The world of beautiful things - that’s Milan. The vibrant city in the north of Italy stands for fashion, advertising, design and new technologies, and for great architecture. Milan, home to one of the best opera houses, and the third largest church of Christendom, is also where the heart of fashion beats. Art treasures of the past (Pinacoteca Brera, Pinacotheca Ambrosiana) meets the very latest in design, antique buildings meets most modern architecture. Trends are set in Italy’s most cosmopolitan city: the metropolis is buzzing with actionism, and nowhere else in the world are people so well dressed.
Most important areas at a glance:
Mailand © Seven Stars Galleria
Duomo: Historic Heart, Business & Tourism
The everyday life of Milan surges around its magnificent cathedral. Smartly dressed brokers and employees hurry across the large square each week. This is also where the seats of big companies are located, as well as numerous restaurants and shops. Center of the city and first port of call for tourists. Most attractions are within walking distance.
Cathedral & Churches: Those who climb the gothic cathedral are rewarded with a wonderful panorama. The roof of the more than 600-year-old cathedral offers sweeping views of the city with its red-tiled roofs, church spires, narrow streets and the world-famous shopping arcade, "Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II." The interior of the Santa Maria Nascente is especially worth seeing because of its huge glass windows. The beautiful basilica, San Satiro and the Palazzo Reale, the main exhibition building in the city, are nearby.
Museum & Galleries: The "Pinacoteca Ambrosiana" (art gallery) is a popular destination for tourists, Milanese and connoisseurs alike, and is a 10-minute walk from the cathedral and the cathedral square. Art lovers can view one of the most important collections of Italian paintings here. Afterwards, if you still haven’t seen enough, browse through the studios and galleries filled with works by young talent around the Via San Maurilio.
Urban shopping: shopping in Milan’s finest department store: in the Rinascente, directly opposite the cathedral, you’ll find every luxury label and, across seven floors, everything from exclusive clothing to perfume to designer household goods. Other well-known shopping streets in the sprawling area of the cathedral are Corso Vittorio Emanuele, where high-end boutiques and big fashion chains (Benetton, Zara, Bershka) are lined up side by side, Corso Buenos Aires with countless shops for every budget and Via Torino, which overwhelmingly stocks affordable young fashion.
Gourmet scene: The Via Spadari and the side streets offer all manner of Italian culinary delights. At Peck (Via Spadari), Milan’s premier destination for delicacies, on several floors you can find everything for the discerning palate, from pasta to sausages to sweets. A large selection of cheeses can be enjoyed at the Baita del Formaggio (Via Vincenzo Foppa), whereas the traditional house of Cotti (Via Solferino) impresses with hundreds of wines.
Quadrilatero: Luxury shopping, Celebrities & Opera
Pure glamor! Every label that has a reputation in the world of luxury fashion has at least one shop here. Magnificent palazzi, quality restaurants, the Scala and one of the most beautiful museums in Milan (Museo Poldi-Pezzoli). Nowhere else do so many elegantly dressed people rush through the streets.
Luxury shopping: Quadrilatero D’Oro is the name of the "Golden Rectangle" bordered by Via Monte Napoleone, Via Spiga, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia. With good reason: on the small area north of the cathedral, world-class designers offer their sinfully expensive collections right next door to each other: Armani, Prada, Gucci, Versace, Hermès. They are all exceptional, but none of them are as extravagant as the Dutch designer duo’s fashion brand, Viktor & Rolf (Via San Andrea): The interior of the shop is upside down: light fixtures protrude from the floor, whereas the ceiling surprises with its parquet flooring.
Art & Music: A must-see is the Museum Poldi-Pezzoli (Via Manzoni) which boasts, for example, large works by Botticelli and Mantegna; it’s a private museum with a homely living room atmosphere. If you’re lucky and get one of the coveted tickets, cross the street and take a seat at the world-famous Teatro alla Scala to listen to a Verdi opera. Those who could not get hold of a ticket can at least take a look at the Museo Teatra alla Scala’s splendid hall with its golden balconies.
Covered shopping: In "Milan’s best room" the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, between Scala and Duomo, tourists and Milanese come to shop, see, and be seen. The imposing Art Nouveau passageway (built between 1867 and 1877) with its mosaic floors and tall glass domes is lined with fine boutiques, coffee shops, Prada and Louis Vuitton, the world-famous hat shop, "Borsalino, " bookshops and even souvenir shops.
Traditional food & stylish drinks: This district is home to well-established traditional restaurants and stylish designer bars. For example, "Zucca", an art deco café in the Galleria, whose founder invented Campari in 1867, or "Cova" (Via Montenapoleone), which has been serving top-quality baked goods for almost 200 years. "Il Martini" (Corso Venezia) is more than just a bar: in the red and black restaurant in the courtyard of "Dolce & Gabbana, " models like to sip their aperitifs.
Brera: Art scene, Culture & Lifestyle
A touch of bohemia blows through the cobblestone streets. The small cafés are crowded with students of the Academy of Arts, artists and editors of the "Corriere de la sera, " whose headquarters are in the neighborhood. Galleries, unique shops, and the famous "Pinacoteca di Brera" (Museum of Ancient and Modern Art) make Brera one of the most attractive parts of Milan.
