Milan’s nightlife has a bit of everything for everyone. The performing arts scene revolves around the representations given at the celebrated La Scala, whereas if you want to sample some of the bustling and chic live music and dancing arena of the city, you should search out the numerous bars and clubs where, either classy and glitzy or down to earth, the atmosphere can match the tastes of all sorts of partygoers.
There’s also a fairly wide choice of gay or gay-friendly bars and clubs in Milan. Rest assured, no one is left out: there are nocturnal pastimes for everyone, regardless of orientation and preferences. But in order to keep posted with the ongoing and the upcoming events of the city, you can also head for the city’s tourist information offices which offer free brochures and flyers that list all the key cultural and entertainment happenings that are to be held in Milan.
Teatro alla Scala, better known as simply La Scala, is not only one of the major attractions in Milan, but also one of the leading opera theaters in the world. The reputation of this key cultural venue is so wide, that you don’t have to be a connoisseur of the classic cultural scene to have heard of it.
Indeed, opened in 1778 with Antonio Salieri’s Europa Riconosciuta premiere performance, La Scala has ever since been home to a plethora of worldwide premieres, such as Verdi’s Nabucco and Puccini’s Otello. More than 2 centuries have elapsed since the inauguration, a period during which La Scala has grown into one of the essential landmarks of European performing arts scene. At present, it is home to the La Scala Chorus, La Scala Orchestra and la Scala Ballet. Visitors might also be interested to visit the La Scala Theater Museum, which provides an insight into the history of the building and of the institution.
As we all now, Italians adore coffee. Just as it is the case with Venice, Rome or Florence, in Milan there are several historical cafes you should not easily disregard if you want to get familiar with the city’s colorful nightlife. Grab a quick snack at one of Milan’s pasticcerie before you discover real nocturnal surprises the city has reserved for you.
Pasticceria Cova is one of the most historical cafes in Milan. It was opened in 1817, and it bears the name of its founder, a veteran who, after his retreat from the army, found it adequate to open this cafe near the celebrated Teatro alla Scala. The cafe underwent a skyrocketing popularity, in particular with the Milanese glitterati, as well as with the bigwigs of the cultural and political scene of Europe. Hemingway was also very fond of this cafe.
After World War Two, when both La Scala and the cafe suffered from the bombings, Paticceria Cova changed its location to the present Via Montenapoleone. It still remains a hub of the local and international jet set, being a wonderful stop and a pleasant refuge for those who shop for fashion in the Golden Quadrilateral of Milan. On top of the hot chocolate and cappuccino served here, you can also delight in sampling the mouthwatering ornate cakes proudly showcased in the cafe’s windows.
Given its international reputation, Cafe Cova has opened a branch in Hong Kong, but for the genuine Milanese experience, there’s no better place than the original Italian venue.
Biffi is yet another 19th century cafe in Milan. It is located in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is why it is also known as Biffi in Galleria, in order to be distinguished from other Biffi bars and pasticcerie in Milan. Just like Pasticceria Cova, Biffi was long a hub of social meetings of the political and cultural cafe society of the city. The cafe still maintains some of its past atmosphere evoked by the paintings and photographs proudly showcased on the walls.
Even if, historically speaking, it was one of the favorite lounge spots of the likes of Hemingway all the way to Gorbachev, it is a nice spot if you can afford to pay a couple (or more) euros on a cappuccino (the best in town, some tend to believe). There’s also a rich offer of dishes here, which is why Biffi is often thought of as a restaurant (one of the best in Milan, even).
Bar Magenta is the best option if you’re in search of a leisure opportunity that, if you want to take, you don’t either have to dig too dip in your pocket or to dress up too smart. This is one of the most popular places of Milan where you can simply sit and drink in the company of your friends and, if you feel like it, where you can grab a quick snack (the bar is said to serve the best panini in the city). English tourists are often surprised how similar the atmosphere at Bar Magenta is to the typical English pubs. There’s a wide choice of beers and wines here, so make the best of your drinking experience here. You might also be surprised to learn the pub opened in 1907. Thus, historical without being stiff, Bar Magenta is always young at heart, a bustling place where you can feel good and sample some of the cheerful Milanese atmosphere.
Once a hub of the Milanese bohemia, Jamaica Bar remains at present a down to earth joint with an upbeat atmosphere fueled by the presence of the student population which frequents it constantly. The bar is located in central Milan, close to the Brera Art Gallery, and it is a favorite of the people who, one way or another, have something to do with the art scene of the city (mainly, the students of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, located a striking distance from the bar). You might just as well visit this arty and yet unpretentious bar where, decades ago, Mussolini used to read his newspaper (the bar opened no later than 1911).
Scimmie, which is located in the Navigli area, is deemed the best Milanese jazz club. It actually defines itself as a temple where the jazz music aficionados head for almost every night to attend the performances of reputed artists or of performers that have recently started to make their way through on the music scene of the city. But, if truth be told, the club has recently started to diversify its profile: clients, if keen on such diversity, can also listen to rock, reggae and blues music. Scimmie remains, however, one of the best choices if you want to sample the live music scene of Milan.
Hollywood is one of the best dance clubs in Milan. Located close to Pinacoteca di Brera, thus enjoying an approximately central location, it is also a favorite of all the glamorous people, locals and tourists alike. If you decide to go to Hollywood, you might have the chance to get a glimpse of how the likes of the stars of the moment (actors, athletes, models, artists) enjoy their night out. Inside, you will literally rub shoulders with the glitzy jet set here, since it can get quite crowded. The admission price (a little over 15 euros) also includes a drink.
La Nuova Idea has been the key entertainment hub if the Milanese gay community since the 1980s. It became, thus, a landmark of the specific nocturnal leisure, both for residents and for visitors. La Nuova Idea used to be mainly frequented by men of all ages, but it has recently expanded its profile, such that at present it draws huge crowds of lesbians and transvestites. The interior is quite surprisingly large: 2 dance floors where you can dance anything from techno to polka.