Milan (Milano) is as exciting and diverse as the capital of Italy. It is also as large, loud and crowded as Rome. I believe when choosing a hotel in Milan you should first of all decide what is the purpose of your trip because this will determine the district where you should stay. The purpose can be shopping, sight-seeing, including visiting the Duomo, seeing da Vinci's masterpiece, 'The Last Supper', or maybe you will just use Lombardy's capital as a central point for exploring surrounding areas. The district for accommodation should be chosen based on your goals, and, of course, your budget, too.
You can combine certain plans (that is if you stay for long in Milan): for example, you can stay for a few days in the center and explore the main tourist attractions, then you can move to the railway station and from there travel to the nearby cities that will let you save some valuable day time. As always, every rule has exceptions. If you go to the Italian fashion capital with the sole purpose of shopping, you do not have to find a place to stay in the area of via Monte Napoleone, you can find an accommodation in the area of the central railway station, and then use the saved money for buying something you don’t really need. If you plan your trip for the first half of January or mid-July, start hotel booking process in advance, because these are major sale periods, and the city is over-crowded.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Milan?
We will now discuss hotels in various districts in Milan. First of all, we will cover the historical downtown and the adjacent areas:
- Duomo and the nearby surroundings, including:
- Quadrilatero d'Oro ('Quadrilateral of fashion')
- The district between the Duomo and Castello Sforzesco
- The area near the Milan University
- The district in the area of the railway station Milano Centrale
- Via Corso Buenos Aires
- The district in the area of the railway station Milano Porta Garibaldi
We should also mention hotels located near such significant areas as:
Finally, we will also discuss the situation with renting apartments in Milan:
One of the most popular districts in Milan is the district in the area of the Milan Cathedral (Duomo). Many hotels have views of the exquisite Duomo roof, nearby, just within 5 to 10 minutes you can find a lot of shops, the famous La Scala is also just 10 minutes on foot away, all the city attractions can be reached on foot and are located within 5 to 30 minutes from the Duomo. The well-known shopping area starts also right here, at the Duomo – at the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. At the same time this district is pretty expensive and you should decide if you are ready to pay 120-250 euro per room or maybe would rather save a couple of hundreds to get something nice for yourself, like a perfect silk dress. An extra disadvantage of hotels here, in addition to high rates, is a certain level of shabbiness: the hotels’ owners are probably certain that tourists will come to Milan in any case, so there is no real need in renovating. Besides, hotels in historical downtown often have small rooms, tiny elevators (if any at all), Wi-Fi in the lobby only (even though you were promised a good signal in the room), and other less pleasant things, including outright fraud. I know, for example, of situations when tourists had extra amounts in their bills, or when they were checked into a better room (without any information about it), and by checking out were asked to pay the rate difference. The district near the Cathedral is also very loud, that’s why when you book a room, ask for one at the top floors (that is, if the hotel has an elevator) with a view to the courtyard. Another thing that is distinctive for Milan hotels is their meager breakfast: the selection is small, often you will not get any hot meals, and room for breakfast is so small sometimes, that you might have to stand in the line just to get the table (though, this particular problem can be solved if you get up early). All these and other points are usually discussed in feedback on booking websites; so you have to pay attention to them before booking a room in the hotel and paying for that. If you ask for my opinion, I think that in the Duomo area you can take a look at such hotels as Hotel La Madonnina or Hotel Spadari Al Duomo.
Quadrilatero d'Oro ('Quadrilateral of fashion')
To the North of the Duomo there is the so called Quadrilateral of fashion (or Quadrilatero d'Oro). Just find via Monte Napoleone on the map – this is the center of this area, or you can also look out for the Montenapoleone metro station. That is the district where numerous boutiques of various influential fashion houses are located; the Duomo and La Scala are just 10 minutes on foot from here. Some of local hotels belong to fashion brands and feature designer rooms. For example, check out the Armani Hotel Milano, in its halls you can sense various Armani fragrances, the hotel is a great choice if the rate of 500 euro per night does not scare you away. Hotels in these area also have outrageous parking rates, that’s why think twice (or even more than twice) before renting a car in Milan or come here by car. Breakfast or even coffee in the nearby bars will be incredibly expensive, so you should rather find a place to eat somewhere outside the Quadrilateral of fashion – you will save half of the money and have a meal just as good. On the other hand, compared to hotels in the area of the Duomo, here you will find more modern buildings, and hotels might even have all the blessings of civilization – for example, a spa-center with a full-service fitness center, sauna and Jacuzzi, just like in the Hotel Manzoni.
