The 103 best hotels, restaurants, shops, cocktail bars, craft breweries, cafes, museums, markets, tours, neighborhoods, and things to do in Milan.
1. Bulgari Hotel Milano • Brera & Parco Sempione • $$$$
Arguably the best hotel in the city, boutique or otherwise, Bulgari manages to pull off an unflashy, organic, and intimate opulence. While Bulgari is inextricably linked to the fashion industry, those coming to Milan for other reasons will not feel out of place here thanks to the friendly staff, on-site Michelin-starred dining, and the convenient location in between Brera and the Quad, within easy walking distance to most of the sights.
Map • +39 02 805 8051 • Review of Bulgari Hotel Milano
2. The Yard Milano • Navigli & San Lorenzo • $$$-$$$$
The Yard is a bar-restaurant offering rooms with a ‘more is more’ aesthetic: opulent art deco/faded Victoriana/rock-n-roll/shabby-chic/arty/retro-sporty with a dash of mid-century modern and a twist of Oriental glamour. Comfortable, cozy rooms, excellent service, and great food and drinks make for an excellent base to explore the bars, restaurants, independent stores, and markets along Navigli’s canals.
Map • +39 02 8941 5901 • Review of The Yard
3. Armani Hotel Milano • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
The ultra-modern Armani is a true design hotel, located in the stylish Quadrilatero d’Oro fashion district. Giorgio Armani himself approved every element of the hotel – rooms are tasteful and spacious, with huge bathrooms that feature Armani toiletries and rainfall showers. There’s a superb spa, Michelin-starred dining, and an Emporio Armani store on-site.
Map • +39 02 8883 8888
4. Mandarin Oriental Milan • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
Combining Italian design with modern luxury and subtle Asian influences, the Mandarin Oriental’s Milanese offering spans a quartet of tastefully modernized 18th-century buildings. Guest rooms have huge, marble-finished bathrooms; suites are similarly lavish, some with private terraces. There’s also an opulent indoor pool/spa, a celebrity-stylist hair salon, and one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants, Seta, with two Michelin stars.
Map • +39 02 8731 8888
5. Senato Hotel Milano • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$-$$$$
Senato is a monochrome and art-deco inspired hotel that appeals to serious shoppers: it’s situated moments from the Quadrilatero d’Oro and the flagship stores of the world’s most prestigious fashion brands. The hotel floristry, architecture, wine list, interiors, music, menus, and metalwork have all been curated or crafted by local experts. Bedrooms are minimalist and there’s a tranquil garden.
Map • +39 02 781 236 • Review of Senato
6. Grand Hotel et de Milan • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
Built in 1863, the refined and historic Grand Hotel in Milan is ideally situated in the city’s best shopping district near La Scala opera house. Roman columns dot the lobby and the rooms feature period furnishings, parquet floors, and marble bathrooms. Stay in suites named after opera greats who once stayed here, and take advantage of two restaurants, a sophisticated bar, and excellent fitness and well-being services.
Map • +39 02 723 141
7. Four Seasons Hotel Milano • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
An elegant yet modern luxury hotel with rooms set in a 15th-century convent, the Milan Four Seasons seamlessly blends old-world charm with new-world convenience. Located in the heart of the Quadrilatero d’Oro, the rooms are spacious and stylishly furnished with “Milanese design flare.” The hotel features a wonderful spa along with a top-notch lounge and garden restaurant, and the Penthouse Suite offers a sublime roof terrace with city views.
Map • +39 02 77088
8. STRAF • Duomo & San Babila • $$$-$$$$
A two-minute walk from the Duomo is the impeccably sleek STRAF hotel, a dream for lovers of modern design. Rooms feature stylish slate or concrete furnishings, while “well-being” rooms feature aromatherapy and massage chairs. Works by local artists are prominently displayed throughout the hotel, and the bar is a hugely popular meeting place for locals (great aperitivo buffet, phenomenal location).
Map • +39 02 805 081
9. Baglioni Hotel Carlton • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
Located right on Via della Spiga, one of Milan’s best pedestrianized shopping streets, this five-star luxury boutique hotel features comfortably-sized, traditionally-furnished rooms and opulent suites. The on-site restaurant, Il Baretto al Baglioni, with its “early twentieth-century English clubhouse” style, is frequented by Milanese celebrities, while the light-filled, art-deco inspired Caffe e Terrazza Baglioni offers lighter bites and, of course, the aperitivo. The hotel also features a spa with a sauna and steam room and a raft of treatments.
Map • +39 02 77077
10. Palazzo Segreti • Duomo & San Babila / Le Suite Palazzo Segreti • Porta Nuova & Porta Garibaldi • $$$-$$$$
A chic townhouse, Palazzo Segreti is wedged in between the Duomo and Sforza Castle/Sempione Park. The architect-owners who spearheaded the renovation of the characterful old building transformed the rooms using contemporary stylings and inventive uses of light and dark to give each room its own microclimate. Few facilities, but stylish, comfortable rooms and exceptional staff.
Map 1 • Map 2 • +39 02 4952 9250 • Review of Palazzo Segreti
11. Château Monfort • Porta Vittoria & Porta Romana • $$$$
A stay at Château Monfort is like entering a sensory, whimsical, and fairy-tale world via opera-themed rooms. While it’s located a little off the beaten path, just west of San Babila in the upmarket Monforte/Porta Vittoria neighborhood, the Duomo, the shops of the Quadrilatero d’Oro, and La Scala are a short stroll away. There’s a fine-dining restaurant, huge wine cellar, and spa with a salt water pool on-site.
