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We’ve found the 5 best neighbourhoods to answer the question of where to stay in Milan.
City centre in Milan

Where to stay in Milan

Whether historic architecture sets your heart aflutter or modern skyscrapers send your excitement levels soaring, Milan has a place to stay that’s perfect for you

By Lavinia Pisani
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Let’s get one thing out the way: Milan means fashion. Right? Well, yes. And no. If you’re looking for a blowout shopping spree then the designer boutiques dotted around the city’s cobblestone streets will be more than happy to welcome you - and your credit card. But in truth Milan is about more than the latest Fendi collection.

Art and food lovers are just as likely to feel at home here, with gallery and restaurant openings jostling for space in the Milanese diary. The canny visitor will also quickly discover the unique characteristics of the city’s different areas. If you’re after an artistic vibe head to Brera or overload your Insta account with images of beautiful buildings in Porta Nuova. For a distinctly local feel, check out Porta Romana and don’t miss the world-famous attractions of Duomo. And cap it all off with cocktails at the city’s best bars in Navigli. With so much on, you might just find shopping slips to the bottom of your to do list...

RECOMMENDED: Your essential Milan travel guide

Where to stay in Milan

Photograph: Steffen Schmitz/Wikimedia Commons

Duomo

Duomo is the heart of Milan. Named after the stunning cathedral and the piazza that shares its name, many visitors make this their first stop for a taste of this internationally famous city. The gothic cathedral is one of the five largest in the world and is characterised by its unique spire and gleaming gold statue of the Virgin Mary. Known as ‘la Madunina’ in the Milanese dialect, the iconic artwork is said to represent local pride.

A more modern version of splendour is found close-by in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Europe’s oldest shopping mall. Even if the designer wares on sale from Italy’s top designers are outside your budget, a little window shopping at Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana is a must. For more eye candy, take a relaxing walk around Via Montenapoleone, Via Spiga and Via Sant'Andrea, not forgetting to poke your head into the interior porch of Palazzo Morando. 

EAT:

Despite the proliferation of tourist traps on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the neighbourhood still holds a few gems. Treat yourself to lunch-to-go with the unbeatable deep-fried pizza rolls at Luini. Or for an informal lunch, order a plate of freshly cut charcuterie at Salsamenteria Parma (San Babila). Otherwise, head to the 7th floor of the world’s best department store, Rinascente, for a variety of gourmet bites and food shopping.

DRINK:

Stepping out of Rinascente, you will be right in front of STRAF bar. Treat yourself with a calice di vino and sip it on the street (if you’re there around 6pm, you might be lucky enough to get free bar snacks as well). 

DO:

Even if you can’t get hold of a ticket to a performance, the chance to marvel at the Scala Opera Theatre shouldn’t be missed.

STAY:

Where hotels are concerned, Mandarin Oriental barely requires an introduction, especially if the location in question is the heart of the Golden Quad. Featuring eclectic decor and individually styled rooms, SINA The Gray is another option well worth considering. Alternately, the quaint Ostello Bello, one of the best hostels in Italy, is close by. 

If you do just one thing…

Stop by at Excelsior Milano for an immersive and cutting-edge shopping experience.

Photograph: Pava/Wikimedia Commons

Brera

Adjacent to Milan’s fashion centre, Brera is known as the city’s artsy area, perfect for roaming around without a specific purpose or destination. The picturesque neighbourhood is one-of-a-kind and is famous for having been home to some of the most influential Italian painters, writers and intellectuals. The former bohemian district is characterised by pedestrian-only streets, elegant buildings, antique stores and art galleries. The area’s landmark is the San Marco Church, which was erected in 1254 and once hosted a young Mozart for three months in early 1770.

Once you’ve seen, touched, smelled and tasted the finest luxuries of Milan, stretch your legs towards the medieval Castello Sforzesco and check out the surrounding Parco Sempione, which ultimately leads to Napoleon’s Arch of Peace. 

EAT:

For a true Milanese dinner, reserve a spot at Nabucco. Outdoor seating is available for moonlit dining, when you can savor elaborate specialties like the ricotta-filled pumpkin flowers. Fishbar de Milan is a cosy and low-key lunch option, with a menu boasting fresh seafood dishes including salmon tartare, Sicilian purple prawns, capesante and ceviche. 

DRINK:

Jamaica is easily the neighbourhood’s most famous bar. Open since 1911, the venue has hosted some of the most influential Italian personalities, including Lucio Fontana, Benito Mussolini and Giuseppe Ungaretti. Another not-to-miss venue is N’Ombra de Vin, with its historical cellar mentioned by A. Manzoni in ‘The Betrothed.’ For people-watching, go to trendy Cinc. 

DO:

Shop! Pen and paper lovers will feel like they’re in heaven at Rigadritto, the stationary shop of dreams. Cavalli e Nastri is where the fashionistas spend time going through the shop’s excellent vintage selection of 50s flared skirts, disco-era dresses, Hermes scarves and Chanel suits. 

STAY:

Probably one of the most affordable options in the area is The Style Hotel, which offers deluxe or superior rooms, as well as lavish suites. All provide comfort and feature attractive furnishings and marble baths. Palazzo Parigi is another fairy tale accommodation option with its trendy lounge bar and delightful 18th-century garden.

If you do just one thing…

Check out Palazzo Brera with its Pinacoteca and hidden Botanical Garden.

