Where to Stay in Milan: A Complete Guide for First Timers

A lot of people – including us, to be fair – overlook Milan for more “sexy” cities in Italy like Rome, Florence, and Venice. And, to be honest, that probably makes sense for a first trip to Italy. In fact, our 10 day Italy itinerary (written for first-timers) skips Milan and focuses instead on those three cities, so we’re absolutely guilty of that. 

However, we really enjoy Milan, and it offers something a little different from those other Italian cities.

To us, Milan feels more modern and cosmopolitan. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely love the older look and feel of Rome or Florence, where the historic centers have been meticulously protected and restored over the centuries.

But good luck finding excellent Japanese food in Rome, which is something Milan has in droves. 

As an added bonus, Milan, which is both the second biggest city in Italy and the country’s fashion capital, has some truly top tier people watching. Largely thanks to the presence of said fashion industry. 

Deciding where to stay in Milan is going to have a big impact on what your trip is like, especially because most travelers only spend a day or two in the city, which is probably about the right amount of time if you have limited vacation time (we’d recommend two days in Milan). 

Given that time constraint, you’re probably going to want to stay more centrally to cut down on travel time between attractions. 

In this guide, we’re going to do our best to walk you through all the information you need to figure out where to stay in Milan for your particular style, budget, and preferences. 

We’ll go through four great areas to stay in Milan, and give you the pros and cons for each as we see it. Then we’ll give you a few hotel, hostel, and apartment options that we came across and think would make a good home base for exploring the city. 

Our intention is that, by the end of this guide, you have everything you need to choose the right place to stay in Milan for you and your travel companions. 

Sound good to you? Let’s get into it. 

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

The 4 Best Places to Stay in Milan: A Complete Guide

Our philosophy when it comes to deciding on a place to stay is to first choose the neighborhood, then move on to finding a great hotel, hostel, or apartment in that area. 

The beauty of Milan, like most big cities, is that each neighborhood has a unique personality. The best neighborhood in Milan for you totally depends on what you’re looking for. 

The downside of that fact is that it can be REALLY confusing when it comes time to decide on where to stay. 

With so many great neighborhood options, each with their own quirks and unique charm, which area should you choose? 

It seems impossible to do in a city as big and sprawling as Milan, but we’ve narrowed down the list of the best places to stay in Milan to just four great neighborhoods. 

The reality is that, depending on what you’re looking for, there are other neighborhoods that probably meet your needs. But these are the four that we think are the best for 99% of travelers, and we’ve shown our work, doing our best to explain why we think that. 

For each of the four neighborhoods, we’ve created a structure to help you figure out if it’s the right home base for you. Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • An overview of the neighborhood and our experience with it. We’ve personally been to and explored (more than once) all of the areas on this list, so we’ll try to give you a little bit of our perspective on what makes each area special. 

  • Pros and cons of staying in this area. The things you need to know to make your decision. 

  • A collection of a few places to stay that stood out to us. Sometimes it’ll be because they have rooms with Duomo views, sometimes it’s that the hotel offers a great value given the location.

Now, we’re well aware that a few of you are currently ready to throw your left shoe at the screen, saying “I don’t have time to read all of that, JUST TELL ME THE BEST PLACE TO STAY!” 

Well, here’s a quick summary of this guide if you’re short on time (though we’d recommend reading the section of the place you end up staying for tips and places to add to your list!).

  • Our overall top recommendation is to stay on the northeastern end of the city center near Porta Nuova and Porta Venezia. The combination of great location, easy public transit connections, and great places to eat, drink, and shop make this our top recommendation. It’s also the place we’ve spent the most nights in Milan, for what it’s worth. If you want the combination of extra space and kitchen facilities that an apartment provides, stay at Casa Mia (which also has the amenities of a hotel, like a front desk and luggage storage). If a hotel is what you’re looking for, stay at the stylish 21 House of Stories, which is a little further out, but is a great value. 

  • If it’s your first time in Milan and you want to be within walking distance of the main attractions in Milan, stay in the Centro Storico (Milan’s Historic Center). Centered around the Duomo di Milano, this is where you’ll spend the vast majority of your time in Milan. The prices reflect the convenience of the location, but there are some nice hotels within a few blocks of Piazza del Duomo that are worth considering if you’re looking to be in the middle of all the action. Namely Room Mate Guilia, which is half a block from the city’s main piazza. 

