For a while, I've been wanting to travel to Milan. As a city known for design and fashion, I was curious what the experience would be like to spend a few days in Milano.
Milan is primarily known as a fashion city and boy, does it live up to that expectation. While walking around the city you'll cross paths with an incredible amount of well-dressed people up until the point that you feel underdressed. It's common for men to walk around in three-piece suits, tailored to have the perfect fit. Women sport gorgeous coats. Most of them smoke and people come together on the busy streets for a chat. In Milan, people dress to be seen and the people watching in itself is an experience worthwhile.
The collection of high fashion boutiques and their interior are gorgeous. For anyone with even a remote interest in fashion, there's no need to even doubt whether you should go. Book your ticket.
Arriving in Italy, I landed at the Linate airport which is about a half hour away from the city center. I used MyDriver (an Uber competitor by Sixt) to pre-arrange a pick up. As a car lover, I decided to go for the luxurious experience. For about 50 euros, I had a driver waiting for me at the airport and I was driven in an old Mercedes S towards my hotel. A gigantic car, complimentary water and the ability to use taxi lanes in downtown makes for a smooth arrival and removes any stress in commuting from the airport to your hotel.
Milan is a city which has some of the highest income per resident in Europe. This is marked by people wearing designer brands and driving Maseratis. If you're a car lover, Milan has both a Porsche and Ferrari design shop and the local traffic will impress you as well with the amount of luxurious and sporty cars driving by on a daily basis.
The longer you stay, the more you appreciate the beauty of the Italian language. It's a language I love to overhear and the busy chatter on the streets is a wonderful melody as you walk around and explore.
The brutalist design of the rooms is emphasised by the use of concrete, metal and a dark color palette. The rooms are gorgeous, but end up feeling quite cold because of the lack of natural sunlight if you're in one of the rooms in the back of the hotel.
Highlights of the room include a walk-in rain shower and a spacious bathroom. What I did miss however was a proper desk and chair, I also wouldn't recommend dining in the hotel as there are better and cheaper options if you're prepared to walk 15 minutes near the edges of the city center, especially in the north-western part of town.
Finally, the location of STRAF couldn't be better: Right near the Duomo and Galleria, in the midst of Milan. Everything you would want to visit in Milan is walkable from the hotel. After spending a few days here, I'm incredibly happy as the location of the hotel wasn't a conscious choice but made the hotel always incredible easy to find when walking back at the end of the day. However, for the price it does feel a bit Spartan, with a lack of luxury and overall finish.
While I was walking around and discovering the city. I ran into a Leica store. As a big fan, I just fell in love with the store.
Beyond the contemporary interior and seeing the Leica line-up, a big section of the store is reserved as a gallery. For anyone remotely interested in photography, definitely worth a visit. Beyond the traditional offering, there's also a selection of second-hand cameras and lenses which come cheaper (albeit not that much).
Open until 19h30, closed on Sunday
Via Mengoni 4, 20121 Milano Italia
+39 02 89095156 - firstname.lastname@example.org
From all boutiques I visited, this was my personal favourite. Sandro is a Parisian brand, which was surprisingly unknown to me although I enjoy (high) fashion. Two floors, with a rather limited collection for males in this particular store, but a good selection of different pieces.
In terms of price and quality, this might become one of my favourite brands. With a smaller fit and a respectable price for the materials used in their clothing it hits a sweet spot. Sandro's style is marked by both traditional and contemporary pieces.
I went to Milan with the notion to perhaps buy a piece or two. Sandro was the first brand to got me excited. I've been wanting a traditional camel overcoat for years and Sandro had one in stock which I loved.
The staff was friendly, eager to chat and offer helpful advice in regards to fit. For example, to assure a correct shoulder fit with a three-piece suit, I was given a blazer to try on together with the coat.
All by all, a highly recommended experience for people who enjoy boutique shopping.
Open daily until 19h30
Via Alessandro Manzoni 25
+ 39 02 86 89 60 70
If you're looking for the opposite experience of a boutique, the Brian&Barry building on Via Durini can offer that experience. 10 floors full of shopping and restaurants, you easily could spend a few hours in here.
