Milan by night, Movida to suit all tastes
Night life is when you get up with a hangover in the morning. Night life is when everybody says what the hell and you do not remember who paid the bill. Night life goes round and round and you look at the wall to make it stop. Night life comes out of a bottle and goes into a jar. If you think how much are the drinks it is not night life. – Ernest Hemingway
If you think Milan’s nightlife is reason enough to visit the city… you’re definitely right. The Milanese Movida, made of bars and discos that are among the most renowned in Europe’s fashion addicts’ environments, is the protagonist in different areas of the city, from the Isola district to the Garibaldi area, from Città Studi to Corso Sempione. By statute, however, not written but indisputable, the nightlife hub of Milan is the lively Navigli area, where the night has the same taste and appeal of Trastevere in Rome, the Left Bank in Paris, London’s Soho, Berlin’s Kreuzberg and Barcelona’s Las Ramblas.
Milan by night, which starts at around 7pm with happy hour (an Italian invention exported in recent years in all of Europe,) offers night owls hundreds of bars, pubs, clubs, and live music venues. Milan is the capital of worldliness: VIPs, celebrities and jet set personalities, sports players and starlets, models, actors and yuppie, will all find in the capital of Lombardy an exclusive club to have fun, but especially, to be noticed.
Milan by night is not only for beautiful people. Young and old, men and women of all ages have their favorite cafe where to spend pleasant evenings with friends. The scenario offered by the city when the night comes is diversified: you only have to select the most suitable area for your lifestyle according to what you like to do in the evening. So here is an overview of Milan’s nightlife areas and the type of clientele they’re popular with.
Isola district, nightlife rings to the sound of jazz and sushi
Let’s start from the north area of Milan. In recent years, the Isola district is a growing success. It’s an area between Via Valtellina and Via Farini, close to Piazzale Lagosta, popular with people aged 20-30 starting from Happy Hour time.
For an aperitif and dinner in Baja California-style, head towards Mexicali, while to experience something unusual there’s Isola della Birra in Via Medardo Rosso, the first sushi-beer garden in Milan. Sushi is very popular in the area, you will find it also at a cocktail bar and restaurant called Soho Café, in Via Carlo Farini.
Always in Via Carlo Farini, head without hesitation towards Chiringuito for a standard night out, which is popular since the days when hip-hop was the top. If you like live music, visit Nord Est Café in Via Borsieri, also popular in the morning for breakfast. In Via Valtellina 25, finally, there’s a very popular discotheque attended by people aged 20 to 30, Alcatraz, where often live concerts take place.
Not to be missed: the most famous club in the Isola district is Blue Note, an actual temple of jazz, with a remarkable line-up of international artists. At Blue Note, a few meters away from the Nord Est Café in Via Borsieri, have performed the most famous jazz musicians in the world. Evenings at Blue Note are divine, dining and drinking a cocktail to the sound of jazz and gospel.
Glamorous dancing and chic bars? Garibaldi and Corso Como
The Garibaldi area is very interesting with regards to Milan’s nightlife, as this is where some of the most famous city pubs are, frequented by supermodels, soccer players, entertainers and television starlets. Hollywood, Tocqueville 13, Shocking, Smoking Kills and Pulp Club are the perfect night venues for a diverse public aged between 25 and 50 years.
The Garibaldi area also includes Corso Como, synonym with happy hour, which boasts the presence of clubs like Pitbull or Sun Cafe, as well as the always crowded disco 10CorsoComo. Very refined are the Virgin Cafe, lounge bar and restaurant in Via Toqueville, and Fiat Lounge Cafe next to Hotel Executive. In Corso Garibaldi are the beautiful Enoteca Moscatelli and the famous Panino Giusto, a thirty-years old sandwich shop of Milan. Very glamorous and chic, from Happy Hour time on, is also Caffetteria Degli Atellani in Via della Moscova, a bookshop-café beloved by Milanese intellectuals.
Not to be missed: Loolapaloosa, in Corso Como, one of those places that people get passionate about. In particular, it’s famous for its Tuesday nights, when young girls in Tex-Mex- style shorts, campero boots, and close-fitting shirts dance on the counter pouring alcoholic drinks directly into the mouth clients. It’s the Coyote Ugly Saloon evening, inspired by the movie Coyote Ugly, directed by David McNally.
Città Studi, where nightlife flows with beer
Entering the east area of Milan, excellent pubs and clubs for people aged 20 to 50 are located in the Città Studi area, in Piazzale Piola and Lambrate. The most famous include: Union Club in Via Moretto da Brescia, immersed in a vintage atmosphere, the pub and beer garden Brasserie Bruxelles in Viale Abruzzi, strictly serving Belgian beers, bottled and on tap, and Au Vieux Strasbourg in Via Strambio, popular with those who like to drink top quality beer.
