I first went to Milan in the 80s and frankly, did not like it much. I lived there for about 6 months as a model-it was very much a fashion only town then, which felt a bit oppressive to me. I was eager to move on to Paris, which at the time I felt had more to offer. It wasn't until I returned to Milan this past June for Salone di Mobile, the city's annual international design show, that I saw it afresh. I realized what an incredible transformation had since taken place; everything looked and felt brighter, like the whole city had just been power washed. It really is beautiful, filled with incredible baroque architecture and tons of leafy, cobblestoned streets to wander down. Rich with life and centuries of culture, I was struck by how the energy felt really hopping. Dancing and late nights are par for the course in Milan, what with its simmering food and music scene. And of course, the city's legacy for art and design remains very much palpable; from its incredible museums and galleries to its independent and vintage boutiques, there's something new and exciting to be found on every corner. It's funny how it has become one of my favorite cities. I completely understand why so many of my friends are moving there!
Photos KENDALL CONRAD
*Just click on the underlined links for info on each place below.
The Sister Hotel - From the founders of Milan’s iconic Six Gallery comes an equally stylish, intimate boutique hotel. The hotel’s restaurant, Le Sixième has a great atmosphere but is worth going for the food alone.
Hotel Principe de Savoia - Exactly what you think of when you think, old world European luxury hotel. The swimming pool is not to be missed!
Senato Hotel - Conveniently located and overlooking a canal with a sleek, cheerful vibe.
Bulgari Hotel - A wonderfully serene, elegant hotel tucked away on a private, leafy street in the popular and centrally located Brera district.
Aethos - Chic little luxury boutique hotel overlooking the canal with good rates.
**If you plan on making a trip out to the nearby Lake Como, be sure to definitely check out Passalacqua. An exquisite small boutique hotel in a primo location on the lake. Few places in the world are more beautiful!
Gattullo Pasticceria - Iconic family-run pastry shop and cafe, perfect for breakfast or a quick bite on the go. Their sfoglia al mirtillo are legendary.
Lù Bar - One of my favorite places to eat and relax in Milan, the restaurant and bar was started by the children of Luisa Beccaria, who named the spot in honor of their family all having names beginning with Lu. Housed in GAM, the Modern Art Gallery of Milan, the main dining room is a beautiful plant-filled atrium, though it’s nice to sit outside in the courtyard as well. Open 9am-11pm daily.
Il Carminio - Tiny jewel box of a restaurant in the heart of Brera. The menus change twice daily and the vibe is sexy and low-key.
Antica Trattoria della Pesa - Classic, very authentic trattoria with super delicious traditional Lombard fare.
Trattoria La Madonnina - Fabulous hidden gem, a locals-only trattoria off the tourist trail.
Amó - Fun, clubby spot with delicious food that doubles as a music and art venue as well.
Giacomo Rosticceria - Unbelievably delicious rotisserie, elegant but rustic. Located in the heart of Milan’s garden district.
Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone - Housed in the beautiful Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi, a breezy spot to spend the afternoon over super fresh classics.
Restaurant Torre - Located on the sixth floor of the Fondazione Prada, the dining room has incredible views and a selection of pieces from the museum's collection on display.
Cracco - Fabulous Studio Peregalli-designed restaurant by superstar chef Carlo Cracco.
Joia - A Milanese institution, Pietro Leeman’s groundbreaking vegetarian restaurant was the first in Europe to earn a Michelin star. Today it continues to sway even the most carnivorous towards a more plant-forward way of eating.
Nebbia - Elegant updates of traditional Lombard fare with a fantastic natural wine list and chic, airy dining room.
Bistro Aimo e Nadia - Delicious restaurant at Rossana Orlandi, great for lunch or after an afternoon strolling the galleries.
u barba - Groovy spot serving updated takes on traditional Genovese cuisine. Their house-made pasta cannot be missed.
Ratanà - Modern, seasonal Milanese classics that showcase fresh local produce. Great ambience in a lovely garden setting.
Zelo - Located inside the Four Seasons Hotel, the restaurant has a relaxed, elegant vibe and serves innovative Mediterranean and local cuisine.
Caffé Fernanda - Located in the trendy, boutique-filled Brera district, Marco Valneri’s delicious menu of small plates pays homage to a little known heroine of art history, Fernanda Wittgens.
Carlo e Camilla in Segheria - A unique dining experience, the restaurant and bar are housed in a dramatic industrial setting and serve modern, elevated takes on traditional classics.
Cova - Super elegant pasticceria, one of Italy’s oldest.
I Navigli - An historic part of Milan that was once linked together by a system of interconnected canals, similar to Venice. Today, only a few canals remain, but the district has become a vibrant, arty hub of cafes and boutiques.
Salone di Mobile - Held every year since 1961, the furniture fair is the largest trade fair of its kind, and an international destination for the latest and best in design.
Rossana Orlandi Gallery - Iconic contemporary furniture and design gallery known for showcasing some of the best of emerging global talent.
Dimore Gallery - Superhot design gallery with a tight edit of historical and contemporary design.
Nilufar - Nina Yashar’s discerning edit has been a leader in art and design for decades. Her contemporary showroom and exhibition space houses some of Milan’s best designer and vintage furniture, lighting and home decor.
Drop City - Very exciting new center for architecture and design located inside Milan Central Station. The project includes plans for multiple workshop, exhibition, gallery, and library spaces divided among a series of twenty-eight vast underground tunnels.
Fondazione Prada - Huge contemporary art museum housed in a brutalist complex designed by Rem Koolhaas. Bar Luce, the center’s cafe and bar, was designed by Wes Anderson and indeed looks very much like something out of his movies.
Villa Necchi Campiglio - The stylish and severe home turned museum of modernist visionary architect Piero Portaluppi. Once ground-zero for the party people of 1930s Milan, the site is beautifully preserved, and has since had starring roles in Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love, and Ridley Scott's House of Gucci.
Castello Sforzesco - A medieval fortress with incredible renaissance and baroque additions, also the home of Michelangelo’s famously unfinished last work, the Rondanini Pietà.
La Scala - One of the world’s most famous opera houses, the opulent 18th century music venue makes any production a treat.
Roof of the Duomo - Milan’s most famous and prominent building, the centrally located Duomo Cathedral is impossible to miss. The real secret though, is to take a stroll among its spires by booking a rooftop tour in advance.
Brera - An elegant and historic district, centrally located with tons of bustling independent and luxury boutiques, charming cafes and stylish restaurants. A legendary street market is held in the Via San Marco Mondays and Thursdays from 7:30am - 2pm.
Antonia - Luxe multi-brand boutique with a fantastic edit
Raw - Great spot for gifts, they have a beautiful selection of antiques and curiosities in a wide price range.
Cavalli e Nastri - A destination in and of itself for any fashion lover, the boutique is a treasure trove of the very best Italian and designer vintage.
L’Arabesque - A cult destination for all things cutting-edge in fashion and design. There’s a wonderful cafe attached as well.
Fratelli Bonvini 1909 - A very special cartoleria with an impressive collection of rare and antique printed ephemera, plus gorgeous stationary, journals, pens and other writing essentials.
La Double J - Once a shoppable magazine selling incredible vintage Italian fashion and jewelry finds, the brand has since expanded to a brick-and-mortar on the Via Sant'Andrea. Come for the very best niche, contemporary and archival edit of Italian goods.
Hermès - The brand's latest flagship recently opened on the Via Montenapoleone in a vast, luxurious space designed by Parisian architects RDAI, and houses a selection of art from the Emile Hermès private collection.
Vicolo Via Mameli - For stunning hand-dyed textiles and unique artisanal homewares.
Foto Veneto Ottica - The final stop for all things eyewear, the boutique has a seriously impressive collection of antique, vintage, and contemporary frames.
Terroir - Thoughtful curation of local jams, olive oils, cured meats, cheeses, and biodynamic wines plus great fresh produce. An excellent spot for gifts to stock up on to take home.
DRINKS AND DANCING
Bar Basso - Very classic, old-school Italian bar, fun for cocktails. Legend has it the Negroni was invented here.
Fonderie Milanesi - Great spot located inside an old villa with a beautiful garden courtyard and private, cozy vibe.
Ugo Bar - Sexy, low-lit bar with great craft cocktails in the Navigli.
10 Corso Como - The flagship of luxury multi-brand retailer and gallery space 10 Corso Como has a stylish, intimate bar worth visiting all its own.
Volt - Super fun nightclub for dancing into the early morning hours.
Plastic - Popular nightclub with great DJ sets and a consistently fun vibe.
Tunnel - Located under the tracks that lead to Milan’s Central Station, the cavernous music and nightlife venue has been a Milan mainstay since the 90s.
Nepentha - Dinner club with dancing and live music, centrally located.
This is a recent edit, but please know there is so much more to Milan than just this, and that it is always ever-changing. There are infinite ways to experience the city, and sometimes it’s great to just get out there and see what you find. I've stumbled across so many special places this way, and I never would've found them had I not let myself explore. In putting together this guide, I drew on my own recent experiences, as well as on the latest recommendations of friends. A massive thank you to Julia Leach, JJ Martin, Jean Labib Lamour, Emilien Crespo, and Amelie Alexandre, for all of their insider tips.