Milan is a bustling fashion and business city that offers countless accommodation options. There are super luxury hotels, such as Armani and Bulgari, and plenty of comfortable Airbnbs. But what I like are the boutique stays, usually smaller hotels that offer something a little different while at prices that are not as eye-watering as some.
Obviously, the selection of your home away from home is a very personal thing. So I put together a few of my favorites — in no particular order — that cover a range of styles, locations, and approaches, but each has something special to highly recommend it.
Will you be staying in the center or by a canal? Modern or historic? The choice is yours.
1. B&B Hotel Milano Sant’Ambrogio
Honestly, when my taxi from the airport dropped me off outside the B&B Hotel Milano Sant’Ambrogio, I was really disappointed. I thought it was a modern, bland-looking building without any historical charm. Inside, the first impression was more like a hostel than a hotel. But when I went up to my room on the fourth floor, I gasped with joy: The huge terrace and the stunning view across the church opposite were in fact the reason I booked the hotel. Plus, the location was steps from the National Leonardo da Vinci Science and Technology Museum and the Sant’Ambrogio metro stop, a 10-minute walk into the center and to the lovely neighborhood of Navigli. It is a quiet yet central location within easy reach of everything.
Favorite Amenities: The terraces alone are worth staying here. It is not a luxury hotel, but the rooms and bathrooms are comfortable and of a good size. But book a room with a terrace and church view and all you need is a bottle of wine and some snacks after a hard day of sightseeing, sitting on the comfortable outdoor furniture to feel so relaxed.
Pro Tip: My room was 403 and the best of the neighboring rooms — I checked! You’ll see both sunrise and sunset from there, with the pleasant church bells waking you on a Sunday. But remember to close the blinds on a sunny day before you head out in the morning; it gets hot.
2. Palazzo Segreti
The Palazzo Segreti lies off the bustling shopping street of Via Dante, the connection between the Duomo and the Castello Sforzesco, within easy walking distance of all the important sights. However, it’s located on a side street that allows for peace and quiet. The building is an 18th-century townhouse, stunning and interesting, while inside you have a great mix of historic and modern styles. There is art dotted throughout and a great selection of black-and-white photographs of some of Hollywood’s greatest stars by a tiny, but perfectly formed and equipped bar.
Favorite Amenities: I know that many hotels offer robes, but these are especially cozy, and the embroidered logo makes them a very desirable souvenir. Buy one from reception, don’t steal. You can, however, steal the little notepad and pens on your bedside table; such a cute memento.
Pro Tip: Some of the suites have a bathtub right next to the double bed, so, if you prefer privacy, make sure you get a bathroom door when booking.
3. Maison Borella
Right on the main canal in the charming neighborhood of Navigli, you’ll find the old family home of the Borellas, now a beautiful boutique hotel. The building is historic and full of charm, with wooden floors, hefty beams on the ceiling, and many original stone walls. The rooms are set around the courtyard — which is lovely and shaded to sit in — and are all gorgeous. Some have beams on the ceiling and others a skylight, while some have a courtyard view and others look out across the canal. All have lovely individual features and a splash of color provided by modern chairs or a bright orchid on the desk.
Favorite Amenities: There is the wonderful Bugandé restaurant, which is not only beautiful but also serves great food.
Plus, the hotel offers a couple of maison privees, which are private suites with their own separate entrance set apart from the hotel itself but only steps away, where you can enjoy utter privacy amongst the hotel’s amenities.
Pro Tip: On the weekend, it can get noisy. If you have a canal view, the market stalls are set up early in the morning, and at night, you have revelers, although not generally rowdy ones. While the courtyard can occasionally echo a little, it is generally quieter.
4. Art Hotel Navigli
Not far from Maison Borella, on the same side of the canal but on a little side street, lies the Art Hotel Navigli. Compared to the previous hotel, it is utterly modern, but nonetheless really nice. It is light, airy, and full of color, and, you’ve guessed it, art. Downstairs there is always an exhibition of contemporary art going, and throughout the hotel, there are sculptures and pictures complementing the building and rooms. The rooms themselves are spacious, plain but comfortable, with all the amenities you could wish for — from robes and slippers to a kettle and Nespresso coffee machine and all the usual suspects. Because it is a modern hotel, it also offers accessible rooms and facilities.
Favorite Amenities: This is where this hotel shines: with in-house, safe parking, a gorgeous spa with a sauna and swimming pool, and a superb roof terrace. It’s all right by the canal and within easy reach of the center of Milan.
Pro Tip: Here, you have plenty of room options: from rather lovely little single rooms with a private terrace to large and potentially adjoining rooms for larger families or groups of friends.
5. Aethos Navigli
Steps from the bustling Piazza Ventiquattro Maggio and the Arco di Porta Ticinese, the gateway to Naviglio and the canals, this trendy hotel (formerly The Yard Milano) is both a quiet oasis within, as well as being on the doorstep of countless restaurants, bars, and fun to be had. A 20-minute walk, or 10-minute tram ride, from the Duomo, this is a good location for all of Milan’s sights. The hotel is a quirky mix of styles, ranging from industrial chic to historic to hyper-modern and artsy. There are so many little lovely touches and gorgeous bespoke furniture, with my favorite being the travel-trunk-inspired bedside tables in one of the suites.
Favorite Amenities: Although the neighborhood is full of restaurants and bars, in this hotel, the restaurants are the draw for the locals. With restaurants, the terrace and bar are so tempting, you will need to make a concerted effort to eat outside of the hotel.
Pro Tip: If you can splash out, book yourself into The Loft. Around 1,300 square feet of space include two bedrooms, a wrap-around balcony and roof terrace with amazing views, a library, and a walk-in closet.
6. Sina Hotel De La Ville
With 227 rooms, this hotel may be teetering on the brink of no longer being able to classify as a boutique hotel, but its location and old-world charm make me want to include it anyway. Located within the triangular of the Duomo, La Scala, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, you are in the heart of Milan, right in the shopping district, and will struggle to get your 10,000 steps in because everything is on the doorstep. The hotel dates to the 1950s, and stepping through the revolving door is a little like a time warp, with the décor not having changed much, but that is exactly the charm of this place. The rooms vary from stuck-in-the-1950s to having classy antique furniture and silk tapestries, to modern and funky with views of the Duomo, so choose wisely.
Favorite Amenities: Enjoy breakfast in bed and the roof terrace with grand views and sun loungers by a little pool.
Pro Tip: The hotel lies within a traffic-restricted zone, so, should you be driving yourself, check with the hotel about access.