How to have a stylish weekend in Milan

Advice

Lying at the foot of the Alps, Milan is Italy’s financial hub and economic driver, home to the country’s Stock Exchange. It is also Italy’s most cosmopolitan city, with a modern central district dominated by skyscrapers and a pretty historical quarter lined with palazzi (palaces) – each harbouring wonderful hidden courtyards.

Leader of Italy’s fashion and design industry, Milan is replete with snazzy boutiques, haute couture stores, and furniture workshops producing the latest in Italian design. It’s also a historic city – home to the magnificent Duomo and scores of wonderful art galleries, museums and churches.

Its dining and nightlife scenes rank among the country’s most vibrant. Bars line the city’s famous Navigli canals – said to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci, who called the city his home for a number of years. The workday over, Milanesi congregate in the lively Navigli for aperitivo – drinks and snacks – before heading home for their evening meal.

For more Milan inspiration, see our guides for the best hotelsrestaurantsbars and attractions.


In this guide


How to spend your weekend

Day one

Morning

Start the day at Milan’s vast Gothic-style Duomo, which stands majestically in Piazza Duomo. Catch the lift to the rooftop terraces and see elaborate spires and statues up close as you enjoy 360-degree views of the city. Once you’re back on terra firma, stroll through the sumptuous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping centre that is today an architectural marvel, with its impressive dome and gleaming marble floors.

Next, visit the Gallerie d’Italia and admire 19th- and 20th-century works, making sure you take a stroll round the leafy interior courtyard, which once belonged to writer Alessandro Manzoni. If contemporary art is more your thing, don’t miss the excellent Museo del Novecento on Piazza Duomo.

Next, stroll the artistic quarter of Brera, stopping to browse independent boutiques, art galleries and quirky stores. For lunch, tuck into Italian favourites at Casa Fiori Chiari, a sophisticated neighbourhood restaurant giving onto a pretty pedestrianised street.

Afternoon

Pop into the Orto Botanico di Brera for a post-prandial walk and to admire botanical collections. Next, visit the Pinacoteca di Brera, the city’s most prestigious art gallery housing an impressive collection of Renaissance works.

Make your way to the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

Don’t miss the nearby Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, adorned with spectacular frescoes by Bernardino Luini and the Lombard School.



 Orto Botanico di Brera, Milan


Admire the botanical collections of the Orto Botanico di Brera


Credit: Silvia Zecchin

Late

Head to Milan’s bustling Navigli, and sit back and enjoy an aperitivo al fresco at MAG Café – a lively little spot that brims with character. Or head to nearby Rita, one of the city’s best spots to enjoy a tipple and some top-notch bar snacks. Order a Gin Zen, a refreshing drink made with gin, fresh ginger, lime and soda. For dinner, try Frangente, a bustling restaurant where menus are driven by seasonal ingredients – take a seat at the counter and watch the chefs at work as you savour a cotoletta alla Milanese (breaded veal cutlet).

If Japanese fare tickles your fancy, head to Gastronomia Yamamoto for some authentic Nipponese cuisine enjoyed in a cosy setting with tatami-inspired floors and wooden tables.

For a post-prandial snifter, make your way to the lively district of Porta Venezia and settle into Bicerìn, a cosy wine bar with an excellent selection of wines sourced from small independent producers. If cocktails are more your thing, head to Moebius Milano, an industrial inspired space serving up great cocktails and finger food (it doubles as a bistro and restaurant too).



Moebius Bar, Milan


Moebius Milano doubles as a bistro and restaurant

Day two

Morning

Soak up the atmosphere of Villa Necchi Campiglio, an authentic Art Deco mansion with gorgeous interiors displaying original furnishings and details that exude all the comfort and luxury of a lavish 1930s bourgeois home.

Next, refuel at Pavè with a coffee and homemade pastries, ready to hit the high-street shops of Corso Buenos Aires and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. If you’re after luxury boutiques and haute couture stores, stroll the quiet cobbled streets of the Quadrilatero della Moda. For lunch, sit back in the leafy garden of Paper Moon Giardino and enjoy an al fresco meal of Italian and Milanese favourites.

