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The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Posted: 3/28/2024 | March 28th, 2024

Milan is a popular destination for travelers who are into fashion and design. But there’s a lot of history and culture here too. The city was both the former capital of the Western Roman Empire and influential during the Italian Renaissance. I consider it a must-visit stop on any trip around Italy.

As the country’s second largest city (over 6 million people live here), where you stay during your visit will have a big impact on your trip. While it’s pretty easy to get around the city, you don’t want to spend all your time in transit. Instead, you’ll want to pick an area that’s close to where you want to spend the majority of your time.

To help you do just that, here’s my list of the best neighborhoods in Milan for travelers:

Centro Storico

First-Time Visitors


Nightlife & Foodies


Where to Stay for First-Time Visitors: Centro Storico

People strolling around a massive open plaza in the Centro Storico district of sunny Milan, Italy
Milan’s historic center boasts architectural gems like the Gothic Duomo, the 15th-century Sforza Castle, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (a 19th-century shopping arcade). You’ll find plenty of art here too, from the huge Palazzo Reale (an 18th-century palace turned art museum) to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper).

The area is extremely walkable and filled with enchanting streets, quaint cafés, bustling piazzas, and fashionable boutiques (head to the subdistrict Quadrilatero d’Oro for the best luxury shopping). It’s the ideal place to stay if it’s your first time in Milan.

Best places to stay in Centro Storico:

  • BUDGET: Ostello Bello – Located just a few blocks from the Duomo, Ostello Bello is one of the best hostels in Milan. The facilities are extensive and include a guest kitchen with free food, a bar (where you get a free welcome drink), outdoor terraces, and an indoor lounge. There’s also a great breakfast in the mornings (7 EUR). The dorms are spacious, with comfy beds and en-suite bathrooms, and the helpful staff organizes tons of free events (like walking tours).
  • MIDRANGE: B&B Hotel Milano Sant’Ambrogio – This three-star hotel offers simple rooms in an excellent location. The rooms feature lots of natural light, desks, smart TVs, and bathrooms with walk-in showers and bidets. The breakfast buffet is quite varied for the price (9.50 EUR) and includes lots of pastries as well as fresh orange juice. Overall, this hotel offers great value for first-time visitors who want to stay somewhere central but not spend an arm and a leg.
  • LUXURY: Park Hyatt Milan – This five-star hotel located just off the main piazza seamlessly blends classic Italian architecture with contemporary design. Each room is spacious and elegantly furnished, with large luxurious marble bathrooms and all the amenities you’d expect from a hotel of this calibre. There are two restaurants on site, and one serves an exceptional breakfast buffet in the mornings. It’s a great place to redeem your Hyatt points too.


Where to Stay for Arts & Culture: Brera

People walking up a narrow street lined by shops and cafes in bustling Milan, Italy
While technically part of Centro Storico, Brera is a neighborhood that has a completely different feel than the more touristy area around the Duomo. Known for its artistic vibe, it was once a bohemian haven for Italian writers, poets, artists, filmmakers, and intellectuals in the 1960s (they all gathered at the legendary Bar Jamaica, which is still around). The neighborhood’s narrow cobblestone streets are filled with art galleries and studios, antique shops, boutiques, and trendy cafés. It’s also great for food (though what place in Italy isn’t?), with a diverse selection of eateries serving both traditional Milanese cuisine and innovative dishes from around the world.

While a lot of the charm of staying here lies in wandering these picturesque, pedestrianized streets, there are also attractions like the Pinacoteca di Brera, the city’s best art museum; and the tranquil, 18th-century Brera Botanical Gardens. Plus, the neighborhood is just a short walk from Milan’s most famous sights in Centro Storico.

Best places to stay in Brera:

  • BUDGET: As this area is quite high-end, there aren’t any hostels here. Your best bet is to stay at the aforementioned Ostello Bello in the heart of Centro Storico.
  • MIDRANGE: Brera Prestige B&B – This three-star hotel is in a perfect location on a quiet street in the heart of Brera, just a 10-minute walk from the Duomo. There are only a few rooms at this boutique property and all are decorated in calming, neutral tones and have chromotherapy lights that you can turn different colors. Each is newly renovated, with soundproof windows, a spacious bathroom with a walk-in shower, a small fridge, and a flat-screen TV. The staff are very friendly too. Overall, it’s a nice place to stay that’s quiet yet still central to everything.
  • LUXURY: Bulgari Hotel Milano – This five-star boutique hotel is a luxurious and peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. It’s right next to the botanical gardens, and the hotel has a huge private garden of its own (with a bar/restaurant). The overall design is sleek and elegant. The rooms feature deep soaking tubs, walk-in showers, comfy king-sized beds, and minibars. There’s a tranquil indoor swimming pool and spa too.