Map • +39 02 776761
12. Park Hyatt Milano • Duomo & San Babila • $$$$
Perfectly located on the edge of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Piazza del Duomo, Park Hyatt features spacious and elegant accommodations with high ceilings and absolutely huge bathrooms. The Michelin-starred in-house restaurant, VUN Andrea Aprea, is one of the most highly regarded in the city. All four different classes of suites include private terraces and can sleep up to four guests each.
Map • +39 02 8821 1234
13. Palazzo Parigi Hotel & Grand Spa • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
Elegant and full of Italian neoclassical touches, this five-star hotel features excellent restaurants, a beautiful indoor pool, and a superb spa. Rooms are large and there are eight different varieties of suites. Located in the Porta Nuova area, just a few minutes north of the Quadrilatero d’Oro and Brera districts, the hotel is ideally situated for shopping and is also within walking distance of the Duomo and La Scala.
Map • +39 02 625 625
14. VUN Andrea Aprea • Duomo & San Babila • $$$$
Aptly meaning “one” in Milanese dialect, Vun, the Park Hyatt’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant is one of the best in the city. The minimalist dining room allows full focus on inventive contemporary cuisine with a nod to Aprea’s Neapolitan heritage, and there’s also a 54-page wine list. Smart dress code. Open Tuesday-Saturday, dinner only. Book ahead. • Map • +39 02 8821 1234
15. Mieru Mieru • Navigli & San Lorenzo • $$
The very reasonably priced Mieru Mieru is loved by locals as one of the best places for fish and seafood in the city. The authentic Puglian cuisine is made with love by the Valentini family. Their menu changes every day depending on the produce available, but there is always an exquisite selection of raw fish dishes. Tuesday-Saturday, dinner only (lunch by reservation); Sunday lunch only. • Map • +39 02 8940 6320
16. A Santa Lucia • Duomo & San Babila • $$$
Just off the bustle of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, a major shopping street running between Piazza del Duomo and San Babila, you’ll find fine, robust, and unfussy Italian food, but the real draw is the place itself, which comes with 90 years of rich history. Every wall is plastered with photos of major Hollywood and European cinema icons. Open daily from 12pm-1am • Map • +39 02 7602 3155
17. Giacomo Arengario • Duomo & San Babila • $$$$
Scale the Guggenheim-inspired spiral ramp at the Museo del Novecento to find the best view in the whole city, overlooking the Piazza del Duomo. Arengario is Chef Giacomo Bulleri’s take on Milanese classics with an international twist, and the menu changes to cater for museum-goers during the day and haute cuisine in the evening. Reservations recommended. Open daily 12pm-12am. • Map • +39 02 7209 3814
18. La Brisa • Zona Magenta • $$$
La Brisa’s tiny, modest facade belies the beauty within: sophisticated interiors give way to an ethereal walled garden. High-quality European fusion food is served by knowledgeable staff with a great wine list. Ambiance is intimate and romantic. Reservations essential. Open Sunday-Friday, closed Saturday. • Map • +39 02 8645 0521
19. Cracco • Duomo & San Babila • $$-$$$$
Location, location, location: there is no better place to sit and people-watch in the Galleria than the cafe-bistro at Cracco (open 8am-midnight daily). But that’s not all that’s on offer here. Celebrity Chef Carlo Cracco has a Michelin star for his restaurant in this same building, and the wine cellar, where you can organize tastings, is second to none. Booking recommended. • Map • +34 02 876 774
20. Seta • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
Outstanding Michelin two-star contemporary Italian fine dining under the direction of Chef Antonio Guida at the Mandarin Oriental. The relatively good value three-course “surprise” speed lunch menu is fun, or, for a more educational experience, book the Chef’s Table to have Guida himself talk you through the whole process as your food is cooked in front of you. Booking essential; closed Sunday; strict dress code • Map • +39 02 8731 8897
21. VIVA • Porta Nuova & Porta Garibaldi • $$$$
At this Michelin-starred restaurant, there are not one, but two tasting menus to choose from: ‘innovation’ or ‘tradition’. Don’t worry about food envy; it’s all wonderful, thanks to Chef Viviana Varese’s flare and seasonal use of produce. There’s a good selection of gluten and lactose-free options. The restaurant is set in the three-story gastronomic department store Eataly Smeraldo, which means you won’t go hungry if there are no available tables. • Map • +39 02 4949 7340
22. Spazio Niko Romito • Duomo & San Babila • $$
Run by pupils of Niko Romito (of the Michelin three-starred Reale restaurant), this ‘space’ at the top of the Mercato del Duomo gives you a taste of excellence for a fraction of the price. Romito’s deceptively simple style is evident in the menu: the pleasant but underwhelming descriptions (‘sirloin steak with thyme and pepper) do not reflect the flavor explosion you’ll experience. Overlooking the Piazza. • Map • +39 02 878 400
23. Gino Sorbillo • 3 locations • $-$$
Bustling Italian mini-chain – with an international branch in NYC – doing great business in reliably fantastic and inventive Neapolitan-style pizzas. Locales in the Galleria, San Babila, and Zona Tortona (Navigli). Popular with families and big groups. • Map 1 • Map 2 • Map 3 • [email protected]
24. Joia • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale • $$$$
Michelin-starred vegetarian cooking from Chef Pietro Leemann, whose relationship with food is nothing less than spiritual. The inventive and playful dishes have poetic names such as “Inner landscape” – buckwheat and well roasted Thai-flavored vegetables, coconut and lemongrass sauce, pureed edamame, cauliflower, and yuzu emulsion with wild herbs. Reservations essential. • Map •+39 02 2952 2124
25. Tokuyoshi • Navigli & San Lorenzo • $$$$
Michelin-starred Italo-Japanese fusion haute cuisine. Chef Yoji Tokuyoshi is known for his tasting menus and presentation flare, such as his famous pizza that’s not a pizza but comes in a take-out pizza box. Wine pairings include sake. Tuesday-Saturday dinner only. Reservations essential • Map • +39 02 8821 1234
26. Al Coniglio Bianco • Navigli & San Lorenzo • $$
On the Naviglio Grande, this cozy, friendly, and traditional Italian restaurant serves all the classic Lombard dishes in a superb ambience. Highly recommended by locals. (Sneaky tip: check the website and get a 20% discount if you sign up to the mailing list). • Map • +39 02 5810 0910
