When people think about Milan, the first image that comes to mind is of a fashionable city filled with designers and exquisite cuisine. However, the pulsating night-time rhythms of this metropolis prove that there's much more to Milanese nightlife than sophisticated fashion shows and dinners in posh restaurants.
The evening starts with the passegiata, a traditional Italian ritual of a kind, in which smartly attired locals walk along the central avenue in order to see and be seen. Along the walk, it's recommended to visit one or two local spots to observe the elegant looks and manners.
Although popular bars and clubs are scattered all around the city, Milan's nightlife scene is concentrated in two main areas – in the west, along the streets in the neighbourhood of the Brera gallery, and, in the south, along the canal in Navigli and in Ticinese. Most pubs and bars stay open until around 1am, after which their clientele move to nightclubs (discotecas), which don't close before 4am. Remember that many clubs are closed on Mondays.
Trendy discos tend to have rather obscure door policies, meaning that they usually depend upon the whim of the bouncer. Once you’re accepted into the club, expect to pay between 11 and 16 euro admission, which typically includes the first drink. Popular spots include Magazzini Generali (Via Pietrasanta 14) situated in a former industrial warehouse, Le Banque (Via Porrone 6) in an old bank building in the financial district, Alcatraz (Via Valtellina 25) known for its vintage disco parties, the ultra-posh Hollywood (Corso Como 15), and the Moroccan-themed Casablanca (Corso Como 15).
A definitely cheaper and more laid-back alternative to the expensive clubs are the so-called centri sociali. Essentially, they're squat buildings housing free or very cheap entertainment events, such as concerts and film screenings. They also often feature a bar or a vegetarian restaurant. They’re a firmly established part of the nightlife scene in Milan, to the point that some of them receive local funding. To experience this unique form of entertainment, check out the very popular Gargliano (Via Gargliano) and Leoncavallo (Via Watteau 7).
For live rock and indie music, visit Rolling Stone (Corso XXII Marzo 32), which is Milan's institution for these kinds of events. Other popular locations for rock fans are the excellent Tangram (Via Pezzotti 52) and Tunnel (Via Sammartini 30). Jazz lovers will want to check out the concerts at Scimmie (Via Ascanio Sforza 49) or Blue Note Milano (Via Borsieri 37), popular with foreigners and locals alike. Major musicians performing in Milan usually perform at the Mediolanum Forum (Via di Vittorio 6) and PalaVobis Music Village (Via Sant'Elia 33).
If neither busy clubs nor packed concert venues appeal to you, join a pub crawl moving between Milan's countless bars, pubs and cafés. Before 9pm, they're usually full of people enjoying an aperitivo on their way home after work. After that, they fill up with revellers beginning their night-time celebrations. A delicious cocktail with Campari or Prosecco (sparkling wine, dry or sweet) will certainly put you into the party mood. Recommendable bars in the centre include the somewhat oriental Dieci (Corso Como 10) and the classic Victoria Café (Via Clerici 1). A deconsecrated church houses Il Gattopardo Café (Via Piero della Francesca 17), frequented by posh clientele. Le Biciclette (Conca del Navigalo 10) features temporary exhibits of artwork which attract extremely varied crowds and create a unique atmosphere.
Rather than staying at your comfortable Milan hotel, we advise yout to take a nighttime stroll and frequent local bars as only among the locals you can experience the real spirit of this vibrant city!