  • If you want to stay in what we think is the coolest neighborhood in Milan, stay near the Navigli (Milan’s canals). This area really comes alive at night, and is our favorite area in terms of food and drinks in Milan. Combo Milano is a nice hotel/hostel hybrid with great communal facilities and reasonable prices (even for private rooms), and Aethos Milan is a beautiful boutique hotel within a few blocks of both the canals and also some of Milan’s best bars and restaurants. 

  • If you’re in Milan on a short trip (24-36 hours), the most convenient place to stay is in the area near Milan’s main train station, Milano Centrale. For what it’s worth, we’ve stayed here for two separate 24 hour(ish) stints in Milan, and it’s super convenient for getting to and from the train station (which is walkable) and airport (the train line arrives at Milano Centrale). For the best value hotel in Milan, look at iQ Hotel. For a cool boutique hostel with affordable private rooms and dorm rooms, stay at Ostello Bello Grande. We’ve stayed at both, and would recommend them. 

Note: Milan Fashion Week takes place twice a year around February/March and September/October. These weeks are some of the busiest times in the city and can cause accommodation prices to increase dramatically. Try to avoid these periods if at all possible. Or if you are already planning to visit during this time, book your hotel as far in advance as you can and avoid hotels close to the fashion week venues.

Where We’ve Stayed in Milan

It probably makes the most sense to start with where we’ve stayed in Milan over the course of our trips. 

Our first two stints in Milan were for ridiculously short periods – we were using it as a good place to fly in and out of for other parts of Italy – and we were only in the city for roughly 24 hours each time. 

For that reason, we decided we wanted to be close to Stazione Centrale, the main train station for arriving by train and for getting to the airport, to make arriving and departing a breeze. 

On our first trip, Alysha and I were in the middle of our three month European extravaganza, and were on a tighter budget. We stayed at Ostello Bello Grande, a nice boutique hostel roughly one block from the train station and all the easy transit connections that area offers.

The hostel is really nice, and is less the grungy hostel you picture when you hear the word, and more a cross between a boutique hotel and a hostel.

It’s budget-friendly, with bunk rooms and private rooms, and has nice shared facilities including a kitchen and rooftop area. 

On our second trip to the city, Matt was with his mom and brother, and we were using Milan as a way to get to and from Cinque Terre. This was another 24 hour visit, and we again stayed near Milano Centrale for the same reason. 

This time, we chose iQ Hotel (because they had good reviews and a triple room), which was a fantastic value and a convenient location. Highly recommend!

Our room at iQ Hotel near Stazione Centrale

On the latest trip, I (Matt here!) was finishing up that trip with his mom and brother and spent some extra time in Milan solo. This time, because I had more time, I decided to stay somewhere other than right next to the train station. 

I chose Casa Mia, which is an aparthotel where it’s a hotel-style building with reception, but the units are all apartments with extra space and, crucially for me, a kitchen.

My comfortable kitchen at Casa Mia in Milan

I liked it, and the location near Porta Nuova and Porta Venezia was nice, with great transit connections and a nice (but long) walk to the historic center. 

Porta Venezia / Porta Nuova: Our Overall Top Recommendation in Milan

A more charming, residential area near Porta Venezia

I’m grouping these two relatively small areas together to form one big swath on the northeastern edge of the city center between the Duomo and Mliano Centrale. The two neighborhoods sit right next to each other and are similar enough that we think it makes sense to combine them into one section.

Both neighborhoods are named for the city gates that are still standing. 

We’ve found ourselves in both areas multiple times over the course of our trips to Milan, mostly to eat or drink, which is a good introduction to what you’re getting if you stay here. That, and the fact that it’s really easy to get around Milan from here thanks to the prolific metro, tram, and bus connections within walking distance. 

Porta Venezia is the eastern part of this area, and it’s equal parts dense, vibrant, and historic. 

Porta Venezia from Corso Buenos Aires

It’s filled with beautiful architecture and it’s one of Milan’s most diverse neighborhoods, with a large expat population and LGBTQ+ community (Via Lecco is the place to go if you’re looking for gay bars).