27. Pescaria • Various locations • $
Italian mini-chain serving incredible fast food that puts fish and seafood front and center. The deep-fried octopus in a white crust roll is justifiably legendary. Choose your moment to come because the small locales can get packed like sardine cans. At present, there are 2 locales in Milan: in the Zona Tortona (Navigli, near Mudec) and the other in Corso Como (Porta Garibaldi) • Map 1 • Map 2
28. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II • Duomo & San Babila
As far as Milanese experiences go, strolling through the Galleria, which runs between La Scala and the Duomo, is a must. Find the worn spot in the mosaic floor where Italians spin around for good luck; visit preeminent Italian designer stores; have a pastry and an espresso at Pasticceria Marchesi above Prada, an aperitivo at Camparino, or a lavish meal at Cracco, and simply soak it in. • Map
29. Quadrilatero d’Oro • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Also known as the Quadrilatero della Moda, or simply ‘Montenapoleone’ after the Metro station, Milan’s ‘Quad’ refers to the four streets – Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Corso Venezia, and Via della Spiga – that bound some of the best designer shopping in the world; everyone who’s anyone has a store here, from major brands to one-off artisans. Dress up in your finest, find a small dog to parade around, and go wild with the credit cards. When in Milan… • Map
30. La Rinascente • Duomo & San Babila
In the Piazza del Duomo, one of the best and biggest department stores in the world selling everything from haute couture to sneakers, kitchenware, and beach towels. The top floor is a fine food deli selling the best Italian produce with a select food court (think lobster, steak, smoothies, and a mozzarella bar) and terrace. Look out for the money-off coupons on free tourist maps. • Map
31. Libreria Internazionale Hoepli • Duomo & San Babila
Established in 1870, this bookstore – one of the largest in Europe – has grown ever bigger and better since WWII bombs destroyed its former store and its warehouse. It carries a great selection of novels in English and other languages. Also, an excellent travel and map section. • Map
32. Matia’s Fashion Outlet / DMAG • Various locations
If you’re dismayed by the prices in the Quad, it might be worth seeking out one of the many outlet stores in town, but be prepared to rummage to find a real steal. Matia’s and DMAG each have several convenient central locations.
33. Wait and See • Duomo & San Babila
A hip lifestyle concept store selling womenswear and accessories. In their own words, “more than a store, it’s a lifestyle concept” that has a ‘La Vita è Bella’ philosophy. Closed Sunday. • Map
34. One Block Down • Duomo & San Babila
Mainstream and cult streetwear brands with innovative displays a block from the Duomo, featuring an epic sneaker selection. The small cafe inside sells bowls of healthy food. • Map
35. Borsalino • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Borsalino has been making hats since 1857 and became internationally famous in the 1930s when their hats were worn on the silver screen by Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca, and the name of the brand became shorthand for that style of felt fedora. Nowadays, they have a large range of styles for men and women, including the cult classic. • Map
36. Imarika • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
This Porta Venezia womenswear store, established in 1978, seeks out ethical and sustainable designers. International brands include Jill Sander, Issey Miyake, and Comme de Garcons, but there’s lots of care put into sourcing smaller artisanal designers, too. • Map
37. Pellini • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Established in 1957, this celebrated family-run jewelry brand makes fabulous statement pieces with handmade resin beads and semi-precious stones. • Map
38. Pettinaroli • Brera & Parco Sempione
Historic luxury stationers focusing on handmade paper, leather-bound notebooks, and greeting cards, with a great selection of globes and antique maps. • Map
39. Il Cirmolo • Brera & Parco Sempione
Enter this vintage and repro emporium with awe: there are curios covering every surface; you won’t know where to look first. As well as an enamel shop and bar signs, mannequins, neon signs, and all kinds of odds and ends, the shop specializes in Disney collectibles. • Map
40. Biffi • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Visit the flagship store of one of the most important names in Italian fashion history, Rosy Biffi, who has, since the 1960s, brought international fashion and designers to Italy and set trends with her concept boutiques. • Map
41. Mercato Papiniano • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Bi-weekly food and clothing market, bustling with Milanese looking for a bargain. Pops up Tuesday mornings and Saturday all day. • Map
Cocktails, Wine and Craft Beer
42. Terrazza Aperol • Duomo & San Babila
Try-hard-trendy bar owned by the eponymous and ubiquitous liquor brand of ‘spritz’ fame. Not cheap, but has a great terrace overlooking the main square; enter through the Mercato del Duomo. • Map
43. Camparino • Duomo & San Babila
Campari is a thoroughly Italian herbal liquor, whose inventor started this bar in 1867; go for an evening Negroni or Americano aperitivo and drench yourself in Italian history and tradition. • Map
44. B Cafe • Duomo & San Babila
The bare brick walls and quirky decor give this place a hipster vibe, but the staff is welcoming and cocktails are cheap. There’s often live jazz both here and at sister B Restaurant around the corner. • Map
45. STRAF Bar • Duomo & San Babila
Immensely popular hotel bar that locals love for its outdoor seating, good aperitivo buffet, and central location in the shadow of the Duomo. • Map
46. Bodega del Tasca • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Spanish tapas bar-restaurant that heaves with locals during the aperitivo. • Map
47. El Tombon de San Marc • Brera & Parco Sempione
Lavishly renovated classic bar with opulent cocktails and a simple menu of Milanese classics and salads. • Map
48. N’Ombra de Vin • Brera & Parco Sempione
Historic wine cellar that has served everyone from Mozart to Napoleon over the years; one of Milan’s favorite restaurant-bars, specializing in rare wines and cured meats. • Map
49. Bar Magenta • Zona Magenta
An art nouveau wonder and total Milanese institution, serving good meals and cheap drinks. Open 7:30 am-2 am (or later). • Map