Matricola Irish Pub: a name-a guarantee! For young partygoers aged 20-30, it is located in Viale Romagna, and is a classic and elegant meeting place for students, with an open terrace for the summer. For a little more refined dinner or an after dinner, there’s Eda in Via Filippino Lippi, wrapped in a soft atmosphere, conversely, those looking for a more easy place livened up by electronic and funk house music, must try out Sottomarino Giallo, in Via Donatello.
Not to be missed: Birrificio di Lambrate, in Via Adelchi, is a delightful little pub popular with locals as ‘The Skunky’. This club, halfway between a British pub and a galleon, is a typical brewpub where you can enjoy craft beers, some of which are available only in certain seasons of the year, while others, Special Beers, only when there is availability of raw materials.
Idroscalo, drinking cider to the tune of the “sound of Ibiza”
Moving towards the outskirts, near Linate airport, you will find the sea of Milan, the Idroscalo. During the summer, this place becomes a point of reference for nightlife, because many bars set up their dancing floors outside.
Among the most famous, worth a mention: Le Jardin au bord du lac, Metropolitan Garden and Circolo Magnolia.
However, the Idroscalo area around Viale Forlanini and the Circonvallazione is quite popular also in winter, due to the presence of well-known pubs, disco bars and beer gardens, as Pelledoca attended by “over 30” crowds, Crazy Jungle, former farmhouse converted into a disco, La Sidreria, in Via Corelli, where cider comes directly from Trentino.
Not to be missed: Amnesia, currently regarded as the temple of dance music, and attended by a very diverse clientele. The two dancing floors, the House Room with 5 big screens, and the Sounds Room, with more eclectic music, are the reference point for lovers of house music, but especially those who appreciate excellent DJ Mix songs.
Porta Romana, for an ambient evening
Heading south, people who attend the pubs in Porta Romana, are mainly aged 30-40, as here they can enjoy much more comfortable and quiet places with classical music, rock, ambient and sounds from the 1980s.
The Younite Café in Viale Bligny is a rather small club, but very popular with artists and intellectuals (including fake ones, but it doesn’t matter). Spazio Fitzcarraldo Gallery in Viale Filippetti is much larger, with modern furnishings and famous for a (classy) sexy-toys vending machine placed in the ladies’ toilet.
A rather exclusive lounge restaurant, for romantic dinners, is I Chiostri di San Barnaba, located in Via San Barnaba, whereas the Tropicana Club Latino in Viale Bligny is much more lively and noisy. A little south from Porta Romana, in Via Pietrasanta, there’s Magazzini Generali, who loves to define itself as a big “multimedia” space, with performances by Dj of international renown.
Not to be missed: Mom Café, an icon in the “Milano da Bere” environment. It is located in Viale Monte Nero, but you can’t sit at the table, as drinks are paid at the counter and drunk outside, chatting with friends. Try out the Mai Tai cocktail, made with rum, curaçao and lime juice.
Navigli, a must for Milan nightlife
At the end of Viale Beatrice d’Este and Viale Gian Galeazzo, you reach the heart of Milan’s nightlife, the legendary Navigli area. Every night, tens of thousands of young and old people flock to its venues all year round. There are lots of bars, clubs, disco bars, and pubs in this area, it may be very difficult to name them all.
Among the most famous: La Corte dei Miracoli, in Via Mortara, historic cabaret-bar, Seven, in Corso Cristoforo Colombo, small but excellent restaurant with reasonable prices, Mas, in Ripa di Porta Ticinese, a lovely and informal Spanish-style place, Cox 18 in Via Conchetta, which was once an alternative community center, and now a very fashionable pub with great live music.
For those who love beer, the ideal place is Octopus in Via Watt, while if you wish to taste of the best cocktails in Milan, you may head towards Cape Town Café in Via Vigevano. Two unmissable clubs on the Navigli are Puerto Alegre in Via Giosuè Borsi, with dance music and Latin rhythms, and the legendary and historic Le Scimmie in Via Ascanio Sforza, with a stage for live music.
For adults seeking quiet and refined venues, the ideal destinations are the disco Cà Bianca in Via Lodovico il Moro and Charme Lounge Bar in Via Giacomo Watt, with very cool music.
Not to be missed: an alternative club, a place for sensory experiences, where music is a constant contamination of genres, with a typical underground atmosphere like those you may find in London or Berlin, but also a place for discussion, debate and tolerance, which rejects the idea of private clubs and segregated environments… this is the Toilet Club, in Via Lodovico il Moro, with themed decor. A must visit, even if it’s located at the bottom of the street, right near the church of San Silvestro.
Colonne: cheap & chic night
Colonne di San Lorenzo, a pain for residents, a delight for thousands of young people in the evening, is one of the most popular meeting places in Milan. See you at Colonne means: get ready for a night drinking beer sitting on the floor or chatting outside one of the clubs located between Piazza Vetra and Via Molino delle Armi.
Among these: in Via Pioppette, Exploit Drinks e Dinner, an American bar with a mix of colonial furniture and “old style,” or Yguana, in Via Papa Gregorio XIV, where everything is green and you share drinks with friends in huge 2, 3 or 5 liters glasses. La Hora Feliz in Via San Vito is all about Cuba and Latin America, with rum and cigars, and a giant poster of Hemingway. In Via Molino delle Armi there’s Exquisite Shu Café, a lounge club & disco dinner where the furnishings, designed by Fabio Novembre, are even a subject of studies at Architecture Schools around the world.