Corso Buenos Aires (Milan’s longest shopping street) cuts right through Porta Venezia.

Corso Buenos Aires runs right through Porta Venezia

One of the best streets for shopping in Milan, it’s packed with high-end boutiques, designer stores, and covered shopping galleries. It’s a very modern street, which is an odd contrast with the more historic architecture that you’ll find just a block or two in either direction. 

Porta Nuova sits to the west of Porta Venezia, is more modern than its historic neighbor, but shares a lot of the same vibes (which isn’t that surprising given they’re right next door to each other). 

The once-industrial area underwent a huge restoration project to transform it into the sleek and futuristic business district it is today.

The area is now known for its impressive skyscrapers and luxury apartments, including the iconic Unicredit Tower – the tallest tower in Italy – and the super sustainable Vertical Forest residential complex.

The neighborhood also has plenty of pedestrianized shopping streets and hip restaurants and bars, many of which are centered around the hyper-modern Piazza Gae Aulenti.

Corso Como, which is a pedestrianized street that runs from Stazione Garibaldi south to Porta Garibaldi, is worth a walk in the evening to get a real feel for the neighborhood. 

Pros and Cons of Staying in Porta Venezia / Porta Nuova

Pros of Staying near Porta Venezia / Porta Nuova

  • It’s a good location. Both districts sit right between the main train station and the historic center of Milan, putting you in an ideal location for moving around the city. You can walk to both in roughly 15-20 minutes. Or hop on public transportation for an even quicker journey.

  • Lots of places to eat and drink. Both neighborhoods are packed with great places to eat and drink, especially if you include the surrounding area (within about 10 minutes on foot). 

  • Shopping heaven. If shopping is your thing, Porta Venezia is definitely one of the best areas to stay in Milan. The neighborhood is one of Milan’s main fashion and shopping hubs. So you can shop ‘til you drop, then ditch your bags at your accommodation before heading back out for dinner.

  • Relatively untouristy. While certainly not the quietest neighborhoods, Porta Venezia and Porta Nuova don’t have the huge hordes of tourists that the area around the Duomo (and even the canals) does. 

Cons of Staying near Porta Venezia / Porta Nuova

  • It can be noisy at night. Porta Venezia and Porta Nuova are both known for their nightlife, which means some areas can get a little loud at night.

  • Lacking budget options. These are two fairly upscale areas, so it can be difficult to find budget hotels or hostels. Although, a few cheaper options can be found on the outskirts of both neighborhoods, and it is certainly cheaper than staying near the Duomo. 

The Best Places to Stay in Porta Venezia / Porta Nuova

Here are a few of our picks for the best places to stay in Porta Venezia / Porta Nuova. 

Aparthotel Casa Mia: Comfortable Apartments in a Great Location (Where We Stayed)

Casa Mia is a charming boutique aparthotel sitting just to the north of the Indro Montanelli Gardens. 

I, Matt, stayed here for a handful of nights to close out my latest trip to Milan, and it was a very comfortable home base for exploring the city (and I used the well-equipped kitchen to make a lovely amatriciana for dinner on my last night). 

The hotel straddles the border of Porta Venezia and Porta Nuova, making it ideal for exploring both neighborhoods. It’s also just a block from a metro and tram stop and a 10-minute walk to the central train station.

The aparthotel features spacious and stylish private apartments with separate living areas and fully equipped kitchens so you can cook your own meals. 

While all of the apartments are one-bedroom, some can accommodate 3 people with an extra bed or 4 people on a sofa bed in the living area. The extra beds make Casa Mia a good option for families or small groups.

Casa Mia offers the space and privacy of an apartment while maintaining many of the services of a hotel, including a concierge service, daily cleaning (if you want it, we usually don’t), breakfast snacks, and luggage storage. 

21 House of Stories Città Studi: A Beautiful Hotel + Great Value

21 House of Stories is a contemporary hotel in the very north of Porta Venezia, about 10 minutes northeast of the gate itself. It’s a little further from the historic city center than the rest of the neighborhood but is still easily accessible using public transportation.

It’s a great value because of that location. 

The affordable hotel has 120 modern and stylish rooms, with singles, doubles, and triples available. Each room has parquet floors, a large comfortable bed, a desk area, and a coffee machine.

