milan brera district

Fioraio Bianchi Caffé fuses Milanese and Parisian fare to create an adventurous meal. (Photo: Courtesy of Fioraio Bianchi Caffé)

Tips + Trends

Meet Milan’s Brera District, the City’s Chicest Neighborhood

The Brera neighborhood in Milan is one of the city’s chicest. It wasn’t always that way. It was once home to this northern Italian metropolis’ more bohemian, artistic denizens. But all that’s (mostly) changed, as Brera’s charming streets are now flanked by fancy boutiques, sleek cafés and upscale eateries.

It’s a fun neighborhood to wander and get lost in, as you never know what is around that bend in the cobblestone street. So do just that: Allow yourself to get lost. And if you need some help, we’ve got the lowdown on what to do, where to eat and drink, and where to whip out that credit card for something to take home.


Much of the art in the Pinacoteca di Brera was stolen from Venice by Napoleon. The Milanese probably don’t mind at all. (Just don’t ask a Venetian about it!)

This upstairs gallery showcases the city’s collection of old European masters and includes works by Mantegna, Titian, Tintoretto, Goya and Van Dyke, among others. The Pinocateca houses the second-largest collection of art in Italy, so give yourself some time to take it all in.

If you need a break from all that art, head to the neighborhood botanical garden. Located behind the Palace of Brera, the Orto Botanico di Brera was established in 1775 by Austrian Empress Maria Theresa.

Walk along the little pathways flanked by rows of rare and medicinal plants and herbs, take in the surrounding architecture of the palace and enjoy this tranquil moment away from the bustle of the city.

Overshadowed by the famed gothic Duomo — the city’s main cathedral — is the Basilica of San Simpliciano, one of four churches in Milan associated with the legendary St. Ambrose. The simple facade belies the beauty of the centuries-old frescos in the interior of the church.


milan brera district
Stay chic at Cavalli e Nastri. (Photo: Courtesy of Cavalli e Nastri)

Milan is all about the latest fashions, right? Not entirely. Duck into Cavalli e Nastri, where you’ll find a shop loaded with vintage and retro fashions. The shop sells dresses, blouses, handbags and more from the middle of the 20th century up to the present time.

Clan Upstairs is a multi-brand boutique — your one-stop shop for picking up the latest by Boutique Moschino, Citizens of Humanity, Malloni, Compomaggi, Diadora and Fessura, among many other brands.

Do you happen to be strolling through Brera on the third Sunday of the month between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.? If so, you’re in luck. Since 1981, antique vendors have been setting up shop once a month on the street Via Fiori Chiari. Browse among the 50 or so vendors and maybe you’ll take home a unique antique souvenir from Milan.

Eat & Drink

Brera is loaded with great eating and drinking options, and there are ample amounts of solid choices. But if you need a nudge, see below.

milan brera district
Savor dishes at Fioraio. (Photo: Courtesy of Fioraio Bianchi Caffé)

Fioraio Bianchi Caffé fuses Milanese fare with a Parisian atmosphere to create an exquisite dining experience. The menu changes with the seasonal ingredients that are available, but expect flavor-popping pasta dishes and mains that include roasted meats and super-fresh fish dishes. And in case you needed to run by the flower shop afterward, have no fear: The place doubles as a florist, too.

For something molto romantico, take a seat at Nabucco, a white-tablecloth-clad spot that is often lit at night by candles on the tables. The menu is all Milanese, and the food that comes out of the kitchen is consistently solid. Simple is best here, so stick to the spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino and grilled fish and you’ll walk out very satisfied.

Almost all over Italy these days, restaurants and cafés partake in the early-evening aperitivo: Buy a glass of wine or a cocktail and it opens up a room filled with wheels of cheese, mounds of prosciutto, plates of pasta and other Italian delights.

This tradition is said to have started in Milan, and the city takes it very seriously. One of the best places in Brera to experience the aperitivo is N’Ombra de Vin, a lauded wine bar that serves Italian tapas. The aperitivo offerings here are good enough that you might end up skipping dinner.

For a nightcap, plop down at an outside table at Cinc, a chic cocktail bar in Brera. Sip on an Aperol spritz or a Negroni and take in the atmosphere of this wonderful, enchanting neighborhood.