In Corso Italia, instead, a bit more discreet but equally renowned, there is Al Buon Convento, café, bistro and wine bar. For a special atmosphere, you should try Le Biciclette in Via Giovanni Battista Torti: a recent makeover hasn’t changed the club’s style, which is a former bicycle repair shop.
Not to be missed: a few years ago, a historic club located in the Navigli, moved in Via Vetere, its name is Bar Rattazzo. It was once a meeting place for left wing Milanese intellectuals, but now the Rattazzo is one of the most popular bars in the Colonne area. We would say, more than a pub, a real institution. You recognize it at first glance: there are hundreds of people, aged 20 to 40, standing outside the club, chatting and drinking beer and cocktails.
Corso Sempione, very fashionable and exclusive clubs
As we go towards the North, we arrive in the Sempione area, near the Arch of Peace and Sempione Park. On summer evenings, the Arch of Peace becomes a meeting point for young people who like to sip a beer outdoors playing spontaneous music. In winter, the premises of the Sempione area are frequented mostly by yuppies, executives and professionals who love trendy locations.
The most famous clubs in the Sempione area include: the Old Fashion Cafè, in Viale Emilio Alemagna, where people and music vary depending on the evening. The Roïalto, always crowded from brunch time until late at night, and the exclusive Gattopardo Café, both in Via Piero della Francesca, and both very fashionable and trendy. For a special, “branded” evening, walk behind the Triennale in Parco Sempione, and visit Fiat Café, where you may bump into famous Djs. Instead, those who are looking for a refined, design venue, may head towards Serendepico, which is totally innovative, from furniture to food, and where you can taste dishes and cocktails under a gazebo overlooking Castello Sforzesco.
Excellent aperitifs and cocktails are prepared by Iahiru, historic barman at the Jazz Café, at the beginning of Corso Sempione, while the Out Off / Le Quinte in Via Mac Mahon, is decorated in a post-industrial style, and the Nordovest in Via Principe Eugenio, is perfect for a pleasant and quiet evening.
Not to be missed: many pubs in the Sempione area are known for their fast-paced and lively evenings. Matinèe Bistrot & Cockails, in Via Domenico Cirillo, instead, is different. This pub and restaurant, boasts an intimate atmosphere with soft lights, but is still a place where you can have fun and enjoy a drink, a dinner or an after dinner. If you’re in the Bistro room, a must try is the homonymous drink, accompanied with the hot and cold delicacies offered.
Brera, where VIPs and nightlife go hand in hand
Since the 1970s, but especially the 1980s, the Brera area has become an important evening meeting place for VIPs. After dinner, in Via Brera you can spend some good time at O’ Connell, a very warm and welcoming pub where you can drink Irish beers in tranquility, or even at Bar Brera, right in front of the Art Gallery, or Art Café, a former art league, with prints and paintings on the walls. Always in Via Brera, Break Time is very popular with tourist, and is frequented by an international clientele, with tables set up along the street in the summer.
Not to be missed: at 32 Via Brera, the legendary Jamaica, much beloved by artists since the 1950s. It’s a weird pub, glamorous and informal at the same time, where you can order a glass of wine and a sandwich and don’t feel out of place if people at the table next to yours are sipping international cocktails. Jamaica’s bistro is open until 2 am, but given the limited space available, you’d better book your table in advance.
Community Centers, for a cheap & alternative night
Now how can’t we mention some of Milan’s “alternative” venues. We’re talking about Community Centers, no longer the haunt of wild youth and political vanguards, but rather cultural centers, meeting places for young students and intellectuals, but also of 40-50-year-old people who like to listen to great music and eat and drink at lower prices than other clubs in the city.
Besides the already mentioned Cox 18 in Via Conchetta, in the Navigli area, worth a mention also Zam in Via Olgiati, with punk and trash music evenings, a library and a gym for climbing; Cascina Torchiera, in Piazzale del Cimitero Maggiore, with very alternative music evenings and ethnic dinners; Elicriso in Via Vigevano, with Gaudi-style decorated walls, where you can enjoy pleasant after-dinners with live music, and also purchase organic foods; and finally, Macao, a place for art, culture and music and theater research, located in Viale Molise.
Nightclubs, sensual evenings
Coming to the last stop of our “Milano da Bere” tour, as the city was called in the 1980s, near Central Station, towards Piazzale Loreto and Viale Padova, there are several nightclubs, such as La Tour d’Orient, Linea Rosa or Striptease. Attended by an adult audience and especially foreigners, these nightclubs are just like you expect them to be: rooms with soft lighting where you drink in the company of pretty girls while admiring other girls dancing in skimpy clothing.
In short, Milan has something to suit all tastes. You get all you need, according to your requirements and feelings.