Milan is very well known for its Fashion Week, as it is one of the fashion capitals next to New-York, London and Paris. But there's more to Milan than just fashion. Some say Milan doesn't offer the real Italian experience, but as a city person I had a blast during my 3-day trip in July. Through the food and the language, I enjoyed the Italian passion to the fullest. And above that, the city actually offers some very beautiful sights. I hope you enjoy this city guide punctuated by Prada, Gucci, etcetera!
Visit of the Piazza Del Duomo & surroundings
Start with the visit of some of the most memorable landmarks of the city. The Piazza Mercanti is a beautiful square filled with history. During the Middle Ages, this place used to be the center of town where all the action happened. Thanks to the well-preserved architecture, you almost feel like you fell back in those dark ages, except now the square is really quiet. A little further is the Duomo Di Milano, the most famous monument of Milan and that is not without a reason! The Cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete and is a Gothic masterpiece. Something very unique about it is that you can walk on its roof. Not only is the view of the surroundings worthwhile, but you also get to see all the amazing details up close. And then there is the Galeria Vittorio Emanuelle II, a historic shopping arcade that feels like an open-air museum. From the tiled floors to the canopies, everything in this place is splendid. The Prada store inside is a very special one as this is where the brand was born in 1913.
Window shopping in the city center
As the fashion capital of Italy, Milan has some amazing shopping venues. Even if you can't afford what's displayed inside the boutiques, it is worth visiting them to experience what makes Italian fashion so unique. The first store you should visit in the city center is Excelsior Milano (Galleria del Corso 4). The luxury department store housed in a former cinema has no less than seven floors and offers a unique shopping experience with spaces worthy of a contemporary art gallery. A little more to the North, you'll find Via Monte Napoleon, the high end shopping street with boutiques such as Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana... and Gucci! Make sure to enter this boutique, the designs of Alessandro Michele are really exciting. For vintage shopping, head to the street called Via Brera. You'll find some very unique shops over here, such as Cavalli e Nastri.
Dinner at Un Posto a Milano | Via Privata Cuccagna 2, Milano
Un Posto a Milano is a great project housed in a 1700's farmstead. Famous among locals, this place offers delicious food in a unique setting. Walking among vegetable gardens, you'll soon forget you're still in urban Milan. The cuisine focuses on the quality of ingredients with local, seasonal products and although the number of seats available is huge, the service is excellent. The place is rightfully popular so it is advised to make a reservation.
Visit of the Fondazione Prada | Largo Isarco 2, Milano
Luxury houses maintain a strong relationship with art, and in the case of Prada, this link is embodied in the Prada Foundation, a sensational place dedicated to contemporary art. Personally I'm not a big fan of contemporary art, but I am a fan of places with a unique architecture. The Prada Foundation is the result of the transformation of an ancient distillery that combines seven existing buildings with three new structures. And in each space, there's another art project to discover. After your visit, you simply must have lunch or drinks in Bar Luce. Designed by film director Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), the bar looks like a 50s and 60s inspired movie set and is oh so photogenic! I fell madly in love with the pastel colors and the furniture. And to make it even better, prices are fair and staff members are really nice.
Alternative shopping at Corso Di Porta Ticinese
For an experience that's a little more raw and authentic, head to Corso Di Porta Ticinese, a long street with plenty of street art and alternative boutiques. It is probably the most "Berlinesque" part of the city, where vintage shops flourished in old building with cracked façades. I suggest starting North to first admire the Colonne di San Lorenzo, the amazing Roman ruins around which the modern city grew, and then wander South until you reach Porta Ticinese, randomly entering the shops that you're inspired by.
Aperitivo at Naviglio Grande
Navigli stands for the water network that flows through Milan. It has been there for centuries and was used for water supply and transport routes, but nowadays the canals are a hip place to shop and eat. There are two of them: Naviglio Pavese and Naviglio Grande. Personally I favor the second one, for a walk along the water, followed by dinner. Or even better than dinner: Aperitivo! It's very simple: between 6pm and 9 pm, if you order a cocktail, you get access to a buffet for free. It is fabulous and it should definitely be introduced in Belgium! There are plenty of restaurants that offer this option, we went to Mas (Ripa di Porta Ticinese 11) because it was recommended by a friend and we weren't disappointed.
Cats & coffee at the Crazy Cat Café | Via Napo Torriani 5, Milano
I was travelling with my friend Erika who's a real cat lover, so I decided to take her to the Crazy Cat Café. The concept comes from Japan where it is common for people to go to these cafés after work to relax (it has been scientifically proven that caressing a cat brings peace of mind). This café is the first one of its kind in Milan and it's a real eye catcher. The interior is designed in a very clever way to enable the cats to wander peacefully in the space, even up in the air. And the menu is a real delight for breakfast, lunch or just for drinks!
Quick lunch at Flower Burger | Viale Vittorio Veneto 10, Milano
If you're a vegetarian just like me, you'll love Flower Burger. It is basically a fast food, meaning you go there for a quick lunch, except it's veggie and delicious! There are 6 burgers you can choose from. The one on the picture below is the "Flower Burger" and it was amazing!
Getting inspired at 10 Corso Como | Corso Como 10, Milano
10 Corso Como is kind of the Italian equivalent of Parisian colette. It is the most famous luxury concept store in Milan conceived like a magazine by former fashion editor and publisher Carla Sozzani. It's a place where you get inspired, just like when you're flipping through the glossy pages of Vogue for instance. They have all the latest fashion by the greatest designers, but also plenty of accessories, books and decoration. And after your visit, you can have drinks on the beautiful terrace.
Walk in Parco Sempione
For green spaces, head to Parco Sempione, a huge park located North-West of the city center. Its highlights are the Castello Sforzesco, a castle of the 15th century that houses multiple museums, and the Arco della Pace, the Arch of Peace dating back to the 19th century. You can spend a few hours in the park, lying in the grass, before going back to the city for dinner at La Fabbrica or Ristorante Pacifico for example.
How to get there:
Milan is just a 1h40 flight away from Brussels! For the best prices, I always check www.skyscanner.com.