Afternoon

Wander northwest towards the redbrick Castello Sforzesco and enjoy a walk around leafy Parco Sempione. Visit the Triennale Milano and check out the best in Italian design objects, admiring pieces by renowned designers including Gio Ponti and Achille Castiglioni. It features over 1,600 pieces, dating from 1923 to the present day.

Sit back in the museum’s garden café – if you’re visiting with children, this is a great spot for them to run around and let off some steam. If the sun is beginning to set, pop up to the top floor of the building and enjoy an aperitivo at Terrazza Triennale, which offers lovely views of the park and Milan’s financial district beyond.



 Terrazza Triennale, Milan


Triennale Milano is a must for design lovers and has a collection of over 1,600 design objects

Late

Start your evening with an aperitivo at Milan’s most iconic bar, Camparino in Galleria, and join milanesi as they unwind and loosen up their ties with a Campari Seltz. If you’re visiting in summer, enjoy an al fresco aperitivo at the exclusive Il Bar of Bulgari Hotel Milano, immersed in a wonderful leafy garden in the heart of the city. Order a Signature Bvlgari cocktail – a refreshing summer drink made with gin, Aperol, lime, pineapple and orange juice – and take your pick from small bites including tuna tartare; stracciatella cheese and spinach; ricotta and anchovies.

For dinner, head to Il Liberty, a sophisticated little restaurant where Chef Provenzani puts a creative spin on traditional Italian dishes. Alternatively, try Altatto, a superb vegetarian restaurant in northern Milan serving creatively presented dishes guaranteed to wow even the most die-hard meat eaters. End your Milanese stay in style at Ceresio 7, one of Milan’s most fashionable nightlife venues where you can sip cocktails around a stylish rooftop swimming pool.



Il Bar of Bvlgari Hotel Milano, Milan


Il Bar has become something of an institution in recent years for its superb aperitivo


Insider tips

Neighbourhood watch

Despite being just a few steps from the hustle and bustle of the Duomo, the area southwest of the cathedral, known as Cinque Vie, is a tranquil spot dotted with independent boutiques and family-run restaurants. Pop into the little Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro to marvel at the wonderful trompe l’oeil apse by architect Bramante that gives the illusion of being in a deeper space.

Attractions

Book tickets online for Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, housed in the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, as far in advance as possible. Slots get booked up exceptionally quickly, especially in summer and on weekends, so make sure you leave plenty of time. Additional slots are released every Wednesday at midday for visits the following week.

City hack

Cheap limited-view gallery tickets are available at La Scala Opera House for each performance, while reduced-price tickets can be purchased from one hour before shows begin. Discounted tickets (50 per cent off the original ticket price) are available for a wide range of productions throughout the season. Check the website for further details. 

Did you know?

It’s hard to believe it today, but Milan was a port until the second half of the 20th century. Its major arteries were once waterways and important trade routes connecting the city with nearby Lake Maggiore and the River Po. Most of the canals were built over in the mid 20th century; today, only the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese remain.


When to go

While Milan is considered a year-round destination, it is advisable to avoid visiting in July and August as the days are sweltering. In August, most of the city empties as locals head to the coast or the mountains to cool off from the heat. The days around Ferragosto, a national holiday on 15th August, are exceptionally quiet, with the city morphing into a ghost town (most shops and restaurants close).

Hotel rates in Milan are generally expensive, with prices soaring during Milan’s April Furniture Fair (Salone del Mobile) and Women’s Fashion Week in February and September.


Where to stay

Luxury Living

The elegant Four Seasons Hotel Milano, housed in a former 15th-century convent, offers tastefully furnished rooms set around a tranquil courtyard in the heart of Milan’s Fashion District. An elegant and peaceful oasis of serenity, the hotel is a welcome refuge from the hustle and bustle of central Milan. The inviting spa is one of the city’s best, with an attractive swimming pool located in the convent’s former cellars.

Doubles from €1100 (£942). Via Gesù 6-8; 00 39 02 77088

From

£
942

pn

Rates provided by
Booking.com



Four Seasons Hotel Milano, Milan


Most rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel Milano look out on to the peaceful courtyard

Boutique Beauty

Splashes of Art Deco chic characterise the four rooms of the stylish Locanda Pandenus, located above a bustling café and bistro: think thick velvet curtains, couture-inspired fabrics, and globe-shaped bulbs. This is a locanda (inn), although there’s nothing simple about the design: it’s sophisticated and fashionably elegant, echoing the creative chic vibe of Milan’s Brera district, where it is located.

