, or windowshop.

Apart from fashion, many large national banks and companies are headquartered here whilst the automobile, media, telecommunications and internet sectors have a significant presence too. Milan is also the main industrial, commercial and financial centre of Italy and as such, is unsurprisingly business-like in appearance.

Milan (pic 2) - 15 Apr 14

In fact, despite its fashion credentials, the city is not as visually pleasing as Rome, Venice or Florence.  At first glance, it lacks the wow factor; many buildings are grey, some are quite stark and there appears to be very little green space despite the fact there are many parks in the city. Visitors have to take time and be determined to explore Milan’s streets in order to access its aesthetically appealing gems – and they do exist. Cut through the modern metropolitan bustle, and you will stumble across impressive churches and palaces, the pretty Navigli area, the chic Brera district and lively university quarter.

Among the most notable landmarks are the Duomo, a Gothic masterpiece (one of the biggest of its kind in the world) that looks vaguely threatening when illuminated at night; La Scala, the opera house with an illustrious history and reputation; Castello Sforzesco, a grand medieval castle; Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an ancient and glamorous arcaded shopping gallery and in a nod to art, the city is impressively home to Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th century masterpiece The Last Supper.

Even if you don’t take the train to or from Milan, Stazione Centrale is certainly worth a visit. It is a very impressive building, and possibly the most elegant and extra-ordinary train station in the world.

Although it looks very old, the train station was only finished in 1931 – but the design is from 1912, and therefore reflects the style of Art Nouveau. The building was mostly made from marble.

The interior of the station is very elegant and luxurious, with high ceilings and a lot of decorations. Some parts of it would rather feel like a palace, if it was not for the masses of people and the busy atmosphere. However, the station is also very modern, with many shops, fast escalators and other amenities.

Believe it or not, the shopping centres in Milan are some of the best places to see the city’s exquisite architecture. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Milan’s oldest shopping arcade and is an incredible building with long stretches of marble floors, intricate stone facades and balconies all contributing to the grand atmosphere. The most stunning element of the building through is its immense glass dome ceiling – definitely worth a visit even if your budget won’t stretch to buying anything here; the photos of the building will make a great souvenir.

milan (pic 3) - 15 Apr 14

North ofCorso Magenta, Mercato Comunale is Milan’s biggest daily fresh food market. The market is held undercover in Piazza Wagner and the market is an explosion of noise and colour. The stalls are filled with local produce, from fruits, flowers and vegetables to cheeses and pastas of all shapes.

For shoppers with a sweet-tooth, L’Antica Arte del Dolce on Via Anfossi is is a favourite for anyone needing a sugar fix. Translated as ‘The Ancient Art of Sweet’, the shop’s shelves of biscuits, chocolates, cakes, jams and tarts tempt in passers-by, with everything being made fresh in store by skilled pastry chefs. Try something safe and traditional or opt for something a bit more left-field such as their aubergine and chocolate mousse.

Milan is one of the fashion centers of Europe and shopping here is like heaven for the many fashionista’s. The stores are really fabulous. And if you’re lucky enough to come here during the sales there will be some unique bargains to be found here.  But to be honest for most people…shopping here tends to be limited to the window variety.

If you are not here during the sale you can head out to the local Outlets with Il Salvagente being the best. But these shops are relatively small.  If you are serious about your shopping and looking for some real bargains…head out to the Outletmalls.

There are 2 near Milan. One is across the border in Switserland at Mendrissio and there are bus trips that arrange the shopping trips there.  And there is another one on the road to Genoa at Serravella Scrivia.