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Photograph: Stefano Stabile/Wikimedia Commons

Navigli

Italy’s most famous city on water is, of course, Venice, so it often comes as a surprise to visitors to discover that Milan has a few canals of its own: Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese. Locals flock here to see the sun sink down over the smooth water while sipping expertly-crafted drinks. Navigli is home to a wealth of bars, antique stores and vintage boutiques. Start your personal tour of the neighbourhood by walking from Colonne di San Lorenzo, down Corso Ticinese, to Piazza Ventiquattro Maggio.

EAT:

Many Milan restaurants embrace the farm-to-table philosophy and Erba Brusca is no exception. If you’re looking for something traditional, Osteria Del Binari is another quintessential Milanese choice.

DRINK:

It is almost impossible to go wrong with pretty much any of the bars alongside the Naviglio Grande, but if you’re looking for a particularly good spot, try Bond, Rita or Mag Cafè.

DO:

Consider booking a Happy Boat ride (with aperitivo included) on a Friday or Saturday at 7:30 pm. Head to Alzaia Naviglio Grande 4 and be ready for a 75-minute tour. 

STAY:

Former perfume factory Magna Pars Suites has been transformed into an all-suite hotel featuring a landscaped garden, fine-dining restaurant, wine cellar, trendy bar, gym and spa.

If you do just one thing…

Take an after-dinner stroll along Naviglio Grande, to enjoy the reflection of street lamps and historical wash-houses (such as El Brellin) on the water below.

Porta Nuova/Isola

Full of newly built skyscrapers and modern plazas, Porta Nuova is the contemporary face of Milan. While you’re there, take time to appreciate the dramatic contrast between 19th-century remains and futuristic-looking buildings; a vivid example is the mirrored Unicredit Tower on Corso Garibaldi which forms the background of the neoclassical arch in Piazza XXV Aprile.

Carry on down Corso Como to acquaint yourself with the pulsating Gae Aulenti; a square filled with attractive shops, buzzy restaurants and modern cafes. You may already have heard of Bosco Verticale, the sustainable residential building that received worldwide attention after winning plaudits for its architectural innovation. Located right next to Google headquarters, the Vertical Forest opens the door to another alternative neighbourhood worth exploring. Formerly known as the Workers’ District, Isola is today’s hipster-land, where buildings’ façades have turned into artists’ playgrounds and former warehouses into restaurants.

EAT:

La Briciola is the Milanese institution for meat that melts in your mouth. If you want something more exciting, get on trend with ceviche and tostadas at Besame Mucho. Otherwise, keep it balanced and taste a proper risotto al dente at the rustic Guyot.

DRINK:

Raise glasses with the elite at Radio Rooftop Bar or rub shoulders with the locals at the first Italian micro-distillery, The Botanical Club. 

DO:

No trip is complete without shopping for souvenirs. And we don’t mean the Duomo miniature, especially when there are places like Cargo & High-Tech that have all the coolest and quirkiest local goods. Great gifts for foodies can be found at Eataly, just across the street. 

STAY:

Style savvy globetrotters will be easily captivated by the charm of VIU Milan. Its glass façade, spectacularly framed with living greenery, stands out in bustling Porta Nuova. Another solid and friendly alternative is B&B Porta Garibaldi.

If you do just one thing…

Go to 10 Corso Como for a cup of tea, light lunch or shopping extravaganza at its adjacent boutique. Don’t forget to walk up to Galleria Carla Sozzani and check out the latest art exhibition.

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Photograph: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Porta Romana

All too often this Roman-inspired neighbourhood doesn’t make it into the guidebooks. Located in Piazzale Medaglie d’Oro, at the bottom of Corso Porta Romana, this is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods for local hangouts during the day. Full of restaurants, bars and cafes, Porta Romana acts as the link between the historical city centre and upcoming areas, home to Fondazione Prada and Wes Anderson’s Bar Luce.

Begin getting to know the district by biting into one of the mouth-watering signature sandwiches at Crocetta Panini d’Autore, then admire what’s left of the 16th-century Spanish walls in the main piazzale and keep walking through the bar-filled Via Muratori to eventually discover one of Milan’s best kept secrets: Cascina Cuccagna.

EAT:

If you are up for trying something different and unique, Trippa is a cozy Italian trattoria serving lesser-known specialities such as tripe. It may seem difficult to take a break from Italian food while in Italy, but the great Japanese restaurant IZU provides a good reason to at least consider doing so. 

DRINK: 

Eclectically-decorated Lacerba offers a homely atmosphere for pre-dinner drinks, or after-dinner glass clinking. The mixology experts here know how to properly stir and twist classic recipes. However, if wine is more of your thing, Il Cavallante enoteca welcomes new clients with as much friendliness as they do regulars.

DO:

Sit in the outdoor patio of Panificio Davide Longoni, savoring focaccia bread with a cappuccino, then head to Fontana Milano 1915 where a third generation Milanese leather goods family business keeps “Made in Italy” standards high.

STAY:

Your best option is to stay local, renting an apartment in a typical casa a ringhiera. If that’s a bit too audacious for your tastes, try the more business-style UNA Hotel Milano or Hotel Five

If you do just one thing…

Pamper yourself with a one-of-a-kind sauna experience inside an iconic Milanese street car at QC Terme Milano.

Looking for more Milan travel tips?

We've rounded up the top travel tips for your next visit to Milan
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Paulo

20 travel tips every first-time Milan visitor needs to know

Things to do

We’ve gathered some travel tips to help first-time Milan visitors find the often-surprising wonders hidden underneath, from beautiful buildings and vantage points to delicious drinks at some of the city’s best bars, not to mention some true fashion bargains.

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