50. Armani Bamboo Bar • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Where better to drink when shopping in Milan than at the Armani Hotel? Its Bamboo Bar is classy, cool, and spacious, with views over the Quad towards the Duomo. • Map
51. Al Coccio • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Fabulous canalside beerhouse where you can order from the many draft beer options by the liter. Fun food options too. • Map
52. Mag Cafe • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Exquisite, intelligent cocktails in an eclectic vintage-style bar with good canalside seating on the Naviglio Grande. High-quality aperitivo platters. • Map
53. Ugo • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Quirky bar just off the Naviglio Grande on the popular Via Casale. The interiors feel like an English stately home, while the delicious cocktails are circus-themed. Reserve if you need a table as this place gets packed. Closed Mondays. • Map
54. Tutti Fritti • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Craft beer and fried food in a quirky, grungy-camp bar with plenty of strange objects to gaze at and rock music on the playlist. • Map
55. The Spirit • Porta Vittoria & Porta Romana
Exquisite, arty cocktails by dapper mixologists in a deco-luxe-fantasy speakeasy-esque basement bar. • Map
56. El Brellin • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Great atmosphere inside or out at this picturesque canalside bar-restaurant, right alongside the old fork in the canal where washerwomen used to do laundry; excellent cocktails and good food, too. • Map
57. The Doping Club • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Expect hip locals dressed to impress as mixologists dressed as dandies create inventive and classy cocktails (a strict “no Mojitos, Long Island Iced Teas, or energy drinks” policy is maintained). Open evenings and for Sunday brunch with live jazz (reservations needed). • Map
58. Bottega del Vino La Coloniale • Navigli & San Lorenzo
This authentic bodega is a wine shop and deli during the day and a bar at night. Very old fashioned, but always heaving with locals for the great atmosphere. • Map
Pasticcerias and Delis
If in doubt about what to eat while in Milan, head to one of the many pasticcerias. They are the multitaskers; good for breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake, the aperitivo, just to grab a pastry on the go, or chocolates as a gift.
59. Pasticceria Sant-Ambroeus • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Half a refined and opulent (expensive) restaurant, half a patisserie and chocolatier counter, with a standing bar that has remained largely unchanged (marble counter and enormous Murano chandelier intact), since 1936. • Map
60. T’a Milano • Duomo & San Babila
A chocolate shop, bar, restaurant, and boutique; this place has it all. Try the award-winning white chocolate bar with caramel and Hawaiian sea salt. • Map
61. Pasticceria Marchesi 1824 • Various locations
Historic patisserie now owned by Prada. Visit the original 1824 store on Via Santa Maria della Porta, the sumptuous pistachio green cafe above the Prada store in the Galleria, or the third outlet in the Quad. • Map
62. Iginio Massari • Duomo & San Babila
Showcasing the work of the eponymous award-winning celebrity chef, Massari specializes in pastries and chocolates, all freshly made in-house (watch the staff constantly bring more out of the kitchen). Just off the Duomo square. • Map
63. Pasticceria Cova Montenapoleone • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Another classic Milanese patisserie, opened in 1817, now also owned by one of the big fashion houses – Louis Vuitton. Superb breakfasts and lunches. • Map
64. Princi • Various locations
Several branches around the city (and the world) of this chic Milanese bakery that does way more than just bread. The Piazza Cordusio outlet is conveniently open 7am-10pm. • Map
65. Baunilla • Duomo & San Babila
This modern, welcoming little pasticceria is smack bang in the center of the city yet somehow feels off the beaten track. It has cozy seating and does amazing chocolates. • Map
66. Pasticceria Gattullo • Navigli & San Lorenzo
A beautifully preserved 1960s patisserie that has has held on to its family values and features great dishes for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and aperitivos. • Map
67. Pavè Milano • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Hip pasticceria that is excellent any time of day for delectable pastries, such as double hazelnut short dough with chocolate ganache and raspberry pulp, afternoon tea, as well as more substantial offerings on their homemade focaccia. Vegan and gluten-free options available, as are English menus. • Map
68. Pasticceria Sissi • Porta Vittoria & Porta Romana
Whimsical sweet and savory creations in a charming cafe with a walled garden. Sissi has become a veritable pilgrimage for many Milanese wanting to enjoy their food and surroundings. • Map
Things to Do
69. Explore the Duomo
The Duomo di Milano is one of Europe’s most celebrated cathedrals, and as soon as you see it, you’ll know why. The largest church in Italy and the third-largest on the continent, its construction started in the late 1300s, and its centuries of construction have imbued it with a fascinating mix of styles, additions, and legends. You can spend most of the day exploring the structure inside and out, although you’ll have to pay a fee to get inside. It’s also worth wandering the rooftop (that requires a separate ticket), where you can admire 130-odd intricately designed spires, including the one for St. Mary to whom the cathedral is dedicated. Consider booking a guided tour for more information on the Duomo’s long and fascinating history. • Map
70. Partake in a Very Milanese Tradition: the Aperitivo
Milan is the capital of the happy hour, known here as the aperitivo. Every day of the week, between 6-9pm, you will find bar after bar offering buffets and plates of food for free with your drinks. The Italian version of tapas is far more generous than what the Spanish tend to provide, and in some areas, bars actively compete with each other, trying to outdo their next-door rivals with better, tastier options. You may find the aperitivo so bountiful you won’t need dinner at all. Obviously, you’ll find great stuff around the Piazza del Duomo, but for a less touristy (cheaper) aperitivo crawl, head to anywhere with a concentration of bars – the area around the Arco della Pace (through Parco Sempione), San Lorenzo, Porta Venezia, and Navigli are particularly vibrant, but almost every bar will give you something with your drink during happy hour(s).