The hotel also features a 24-hour reception, a 24-hour fitness center, a co-working area, and an on-site bar and restaurant with an outdoor terrace. 

The room rate also includes a free continental buffet breakfast each morning, making it great value for the money.

Moscova Luxury B&B: Upscale Apartments at a Mid-Range Price

A B&B that’s just as chic, modern, and luxurious as the area that it’s in, Moscova Luxury B&B features stylish rooms, suites, and apartments in a prestigious courtyard in the west of Porta Nuova (on the border with Brera). 

The design-focused rooms and suites each have an ensuite bathroom, with a communal living area and kitchen available for guests to use. Most are doubles, with some rooms fitting a sofa bed to sleep one additional person.

Alternatively, you can book an entire apartment that sleeps up to 7 adults, which is great for large groups. Each apartment has separate bedrooms, a spacious living area, a well-equipped kitchen, and a private terrace/balcony.

A complimentary breakfast is included at a nearby cafe, while the friendly owner keeps the B&B’s shared kitchen fully stocked with free snacks and drinks for guests, including biscuits, fruit, cereal, milk, coffee, and even wine! 

Heart Hotel Milano: The Best Value in the Neighborhood

Heart Hotel Milano is a modern hotel in the heart of the Porta Nuova district, with a minimalist design, bold artwork, and simple yet elegant rooms providing a contemporary urban experience. 

The hotel is one of the best value hotels in the upmarket neighborhood.

The hotel has double and triple rooms available, each with a small desk, flat-screen TV, and en-suite bathroom. Some also have a small private balcony. 

There’s a 24-hour reception so you can check in or ask for assistance at any time of day. The staff can also store your luggage at the hotel pre or post check-in.

Magville Hotel Milano: A Beautiful Historic Hotel that’s Further Out

Magville Hotel Milano is a beautiful boutique hotel located in a safe, quiet neighborhood just east of Porta Venezia.

It’s a little further out than the other hotels we have in this section, but the price reflects that, we think – if it was near the Duomo, the prices would be at least double what they are. 

You can walk to busy Corso Buenos Aires in around 10-15 minutes, while the metro and bus stops close to the hotel take you directly to the Duomo and other sights of the Centro Storico.

Once an elegant early 20th Century Milanese home, the charming hotel hides chic, modern interiors behind its historic blue facade. 

The small hotel has a number of cozy rooms and suites that can sleep up to 3 people. All rooms face a central garden courtyard that provides a peaceful oasis in the busy Italian city.

A free continental breakfast is offered in the hotel’s dining room each morning.

Stazione Centrale: The Most Convenient Place to Stay for Short Trips

First thing’s first: this recommendation is almost purely a utilitarian one. Particularly for short trips, when it’s nice to not have a long trek to and from the train station and/or airport. 

We’ve stayed within a few blocks of Milan’s main train station, Milano Centrale, multiple times, and definitely recommend it as a convenient home base. It’s easy to get to the airport. It’s easy to get to your train connection. And it’s easy to get to the historic center via metro, tram, or bus. 

You’re probably asking some variation of “what’s the catch here?”

If we’re being honest, it’s not the best neighborhood in terms of amenities like bars, restaurants, and cafes. In fact, we ate exactly zero meals within six or so blocks of the train station.

The area near Stazione Centrale – lots of concrete, not a lot of greenery

As long as you’re okay with not being within a short walk of Milan’s best bars and restaurants, it’s a solid choice, especially for shorter trips. 

It’s also worth noting that the train station itself is a work of art. It’s the busiest train station in Europe, and has connections coming in from Switzerland, France, Germany, and other central European countries.

Walking through it, you’ll see all sorts of sculptures, and the halls themselves are pretty ornate as far as big bustling train stations go. 

Pros and Cons of Staying near Stazione Centrale

Pros of Staying near Stazione Centrale

  • It’s convenient for arriving and departing. No matter where you’re coming from, it’s likely you’ll arrive at Milano Centrale since both trains from the rest of Italy and the train from the airports arrive there. If you have an early morning or late night train/flight to catch, staying in the station area can make your journey much quicker and easier.

  • Great transportation connections. Unsurprisingly given it’s the main train station serving the city, there are excellent public transportation options for moving around the city. The station sits on two metro lines, while numerous buses and trams connect the station to the historic center and the rest of the city.