Where to Stay for Nightlife & Food: Navigli

A narrow canal lined by busy cafes and restaurants in sunny Milan, Italy
While Venice is famous for its canals, Milan has several beautiful ones of its own. Picturesque bars and restaurants line the canals of Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese, the heart of the city’s nightlife and the best place in town to enjoy aperitivo, the Italian answer to happy hour (a buffet of small bites that come included in the price of a drink at many bars). It’s also a great neighborhood for foodies, as there are many trattorias serving up delicious Italian cuisine, including traditional Milanese dishes, fresh seafood, and artisanal pizza and pasta.

Staying in Navigli offers a unique atmosphere that’s still within easy access to Centro Storico (it’s just a quick tram ride or 30-minute walk away).

Best places to stay in Navigli:

  • BUDGET: Combo Milan – Combo is a small Italian boutique-hostel chain. Its Navigli location offers both dorm beds and private rooms in an industrial-chic space. There’s a fantastic free breakfast spread, a beautiful inner courtyard (with a bar/restaurant), a co-working area, and a guest kitchen if you prefer to prepare your own meals. Dorm beds are comfy and have an individual outlet, reading light, and locker, though no privacy curtains. The showers have great pressure too, which is always a plus in my book.
  • MIDRANGE: Art Hotel Navigli – This four-star hotel is full of art, and walking down the halls almost feels like you’re in a modern museum. The rooms themselves are minimally decorated and a bit dated, but they’re spacious and all have a flat-screen TV, minibar, electric kettle, and Nespresso machine. I think the bathrooms are a bit small and dated but there’s great water pressure. The hotel also has a wellness center with a salt wall, sauna, and steam room, and there’s an expansive breakfast buffet.
  • LUXURY: Magna Pars l’Hotel à Parfum – This five-star hotel continues the tradition of the perfume factory in which it is housed, with a laboratory on-site and calming scents throughout the property. The spacious rooms are designed in soft tones, with modern art, floor-to-ceiling windows, desks, comfortable beds (you can choose your pillow from a menu), and luxurious bathrooms entirely made of marble. There’s an excellent complimentary breakfast buffet, a rooftop bar and restaurant, and a wellness center with a steam room and gym.


Where to Stay to Feel Like a Local: Isola

Old buildings close together near a towering skyscraper in the Isola neighborhood of Milan, Italy
Historically, Isola was a working-class district, with factories and warehouses dominating the landscape. In recent years though, it has undergone a significant transformation, becoming one of Milan’s trendiest neighborhoods.

Today, the area is a hub for artists, designers, and creatives. There’s much colorful street art here, and the industrial spaces have been repurposed into galleries, studios, and creative workspaces. The neighborhood has a bohemian atmosphere, with boutique shops, vintage stores, third-wave coffee shops, and artisanal markets, including the covered Mercato Comunale di Isola, featuring fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other local gourmet products.

Best places to stay in Isola:

  • BUDGET: L’Isola di Romy – This budget-friendly guesthouse offers private rooms with shared bathrooms (which are always kept nice and clean). The rooms are simply furnished but spacious and painted in bright, cheerful colors. Each room has a flat-screen TV, wardrobe, and desk, and some even have a terrace. It’s a good no-frills place.
  • MIDRANGE: BB Hotels Aparthotel Isola – This aparthotel offers spacious apartments with fully equipped kitchenettes that include a cooktop, dishwasher, and electric kettle. They are minimally decorated but have lots of natural light, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. The bathrooms are spacious too, with a bidet, a walk-in shower, and complimentary toiletries. There’s a little supermarket right underneath the apartments, making this the ideal choice if you want to prepare your own meals.
  • LUXURY: Isola isn’t exactly the best choice if you’re looking for luxury, as there aren’t a lot of hotels in this more residential neighborhood. If you are seeking a five-star property, though, head to Excelsior Hotel Gallia in the next neighborhood over, which boasts beautiful, spacious rooms, an indoor swimming pool, an excellent breakfast buffet, and a rooftop bar/restaurant.


Milan blends historical grandeur and contemporary chic. But there’s a lot more to the city too, whether you want to explore the street art scene or enjoy the energetic nightlife. By choosing one of the neighborhoods and accommodations above, you’ll be sure to have a fun stay in Italy’s fashion capital.

Book Your Trip to Milan: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Need a Guide?
Rome has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks. They have expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions.

Want More Information on Milan?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Venice for even more planning tips!

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