71. Shop – and Spin – at the Galleria
Adjacent to the Duomo sits another of Milan’s most interesting historical and cultural buildings, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Built in the mid-1800s, its sheer size is impressive, with two full blocks covered by a towering glass roof (rebuilt after being damaged in WWII). There are shops and restaurants throughout for you to explore, and a number of strange legends associated with it; for instance, the mosaic of the bull in the center of the complex is famous for supposedly bringing good luck – when you spin your heel on the bull’s genitals. Like the Duomo, you should consider a guided tour (there are many that encompass both the Duomo and the Galleria) that can walk you through all the significant symbols and artwork within the structure. • Map
72. Get Cultured at the Opera (or find your jam elsewhere)
The opera has been a fixture of Milanese culture for hundreds of years, and the city keeps the tradition alive with many grand theaters. The Teatro alla Scala is one of the world’s most famous opera houses, and if you’re in the mood for a splurge, you will see some of the planet’s finest musicians there. But you don’t necessarily have to break the bank. The Auditorium di Milano, renovated in the late ‘90s and featuring impeccable acoustics is another, cheaper possibility. Not into opera, but still a music fan? Milan has many options for you as well, including the Blue Note jazz club in Porta Nueva, the dance clubs of Corso Como, and Le Trottoir near the Navigli District, which offers an eclectic mix of rock, funk, and pop. • Map
73. Take in a Museum
Milan is a great city for museum-goers and offers many rewards for those who have the time to explore beyond the Last Supper (a must-see) and the impressive collection housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera. Lovers of contemporary art should check out the new Fondazione Prada, which opened in 2015; it features a permanent, multi-room art installation dubbed the “haunted house” which was partially created within an old gin distillery. The presence of Leonardo da Vinci can be felt at the Science Museum (Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia), which contains hands-on exhibits along with drawings and models from the master himself. Finally, don’t miss a trip to Castle Sforza, which is a kind of living museum charting the history of what used to be Milan’s front door. Options abound, but be aware many museums are closed on Mondays and are free (and thus, often crowded) the first Sunday of the month.
74. See The Last Supper
The Last Supper is an iconic work, renowned for its mystery and artistry, but the most impressive thing about it might be that it exists at all. Created on dry plaster in an old church that has undergone multiple renovations, invasions, and bombings, it’s so delicate that viewings are carefully managed (advance tickets are a must). You’ll be amazed that something so well-known and revered is found in such a humble setting. Consider seeing it as part of a guided tour for a full picture of not just the piece itself, but also the miraculous story behind its preservation in the face of near-constant adversity. • Map
75. Breathe easier in Milan’s parks
As in many cities, parks form an integral, important part of daily life for the Milanese. Not many cities, however, can boast that one of their urban green spaces has a huge castle in it; Milan can. For the Castello Sforzesco, Parco Sempione is the one park you absolutely cannot miss. Don’t just stop at the castle (although it is packed full of wonderful museums); also picnic in the landscaped park with its huge trees, lovely lake, viewing tower (Torre Branca), and the stunning Arco della Pace (Peace Arch). And in case that’s not enough, there’s a world-class design museum (the Triennale) on the west side, too. It would be remiss to overlook some of Milan’s other parks as they give you such a real taste of the city. The Cimitero Monumentale is, well, monumental, with some of Milan’s most important and extravagant graves. Brera’s botanical garden (Orto Botanico di Brera) is tranquil and exotic. The Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli is a delightful place to get away from the madness of the Quad, and the more utilitarian Parco Giovanni Paolo II, which connects the 2 basilicas in San Lorenzo/Navigli, is full of dog walkers and people taking midday naps and offers respite from the hustle and bustle of Corso di Porta Ticinese.
76. Wander in Brera
The Brera district acts as the artistic center of the city with its arts academy (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti) and one of Italy’s most impressive collections of paintings, the Pinacoteca di Brera. Its streets offer endless wandering possibilities, amid chic independent stores, neighborhood delis, and bars and restaurants galore (it’s a great place to enjoy the aperitivo). You’ll also find a botanical garden nestled in the middle if you need to get away from it all. The area is smack bang in the Centro Storico, east of Sforza Castle and north of La Scala, so it’s easy to factor in a stroll through the neighborhood in your plans. However, you could easily spend several hours, if not days here: the Pinacoteca is simply unmissable for anyone with even the slightest interest in art. • Map
77. Enjoy the Navigli Nightlife
Milan, like Venice, was once ringed and bisected by canals. In fact, the materials to build the Duomo (and many other buildings in the city center) were brought in via those waterways. A couple of them still exist on the south end of town, and serious clean-up efforts over the years have created a delightful setting for visitors to enjoy, as well as arguably the center of local youth culture. The two canals, Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese are the main attractions, but the entire area is jammed with shops, bars, and restaurants. Via Vigevano just north of the Naviglio Grande has some of the best shopping, while Via Corsico is stuffed full of aperitivo almost every night of the week (as is the rest of the neighborhood). The people-watching is often good fun as well. • Map
78. Shop ‘til you Drop
Milan, New York, Paris, and London are the 4 fashion capitals of the world. The benefit of Milan compared with the other three is that it’s small enough to pack in a lot of shopping on the shortest of visits. Because the Centro Storico is so walkable, you can cover a lot of it in one day, taking in the haute couture of the Quadrilatero d’Oro as well as the chic boutiques in Brera and the vintage stores in San Lorenzo. There are of course huge outlet villages outside Milan, but for the real deal, you’ve gotta hit the streets. In a nutshell: the Quad or Corso Venezia for high-end designers and luxury brands; Corso di Porta Ticinese, the Brera alleys, and Navigli for independent and quirky boutiques and vintage shops; Corso Vittorio Emanuele II or Corso Buenos Aires for popular international brands like H&M or Zara; and, of course, the Galleria for wallowing in Milan’s sheer fabulousness.
