Milan’s Best Cafés, Bakeries, Gelato, and Sweets

Morning, afternoon, or evening, Milan knows how to do caffè culture right. Known as “bars” in Italy, these local spots serve coffee drinks and pastries in the morning, and delicious savory and apertif menus in the afternoons.

Via Victor Hugo, 4, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
Milan invented the art of bel cafè, the pedicured bar for a delicious morning coffee or afternoon aperitivo. Passerini has a delicious selection of pastries for mornings and afternoons, and is the ideal hideaway for an aperitivo in the city center.
8 Via Montenapoleone
Caffè Cova, Milan‘s old world pastry shop and original fashion caffe. Its pastries are perfect and more than delicious, but what takes the proverbial cake is the aperitivo and its presentation. Black tie serves cater drinks like Negroni sbagliati with a sampling of beautiful mignons, tiny and colorful hors d’oeuvres of salmons, patè and cheese.
Via Plinio 39
Bar Basso is one of the oldest cocktail bars in Milan. It’s appeared in many films and is a piece of history in the city. It’s always been a privileged meeting place for designers, journalists, artists, and writers. Here you can taste the best international drinks dipped in a real atmosphere of an Italian bar. Between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., the Milanese file into their neighborhood bars and fashionable watering holes. They elbow their way to the bar and partake in one of the city’s long-held social traditions: the aperitivo. Strictly speaking, an aperitivo is a pre-meal drink served to whet your appetite or, as the Italians say, to “open your stomach,” commonly with drinks such as Campari and orange juice or Cinzano on ice.
Via Brera, 23, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
My friend Andy says you can’t go to Milan without having an evening in Brera, the tiny artsy area adjacent to Milan’s fashion center. Bar Brera is the hangout of choice for expensive liquor and people watching.
Via Carlo de Cristoforis, 5, 20124 Milano MI, Italy
It’s worth a peek inside Zaini, Milan‘s historic chocolate maker, which began creating delicious chocolate confectionaries in the 1910s. Celebrating a 100-year anniversary, Zaini opened the via Carlo de Cristoforis location in honor of a century passed and has included the cocktail magic of Mag’s Flavio Angiollilo.
Via Spadari, 9, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
Before taking the train to Rome, we picked up a spread of antipasti at Peck, a vast and pristine food shop in Milan. In addition to a huge selection of cheeses, fruit, salumi, and bread, Peck sells prepared specialties like meatballs, potato croquettes, and caprese salad.
Viale Monte Nero, 46, 20135 Milano MI, Italy
We finally found it! Officine Del Gelato Milano; a modern, absolutely delicious gelato parlor. They had us coming back (three times in one day) until we had tried every flavor—including every kind of gelato popsicle. It was a guilt-free treat and every flavor was uniquely refreshing. We discovered this place, not from a guidebook but from the back of a streetcar. One evening we decided to let serendipity lead us, so we hopped on the first streetcar we saw. As we skidded past a gelato shop, we snapped a photo of a long and disorderly line of chatty Italians. The next morning, our last day in Italy, we made it our mission to find this place. Without knowing the tram line we had taken, we used our photos and collective memories to retrace our steps. While traveling, look for lines of locals because if they’re willing to wait, it’s bound to be good. I also learned that you can never have too much gelato. In the years since I’ve been back a few times and they’ve lived up to the memory—they even have new flavors. Mmm.
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