  • It’s relatively affordable. Being further away from the major tourist attractions of the historic center, the station is one of the best areas to stay in Milan if you’re traveling on a budget. 

Cons of Staying near Stazione Centrale

  • The area is not so charming. If it’s romantic Italian charm that you’re looking for, this area may not be for you. Other than the station building itself, which is pretty impressive, the modern station area isn’t the most historic or picturesque part of the city. It’s urban, dense, and features lots of concrete. 

  • There aren’t a whole lot of good places to eat. While the station area certainly has its fair share of restaurants, most of them are international chains and fast-food spots. If you’re a foodie traveler looking for a more authentic Italian meal, you’ll likely be heading elsewhere to eat.

The Best Places to Stay near Stazione Centrale

Here are a few of our picks for the best places to stay near Stazione Centrale. 

iQ Hotel: Probably the Best Value in Milan (Where We Stayed) 

iQ Hotel is a contemporary and innovative “smart city hotel” on a quiet street close to the central station that’s ideal for both business and leisure travelers. 

We (Matt, my mom, and my brother) stayed in one of their triple rooms – two double beds and a single bed – for a night, and the location a block from Milano Centrale made it a breeze for his mom and brother to get to and from the train station / airport the next morning, maximizing our time for exploring. 

The hotel has double, triple, and quadruple rooms to choose from. The rooms are extremely spacious with a modern design and many smart features such as a 49-inch smart TV, a laptop safe, and international wall sockets. 

The top floor of the hotel is home to a luxurious gym and spa for guests to relax and unwind at the end of the day. 

On the rooftop, you’ll find the popular LiQuido Rooftop Bar, a cool cocktail bar with an innovative drinks menu, gourmet small dishes, and fantastic views of the city.

Ostello Bello Grande: A Nice Boutique Hostel (Where We Stayed)

Ostello Bello Grande is a trendy and vibrant hostel set 100m from the station and right above two metro lines, making it super easy to travel around the city.

We stayed here on our first trip to Milan, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to travelers looking for an affordable stay near the train station in Milan. 

The hostel’s accommodation options cater to various travel styles and group sizes, including shared dormitory rooms, private en-suites, and family rooms that sleep up to 6 people.

There’s a fully equipped kitchen plus a 24/7 snack bar and breakfast buffet. 

But the real highlight of the hostel has to be how easy it is to connect with other like-minded travelers. There are some great communal spaces and amenities, including a workstation, movie room, board games, foosball, ping-pong tables, and three outdoor terraces with hammocks and a BBQ. 

There are also regular social events at the hostel, with everything from free city tours to drinking games and pub crawls. 

Hyatt Centric Milan Centrale: A Solid Mid-Range Option

Hyatt Centric is the multinational hotel brand’s answer to newer hip hotel brands (like CitizenM, our favorite) and they’ve been rolling them out in cities around the world, including here in our home city of Portland, Oregon. 

Hyatt Centric Milan Centrale is a mid-range hotel located between Milan’s Central Station and the modern skyscrapers of Porta Nuova.

Each of the modern rooms and suites is stylishly decorated, with wooden parquet flooring and elegant custom-designed furniture. 

Many rooms have fantastic views over the Milan skyline from their floor-to-ceiling windows, while some even feature their own balcony or terrace. 

There’s a 24/7 fitness room in the hotel’s basement, as well as a luxurious wellness center with a pool, sauna, and Turkish bath which guests can use for a small extra fee. 

But the highlight of the hotel has to be the lush rooftop garden bar set on the 13th floor, with stunning views over the city skyline, a bespoke cocktail menu, and gourmet small bites. 

INNSiDE by Meliá Milano: A Beautiful Boutique Hotel (Floor to Ceiling Windows!)

For those who want to really experience Milan’s modern cosmopolitan vibe, INNSiDE by Meliá Milano is a stylish hotel sitting within the iconic GalfA Tower, a 30-story skyscraper just a couple of blocks from the station.

Rooms are clean and modern, with a simple, sleek decor and all of the amenities you could possibly need, including a coffee machine, mini fridge, and flat-screen TV with Chromecast for all of your streaming needs. 

You can choose between the more compact hotel-style rooms, larger studios with a spacious living area, or the luxurious lofts with sweeping views of Milan.

