Brera is a lovely place for an aperitivo, a winter beer or a summer cocktail. With street lamps dimmed by the fog, glistening cobbled roads and well-dressed people all around, there’s something magical about whiling away the time with a drink in this Milan neighbourhood.
Brera is a rare pocket of the charming original Milan. Filled with galleries and artists’ studios, the area combines the traditional with the creative and, as this is Milan, it’s incredibly chic. This is also true of its bars, which range from a wine cellar in what was once a monks’ refectory to a fashion lover’s dream.
Close your eyes and imagine what an Armani bar might look like and that’s pretty much what you’ll find on the seventh floor of the Armani Hotel in the Bamboo Bar. With gold geometric furnishings and black marble, the atmosphere captures the ’80s heyday of the Milan fashion powerhouse. Topped off with a stunning view of the Duomo through the slatted window blinds, this toned-down homage to ’80s excess is worth getting dressed up for. You’ll find beautiful people here any night of the week and with an excellent cocktail menu and beer list, you can nestle in among them to be the star of your own perfume commercial for a few hours. Dress up and book ahead if you’re in a group.
Part of the Bulgari Hotel, this bar is fitted out with black marble, with an oval bar in black resin dominating the room. Very cool and luxurious yet relaxed and easy-going, it is at its best at aperitivo hour. You’ll find a fashionable, cool and international crowd here, and it’s perfect for the start of an evening.
Dry certainly puts a lot of work into being this cool – some might say too much, but it’s definitely got something going for it. There’s an attention to detail in the furnishing and quirky features, and the staff certainly look the part. Upon entering, you may be made to wait while the greeter talks on a vintage rotary dial phone – it’s all part of the charm of the place. It’s a very modern, hip and fun place to get together with friends for cocktails, which are among the best in the city.
This bar can best be described as quaint. It’s a gem of an establishment from the Italian tradition of serving as a bar, crêperie, café and bistro all at the same time. There’s a timeless charm to Vecchia Brera that has the feel of a film set. Soft, old-school lighting invites you inside where you can slink into a red upholstered booth for an intimate conversation or a romantic date. This place hasn’t changed in decades and we can only be thankful for that. There’s a good range of beers available and, of course, a negroni is non-negotiable. It’s also wonderful for a late-night crêpe or a hot chocolate on a cold night.
This bar is all about the location, in the very heart of Brera. The bar itself is somewhat unremarkable, but the seats outside offer you a five-star people watching opportunity that must be on a par with the best in the world. No matter the season, you can observe tourists, workers and local residents strolling the streets, dressed to the nines and loving the attention. There’s a cool bohemian vibe to this place, especially during the summer when the sounds of chatter and Vespas echo throughout the city into the early hours.
N’Ombra de Vin
Restaurant, Wine Bar, Wine Seller, Bar, European, Italian, $$$
This prestigious cantina and enoteca has been operating since 1973 and has a thoughtful selection of wines and food for all times of the evening. A respectful restoration has maintained the hundreds of years of history associated with the building and its cellars. It can be a little on the pricey side, but absolutely worth every penny – good wine, good food and good company make for the perfect evening.
Another good spot for people watching, Cinc has friendly staff who seem to understand how to provide quality service while keeping an appropriate distance. There is nothing outstanding about Cinc, but it all just seems to quietly hit the right notes for a leisurely evening cocktail. Modern and fresh, Cinc is conveniently located in the centre of Brera while being just slightly off the main traffic route for an easier pace.
The newly opened bar in the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery is the area’s shining jewel. This is an undiscovered place that is exquisitely designed; gold, green and pink hues give the space an Art Deco-style luxury. Not only do some very fine artworks hang behind the bar, but it’s well stocked with fine wine and spirits. Schedule your gallery visit perfectly to exit through the bar just in time for aperitivo and you won’t regret it. You can sit inside or out in the loggia for a cultural happy hour.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Carlotta Bosi.
These recommendations were updated on December 13, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.