Doubles from €220 (£188). Via Mercato 24; 00 39 348 2547 803

From

£
188

pn

Rates provided by
Booking.com



Locanda Pandenus, Milan


The four rooms at Locanda Pandenus are tastefully furnished with bespoke designer fittings

Budget Bolthole

With only six rooms and two apartments nearby, this small and welcoming b&b in Milan’s Porta Garibaldi district has an intimate setting and plenty of character. LaFavia Milano’s sophisticated décor is a tasteful hotchpotch of styles, where Art Deco marries with vintage Seventies. The individually decorated rooms feature an eclectic mix of furniture: from early 20th-century wicker chairs to 1950s lamps. The 1960s wallpaper in linden green and terracotta orange hues creates a retro design statement in each room

Doubles from €120 (£103). Via Carlo Farini 4; 00 39 347 784 2212



LaFavia Milano, Milan


LaFavia Milano’s sophisticated décor is a tasteful hotchpotch of styles


What to bring home

Add a quirky touch to your home with a designer piece by Atelier Fornasetti, whose whimsical humorous items include wallpaper, furniture, rugs and porcelain.

Head to Pasticceria Marchesi, one of Milan’s oldest pastry shops, to stock up on freshly baked patisserie and chocolates, elegantly presented in gift boxes and pretty packaging.



Fornasetti, Milan


It’s no secret Milan offers fantastic shopping – head to the Fornasetti Store for quirky homewares


Essential information

  • Tourist board information: InfoMilano, Piazza Duomo 14, Milan; 00 39 02 8845 5555; YesMilano Tourism Space, Via dei Mercanti 8; 00 39 02 8515 5931; yesmilano.it
  • Emergency fire and ambulance: Fire: dial 115 Ambulance: dial 118
  • Emergency police: Dial 112
  • British Embassy: British Consulate: Via S. Paolo 7, 20121 Milan. Tel: 00 39 02 723 001; gov.uk

The basics

  • Flight time: 1hr50min
  • Currency: Euro
  • International dialling code: 00 39 02

Local laws and etiquette

  • ATM (atm.it) public transport tickets are valid for 90min and can be used for as many metro, bus or tram journeys within that time frame. Tickets can be bought at metro stations, tobacconist shops, newsagent kiosks or certain cafés (don’t forget to stamp your ticket to validate it when you board a bus or tram). You can also use contactless payment with a debit or credit card.
  • You can’t flag taxis down like in London. Instead, you’ll have to find the closest taxi stand or book ahead over the phone. Recommended taxi companies can be reached on 00 39 028585; 026969; 024040
  • Note that it is a legal requirement to have snow tyres or snow chains when travelling on motorways between mid-November and mid-April.
  • Like in the rest of Italy, restaurants typically serve food from 12.30pm to 2.30pm for lunch and from 7.30pm to 9.30pm for dinner, although more and more establishments these days offer all-day dining to cater to the city’s international clientele. That said, it’s best to stick to the above opening times as you may otherwise struggle to find somewhere to eat.
  • While high-street chains in the centre are open throughout the day, many independent shops close for lunch (roughly 12.30pm to 3.30pm).
  • The app-based YesMilano City Pass gives you entry to several of the city’s museums, attractions and public transport over the course of three days. See the website for details.
  • State- and city-run museums and sites offer free entry the first Sunday of the month, with the city’s city-run museums (Musei Civici) also offering free entry from 2pm every first and third Tuesday of the month. Note that many museums are closed on Mondays.
  • Public museums and state-run sites offer free entry the first Sunday of the month. Note that many state-run museums are closed on Mondays.
  • There are over 500 drinking fountains dotted around the city. While tap water in Milan is drinkable, restaurants don’t serve free tap water as they do in the UK. If you ask for tap water, you will be given filtered or bottled water (at a cost).

Author Bio

Raised bilingually in northern Italy, Kiki Deere is Telegraph Travel’s Milan and Italian Lakes expert. You can find her strolling the cobbled streets of Brera while sussing out the latest spots in the city for a top-notch aperitivo.

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