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City style: the best design spots in Milan

An intimate connection with aesthetics is woven into the fabric of this Italian city. Here's where to get your design fix.

Published 15 Jul 2019, 08:00 BST
The Doping Club
The Doping Club.
Photograph by Diana Franceschin

The Doping Club

Best for: A night in the know
Dress up, be nice and put your phone away to gain entry to the bar of choice for Milan’s design crowd. It’s part of The Yard Hotel but feels anything like a hotel bar, with a huge, traditional, English-style main room filled with mismatched chesterfields and a mini Titanic replica. The cocktails are inventive, there’s fantastic pizza, the soundtrack is jazz, and the strict no-phone policy means people actually talk to each other. 


Best for: Five-star views
The 22nd International Exhibition (until 1 September) at La Triennale di Milano in Sempione Park focuses on eco-friendly design. The rooftop Terrazza Triennale restaurant and bar overlooks the park and the Sforza Castle, which contains ceiling frescoes by da Vinci and views of the Duomo and the Vertical Forest (twin high-rise apartment blocks covered in plants).  

Circolo Marras

Best for: Fashion first
Ring the bell for Circolo Marras at this nondescript block of flats and you’ll be buzzed into a beautiful, tree- and flower-filled garden — seats tucked away in nooks, rusting bird cages hung artily on creeper-covered walls. Beyond this lies Antonio Marras’ shop, where you’ll find his latest clothing collection, along with a ceramics collaboration with Puglia-based Kiasmo, and homewear including sofas dressed in his fabrics. 

10 Corso Como

Best for: A morning out
Opened in 1990 as a gallery by fashion editor Carla Sozzani in a vacant garage in trendy Porta Garibaldi, 10 Corso Como has since expanded to include a fashion boutique, a cafe and a bookshop, all wrapped around a florid garden with a pretty terrace on top. Weird and wonderful design elements, including life-size giraffes propping up the chandeliers attract the Instagrammers. 

Remains, by Sheela Gowda, Pirelli HangarBicocca.
Photograph by Diana Franceschin

Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Best for: Grandeur
German artist Anselm Kiefer’s Seven Celestial Palaces (huge, precarious-looking concrete towers) dominates this industrial plant-turned-modern art exhibition space in the Bicocca district. Temporary shows include Indian artist Sheela Gowda’s Remains (until 15 September), featuring ominous crimson bunting. The dynamic between the exhibits and the vast space they occupy is extraordinary.  

Via Solferino

Best for: People-watching
Via Monte Napoleone is where the big brands congregate, but cobbled Via Solferino, in the Brera district, runs it a close second. Where Monte Napoleone is classic, this is more design-focused. Dimore Studio and Dilmos are among the design shop/galleries, while on the fashion side, the Missoni showroom hides in a plant-filled courtyard. Elsewhere, Iliprandi and Le Solferine do men’s and women’s shoes, respectively. 

Montenapoleone VIP Lounge

Best for: High rollers
Via Monte Napoleone’s big spenders are gifted free entrance to this exclusive rooftop lounge by brands wanting to curry favour; mere mortals can buy access for €195 (£169). That gets two of you free drinks, a place to store your shopping bags and a concierge service that can arrange everything from Last Supper tickets to your airport transfer. One for the richest of the rich. 


Best for: Serious fashion-watching

The permanent exhibition at Armani’s gallery, a former grain depot, is a retrospective of Giorgio Armani creations since 1980. But it’s not all about him; temporary exhibitions focus on design and architecture — past shows have included a Vogue  Italia photography exhibition, while a current retrospective on Japanese architect Tadao Ando finishes on 28 July. 

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Published in the Jul/Aug issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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