The hotel’s location within the famous skyscraper means that many of the rooms offer fantastic views of the city from their floor-to-ceiling windows. Although, it’s worth noting that the best views will cost you a little more.

You can also make the most of the hotel’s modern gym, on-site restaurant, and cocktail bar and lounge with regular live music.

The Centro Storico: The Most Central, Walkable Place to Stay

Milan’s historic center – which we’re saying is centered around Piazza del Duomo and the Duomo di Milano – is an odd mish mash of different architectural styles that give the city a distinct modern flair, at least when compared to other Italian cities of similar size. 

It’s part historic, part modern, with centuries old churches peeking out from between modern apartment buildings with multinational chains like H&M on the ground floor. 

In many ways, it reminds me more of Paris or Berlin than it does Rome or Florence (and I’m certainly not the only one who feels that way – the north/south divide is alive and well in Italy). 

Which is in part because of Milan’s position as a more global city, with headquarters of many of Italy’s global fashion conglomerates located in the historic center. 

The advantages of staying in the historic center basically boil down to the fact that you’re basically within walking distance of the city’s main attractions, particularly the Duomo, Parco Sempione, and the Last Supper (located in Santa Maria delle Grazie).  

You could spend your whole time in Milan without leaving the Centro Storico if you wanted. Although, we’re not saying that you should do this. There’s so much more to Milan if you do have the time to venture out to do some exploring.

As the most tourist-centric part of the city, it also has the best selection of hotels, though you’ll definitely be paying a premium to be in the historic center. 

Unlike other city centers, where the food and drink options tend to be okay at best, there are actually some really good places to eat and drink here.

Though you’re still going to pay the premium for the central location, especially if you’re within a few blocks of the Duomo (but, hey, the view behind the Aperol Spritz might be worth the €15 you paid for it).

Pros and Cons of Staying in Milan’s Centro Storico

Before getting into the specifics, we wanted to put a note here at the top to emphasize that, though the cons seem to outweigh the pros in the list below, the key question here is whether or not you’re willing to pay for the convenience of being within walking distance of everything in Milan.

If the answer is yes, then this is the neighborhood for you!

Pros of Staying in Milan’s Centro Storico

  • It’s convenient. The Centro Storico is Milan’s most central neighborhood. By staying here, the majority of the main sights and attractions will be within walking distance from your accommodation. You’ll have everything you need right on your doorstep. If you want to be able to walk out your front door to the Duomo, dinner, or coffee, then this is the place to stay. 

  • Good metro and tram connections. The centrally located neighborhood also has great public transportation connections to the rest of the city, including Navigli to the south and Milan’s Central Station to the north.

Cons of Staying in Milan’s Centro Storico

  • It’s expensive. Being a popular tourist hotspot, the Centro Storico is one of the more expensive areas to stay in Milan. You can get better value for money elsewhere in the city, but you won’t get a view of the Duomo from your room or hotel’s rooftop in those other neighborhoods.

  • It’s crowded with tourists at all hours. The neighborhood’s popularity also means that it’s pretty much always full of big crowds of tourists. If it’s a quieter local neighborhood you’re looking for, where you can follow the stream of locals to a local bakery or coffee shop, this isn’t it.

  • It’s not particularly charming or interesting. While there are many beautiful historic buildings within the Centro Storico, the area as a whole doesn’t quite have the same authentic Italian charm and atmosphere that some of the outer neighborhoods do. 

  • It’s pretty far from the train station. Depending on where you’re staying and the time of day, it can take 20-30 minutes to get from Milano Centrale to your hotel.
Unexpected Roman ruins in the center of Milan

The Best Places to Stay in Milan’s Centro Storico

Here are a few of our picks for the best places to stay near Milan’s Duomo in the historic center of the city. 

Rome Mate Giulia: The Best Boutique Hotel near the Duomo

Room Mate Giulia is a boutique hotel just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Duomo, making it an ideal spot for getting up bright and early to avoid the huge lines at the cathedral.

For what it’s worth, we like Room Mate hotels, and they generally offer a stay that is both stylish and comfortable in their hotels around Europe. 

Is it the cheapest option in town? No, definitely not. But it’s a half block from the Duomo, so what do you realistically expect?