Museums and Art Galleries
Many of Milan’s museums have variable opening hours throughout the week and many will have reduced rates or free entry on certain days; it’s always worth checking the website. It’s well worth buying a Milano Card, starting at just €11 for unlimited access to some of the city’s top museums and attractions, as well as public transport.
79. Duomo • Duomo & San Babila
Love it or loathe it, the ornate cathedral is undeniably the heart of the city. The late Gothic building was started in 1386 by the Viscontis as a power move to show the rest of Europe that their city had clout. Scale it (or go up in the elevator) to get incredible views over Milan – you can even see the Alps on clear days. • Map
80. Gallerie d’Italia • Duomo & San Babila
In a historic stately home, in the same piazza as La Scala, is this collection of the best 19th-century Lombardian art, with a fantastic selection of work by the ground-breaking futurist Umberto Boccioni. Closed on Mondays. • Map
81. Museo del Novecento • Duomo & San Babila
Housed in the austere Palazzo Arengario, a fascist-era administrative building, the gallery’s expansive collection of 20th-century Italian art is almost overshadowed by the views of the Duomo from within. A Guggenheim-like spiral ramp leads up to the galleries and also the excellent Giacomo restaurant on the top floor. • Map
82. The Last Supper at the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie • Zona Magenta
Preserved over the centuries through destructive wars, botched restorations, and downright carelessness, its very existence is miraculous and a must-see while in Milan (book well ahead if you want to go alone, otherwise you’ll be at the mercy of tour companies to squeeze you in). City Sightseeing’s ticket price includes access to hop on-hop off bus tours. • Map
83. Palazzo Reale • Duomo & San Babila
Italy’s complicated and fractured history is made a bit clearer by taking a tour of the ‘Royal Palace’, which helps visitors get to grips with the various rulers of this part of Italy (Spanish, French, Viscontis, Sforzas, Habsburgs, and others have all been in power at one time or another). The palace also hosts a range of temporary exhibitions. • Map
84. Pinacoteca di Brera • Brera & Parco Sempione
Brera’s gallery is arguably Milan’s most important fine art offering. Set in the 17th-century Palazzo Brera, it houses some of Italy’s most important works, including Rafael’s The Marriage of the Virgin and plenty of others by Old Masters. • Map
85. Ambrosiana • Duomo & San Babila
Grand library and art gallery hosting works by da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, and Botticelli, among others. It has a helpful website to help you plan your visit depending on how much time you have. • Map
86. Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia • Zona Magenta
A great museum, in a 16th-century monastery, showcasing Italy’s contributions to science and technology with a focus on the work of da Vinci, who spent a lot of his career in Milan. The huge transport pavilions are particularly interesting, filled with real submarines, planes, galleons, and trains. • Map
87. Castello Sforzesco & Museums inside • Brera & Parco Sempione
Dramatic fort at the top of Via Dante, leading to Parco Sempione, and built by the all-powerful Visconti (later Szforza) family in the 1360s. As well as being a monument worthy of exploration itself, the castle houses some 18 museums and civic institutions. Standouts include the Musei d’Arte Antica (ancient art museum), Museo Rondanini Pieta (dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci’s final piece of work), and the Museo dei Mobile and Pinacoteca (furniture and art museums). Closed on Mondays • Map
88. Museo Poldi Pezzoli • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
A unique 19th-century private collection that became a public museum when Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli died without an heir. Pezzoli curated his own home into a series of historically-themed rooms, with a fantastic collection of suits of armor, weapons, timepieces, and Renaissance fine art from the likes of Botticelli, Bellini, and Piero della Francesca. Closed Tuesdays. • Map
89. Fondazione Prada Milano • Porta Vittoria & Porta Romana
A multi-arts space in an old distillery complex reconceived by Rem Koolhaas with temporary world-class exhibitions, film screenings, and events. One of the few permanent installations is a ‘Haunted House’ featuring works by Robert Gober and Louise Bourgeois. Closed Tuesdays. • Map
90. Museo delle Culture • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Mudec, as Milan’s cultural museum is known, not only has a varied ethnographic collection of thousands of fascinating objects from around the world (with a good kids’ area), but it also hosts world-class temporary art and design exhibitions. All this, in a David Chipperfield-designed, light-filled renovated factory that houses Enrico Bartolini’s Michelin-starred restaurant. • Map
Food Markets & Delis
91. Il Mercato del Duomo • Duomo & San Babila
While this so-called ‘market’ is in fact a multi-level food court, it’s worth wading past the international fast-food outlets to get to the unique Italian gems. The Aperol Terrace has a superb terrace for surveying the Piazza, while Spazio Niko Romito, right at the top, sees pupils of the Michelin 3-starred chef practice their craft. • Map
92. La Rinascente • Duomo & San Babila
This enormous department store has a wonderful top floor dedicated to the foods of Italy – from DOP and artisanal products that make wonderful gifts to counters serving fresh heritage foods, there’s something for all budgets. There are also Italian fast food outlets including the famous De Santis paninis, among several others. • Map
93. Mercato Comunale • Navigli & San Lorenzo
Community market with fresh produce stalls and lots of Latino specialty grocers in the middle of Piazza Ventiquattro Maggio by the canals • Map
94. Peck • Duomo & San Babila
This is no ordinary deli, but a self-declared ‘temple of gastronomy’. The counters display all kinds of delicacies made on-site, the incredible wine cellar has over 3,000 wines and liquors, and the restaurant does an elegant lunch.• Map
95. Eataly • Porta Venezia & Porta Garibaldi
Three-storey Italian food emporium with every gourmet and regional specialty food you could ever need. Features the Michelin-starred VIVA restaurant as well as fantastic pizza and pasta cafes; worth the trip outside the center. • Map 1 • Map 2
96. Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone • Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
Prestigious deli-restaurant that has fed wealthy shoppers in the Quad since 1957. • Map
The city emanates outward in concentric circles, at the heart of which lies the famous Duomo and the Galleria. Most tourist activities and the bulk of the city’s museums and art centers, including the Palazzo Reale and the Pinacoteca di Brera are found nearby. For those willing to stray a little further, the area near Park Sempione and the Arco della Pace (Peace Arch) to the west offers amazing aperitivo (Milan’s version of happy hour) and Sforza Castle – perhaps the city’s most impressive historical treasure. Other attractions include the glistening skyscrapers and haute cuisine of Porta Nuova in the north, the parks and conservatories of Porta Venezia to the east, or the canals and nightlife of the bustling Navigli district in the south.
