While admiring the stunning collections of paintings, sculptures, costumes and jewellery on offer in the city, why not take a well-earned break in one of the elegant cafés of the eclectic Milanese museums: a soothing immersion into history, art and sheer beauty set amidst design furniture and contemporary gastronomy.
No longer just Paris or London - where the first museum coffee shop at the Victoria & Albert Museum was established - Milano has major museums and exhibition venues as well, offering contemporary chill-out spaces for a post-exhibition break. Browse art catalogues, sip a hot drink, savour the enticing scent of a warm croissant, sit back and enjoy the view of the garden and of the city with a cappuccino and a book, or listen to jazz as you sip a glass of chilled wine.
Here’s a list of 5 favourite places that combine history and contemporary taste: enjoy before, after, or even independently of your museum visit.
Caffè Fernanda, the Pinacoteca di Brera Bistrot
Via Brera 28
The location is dedicated to Fernanda Wittgens, the passionate art historian and special superintendent of the gallery between 1930 and 1950, who was also the first woman to manage a state museum. Indeed she still observes the scene from above in a bust by Marino Marini.
As a tribute to her visionary direction of the Pinacoteca di Brera as a "living museum" (she decorated it with flowers, led guided tours herself and extended the visiting hours) a 50's-style bar was inaugurated in her name when the museum underwent renovation in 2018.
Marble fittings, dark teal walls, gilded tables, rose pink armchairs and the "historic" bar counter dominated by Pietro Damini’s artwork, St. Bernard’s conversion of the Duke of Aquitaine. All this beauty is tastefully seasoned by a special project: the creation of the Pinacoteca’s own allotment to supply the bistrot with seasonal vegetables.
Caffè Triennale, with view of the Palazzo dell'arte garden
Viale Emilio Alemagna 6
As you cross the threshold of the imposing Palazzo Dell'Arte, designed by the architect Giovanni Muzio, and walk along the wide hallway advertising the current exhibitions, you step into the accommodating white space of the Café, with its large windows overlooking the park. Views on De Chirico’s Mysterious Baths sculpture and other works, the open kitchen and long communal tables make the space perfect for browsing bookstore purchases, enjoying a drink or tasting some modern Italian cuisine.
For aperitifs and apres- Teatro dell’Arte: new evening opening hours until 23:00 for focaccia, burgers and Italian-style poke bowls.
The tranquil view never ceases to amaze and is even more evocative from the Triennale Terrace, a sort of transparent greenhouse suspended over the park. The top-floor Osteria boasts a spectacular view of the Milanese skyline that emerges from the verdant expanse of Parco Sempione below.
When you feel a hint of spring is in the air, head outdoors to the Caffè Giardino, to sit around the large convivial table under the wooden veranda.
LuBar, a winter garden in Villa Reale
Via Palestro 16
An enchanted winter garden adorned with gorgeous greenery, marble columns, large windows, wrought iron ornaments and… flamingos: the bar is set in what was once the villa’s Orangery in the south portico.
LuBar was inaugurated at Villa Reale in 2017, the brainchild of three brothers who won the tender for a restaurant next to the Gallery of Modern Art: they created a bistro inspired by a fusion of chiringuitos, typical Sicilian street food and impeccable style, as suited the prestigious location.
The Sicilian origins inspire the gourmet menu, right from breakfast through to lunchtime and aperitifs. All set against a backdrop of continuous musical and cultural entertainment. It seems that Sunday is particularly popular, you just have to book and try!
Giacomo Caffè, Palazzo Reale’s Literary Cafe
Piazza Duomo 12
The charming Literary Café has a very ancient appeal evoking the atmosphere of a cultural drawing room; we can only guess the way in which it was used when the Palace welcomed the royals.
Perfect for a delightful and easy break, right in the heart of the city, where you can start your day at breakfast time with delicious freshly-baked croissants. Treat yourself to one of Chef Giacomo’s signature lunches or have a thoughtful pause on the first floor to sip a cup of tea as you browse the Palazzo Reale exhibition catalogues from the past 25 years.
You can also opt for an outside table and enjoy the beautiful Royal Palace courtyard.
Voce Aimo e Nadia, gourmet bar and restaurant at the Gallerie d'italia
Piazza della Scala 6
The creativity of the Gallerie d'Italia’s collections is reflected in the skills, attention to detail and excellent raw materials of Voce Aimo e Nadia’s cultural approach to food, the new landmark of gastronomic culture in Milano.
The wine list reserves ample space for Italian wine production, showcasing young companies, small businesses with a long heritage and well-established internationally recognized wine-makers.
At sunset, after a guided tour of the Gallerie, you can move into the Cafeteria’s lounge area, which offers musical performances, from the Voce in Jazz aperitivo concerts to classic cover songs.
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