The Area between the Duomo and Castello Sforzesco
To the north-west from the cathedral, in the area of via Dante and the Cairolli Castello metro station there is a nice district that you can choose for accommodation. It is located between the Cathedral and the Milano Castle (Castello Sforzesco), which means you are still in the center of the city life, not far from the cathedral and the Quadrilateral of fashion (you can look out for the Piccolo Teatro di Milano – the drama theatre located halfway from the Duomo to the castle). Hotels here are predictably expensive but the district is more green than the ones described above – mostly because the castle is nearby and there is a large park just around the castle. One of the main problems in this area is noisy streets, so you have to pay attention to reviews and check if the hotel has soundproof rooms and if there are any complaints about street noise. This area is also known for good shopping options: there are lots of stores all the way to the castle. Besides, here you will find more places to eat, and they are more affordable than the ones next to Duomo. There are no dangerous areas here but try to stay away from guys playing with colorful ropes – people say that they can use these ropes to tie your hands and steal your purse or portemonaie. And it is common sense not to walk in the Parco Sempione that surrounds the castle in the dark.
Milan University Neighborhood
If you want to live close to shopping areas but at the same time do not want to pay extra for hotels, you should probably pay attention to the area East from the Duomo where you can find a number of hotels, including the chain ones, such as the NH President. Hotel rates in this area are lower and the area itself is less crowded than the area near the cathedral but at the same time all the stores and tourist attractions are within an easy reach.
Here, to the south-east from the Duomo Milan University (Università degli Studi di Milano) is located. Usually, the areas near student campuses are very loud and not as clean as one would like to, but in Milan this area is pretty decent and there is a good choice of accommodation here. The drawbacks of living here are more or less the same as for living in the area of the Duomo – small rooms and dining areas, and intensive traffic, so you have to take care in advance and book a room that faces the courtyard. In this district you can take a closer look to the Best Western Hotel Ascot that is a member of a famous chain.
Central Railway Station (Milano Centrale)
Milan has a few railway stations, but the main one, where the most of trains and tourists arrive is Milano Centrale. In the area around the railways station there is a great number of hotels, and all of them, according to the feedback on the booking websites, are quite popular. No wonder: the hotel rates here can be 50% less than in the historical downtown, but at the same time you can easily reach that part of the city Milano Centrale metro station is right there, plus you can enjoy some walking, too. The Duomo can be reached in half an hour. Nearby you will also find the stop of the tourist Citysightseeing bus. Finally, from here buses head to Malpensa airport or you can also use the Malpensa Express that will be a little more expensive but faster. Staying here is the best option if you want to save money on accommodation but are not ready to compromise on the quality, or also if you plan to explore Lombardy by trains. The drawbacks of living here include the constant crowd and intensive traffic, but many hotels highlight that their rooms are soundproof and that is actually true. In the railways station buildings you might see beggars and tramps, but I did not see any outside the building, the area is also pretty clean. In general, staying in one of the hotels near the central station is not a bad option. I recommend taking a look at the Hotel Michelangelo or Starhotels Echo located just near the station, especially if you like to have a substantial breakfast, and if you want to enjoy all the comfort, including an air conditioner and a satellite TV.
If for some reasons, you would not like to live next to the station, you can take a closer look to the area, located between the station and another shopping street – Corso Buenos Aires. Make Via Mauro Macchi your landmark. Just walk a couple of blocks from the station, you will notice that number of cars reduces, and you find yourself in a quiet and respectable residential area, just 5-10 minutes away from the train station, and around 10 minutes away from the shopping street. You can even take a walk to the Duomo if you like (around 30 minutes on foot via the shopping streets). You will also find here small cafes popular with locals, and even a supermarket Billa. Here you can check out the Hotel Mediolanum that has quite reasonable rates.
Corso Buenos Aires
Actually, Corso Buenos Aires is also a nice accommodation option if shopping is the main purpose of your trip to Milan. This is one kilometer of stores, and you don’t even have to leave this street, especially if you keep in mind that there are lots of small cafes here and a supermarket Pam, where you can buy fruits, at the very least. There are some hotels here, too, but you should keep in mind, that the street here “enjoys” a very intensive traffic, so when you check in, ask for rooms facing the courtyard, so that you can have a proper sleep at night. The railways station is around 15 minutes on foot from here, many hotels have shuttle buses that can bring you to the airport, so strategically, local hotels have a very good location. You can also walk to the Duomo from here; it will take you the same 15 minutes. In the area of Corso Buenos Aires I recommend taking a closer look at Hotel Cristoforo Colombo, Hotel Napoleon and Best Western Hotel Galles.