Ancient & Modern Art: The Milanese take pride in the "Pinacoteca di Brera" (Museum of Ancient and Modern Art, Via Brera), and it’s no wonder, since the collection of fine Italian art from the 14th century to the present day remains unrivaled in Italy. Housed in the Academy of Fine Arts, what is created here soon becomes a trend in the district’s many art galleries. Even more paintings: the "Sforza Castle, " a few hundred meters further along Park Sempione, houses world-famous art, including Michelangelo’s last works.
Hip nightlife: Brera is known for its many bohemian cafés, trendy bars and restaurants, mainly located in Via Pontaccio, Via Madonna, Via Mercato and Via Solferino. Corso Como is a great location for night owls, with a wide range of stylish bars, restaurants and glamorous clubs. With a bit of luck you might spot Inter Milan or AC Milan soccer stars, models or other celebrities at “Hollywood".
In an English country garden: Directly behind the Castello, is the sprawling Parco Sempione, a city park in the style of an English landscape garden. Milanese families come here on Sundays. In the middle of it, Torre Branca Tower, which is over 100 meters high and was built for the Triennale in 1933, offers great views.
Navigli: Romantic canals, In-Quarter & Party
The historic canals are perfect for everyone who wants to have fun. Artist studios, original shops and restaurants line the idyllic waterfront. This area boasts a lively nightlife, thanks to the clubs and jazz venues here. The "tutta Milano" meet here to stroll, people watch, celebrate and shop.
Eating cheap & celebrating young: Throughout the day, a colorful audience of all generations dawdle through the streets, sitting in one of the (sometimes quite inexpensive) restaurants or enjoying a glass of wine in the early evening, along the canals decorated with flowers on the promenade. In the late evening, young people party in this trendy district.
Flea markets & antiques: The hustle and bustle of life can be felt here in the south of the city. On the last Sunday of each month, the streets along the canals are transformed into a huge market, where jumble, arts and crafts, and antiques can be snatched up.
Canal Cruises: Romantic cruises on the canal: From 19 April to 30 September, boat cruises are offered through the "Navagli" - the waterways that give the district its name. The tour begins at the Naviglio Grande, passing the most historic houses of Milan in the former Darsena harbor.
Hip Shopping: Hip as can be! Just a stone’s throw away from the canals, around the Via Tortona, Milan’s young creatives have been settling in this district for some years now. Where factory chimneys once smoked, today recruiters, artists and models sit in cool trendy bars and alternative cafés. More and more brand boutiques and designer shops are opening their doors here.
Magenta & Sant’Ambrogio: Bourgeois, Students & Art
Milan’s most beautiful residential area with plenty of green spaces along the charming palazzi. Funky student life around the Catholic University with pubs, bars, pizzerias. Art lovers are drawn to the cultural highlight of Sant’Ambrogio: the "Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci.
Churches & Art: A must-see is the Basilica of St. Ambrogio - a masterpiece of Romanesque-Lombard architecture. It is one of the most important and oldest churches in Milan; its origins date back to 379. A few hundred meters away is the magnificent church of Santa Maria delle Grazie with dome paneling and the sacristy of Bramante. Highlight: Leonardo’s masterpiece, "Last Supper" hangs right next door, in the dining room of the Dominican monastery. It can be viewed by appointment only.
Urban shopping: Continuing on the Corso Magenta towards the west, you will reach Corso Vercelli - one of the most important shopping areas of Milan, with its countless posh shops, bars and delicatessens. Via Marghera, a side street, is known for its excellent ice cream parlors.
Young Shopping: Outlandish clothes, jewelry and designer goods in the streets and alleys around the Porta Ticinese are available at moderate prices.
Milan - good to know:
Ring structure: With a population of 1.3 million inhabitants, Milan is the second largest city in Italy, with around five million people living in the surrounding area. The city center is comprised of the old town and the districts, Duomo and Brera. This is the reason why there is an inner ring in which mainly apartments can be found; industrial and residential areas are located in the outer ring. Although Milan is divided into 20 districts, the most interesting and worth seeing are grouped in and around the center.
Central: Milan’s highlights are within reach: Whether you’re going to Navigli in the south or Corso Como in the north - from the cathedral, most destinations can be reached in about 30 minutes.
Neighborhood culture & gourmet scene: Milan has many faces: Whether it’s small-town flair along the Navagli, galleries, art and glamorous nightlife in the romantic Brera district or “alta moda” in the Golden Square - depending on the district, you can fill your time with high culture, or look for exclusive fashion and enjoy the culinary flair of Italy instead. The table is laid, with a rich assortment of luxurious gourmet taverns, chic cafés and delicatessens. Typical restaurant miles are the trendy Corso Como in the north or – more affordable –the route along the canal in the south.
Fashion metropolis: Milan shines as a top fashion metropolis of the world. This is not only because of the prêt-à-porter shows in March and September, when people from all over the world fly in to Milan. Here, the boutiques are even more exclusive than in other trendy cities, because the Milanese are known for their elegant style. The shopping offers range from sinfully expensive stores to traditional weekly markets. From Armani to Gucci to Prada - all the famous designers are located in the fashion district around Via Montenapoleone. The Brera district is not quite as exclusive, but far more original. And on the central shopping streets around the cathedral, hundreds of fashion chains, department stores and small shops offer fashion catering to all budgets.