A strongly opinionated, fun guide to Milan's nightlife.
Milan is a hard city to enjoy, they say, when you do not know any local and have no idea where the hot spots in town are.
To help you to get in the mix, here’s a short, very opinionated guide of Milan’s nightlife areas: get ready for your big night out!
Our first suggestion sounds quite counterintuitive: do not hang out in Piazza Duomo! Nothing goes on there at night… Milan’s nightlife is spread all over town, but it seems to ignore its most beautiful square!
1 - NAVIGLI
The first area we suggest you check out is the long strip that goes from the Navigli, Milan’s two canals, to the Colonne di San Lorenzo (if you didn’t read the previous paragraph and you’re in Piazza Duomo, a short walk along via Torino will take you there!). The canals are pretty dramatic at night, with the lights reflecting in the water, the boats turned into pubs, no cars… In this area you’ll find pretty much everything, from wannabe Irish pubs serving German beer to some clubs (not the cool ones, though – hang on for those), from the historical jazz club Le Scimmie to nice small joints serving a careful selection of brews and ales at canal-side tables. The crowd you’ll find depends on the place you choose, or rather, the one where you can find a table. This area has grown very popular over the years, and you may have to wait in line, or settle for the less hip, less crowded places.
2 - TICINESE
If sitting at a table is not what you’re looking for, you can keep walking towards the Ticinese area, around the Colonne di San Lorenzo. This is the main “alternative” hangout spot - and yes, main and alternative can go together in Milan (we told you the city is hard to understand if you don’t know the locals, right?). Here, some historical bars (do not miss Rattazzo, an institution in town) sell cheap drinks and beer that you usually drink outside, either standing in crowded backstreets or sitting in the (crowded) Colonne square. On the right night, you might run into drum circles, guitars jam-sessions, improvised performances of all kinds… all between roman columns and a 5th-Century church. An increasingly cool spot in this area, for local radical-chic and hipsters and tourists alike, is Ostello Bello, one of the coolest hostels in town: their bar is always crowded, so much that they have to reserve some tables for their guests!
3 - BRERA
On the other side of the city center, you’ll find the Brera area. It once was a place for artists, bohemians and actors. That was 30 or 40 years ago, though. Nowadays, the area is still very fascinating: narrow cobbled streets, medieval buildings, fortune tellers with their colourful tables… and way too expensive bars still thriving on the fame the place had decades ago. You won’t find many locals here, unless they are either not concerned by the high prices, or just not (yet) aware of them. Still, we recommend a walk around Brera: as long as you do not look at the prices on the menus, you might still catch a glimpse of the artsy past of this streets, and maybe find the few places that remain faithful to the old spirit.
4 - CORSO COMO
Ok, but what about the clubs and discos that made Milan’s nightlife famous? You will find the most famous, coolest (and expensive) clubs around Corso Como. Celebrities and football players from the local teams are known to hang out here – a tad too much, according to the fans and the results of both FC Inter and AC Milan, as of late. Clubs like Hollywood, The Club, Loollapaloosa and Shocking are found in this area, and this is definitely the place to be if you’re into celebrities-watching. If you’re lucky, you can see an alcohol-fueled brawl between a football player and an F1 driver, or two famous actors betting on who will take home the hottest supermodel in the room.
5 - CORSO SEMPIONE
Apart from nightclubs, what made Milan famous is the local approach to the Happy Hour: basically “buy a cocktail and feel free to raid our buffet”. Although the peak of this trend seems to have passed, you can still have some great drinks and nice eats in the Corso Sempione- Arco della Pace area. A little on the expensive side, the bars around here usually offer nice and comfortable open-air tables, and they are the perfect place to fuel up before you head somewhere else for the night. The insider tip for happy hours is: leave your shame at home! Nobody bats an eye if you buy just one cocktail and then fill your plate 6 or 7 times - don’t be shy and take full advantage of this. Also, try not to think of how the bars afford it – the food does not taste bad, and that should suffice. The hip, brand new Gogol Ostello is nearby: they started out as a cultural cafè, then added a hostel that immediately became a backpacker’s favorite. You can still catch readings and other happenings filled with hipsters pretending to pay attention while they eye the buffet.
6 - ISOLA
Finally, the up-and-coming area for nightlife is “Isola”, near the Garibaldi train station. Although this zone has been “up-and-coming” for way too long, which now makes it a bit posh and radical-chic, those who come here still feel like they are creating and living a new, alternative scene. Here you will find some new pubs and bars with great selections of cocktails, including the art-themed Frida, still the most popular joint in Isola more than 10 years after opening.
Well, this is what Milan has to offer at night: pick your favourite spot, get to know the locals and have fun!
P.S.: after a long night spent partying hard in Milan you will need a good place to stay...take a look at our best offers in Milan using this booking form: