For food, fashion, and art, Milan is as vibrant as ever, especially during spring. The Italian city that never goes out of style has expanded and developed over the past few years, becoming a perfect union of antique and modern, a hub of technology and innovation while maintaining its original charm. Here are five of the main neighborhoods, and a guide to the trendy and lesser-known places in each of them you shouldn’t miss if you’re visiting Milan this season.
One of Milan’s most charming historic neighborhoods, Brera is known as the art district. Hosting an important collection of Italian paintings, the Pinacoteca di Brera is among the largest museums in Milan and part of the Accademia di Brera. Within Palazzo Brera, you’ll be able to visit the Biblioteca Braidense, and on the first floor, enjoy a cappuccino surrounded by outstanding pieces of art at Caffè Fernanda. For a taste of modern and contemporary art, Kaufman-Repetto Gallery is exquisite. Brera is also known for its shops, which range from designer and design boutiques such as Etro Home to little vintage shops like Cavalli e Nastri, a favorite of influencers and a true treasure for vintage Chanel shopping. Strolling along via Fiori Chiari, you’ll find an incredible selection of restaurants, bars, and bistros, two of my personal favorites being Bosco Brera, a little Mediterranean culinary oasis, and Sushi B, the best Japanese restaurant in Milan. For a taste of Italy at aperitivo La Prosciutteria is the perfect spot for a glass of wine and a tagliere of salumi and formaggi.
If you find yourself in Milan for the Art & Design Weeks, you shouldn’t miss a stop by the new fair district: CityLife. In addition to hosting the location of international art fair miart (running April 5–7) and a shopping district, CityLife is an up-and-coming neighborhood where the old traditional Milan buildings meet some of the most avant-garde in terms of design. Here you can glimpse the Libeskind and Hadid residential complexes, which may remind you of those you can see while strolling along the High Line in Manhattan, something which is rather unusual and new for the city of Milan. They house celebrity and high-society residents, and even a modern art gallery: Dellupi Arte. If you’re in the area around lunchtime you can grab a quick bite within the shopping center, or enjoy a chic meal at Altriménti Ristorante, by Chef Eugenio Boer.
Porta Nuova / Porta Garibaldi
Home to the world-renowned Bosco Verticale residential building, a model of sustainability, the neighborhood of Porta Nuova is one of the main business districts in Milan, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. Porta Nuova hosts Cortesi Gallery, Cardi Gallery, and numerous others. If you plan on staying in this area, Palazzo Parigi is the place to be—its hotel rooms and spa will make you feel as though you’re on vacation even if the main reason for your visit is business. Nearby Porta Garibaldi is a mandatory stop for its iconic 10 Corso Como and Galleria Carla Sozzani. In this area, especially if it’s your first time in Milan, I recommend dropping by Ceresio 7, where the rooftop will give you a breathtaking view of the city whether you’re there for lunch, dinner, or cocktails. For those in a rush craving a healthy bite, MACHA Café or oTTo milano are the best choices around.
Tortona / Navigli
The focus of Milan’s Design Week, the Tortona district is where you’ll find design, fashion, and art studios. In the heart of the nightlife district, the Yard Suite & Dependance, which hosts one of the trendiest bars and cafes in Milan as well as a hotel, can be the ideal place to take a break from the chaos of the city. It’s your choice whether to lounge on one of the vintage couches sipping a cocktail or make yourself at home in one of their 32 unique suites. In your leisure time, Armani/Silos is a destination not to be missed, as is the iconic shop Antonioli to freshen up your spring wardrobe. The fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro can be the perfect spot for some cultural downtime in your busy schedule. If by the end of the day you’re not exhausted, Bussarakham is a picturesque Thai restaurant in the area. After dinner, stop by GinO12, the bar of Officina12 Restaurant along the Naviglio Grande, because where else will you be able to choose among over one hundred types of gin?
Duomo / Montenapoleone
Last but not least, the heart of Milan comprising Piazza del Duomo and the fashion district of via Montenapoleone is one of the most beautiful and entertaining areas. If you wish to stay in this area, you won’t lack choices: TownHouse Galleria, Park Hyatt Milan, and Sina The Gray will offer you a luxurious stay and the chance to wake up only steps away from the Duomo. If you find yourself walking around the opulent shops adorning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, head to Marchesi 1824 for a morning coffee, or take the elevator to Osservatorio Prada to check out their latest exhibition. For art lovers, this neighborhood has an outstanding museum and gallery selection: Gallerie d’Italia, Museo del Novecento, Tommaso Calabro, and Massimo De Carlo Belgioioso are just some of the incredible spaces you’ll be able to visit. All are filled with great art in stunning architectural settings. If you’re having an hectic day, Bamboo Bar at Armani Hotel is one the city’s best-kept secrets during the day, while at night it turns into a lively spot filled with music and chatter. Not far from Piazza del Duomo, Ta’ Milano will satisfy your chocolate and sweet cravings, while also offering delicious light fare. If you’re looking for a shop other than Prada, Armani, and Versace, I highly recommend stopping by The Cloister, a unique concept store where everything you see—from the vintage camera, to the handcrafted earrings, to the head-to-toe Chanel outfit—can be purchased.