Located inside a beautiful 19th Century building, the hotel’s rooms have been designed with bold contrasting colors, traditional Italian materials, designer furnishings, and vintage elements, giving them a cool yet cozy feel. 

You can choose between spacious double, twin, and triple rooms. Some rooms also feature a large private terrace.

The hotel has a 24-hour fitness center with a sauna and a fantastic breakfast buffet (extra charge). From Thursday to Saturday, you’ll also find tables in the reception area where you can make your own cocktail – Aperol spritz anyone?

Hotel Spadari Al Duomo: A Good Value near Piazza del Duomo

Another fantastic option close to Milan’s Duomo is Hotel Spadari Al Duomo. It’s a cool design-focused hotel filled with original artwork by young contemporary artists.

Each of the (relatively basic in terms of layout) rooms is individually decorated with unique artwork and equipped with all of the modern amenities you could need for a comfortable stay. 

All rooms have a small seating area and desk, while some also have a private patio or terrace. Double and triple room configurations are available. 

An American-style breakfast buffet is included in the room rate, with Italian coffee, fresh juices, and eggs made to order. You can also enjoy a complimentary glass of prosecco each afternoon in the stylish hotel lounge. 

Ostello Bello: An Affordable Place to Stay in Milan’s Historic Center

Having repeatedly won awards for being the best hostel in not just Milan but all of Italy, we had to include Ostello Bello Milano in this list. 

We stayed in their location right next to Milano Centrale on our first trip to Milan, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their original location if you’re looking for a more central (but equally affordable) place to stay in Milan. 

The vibrant hostel offers some of the most affordable accommodation right in the heart of the Centro Storico, just a 10 minute walk from the Duomo and 15 minutes from the bars of the lively Navigli district.

You can choose between a shared 4-8 bed dormitory room or a private room that sleeps up to 4 adults, depending on your budget and needs.

Much like its sister location by the station, the hostel has loads of fantastic amenities for travelers, including a well-stocked shared kitchen, a 24/7 bar, free coffee, and laundry machines. 

There are also plenty of communal spaces, including a lounge, movie room, workspace, and terrace, as well as social events every day of the week. If you’re a solo traveler looking to make new friends, this is the place to stay.

Navigli: The Coolest Part of Milan

If you’re asking us to pick out the coolest neighborhood in Milan, we’d both immediately point you towards the canals at the southern end of the city center, which are a unique element of Milan’s geography and history that we didn’t really know about until we explored the city ourselves. 

At one point (all the way into the 20th Century), Milan looked more like Amsterdam than the cosmopolitan metropolis you see today, with canals used for transporting goods running through the city. 

Over the course of the years as railroads and cars replaced boats as the main form of transportation, the canals lost their practical importance and the city filled in the canals and replaced them with streets. 

However, lucky for you and us, they’ve left a few uncovered in what is now known as Navigli, which is our favorite area in Milan (especially if you include the area on the north side of the canals, which is every bit as hip and charming). 

The crowd here skews young thanks to its proximity to the universities (which are mostly on the western end of the historic center). 

It’s a cool area to walk through at all hours, but it shines when the sun goes down and the district really comes alive.

The canals are a popular nightlife area, with plenty of cool aperitivo spots, cocktail bars on barges, and nightclubs. If you’re a night owl, Navigli is definitely the place for you (even if you don’t stay there). 

The area just north of the canals – San Lorenzo (named after the church of the same name) – is also very hip and charming, and is full of the best of Milan’s food and drink scene. 

The stretch towards San Lorenzo that is almost painfully hip

The downside of staying here is mostly that it’s really, really far from the train station and airport connections you’ll find there. 

We’re talking 20 or more minutes on the metro or in a taxi from the train station. Which is why we’d probably only consider staying here if you have two or more days in Milan.  

Pros and Cons of Staying in Navigli

Pros of Staying in Navigli

  • It’s hip and happening. Navigli has a cool vibe, especially in the afternoon and evening when you can really feel the area’s pulsating energy. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth taking an evening of your Milan itinerary to take a walk through here around sunset. 

  • Lots of great restaurants and bars. The canals are surrounded by countless bars and aperitivo spots, while the area on the northern side of the canals near San Lorenzo has plenty of fantastic restaurants to choose from. You’ll never be short of great places to eat and drink when staying in Navigli.

