Milan is not, and most likely never will be, the top city on traveller lists when it comes to visiting Italy. Most likely, a reputation of being boring and too business-like has overshadowed the more appealing parts of the city. Admittedly, Milan will never have the charm or beauty of Rome and Florence, but it is a city with unparalleled glamour and shopping. Our guide breaks down the city into chunks of shopping paradise, making it easy for shopping lovers to decide where to stay. It also unravels the city beyond its shopping opportunities, which will make travellers think twice before dismissing Milan again.

Porta Magenta

Shopping

Porta Magenta is relatively quiet area home to Via Vercelli, a shopping street less busy and easier to shop in than the city centre. It hosts a wide selection of merchandise, but is mostly known for its fantastic shoe shops. It is a top location for those who want to stay in a central area but away from the usual hustle and bustle of city life. However, it also conveniently houses a train station serving Malpensa Airport and the centre of Milan for those who wish to spread their shopping wings a little further.

What else?

Drawing a higher number of tourists that its fashion stores is Porta Magenta’s most important building, the church of S. Maria delle Grazie which is located on Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie Square. This picturesque church is famed for its spectacular architecture, but more so as the home of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.

S. Maria delle Grazie

S. Maria delle Grazie Church in Porta Magneta. Photo by David Davies via FlickrCC.

Porta Nuova

Shopping

Porta Nuova is Milan’s main business district and one of Europe’s biggest rehabilitation sites. Here, green spaces and cycle tracks are successfully intertwined with soaring skyscrapers and modern infrastructures. Although it is quite close to Milan Central Train Station, it doesn’t have the same run-down atmosphere that most cities have in the station area. In fact, it is the most modern and futuristic part of Milan. In terms of shopping options, the large Corso Como Shopping Centre is the best place to whip out your purse. It also has many dining options so shoppers can easily refuel before setting off to purchase more goods.

What else?

Porta Nuova cannot be defined in terms of its shopping. It is the Giardini Pubblici, a historic city park easily reached by following the old city walls, which is the most notable attraction. Since its establishment in 1784, the park has been continually enriched with notable buildings of interest including the Natural History Museum and the Planetarium.

Unicredit Tower

The Unicredit Tower in Porta Nuova, Milan. Photo by Michele M. F. via FlickrCC.

Porta Romana

Shopping

Porta Romana is another former city gate of Milan. These days, it is mainly a residential area with a young population, although it is not as party-centric as other parts of the city. Overall, Porta Romana is mostly a shopping area where a variety of goods can be found nestled within 19th century- and early 20th century buildings. Shoppers are recommended to keep their eyes wide open as they walk along Porta Romana’s streets; their next bargain could be lurking in one of the small shops or craftsmen’s shops in the area.

What else?

Several important streets run through Porta Romana including Corso Porta Romana, the main street of 19th-century Milan which leads straight into the heart of town. Several sculptures are dotted around the area, such as a marble statue of Michelangelo Pistoletto, the “Dietrofront”.

Corso Porta Romana

A view of Corso Porta Romana, Milan. Photo by rykerstribe via FlickrCC.

Porta Ticinese/S. Ambrogio

Shopping

Younger shoppers will find what they are looking for on Via Torino Street which stretches between the Duomo and Corso di Porta Ticinese. The shops here project a more casual style that the rest of Milan, and include Foot Locker, Camper and Energy. It is also the perfect place to buy second-hand clothing, eccentric clothing, unique household goods, and handmade clothes and accessories. Corso di Porta Ticinese is lined with big brand names. Anyone wishing to just relax after clocking up several hours shopping can do so in one of the small parks placed in the area.

Via Torino

Zara on Via Torino, Milan. Photo by Sergio Calleja (Life is a trip) via FlickrCC.

What else?

The area around Porta Ticinese/S. Ambrogio is filled with mediaeval-looking little streets made up of low-rise apartment buildings set around pretty courtyards. Porta Ticinese also hosts another former gate of Milan which is considered one of the landmark attractions of the city. This is one of the few remnants of the medieval walls that are still in place. History lovers will also find themselves close to the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, one of the most ancient churches in Milan.

Porta Venezia/Corso Buenos

Shopping

Porta Venezia/Corso Buenos Aires is considered Milan’s prime shopping area. Hours of complete bliss can be spent browsing through large department stores, cheap clothing boutiques and shoe shops – there are also plenty of supermarkets for the foodie visitors. The main street buildings which hold these shops are large early 20th-century blocks built in a beautiful design.

What else?

