As one of the world’s fashion capitals which moreover boasts some of the world’s finest art and architecture, Milan has been on the world’s greatest cities’ list for decades. Here are some suggestions on how to spend some time in style in the capital of style.
History and overview:
Milan has been inhabited since about 400BC by the Celtics before being conquered by the Romans who incorporated the city into the Western Roman Empire and built a great amount of fortifications and Roman military sites in Milan.
The city has been part of various kingdoms that were later integrated into the new unified state of Italy. As capital of the prosperous Lombardy region, Milan has always played a strategic political and economic role for the whole of Italy.
Milan has moreover been an stronghold for Northern Italy’s wealthy merchants for centuries and its fashion industry has risen to global dominance throughout the 20th century.
Milan is nowadays Italy’s economic powerhouse and one of the richest cities in the country. This dominance results from the steady growth of the many sectors that contribute to its economic success, notably the fashion industry, the finance sector and tourism. Milan’s 21st century prosperity is visible in the modern parts of the city where huge skyscraper developments are taking shape one after the other.
We recommend 3 areas to stay in Milan. The most convenient is obviously right in the centre around the Duomo, where you are close to all the main sights but where hotel prices skyrocket. Another area which is well connected is the area of the Central Train station: Milano Centrale. Finally, the lovely canal area of Naviglio is another great option, especially for travellers who want to be close to the action at night. Here are some suggestions.
Una Hotel Mediterraneo: A nice mid range hotel with all the usual amenities that is reasonably priced for Milan standards and close to the Metro.
UNA Maison Milano: One of the many great boutique hotels in the city centre which delight travellers with their beautiful stylish rooms and their impeccable service.
The Yard Milan: A charming and stylish boutique hotel strategically located in the lively Naviglio district with a great breakfast assortment and spacious design rooms.
Cultural offer and activities:
Duomo: One of the most famous cathedrals in the world and an absolute must when visiting Milan. The observation deck up top furthermore offers stunning views over the city.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. : Probably the most beautiful gallery in the world which houses some of Milan’s best known designer stores. Fashion aside, the most impressive elements regarding Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are certainly the exterior and interior architecture as well as the fabulous mosaics lining the floor.
Castello Sforzesco: (Piazza Castello) Right in the centre of Milan you will find a 15th century castle that has been renovated and rebuilt on numerous occasions and thereby risen to old glory again with its beautiful ancient fortifications and its green park.
Teatro alla Scala: (Via Filodrammatici, 2) One of the world’s most famous opera houses and a jaw dropping example of discrete yet charming neoclassical architecture. The beauty of this building goes far beyond its recognizable façade. The opulent interior and of course the world renowned shows should definitely feature on your cultural expidition to Milan.
Shopping: Corso Venezia & Corso Buenos Aires: Shopping is usually not an activity included in our city guides but there is no way you can leave Milan without having brushed up on some desinger wear. You will find all the well known designers around Corso Venezia while Corso Buenos Aires, the longest shopping street in Europe, is home to more affordable brands.
Pinacoteca di Brera: (Via Brera 28) One of the oldest art museums in the world located in the baroque Palazzo di Brera and housing some of Italy’s finest works of art.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s last supper: (Santa Maria delle Grazie 2) This painting definitely needs no introduction, one of the most renowned paintings in the world (yes, it was featured in the Da Vinci Code and this movie’s historical accuracy is highly debatable) by one of the most famous painters ever to have lived can be admired in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie and should under no circumstances be missed when visiting Milan.
Museo del Novecento: (Via Guglielmo Marconi, 1) If you are tired of ancient and historical art, you should switch to more modern art and the Novecento Museum is the ideal place to have a look at some of Milan’s best contemporary art from the 20th century. The museum exhibits works of Matisse, Modigliani and many other famous painters from the last century.
San Siro Stadium: (Piazzale Angelo Moratti) If you are a fan of football (not soccer, calcio in Italian), a visit to Milan’s 80k seater stadium should definitely feature on your trip. Milan has two successful teams, Inter & AC and both play in the famous San Siro Stadium. The stadium and the museum can be visited, tickets are available at Gate 8.
Wine & Dine:
Italian food needs no introduction and Milan is one of the cities with the best high-end restaurants in the whole country. In addition to that, Milan also has innumerable charming smaller institutions which are more down to earth and serve traditional Italian food in a cozy setting, here are our suggestions:
Essenza (Via Marghera 34): Well known Dutch-Italian chef Eugenio Boer opened this food temple in 2015 and has delighted locals and travellers alike with his varied menu of local and international dishes.
Via Solferino: Milan’s up and coming gourmet street in the hip Brera district. In this area you will find many smaller restaurants serving local and international specialities, our top tip in this street is Dry, a not so usual restaurant which specializes in out of the box-type pizzas
Pane e acqua: (Via Bandello 14) Our top spot for a romantic dinner in Milan. The restaurant is vintage-Italian themed and offers a wide range of Mediterranean dishes in a laidback yet stylish atmosphere.
Naviglio area: One of the coolest areas to go out in Milan, a great amount of bars and clubs are located in this old canal district, which is the favourite spot for Milan’s hip millennials and young professionals.
Nottingham Forest: (Viale Piave 1) One of the coolest bars in Milan, a bit further away from the chic fashion setting of the city centre.
Tripota Pub: (via Brioschi 32) A great little bar in the Naviglio area that oozes coolness and delights its patrons with an alternative atmosphere.
Spritz Navigli: (Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 9) a cozy, laidback bar with a nice terrace in the Naviglio district
Martini Bistrot Dolce & Gabbana: (Corso Venezia 15): Fashion is omnipresent in Milan and it isn’t a big surprise that the large designers also opened bars. Most of them are a bit pretentious but the Dolce & Gabbana Bistrot is a truly great bar which it would also be without the name.
Bar Cuore: (Via G Mora 3) This small bar close to the Porta Ticinese is mostly known for the fact that it regularly changes its decor and that it attracts international Djs. A great, ever changing venue which scores points most of all with its variety.
A local opinion: The nightlife is Milan is two faced. You obviously have the whole fashion thing but there are also lots of cool bars for ordinary people, especially in the Naviglio district, it is still always a good idea to dress up, you are in Milan after all.. (Tiziano, 30, Milan native and investment banker)
Final tips & verdict:
Milan is expensive and touristy and the locals do not tend to mix with tourists in most places. The city is however a joy to behold when you find some of the hidden jewels in the Naviglio district, far away from the busy city centre. If you love fashion and style, you will obviously love Milan but there is a lot more to this city than well known international clothing brands.
English levels are generally low in Italy and whilst Milan is no exception, its high numbers of visitors and expats increase the general level of English proficiency. A few phrases of basic Italian will nonetheless be useful, even on a short trip.
The metro is the easiest way to get around and covers the whole city. Milan also has a charming old tram system which oozes European flair but is quite slow as a mode of transport. Note that Milan has various large train stations, the biggest one being Milano Centrale, which have excellent connections towards the rest of Italy, Switzerland and France.