  • Local vibe. While Navigli is certainly growing in popularity and can get busy at night, you’ll find just as many locals – particularly students – as tourists in the area. 

Cons of Staying in Navigli

  • It’s FAR from the train station. The canals are on the opposite side of Milan’s city center from the main train station, which is probably where you’ll be arriving (by train or plane). It’ll take you around 20 minutes using the metro or 30-40 minutes by taxi to reach the neighborhood (not including the travel time from the airport to the train station) which might not be ideal if you have a late-night or early-morning journey (or if you only have one or two days in Milan).

  • There aren’t a whole lot of places to stay. Being a more residential neighborhood, Navigli has fewer accommodation options than the city center, especially for lower budgets. However, there are certainly a few, which we’re going to cover below. 

The Best Places to Stay in Navigli

Here are a few of our picks for the best places to stay in Navigli. 

Combo Milano: An Affordable Hostel/Hotel Hybrid (with Great Common Areas)

If you’re looking for a relatively affordable place to stay in Milan’s coolest neighborhood, this is it! 

Combo Milano is a cool, modern hostel surrounding a large central courtyard and terrace, just a stone’s throw away from bustling Naviglio Grande. 

The hostel offers spacious private ensuite rooms that are ideal for families and bigger groups. While the 4-6 bed dorm rooms are one of the most affordable accommodation options in Navigli for budget travelers who don’t want to compromise on cleanliness or comfort. 

All of the rooms have a cool industrial chic vibe, with sockets next to each bed and large lockers for storing bags and valuables.  

The hostel also has plenty of great communal spaces, including a lounge, a co-working area, and an on-site bar and restaurant. It’s a great choice for solo travelers and those looking to socialize. 

There’s also a shared kitchen for cooking your own meals, laundry machines, and a free buffet breakfast each morning.

Aethos Milan: A Gorgeous Boutique Hotel on the Canal

Sitting in a quiet square just to the north of Naviglio Grande, Aethos Milan is a cozy boutique hotel that provides a “home for conscious explorers.“ 

The trendy 4 star hotel was designed to feel like you’re staying in a friend’s – let’s be honest, fairly luxurious – home and is decorated with a handpicked collection of classic Italian furniture, vintage sports memorabilia, and original décor.

The first thing that stands out about the rooms is that the rooms here – which are all categorized as suites – are massive. The smallest is 325 square feet. Which is roughly 50% bigger than most modern hotel rooms. Plenty of area to spread out!

Each of the 32 suites is individually decorated to have a unique style and vibe, with large comfy beds, spacious seating areas, and private balconies.

The hotel also has plenty of great amenities, including a fitness center, a modern Mediterranean restaurant, a pizzeria, an upscale cocktail bar, and a shared terrace. 

Hotel Maison Borella: A Mid-Range Guesthouse with Italian Charm

Sitting on the northern bank of Navigli Grande, Hotel Maison Borella offers both an unbeatable location and fantastic views over the canal.

The hotel is set inside an elegant 18th Century building that surrounds a peaceful internal courtyard with a cozy garden and terrace area.

Double and twin rooms are decorated in a traditional Milanese style, with parquet floors and exposed beam ceilings. Some rooms have views over the courtyard, while others overlook the canal itself.

The hotel’s beautiful on-site restaurant also has views of the canal and serves a menu of Italian and Milanese dishes. There’s a free daily breakfast buffet of traditional breakfast treats, including homemade cakes and fresh fruit.

Zebra Naviglio: A Solid Mid-Range Option (Great Value) 

Zebra Naviglio is a boutique guest house just a few steps away from the many restaurants and bars of lively Naviglio Grande (and also from Porta Genova for easy transportation connections). 

The hotel features spacious and stylish rooms decorated with bright warming colors and bold distinctive prints, including plenty of zebras (of course).

Most rooms are doubles, while the King Suite can fit two extra people on a sofa bed in a separate living space. The suites are more than big enough for four people to stay comfortably without feeling on top of each other.

Breakfast isn’t available at the property, but there is a kettle and coffee making facilities in each room.

Many rooms also feature a large private balcony or terrace where you can enjoy your morning coffee overlooking the city.

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