Sleek, stylish and cosmopolitan, Italy’s capital of fashion and design is a bustling modern metropolis. And with a decidedly international outlook, there's places to stay from five-star hotels to Art Deco beauties and friendly B&Bs. Here's our guide to where to stay in Milan.
Milan is the country’s leading financial centre and Italy’s most prosperous city. With a vibrant dining scene and scores of attractions, there's something to suit all tastes. Highlights include the magnificent Gothic Duomo and the city’s fashionable Navigli, or canals. It’s a historic city, with enough ancient churches and galleries to keep you busy for a week. Medieval buildings nestle next to nineteenth-century splendour and rickety trams trundle past overgrown bombsites left from World War II and Fascist-era bombastic facades. But the Milanese keep the best for themselves: peep through a doorway into one of Milan’s fabulous courtyards and you will be smitten. There are also bars and cafés to relax in, and the contemporary aspects of the place represent the cutting edge of Italy’s fashion industry.
With so much to see and do, it can be difficult to know where to start unpacking your bags. As a major commercial centre, accommodation can be pricey, so deciding where to bed down will make a real difference to your pocket. Here’s the lowdown on the best areas to stay.
Tip: Avoid visiting in April during the Salone del Mobile Furniture Fair when hotel prices double.
Bang in the heart of town, the Duomo is the most obvious place to stay. The major sights are all clustered around here. This is where you'll find the city’s famous Cathedral and the Museo del Novecento, which houses a wonderful collection of contemporary art. The Ambrosiana, home to Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, is here too. Heaving with tourists during the day, the area is surprisingly peaceful at night, when offices have closed and residents have headed elsewhere to drink and dine.
Best for quirky vibes and designer cool:Room Mate Giulia
This lively spot designed by Patricia Urquiola takes inspiration from Milanese homes from the Sixties. Highlights include its retro furnishings and vibrant splashes of colour. It’s cosy, it’s fun and it’s wacky.
Best for a friendly laidback feel:Hotel Spadari al Duomo
With an enviable location a stone’s throw away from the Duomo, this family-run hotel has a warm and relaxed feel. Its interiors are decorated with the family’s private art collection.
Milan’s Navigli, or canals, are thought to have been designed by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in Milan for a handful of years. Believe it or not, the city was a port until the middle of last century. Today, its waterways have long been paved over and only the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese remain. The Navigli form the hub of Milanese nightlife, with scores of lively restaurants and bars lining the water. For a quirky experience, check out one of the smallest bars in the world, Backdoor 43, which seats only four thirsty punters.
Best for boutique hip:The Yard
Oozing buckets of cool, this boutique hotel brims with sporting memorabilia and vintage pieces. Its rugs and dim lighting create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Best for value:Allegroitalia Espresso Darsena
A short walk from the Navigli, this budget hotel decorated in bright shades of orange attracts a young crowd. Rooms can feel a little cramped, although the hotel’s great location makes up for it.
In recent years, the area around Porta Garibaldi has had a bit of a makeover, with shops and restaurants springing up here and there. Home to one of the city’s major railway stations, Porta Garibaldi is easily accessible from the centre by metro, and it’s only a 15-minute walk to Brera. You’re also a stone’s throw away from the snazzy boutiques of Corso Como and the lively restaurants of Corso Garibaldi.
Best for beauty on a budget:LaFavia Milano
Art Deco and vintage 70s combine to create stylish interiors at this B&B. It has just four rooms, with designer furnishings and fun wallpaper featuring orange and green geometric designs.
Best for a laidback stay:B&B Porta Garibaldi
With only one room, this small and friendly B&B offers a comfortable little apartment with kitchenette, making it ideal for self-caterers.
Brera is the artistic quarter of Milan, once home to artisan workshops and artists’ studios. Today, it’s a chic neighbourhood, dotted with independent boutiques and quirky restaurants. It’s also home to one of the city’s best art galleries, the Pinacoteca di Brera, founded by Napoleon in the 19th century and today housing over 500 works of Renaissance art.
Best for a quiet stay:Antica locanda dei Mercanti
White and cream tones prevail at this bright and airy locanda (inn). Its range of rooms blend traditional and contemporary, some with leafy terraces.
Best for boutique cool:Locanda Pandenus
Sitting above a popular café and bar is this stylish locanda (inn), offering four fashionable rooms. Each is decked out in snazzy haute-couture fabrics, designer fittings and velvet seating.
Running from Piazza XXIV Maggio to the Colonne di San Lorenzo, Corso di Porta Ticinese is lined with independent stores selling vintage clothes, music records and accessories. It has an eclectic vibe, and is a great spot if you’re looking for an alternative to Milan’s upmarket boutiques and high street shops. You'll find plenty of quirky items available at an affordable price.
Best for hip travellers on a shoestring: Ostello Bello
Consistently ranked as one of the best hostels in Italy, this is a cool little spot to rest your head. Choose from dorms and doubles. It’s famous for its lively bar where locals and travellers alike come together to watch music gigs, art exhibitions and theatre shows.
Best for a budget stay:New Generation Hostel Urban Navigli
With dorms decked out in shades of grey and black, this friendly hostel makes for a stylish budget option a short walk from Corso di Porta Ticinese and the lively Navigli. There’s a communal kitchen, and a lounge and bar area that’s a good place to mingle with other travellers.
Milan’s exclusive Quadrilatero della Moda, or Fashion District, is lined with pricey haute-couture boutiques. Even if you can’t afford any of the eye-watering items on display, it’s worth strolling the pretty cobbled streets for a little window-shopping. Many of the displays are a sight in their own right. Predictably, accommodation here doesn’t come cheap.
Best for boutique sleek: Senato Hotel
With its white, black and gold fittings, this stylish spot is all brass, dark woods and marble. You'll find it close to elegant Via della Spiga.
Best for decadent luxury:Four Seasons Hotel Milano
An exclusive hotel housed in a former 15th-century convent, complete with a state-of-the-art Spa and a divine Chocolate Room. (Yes, you read well – its walls are coated in cocoa and it’s jam packed with sweet delights.)
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Top Image: Milan panorama © Shutterstock
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