Your essential guide to Milan

Chris Leadbeater

By Chris Leadbeater

Travel journalist Chris Leadbeater contributes to titles including National Geographic Traveller, The Telegraph, The Independent and British Airways’ High Life.

Find your bearings

Although Paris and New York will offer counter-arguments, Milan can make a fair claim to being the planet's most fashionable city. Its streets are alive with chic boutiques and the offices of major haute couture labels. Mandarin Oriental, Milan exists perfectly in this world, slotted into the sophisticated Brera district of the historic centre. However, to talk of districts is to give a false impression. Although big in reputation, Milan is pleasingly compact of size. Exit the hotel, take a ten-minute walk south via Via Romagnosi and Via Alessandro Manzoni, and you will soon happen upon the Duomo – a glorious Gothic jewel, 14th century by birth, that stands tall as the world's third largest cathedral.

Feed your mind

As you might expect of a key Italian city, Milan is brimming with art. The Pinacoteca di Brera lies an easy five-minute stroll from the hotel. Here, you can lay your eyes on paintings by Italian masters such as Raphael, Andrea Mantegna and Guido Cagnacci. Speak to the hotel front desk to book a private tour. Not much further away – ten minutes walk to the east – the Galleria d'Arte Moderna keeps its focus closer to the present day, pointing you towards walls festooned with European works from the 18th to 20th centuries, including marvels by Van Gogh, Manet and Picasso.

Interior of Pinacoteca di Brera

Pinacoteca di Brera

The Pinacoteca di Brera is one of the world’s foremost collections of Italian paintings and is the main public gallery in Milan. A private tour package is available through Mandarin Oriental, Milan

Shop like a local

You could pass your entire stay in Milan indulging your impulse to shop. The city treats shopping as a religion, and you can worship at its main temple by entering the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – a celebrated covered arcade, built between 1865 and 1877, where you can visit branches of Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Adjacent to this, La Rinascente is another Milanese shopping stalwart, a department store that opened in 1917. Also make some time to wander down Villa della Spiga – a pedestrianised strip with further genteel clothing outlets.

Luca Finardi

Only in Milan...

“Milan’s Castello Sforzesco is the home of Michelangelo’s last unfinished work: the Pietà Rondanini. The sculpture showing Christ and the Virgin Mary melded in a metaphysical embrace resonates with the talent of one of the greatest Italian artists.”

Luca Finardi, General Manager, Mandarin Oriental, Milan

See some sights

Even if the queue outside is long (and it’s likely to be), don’t miss the Duomo, nor the 135 spires which rise from its roof. Equally iconic, the Teatro alla Scala is one of the true landmarks of opera (tickets can be booked via the concierge desk at Mandarin Oriental, Milan). You might also seek the Sforza Castle – built in the 15th century and once the home of the Dukes of Milan.

Toast your arrival

The city is blessed with many fine establishments where you can stretch out the evening, such as LùBar, which fits discreetly into the courtyard of the Galleria d'Arte Moderna.

Make time to unwind

Parco Sempione

Make time to unwind

Spa & Wellness

Should you wish to relax totally when you return to the hotel, laden with shopping bags, drop by The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Milan. There are six private treatment rooms, including two suites for couples, and gentle possibilities such as a 110-minute Oriental Harmony massage, where two therapists work together to soothe the body and mind. For a simpler way to decompress, you could also amble in one of Milan's green spaces – both the Parco Sempione and the Giardini Montanelli provide leafy calm.

Dine in style 

At the two-Michelin-starred Seta at Mandarin Oriental, Milan, exquisite food is prepared under the careful gaze of chef Antonio Guida. Here, you can sample delicacies such as spaghetti with cuttlefish, and risotto with oysters and sorrel. Beyond the hotel, consider dinner at Langosteria, a popular option in Milan with three intriguing venues around the city: a fine-dining restaurant, a bistro and a café. Or pause your shopping trip to eat at Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone – a hub of refined Italian fare in the heart of the fashion district.

Italian cuisine at Seta


Seta at Mandarin Oriental, Milan is one the city’s best regarded restaurants and offers Italian cuisine with a contemporary flair.

The courtyard at Seta


The courtyard location of Seta, at Mandarin Oriental, Milan.

Terrace at Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone

Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone

Milan does courtyard dining like nowhere else. In the shopping district, the small and buzzing Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone is a fashionable favourite.

Interior of Teatro alla Scala

Time travel

The premiere performance at Teatro alla Scala, on 3 August 1778, was of Europa Riconosciuta, a two-act opera by Antonio Salieri – the Italian composer who has become viewed as Mozart's embittered, jealous rival.

And finally

Drift into the past at Pasticceria Marchesi, a café just off Corso Magenta that was founded in 1824.

Milan’s shopping hot spots

Boutique on Via Montenapoleone

Via Montenapoleone

Via Montenapoleone sits at the hub of Milan's chic fashion district. Photo: Wally Skalij, Getty Images

Versace inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery. Photo: AGF, Getty Images

Inside a boutique on Via della Spiga

Via della Spiga

Via della Spiga is one of Milan's top luxury shopping streets. Photo: Richard I'Anson, Getty Images

10 Corso Como courtyard café

10 Corso Como

Located in a converted garage, 10 Corso Como is home to a collection of cultural, commercial and culinary outlets, including a bookshop, gallery and garden cafè. Photo: Lonely Planet, Getty Images