Fashion and design capital, Milan is also the home of Martini and Fernet Branca and a great place to enjoy a quality drink, beginning with its finest wine bars where you can have a nice glass of wine in a fun and convivial atmosphere.
Now an institution in the Paolo Sarpi area, Cantine Isola is a cosy and intimate space that for over a hundred years has proposed the best wines from across Italy. It also organises special evenings dedicated to readings of Milanese “dialect poetry”.
Bicerin, in the heart of Porta Venezia, a refined and elegant environment that recalls the Milanese salons of the 1970s, proposes the original “wine sharing” initiative on Mondays: a series of events designed to make wine “democratic” through collective tastings of the finest vintages.
Finally, in the Cenisio area, Wineria offers a taste of wines from small but select estates in the company of expert sommeliers.
Aperitivo time, all the time
Happy hour in Milan really is the most joyous moment of the day. As long as you choose the right place you can eat and drink really well. Hidden in a courtyard in the old Milan, close to the Naviglio Pavese, there are lots of bars where you can enjoy a quality drink immersed in an evocative yesteryear atmosphere, such as Fonderie Milanesi, Al Cortile and Officine Riunite Milanesi.
In the Naviglio Grande area, meanwhile, there is the minimalist Elita Bar, the perfect place for enjoying excellent tapas, while Otto in Via Paolo Sarpi serves delicious drinks and top quality platters; finally, Lacerba, a short way from Porta Romana, pays homage to the 1913 futurist magazine of the same name with a bar that exudes artistic charm and serves the best cocktails in the city.
One of the mainstays of the Milan summer, Bar Bianco, immersed in the wonderful setting of Parco Sempione, is one of the most fashionable lounge bars in the Lombard capital, an excellent place for enjoying a filling aperitivo while listening to some music.
Those looking for a more exclusive and refined location can head over to STRAFbar to take advantage of its rich buffet and stunning view of the Duomo.
More than just Campari
Alongside the historic bars, in recent years bartenders and mixologists have opened up intriguing and futuristic bars where, from the cocktails to the decor, the goal is to offer punters an absorbing experience that delights the senses. The obvious starting point is the famous Bar Basso, the template for all of the city’s bars and the place where the Negroni Sbagliato was invented.
Then there is the sophisticated Nottingham Forest, which for over 10 years has appeared in the world’s 50 best bars rankings and amazes its customers with its molecular, spherificated and liquid nitrogen-based cocktails, which are more alchemy experiments than drinks.
Vodka lovers can head for Moscow Mule, in the Lambrate area, which specialises in the cocktail of the same name, or Pravda, in Porta Romana, which boasts 120 different vodkas, or the nearby Zinc, whose drinks are made with seasonal natural products.
In the highly popular Navigli area, finally, you are spoilt for choice. Top of your list should be Rita&Cocktails, to try the legendary Gin Zen of one of the top 10 cocktail bars in Italy, and Pinch with its 1930s atmosphere, vintage furniture, subtle lighting and creative drinks.
No ordinary dinner
Why limit yourself to a straightforward dinner when you can also watch a concert, a play or some cabaret? Bohemian neighbourhood Isola is home to the famous Blue Note, an Italian outpost of the famous New York bar, which regularly holds jazz and blues concerts and also boasts an excellent restaurant serving Italian and international food.
Meanwhile, Santeria Social Club, in the Bocconi area, organises theatre, music and cinema evenings in a spacious and modern cultural centre.
If you want to feel a bit more Milanese you can head to Spirit de Milan in the Bovisa area, a former industrial space converted into a social centre with typical food and courses in Milanese dialect, but also dancing, theatre and cabaret.
Finally, La Champagnerie, just 200 metres from Milano Centrale railway station, is a refined Art Deco-style lounge bar where you can also eat until late and watch musical performances.
Cooking & Art
When gastronomy meets art a wonderful fusion of food, design and culture is created that can turn a simple dinner or drink into a special moment of interaction and sharing.
The most interesting venues include: Le Biciclette, art bar & bistro with exhibitions by established or emerging artists; La Balera dell’Ortica, trattoria but also dance floor, bowls clubs and garage market where you can uncover vintage gems; Ostello Bello where, as well as the excellent aperitivo, you can also enjoy concerts and stand-up comedy nights.
The most intriguing literary cafes include Colibrì, which holds concerts, exhibitions and a space dedicated to bookcrossing, and Walden, inspired by the book of the same name by Thoreau, a halfway house between a gastronomic hub with vegetarian menu and a bookshop dedicated to independent publishers.
Dancing until the small hours
Milan is the Italian capital of new fashions and trends but is also a city with a lively nightlife with plenty of clubs where you can dance until first light. The focal point is undoubtedly Corso Como, which boasts some of the city’s most fashionable bars and clubs: from Toqueville to the Hollywood club, frequented by celebrities, and through to The Club, next door to Moscova metro station and famous for its top-quality DJ sets and international clientele.
Just Cavalli, in Parco Sempione, is the epitome of chic – not surprising given its owner is famous fashion designer Roberto Cavalli – and has good music and designer decor, while those that want to mingle with VIPs can head to Byblos, one of Milan’s most elite bars.
Those that don’t want to know about dress codes can opt for the Navigli area and Rocket, whose music and punters are both very diverse, or Tunnel, which proposes fashionable DJ sets in an interesting location in a former railway warehouse.
- Have breakfast or brunch at Crazy Cat Café: the first and only bar where you can relax among dozens of cats; pet therapy is included in the price!
- Try the excellent pizza at Dry, 33 Via Solferino.
- Have a cup of tea at the Prada Foundation’s Bar Luce and immerse yourselves in a Wes Anderson film; in fact, the visionary director designed the interior decor, recreating the atmosphere of a typical old 1950s Milan cafe with Formica tables, pinball machines and jukeboxes.
- Head for the La Cieca wine bar and order a glass of wine from the “black list”: don’t bother asking the name of the wine but if you can correctly identify it you win the bottle.
- Have dinner at The Botanical Club, in the heart of the Tortona area, a bistro specialising in creative cooking (from raw food to fusion) and the first micro gin distillery in Italy.
- Order a drink at the smallest bar in the world, Back Door 43 on Ripa di Porta Ticinese: a 4 m2 bar with 1930s-style furnishings that does excellent cocktails.
- Dance until dawn at Magnolia; it is worth leaving the city centre just to go to this Arci club which is as good as anything Berlin or London has to offer.