Another transport hub in Milan is the railway station Milano Porta Garibaldi located to the south-west from the Milano Centrale, between the central station and the above-mentioned Milano Castle. This is quite a new district, and new buildings are still being constructed here, including some sky scrapers, so certain areas of the district are not accessible. At the same time, in the proximity there is via Corso Como where you can find a lot of cozy cafes, bars, and clubs, as well as the mall 10 Corso Como, so there are still good dining and entertainment options here. The Duomo is 20–25 minutes away from here (on foot), the central station is around 15 minutes away, plus there are bus shuttles to the airports. Good accommodation options in this area are NH Grand Hotel Verdi and UNA Hotel Tocq. However, despite a good transport connection I would recommend staying in this area only if you have to leave early morning from the Porta Garibaldi station, or if you arrive here late in the night.
Milan Convention Centers
Milan is one of the world’s Expo-capitals. A lot of furniture, shoes, jewelry, and other exhibitions take place here. Naturally, there are many hotels here targeting exhibitors and visitors of these events. However, you should keep in mind that there is the old exhibition center FieraMilanoCity, located within the city borders (not far from the Sempione park), and the new exhibition center, in the area of suburbs Rho and Pero that is named Fiera Milano Rho-Pero. The list of hotels located near the old Convention Center can be found here, and the ones located near the new center in Rho-Pero can be found here.
San Siro Stadium Neighborhood
For football (soccer) fans the major point of attraction is the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium (also known as San Siro). Of course, there are some hotels in this area. I am not really a big fan of this sport, but if football is not just a word for you, and San Siro is not just a stadium, then you should take a look at this list of hotels. The Stadium is located pretty far from the historical downtown, so it only makes sense to stay in this district if the main purpose of your visit to Milan is watching a match. In any other case, it is recommended to choose a hotel in a different district.
Malpensa and Linate Airports
If you have an early morning flight from Malpensa or if you arrive in Milan late in the night, you have a choice: to spend some extra money on a taxi ride or stay for a night in one of hotels near the airport. I prefer the second option because hotels near the airport are cheaper than hotels in the city, and the next day you can use a train that would cost you 3 to 4 times less than taking a taxi from Malpensa to Milan. In the airport area I recommend to choose one of the chain hotels (they maintain their reputation and keep the standards high) that provide free of charge shuttle buses from the airport to the hotel. In Malpensa one good option for me is the Holiday Inn Express Milan-Malpensa Airport where not only the price is reasonable but the breakfast is complimentary. A more detailed list of hotels in the area of Malpensa can be found here.
You should also keep in mind that there is the Linate airport that is located almost within the city borders, so if you have an option of having a flight to Linate, use it. In this case, you won’t have to worry about finding a hotel in the area of the airport because you can reach other districts easily. But if required you can find hotels in the area of Linate (the list of relevant hotels can be found here).
Tip: if accommodation in Milan is too expensive for you, consider staying in the nearby cities (for example, in Bergamo or Brescia), where hotel rates are lower, and transport connection is just as good, especially if you plan to use Milan as a central point for exploring cities in the region of Lombardy. This rule is applicable almost for all European capitals and large cities.
Renting Apartments in Milan
If you don’t like staying in hotels, you can find a lot of apartments for rent located almost in all districts of Milan. As a rule, Milan apartments are located in residential areas and you get a chance to feel as a local. Apartments are usually well equipped: they have a kitchen with all the required utensils, air conditioner, and Wi-Fi. The cleaning in apartments is done only once, before you check in, and while you stay there you have to take care of cleaning – that can be a drawback for some people. But there are apartments where a service of daily cleaning is provided (only on working days, though). Still, washing dishes, and taking out the garbage will be your responsibility. The latest is kind of a big deal because in some Italian cities there are strict rules concerning the garbage – they propose separation of waste, and you probably should find out about that in advance. If heating up a pizza in the microwave is not your idea of a great meal, and you want to try a variety of Italian food, find out in advance, if there are any supermarkets in the area.
A nice and a budget-friendly option is, for example, Residence De La Gare, located on a quiet street just five minutes away from the central station. A detailed list of apartments in Milan and a map can be found here.