97. Duomo & San Babila
Art museums, world-class shopping experiences, cultural landmarks, bars, and restaurants, all topped by one massive cathedral: for those stopping in Milan for a short while, this is the one part of town that can’t be missed. Any Milanese experience should start at the Piazza del Duomo, a breathtaking square with its huge gothic-inspired cathedral, the glittering Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade, the royal palace, and a fascist-era palace flanking the Martini tower. From the Duomo, stroll through the Galleria to the Piazza della Scala to see the world’s greatest opera house up close, or head east up the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II to San Babila, a quiet enclave of piazzas and well-to-do Milanese where you can get away from the tourist hubbub.
Best Stuff: The Duomo • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II • Museo del Novecento (a modern art takeover of a fascist-era palace with Giacomo Arengario restaurant at the top) • Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (Old Masters galore) • Teatro alla Scala (if you’re too late to get a ticket to the opera, take a tour inside the theater via the adjacent museum) • La Rinascente (one of the biggest and best department stores in the world) • Mercato del Duomo (food court with Aperol Terrazza and Spazio Niko Romito) • Libreria Hoepli (one of the biggest bookstores in the world) • Park Hyatt (with Michelin two-star restaurant VUN) • Iginio Massari (good stop for coffee and sweet treats) • STRAF Bar (local favorite for the aperitivo in the shadow of the Duomo • Peck (lavish deli and wine cellar, with an excellent restaurant) • Luini (brave the queues to savor these authentic Pugliese panzerotti – empanada/pasty).
98. Brera & Parco Sempione
Immediately northwest of the city center is a tangle of narrow streets known as the Brera. The old artists’ quarter, it’s a hugely festive area, with relatively sparse traffic and a mix of locals and tourists enjoying the shops, restaurants, and bars. Its crowning glory is the Pinocotera di Brera – arguably the city’s most important art museum. Brera is wedged between the Quad (in case you need more shopping), and the wonderful Parco Sempione, whose many attractions could easily take up a day or more. The unmissable Castello Sforzesco provides a gateway to the park, whether you visit the many museums inside or not. Built by the Sforza family, who – along with their predecessors, the Viscontis – ruled Milan like royals for centuries, the castle today houses some of the city’s most important museums (fantastic for kids). The park also has the imposing Arco della Pace, leading to a glorious boulevard lined with bars and restaurants (perfect for the aperitivo), the Branco viewing tower, and the Triennial design museum, which showcases the city’s fabulous design legacy.
Best Stuff: Castello Sforzesco (and its many museums) • Parco Sempione (housing the Triennale Design Museum, Torre Branca viewing tower, and the Arco della Pace) • Pinacoteca di Brera • Bulgari Hotel • El Tombon de San Marc (eccentric but chic cocktail bar) • N’Ombra de Vin (historic wine cellar) • Rovello 18 (Milanese food with an excellent wine list) • Il Cirmolo (crazy shop) • Pettinaroli (wonderful old-fashioned stationery and map shop).
99. Zona Magenta
Just southwest of Sforza Castle, the Zona Magenta neighborhood ha three of Milan’s great treasures: the Civic Archeological Museum, the Science and Technology Museum, and the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, which houses one of the most famous art works in history – Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Meanwhile, the civic archeological museum, situated near a small section of the medieval city wall and featuring a Roman dwelling from the 1st century, offers a fabulous insight into the city’s ancient past.
Best Stuff: The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie church • Civico Museo Archeologico • Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia • Pasticceria Marchesi 1824 (original 1824 store) • Bar Magenta (magnificent art nouveau bar-restaurant) • De Santis (best paninis in the city with hundreds of choices) • La Brisa (romantic restaurant with a walled garden by the Roman ruins).
100. Quadrilatero d’Oro to Stazione Centrale
World class shopping, elegant streets, a beautiful park, LGBT-friendly bars, and the magnificent Central Station: this part of Milan encapsulates what makes this city stand shoulder-to-shoulder with London, New York, and Paris as a city of the world. Most famous is the ‘Golden Quad’, aka Quadrilatero della Moda or Montenapoleone after the Metro station at its heart. Milan’s ‘Quad’ refers to the four streets – Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Corso Venezia, and Via della Spiga – that bound Milan’s premiere shopping district, whose streets are filled with the biggest names in fashion and accessories in the world (not to mention the uber-luxe food and accommodation options to complement the experience). Just north of the Quad, the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli offers a place where you can enjoy a little peace and quiet amid open green spaces, grand water fountains, and outdoor sculptures, leading to the Porta Venezia neighborhood, which, as well as being the city’s main gay neighborhood, offers wonderful drinking and dining options for all. The splendid Central Station building is worth strolling by if you did not come into the city this way. Taking up nearly a whole block, the 1931 fascist-era building is still one of the largest stations in Europe.