Porta Venezia offers some quiet spaces for visitors looking for something a bit more chilled, including some quiet side streets with attractive façades. Visitors will also find that the area opens into the Giardini Pubblici (now Parco Indro Montanelli). Besides being a nice spot to spend a peaceful few hours, it is also home of the former royal residence and city museum of 19th-century art, Villa Reale, and the Pavilion of Contemporary Art (PAC).

Giardini Pubblici

Giardini Pubblici. Photo by Mike_fleming via FlickrCC.

Isolo

Shopping

Tucked away in the north of the city is the 19th century Isola, a neighbourhood considered Milan’s best kept secret. Visitors who choose this area as their base will find themselves just steps away from shops selling ceramics, end-of-season clothes by various labels, and for the lucky shopper, possibly an off-cut of brightly colored Como silk. It is also a good area in which to go food shopping, particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables.

What else?

Living up to its name ‘island’, it is isolated from the rest of the city by train tracks. Once the area where struggling artists came to reside due to the low rental rates, nowadays, it is a fashionable quarter with many pubs and clubs, including the Milan Blue Note Jazz Club. It is also home to several trattoria serving Milanese and Italian cuisine, ethnic restaurants, art galleries and studios. Visitors to Isola will also find it to be the heart of Milan street art. Among other fascinating pieces, one of the top artworks is the TV character ‘Arnold’ created by Zibe, one of Milan’s best known artists.

Bruschetta

Bruschetta, just one tasty dish which can be eaten in Milan. Photo by Prawee Nonthapun via FlickrCC.

Via Montenapoleone

Shopping

Another shopping zone in the city, but one of the world’s most sought-after and famous fashion centres, is Via Montenapoleone. Visitors who chose to stay here will find their lodgings mingled among the boutiques of many well-known fashion designers and the most exclusive Italian shoemakers. Although the area is extremely busy during the day, it transforms into a quiet space by night. Visitors can watch Via Montenapoleone remodel itself as the sun goes down from Caffè Cova, one of the city’s oldest cafés and confectioners.

Caffè Cova

Caffè Cova, Milan. Photo by marina di Lecco via FlickrCC.

What else?

Shopping is certainly the most dominant attraction in Via Montenapoleone. However, it is also home to Neoclassical palaces including the Palazzo Melzi di Cusano, the Palazzo Gavazzi, the Casa Carcassola and the Palazzetta Tarverna.

Navigli

Shopping

Navigli is a part of a historic Milan which has slowly intertwined itself with more funky elements. An up and coming neighbourhood, like Isola, it was once the home of struggling creatives. Now it regards itself as an arty area, which can be seen through the presence of art galleries, small local shops and street markets.

What else?

Also like Isola, Navigli is named for its structure, that is the canals which run through it. While once the neighbourhood was similar to Venice due to its sheer amount of canals and their use in transporting goods and other services, there are only a few left now. In fact, only three canals have survived: Naviglio della Martesana, Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese. Visitors can follow along these canals to find charming parts of Milan placed off the beaten tourist track. The canals are also good spots for bars and restaurants.

Naviglio Pavese

Naviglio Pavese, Milan. Photo by Luigi Rosa via FlickrCC.

Brera

Shopping

Situated north of the Duomo, Brera is a unique district made up of narrow streets. One-of-a-kind pieces can be found in the many charming boutiques, antique stores and art shops ready to be explored. Public transportation is limited to the metro, but the area is pretty easy to walk around and it is not difficult to spend the day shopping in Brera.

What else?

As well as beautiful buildings with well-kept balconies and spectacular churches to view, it also provides easy access to Sforza Castle and its many museums, the Museo del Risorgimento and the Museo d’Arte e Scienza. The Pinacoteca Brera Art Museum is also present and is the main public gallery for paintings in Milan.

Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco, Milan. Photo by fedewild via FlickrCC.

Porta Sempione

Shopping

Porta Sempione is a vibrant area with a good nightlife due to the number of restaurants, bars and discos placed there. It is also one of the cheaper parts of Milan, where guests are more likely to find a bargain in its elegant clothes shops. Those looking for something a bit different will find themselves just a short walk from Milan’s Chinatown.

What else?

Porta Sempione is a historic area where many significant attractions can be found. Porta Sempione’s main landmark is Sforza Castle, which dominates Parco Sempione, the largest and most important city park in the centre of Milan. A leisurely stroll through the park will lead to the discovery of renowned monuments and places of interest, such as the Branca Tower, the Palazzo dell’Arte sculptures by Giorgio de Chirico and the public aquarium.

Have you been on a shopping trip to Milan? Tell us some tips on getting the best bargains in the comments below.

(Header: Castello Sforzesco, Milan. Photo by fedewild via FlickrCC.)