For men they offer a full floor containing traditional clothing (loafers, shirts and suits) and another floor with a contemporary selection. But, in all honesty, after visiting boutiques it didn't feel right. As in, the experience felt cheap, the price of the line-up is unfortunately on par with the boutiques I visited. For people who dislike boutique shopping, this might be your answer though.
Open daily until 19h30
Via Durini, 28, 20122
+39 02 7600 5582
The beauty of traveling alone is how quickly you make a connection with people. While walking around, I decided to take a break and head into the Moleskine Café to read a little. The Café combines a coffee shop, store and gallery. While I was reading, en elderly couple and I started chatting about Milan, it's history and the upcoming fashion week.
I love the atmosphere of this place. It's an open space with a social vibe and people of all ages drop by. Besides the excellent coffee, I could appreciate the free wifi as well, which I found more difficult to find than expected while in Milan.
Open daily until 21h30 (except for Monday until 19h)
Corso Garibaldi, 65, 20121
Obicà Mozzarella Bar
Two footsteps away from the Duomo, on the 7th floor of the la Rinascente Piazza (which is a similar store concept as Brian&Barry) you'll find a tasty restaurant which is an ideal spot for lunch.
If the weather is nice, I highly recommend sitting on their outside terrace, which has a direct view of the Duomo. The prices are a little more expensive for the food (which otherwise was tasty), but the view makes up for this matter. If you're addicted to mozzarella, Obicà has a full tasting menu.
Open daily until midnight
€20-40 per person
Via Santa Radegonda, 1, 20121
+39 02 885 2453
Build in 1776, this palazzo was transformed into a public gallery. I didn't visit the exhibition (honestly, I ran into this place by accident) and snapped some photos of the beautiful architecture. It's remarkable that wealthy people lived in places like this 250 years ago.
Via Brera, 28, 20121
Porsche Design Italia
The Brera area in Milan is known as a fashion district for high-end boutiques, for some context, this is the north-eastern part of town. Think of Hermès, Versace, Yves Saint Laurant, Gucci and all other high fashion brands that exist in the world and they probably have a store here. All boutiques are gorgeous in their own way. One of the stores in this area is the Porsche Design store, which is the only one in Italy.
As a lover of design this was a must-visit for me and the store didn't disappoint at all. I was lucky as I arrived an hour or so before closing and the store was completely empty. A friendly staff guided me around the product line-up.
There was a beautiful, limited-edition 911 (2017 edition) on display. Beyond their cars, Porsche Design has their own product line-up consisting out of glasses, watches and small goods. They're also known for their collaborations with other brands such as Adidas for example.
All by all, a lovely boutique experience albeit a bit pricey.
Beyond the Duomo, the Castello Sforzesco is the other must-see attraction in town. You can't miss it while you're walking in the north-western direction. In the castle, there are a collection of musea you can visit.
Walk through the Castello and you'll walk directly in a park right behind the castle. As the largest park in the city, it is Milan's own Central Park. As you're walking around, you will see the impressive Arco della Pace. A lovely way to spend an hour or so walking around feeling as if you're no longer in a city.
Botega Caffe Cacao
Close to the Moleskine Café there's Botega, a contemporary designed bakery which provides some excellent lunch options.
Great spot to take a brief break, enjoy a cup of coffee and read a little for example. With free wifi, it offers a moment to update your Instagram feed as well.
Open daily until 8pm
Corso Garibaldi, 12, 20121
Taschen is my favourite book publisher. They publish mostly books covering art, fashion, design and other contemporary cultural subjects. I ran into their store by accident and was pleasantly surprised to pay a visit here on my last day in Milan.
Their store offers a good lineup of their book collection, with some gorgeous art books to take a look at. On their first floor, there's an exhibition space. While I was visiting the store, there was a photography exhibition in honour of David Bowie with photos taken by Mick Rock, a famous musician photographer.
For any book lover (or art lover, for that matter) while in Milan I would definitely give this store a visit.
Open daily until 7pm
Via Meravigli, 17, 20123 Milano, Italy
All by all, I loved Milan. I'm not sure whether I would go again anytime soon, but experiencing the fashion scene and walking about the city at random for a few days was an excellent break.
If you're staying a longer while in Italy, Milan can be excellent to visit for a day or two before moving on to Rome, Siena, Firenze, Venice or any of the other countless beautiful Italian cities.