In Milan, some cafés have been serving espresso since the 19th century, while a crop of newcomers offer their own take on a classic formula. Whether you’re after a caffeine fix or looking for an authentic taste of the city, here are the places you won’t want to miss.
Cafe, Patisserie, Tea Room, Italian
For beautifully-packaged cremini and sugar-coated almonds, come to this adorable café | Courtesy of Pasticceria Marchesi
It’s hard to imagine Milan without Pasticceria Marchesi at its centre. Founded in 1824 and family-run for generations, the storied institution was bought by the Prada Group in 2014 and now counts three shops in the city, as well as an outpost in London’s Mayfair. It’s easy to see why: the beautifully-packaged cremini and sugar-coated almonds are produced using only the finest ingredients and with the utmost attention to quality. It’s hard to pick the best of the three locations, but the café at Via Monte Napoleone 9 has pistachio-hued wallpaper and matching velvet armchairs where you can live out all your Instagram dreams.
Famous for serving cocktails to the composers Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini after a night at the Scala opera house, this art nouveau gem is housed in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade. It’s a classic spot for a Spritz at the end of the day, but it’s open starting at 8am every day for breakfast, lunch and aperitivo. Make like the Milanese and order a coffee at the bar: you’ll be right up close to the original wall mosaic by Angelo d’Andrea and bespoke cabinetry by Eugenio Quarti. Or take a seat in the square outside and enjoy front row seats to the Duomo.
Bakery, Pastry Shop, Coffee Shop, Patisserie, Cafe, Italian
In Milan, getting coffee typically involves standing at the counter and knocking back an espresso without even taking off your jacket. At Pavé, vintage furniture and friendly service invite you to linger a little longer. But it’s the food that makes it really difficult to leave. Fresh fruit tarts, brioche cream rolls and flaky croissants are baked on site daily, and it’s also one of the only places in the city that knows what to do when you order a flat white instead of a cappuccino. So take off your jacket and take a seat; you’ll be here a while.
Perched on the corner of busy Corso Genova, Pasticceria Cucchi’s retro signage and bright green awning defy you to walk past without peeking in. Serving coffee and pastries since 1936, this historic café is the same today as it was almost a century ago. Waiters in their waistcoats and bow ties flit around tiny cakes and plump panettones, while elegant older ladies with little dogs and even littler handbags occupy the tables on the pavement outside. This is where you can experience the real Milan of the 1930s. Customers are more likely thumbing through a broadsheet than scrolling through their likes and comments.
For a side of independent literature with your coffee, bookmark Gogol & Company. A bookshop, café and exhibition space in one, there’s always something new to discover here. Its huge leather armchairs invite you to curl up with whatever you’ve picked off the shelf – most likely a title from a boutique publishing house or an unknown author. There’s an impressive selection of organic teas and bagels to boot, and in the summer they bring the piazza to life with jazz concerts and organic wine tastings.
Designed by Wes Anderson, Bar Luce takes inspiration from Italian popular and visual culture of the 1950s and ’60s. Pastel green formica tables, pink terrazzo flooring and decorative wallpaper recall scenes from Italian neorealist films, while the vaulted ceiling is a nod to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II; an architectural icon of the 19th century. Housed within the modern surroundings of the Prada Foundation, Anderson wanted to create a space for eating, drinking, talking and reading; and presumably also for winning points on the Steve Zissou-themed pinball machine in the corner.
Bar, Bistro, Cafe, Northern European, Italian, $$$
The self-described “first bike bistro in Italy”, this humble café comes to life during sporting events and cycling tours. Long wooden tables and chatty regulars lend it a communal feel. The kitchen turns out simple, satisfying dishes with a Scandinavian twist: smoked herring smørrebrød, peppered mackerel and vegan balls all feature on the menu. When there’s no sport on, it’s a quiet place to come and work or read. Just get there early to nab a space on the bike rack – it gets pretty crowded.
Slap bang in the middle of Chinatown, this small coffee shop and roastery has been here since the ’60s. Today it’s run by two brothers who will gladly relay the history of coffee to those interested. Huge machines from all eras line the counter, while the smell of freshly-roasted coffee wafts through the door and out into the street. There’s a wide variety of beans to choose from: Bahia, Moka do Brasil or the premium Maragogipe are all available for both domestic and professional use.
10 Corso Como is Italy's beloved concept fashion shop with food and design all around | Courtesy of 10 Corso Como Café
Nestled in the verdant courtyard of the celebrated concept store, 10 Corso Como café offers a stylish setting for a shopping break. Round tables with ceramic tops are hand painted in the brand’s trademark playful black and white aesthetic, matching the dainty cobblestones underneath. A forest of plants and trees shield the space from the hustle and bustle of the street outside, making this a true hidden treasure in the heart of the city.