Sophisticated Milan is not only Italy’s fashion capital but also a fascinating mosaic of vibrant districts. Go beyond the Duomo and the high-class shopping – both admittedly outstanding – and discover what makes this creative city tick. Stroll along the old waterways of arty Navigli, past cafes and bars that line the route where 18th-century boats used to go. There’s more art in store in the cobbled, cultured streets of Brera, where you can fit in a visit to La Scala along with the Old Masters at the Pinacoteca di Brera.
Shoppers can lose themselves in the streets of Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro, the golden rectangle of cobbled streets – Via Monte Napoleone, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Manzoni and Via della Spiga – near the Duomo where high fashion rules. While Milan has plenty of five-star luxurious palaces to match its glittering fashion boutiques, there’s also a wide range of hotels to match all budgets.
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Best for creative inspiration: NYX Milan
Neighbourhood: Stazione Centrale
NYX Milan is as much an art gallery as it is a hotel – a witty celebration of street art created by Milanese artists. Works are scattered around the common areas and walls – along with arcade games – but don’t overwhelm the understated rooms. You’ll have three roof terraces from which to gaze at Milan’s rooftops, and the colourful Clash bar carries on with the playful vibe.
Doubles from €152, room only
Best for waterside views: Maison Borella
Overlooking Navigli Grande Canal, this warm, four-star boutique hotel offers views of the canals as well as a large courtyard terrace and inviting lounge. Rooms are pared back but have exposed beams and parquet floors, and it’s worth upgrading to one of the canalside rooms. Its Bugundè restaurant offers a mix of Piedmont and Italian cuisine within its brick-lined walls.
Doubles from €185, B&B
Best for quirky chic: The Yard Milano
Neighbourhood: Porta Ticinese
The Yard Milano, a quirky boutique hotel crammed with vintage and antique furnishings, perfectly suits the bohemian atmosphere of the Navigli area. The golden age of both travel and sport are evoked in the rooms and shared areas, with old leather trunks and sporting gear artfully strewn around. There’s a decadent air about the Doping Club cocktail bar, and there’s also excellent food in the Gipsy restaurant and Dirty Gym pizzeria.
Doubles from €239, B&B
Best for affordable fun: Ostello Bello
Central yet squeezed into a quiet side street, Ostello Bello is a funky hostel that resembles a comfortable version of a flea market. Inside its communal areas, it’s all wilfully mismatched vintage furnishings and innovative artwork, plus a cute little garden where you can chill out on hammocks. Help yourself to free food in the communal kitchen and enjoy free breakfast and evening snacks.
Dorm beds from €38, half board
Best for pure class: Baglioni Hotel Carlton
Neighbourhood: Quadrilatero della Moda
Yes, it’s pricey, but Baglioni Hotel Carlton is one of Milan’s grandest of grand hotels. Its enviable spot overlooking the city’s greatest shopping street, Via della Spiga, sets the tone for this timelessly elegant hotel. Furnishings are plush without being too over the top, with touches of Art Deco mingling with traditional décor. The restaurant, Il Baretto, is as warm and welcoming as the hotel, echoing the discreet luxury of the place.
Doubles from €385, B&B
Best for cosy charm: LaFavia Milano
Neighbourhood: Porta Garibaldi
This four-room B&B is set in a 19th-century townhouse in a handy spot near Porta Garibaldi railway station. It’s a warm, welcoming place, with a wonderfully eclectic approach to design in its mix of mid-20th-century décor complemented by bits of vintage and India thrown in for good measure. Two of the rooms have little kitchenettes and direct access to the really rather adorable garden terrace, which is open to all guests.
Doubles from €105, B&B
Best for sophisticated shopping: Hotel Manzoni
Neighbourhood: Quadrilatero d’Oro
Have all the boutiques within staggering distance at Hotel Manzoni, which is set in an elegant 19th-century townhouse. Its traditional rooms are a study in polished wood and honey marble, and if you splash out on a suite you can enjoy views of Milan from your rooftop terrace. The sophisticated vibe extends to the grand piano in the Caminetto Bar and Don Rodrigo restaurant, where Piedmont dishes are served with a delicate touch.
Doubles from €229, room only
Best for urban cool: ME Milan Il Duca
Neighbourhood: Piazza della Repubblica
One of Milan’s most glamorous bars happens to be the Radio Rooftop Bar at the ME Milan Il Duca, so you might as well be in the thick of it. Contemporary rooms have Milan’s signature understated style – a cool minimalism that retains its warmth. The restaurant, STK Milan, draws its influence from New York’s steakhouses, so bring a big appetite.
Doubles from €214, room only
Best for rooftop relaxation: Hotel Viu Milan
Neighbourhood: Porta Volta
At Hotel Viu, you can cool off in Milan’s first rooftop pool, which, sensibly, is still open during the very important aperitivo hour. Inside the interiors are as sleek and design conscious as you would expect in Milan, with neutral tones and Molteni&C furnishings. Food comes courtesy of Michelin-starred chef Giancarlo Morelli and his creative, seasonal menu.
Doubles from €216, room only
Best for industrial chic: nhow Milano
Hovering on the western edges of Navigli, nhow Milano is typical of the area’s disused industrial buildings that have been given a new lease of life. Colour is everywhere in this former electrics factory, from the original works that change every six months to the bright, modern, light-filled rooms with attractive minimalist furnishings. When the funky terrace isn’t being used for Milan Design Week events, you can chill out on the wonderfully over-the-top chairs. There’s a hotel restaurant and bar too, all decked out in the same fun, colourful way.
Doubles from €215, room only