Best Stuff: Shopping in the Quad • Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli • Stazione Centrale • Museo Poldi Pezzoli • Palazzo Parigi Hotel & Grand Spa • Armani Hotel (with the brand’s flagship store, Bamboo Bar, and the Michelin-starred Nobu restaurant) • Seta (Michelin-starred Italian fusion at the Mandarin Oriental hotel) • Pasticceria Cova (delectable pastries in a Milanese institution) • Borsalino (hatmaker to Humphrey Bogart) • Imarika (boutique fashion with a conscience) • Joia (Michelin-starred vegetarian dining).
101. Navigli & San Lorenzo
A 10-minute stroll southwest from the Duomo brings you to San Lorenzo and the ancient Porta Ticinese gateway, which leads south to Milan’s bustling Navigli district. During aperitivo hour, San Lorenzo’s striking Basilica and Roman columns are a common meeting place for locals before strolling down Corso di Porta Ticinese – lined with street art, independent boutiques, and gelaterias – towards the navigli, the picturesque canals that run through the area and out to the countryside. No visit to Milan is complete without spending a bit of time in Navigli. Not only can you spend hours wandering the towpaths and finding cute boutiques and flower-filled courtyards filled with artist studios, but at night, it becomes the beating heart of Milan’s nightlife as the restaurants and bars fill up and spill out onto the streets. Start at the Porta Ticinese arch on the Piazza Ventiquattro Maggio and wander around the Darsena (dock). Of the two canals leading off it, the Naviglio Grande towards the Porta Genova Metro station is the epicenter, although Naviglio Pavese, the smaller canal to the south, gets its fair share of foot traffic as well. For those who want to explore the area more, head to the uber-trendy Zona Tortona, where you’ll find one of Milan’s best museums, the Museo delle Culture (Mudec), which draws big name exhibitions and has a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Best Stuff: Strolling around the darsena and navigli • Canal boat tour • Basilicas (San Lorenzo and Sant’Eustorgio) • Naviglio Grande nightlife (best cocktails at Mag Cafe, Ugo, and The Doping Club) • Mudec & restaurant • Mag Cafe (the best cocktails) • Pasticceria Gattullo (perfectly preserved 1960s patisserie, good any time of day) • Al Coccio (multiple craft brews on tap, plus burgers) • LatteNeve (wonderful gelato with lots of lactose-free options) • Mieru Mieru (stylish family seafood restaurant) • Tokuyoshi (Italo-Japanese fusion) • Al Coniglio Bianco (classic Milanese that locals love) • Biffi (legendary fashionista’s avant-garde boutique).
102. Porta Nuova & Porta Garibaldi
Serious foodies should head to the Porta Garibaldi area, just east of the Cimitero Monumentale (which itself is fabulous for a stroll). There you will find Eataly Smeraldo, a massive emporium devoted to Italian cuisine, with cheese, meat, and fish counters and dozens of food options to eat on the go, as well as a great pizzeria and a Michelin-starred restaurant, VIVA. For those wanting to continue a foodie tour, head southwest to Chinatown. For nightlife, try pedestrianized Corso Como, which leads up to a cluster of modern skyscrapers, or the area around Porta Nuova. For those who like to have their finger on a city’s pulse, head to the Isola neighborhood, north of Porta Garibaldi station, where you’ll find the Italian outpost of New York’s famous Blue Note jazz cafe and all the trendiest bar and restaurant openings.
Best Stuff: Eataly Smeraldo (with fresh food counters, a pizzeria, and VIVA, a Michelin-starred restaurant) • Cimitero Monumentale (some of the most extravagant gravestones you’ll ever see) • Chinatown (Via Paolo Sarpi and around – find Ravioleria Sarpi for ‘Chinese ravioli’, aka dumplings) • Blue Note (outpost of the legendary NY restaurant-jazz club) • Pescaria (excellent seafood on the go) • Ristorante Berton (Michelin-starred fine dining at the top of a modern glass tower) • Ceresio 7 (swanky rooftop pool with a restaurant and slick ‘American’ bar with an Italian twist) • Zaini (classic chocolatier) • Bomba Niko Romito (the Michelin 3-Star chef’s take on the humble doughnut – with savory and sweet options).
103. Porta Vittoria & Porta Romana
East and southeast of the city center are these well-to-do neighborhoods full of graceful residential streets, squares, and avenues filled with great cafes, bars, and nightlife that are a bit off the beaten track, tourist-wise. Art/architecture/design lovers must stop by Rem Koolhaas-designed Prada Foundation, whose opening brought life to a previously unloved corner of Milan. Another must-see is the ossuary-chapel in the San Bernardino church, filled with the bones of those who died at a nearby hospital that was shut down.
Best Stuff: San Bernardino alle Ossa • Fondazione Prada • Rotonda della Besana & children’s museum (stunning cloistered cemetery-park with fun kids’ museum MUBA in the middle) • Hotel Château Monforte (dreamy restaurant) • Pavé Gelati & Granite (inventive gelato, with just a few batches made up every day by the same team as the wonderful modern pasticceria Pavé Milano) • Pasticceria Sissi (pretty pastel-colored patisserie cafe with gorgeous garden) • Risorante da Giacomo (fine Tuscan food by famed restaurateur) • The Spirit (exquisite cocktails in a deco-luxe-fantasy basement bar) • Altalen (avant-garde milliners).
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