Brera, Milan – A Quick Guide to the Artists’ Quarter

Brera, Milan – What to see, where to eat and drink, in Milan’s hip artists’ neighborhood

Brera is known as the artists’ quarter of Milan, because of its art school, historic museum-gallery, and contemporary art galleries and studios. It is lively, elegant, and quirky.

Strangely enough, it’s a place that many tourists miss on their way to see other sights like Milan’s Cathedral (Duomo), the Sforza Castle, La Scala Theatre and Opera House, or the Fashion District, but its little winding streets and medieval layout mean you’ll forget you’re in the heart of a bustling city. It’s well worth a wander.

It’s a trendy and expensive area to live in for locals, but it also attracts a young student crowd and there’s something for everyone. If you head to the Palazzo di Brera, the huge palace in the heart of the district you’ll find many of Brera’s attractions virtually under one roof.

Where is the Brera District in Milan?

Brera is right in the heart of Milan’s historic center, a 10-15 minute walk from the Duomo,  around the same distance from the magnificent Sforza Castle, and about 7 minutes from La Scala Opera House.

Who Will Love Brera, Milan

Yellow building in the Brera district of Milan, Italy.

Everyone! Both kids and adults will enjoy strolling through Brera. While much of Milan has wide thoroughfares (sometimes with a lot of traffic and noise), Brera is a welcome break. It has little cobbled streets, crossed by roads that are for residents only. It’s very much like certain historic quartiers in Paris, especially Montmartre. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time and out of the big city.

But don’t be mistaken – Brera is still lively, especially at night when the bars and restaurants fill up and if you enjoy shopping, you’ll be in paradise in the unique independent stores, antique shops, and markets.

When to Visit Brera, Milan

Brera is great at all times and in all seasons. If you’re a night owl you’ll love the bars and places to eat and if you want to explore the art and culture, it’s just as interesting to tour during the day. If you’re lucky enough to be there on the third Sunday of the month there’s the monthly open-air antiques market. The streets are filled with stalls selling bric-a-brac, vintage jewelry, books, and clothing.

What to See in Brera, Milan

Pinacoteca di Brera

Statue of Napoleon as Mars in Brera, Milan, Italy.

This amazing art gallery is in the heart of the Brera district, above the well-known art school. There are works by Titian, Caravaggio and Rubens.  Art lovers, don’t miss this place – it’s one of Italy’s famous museums.

Biblioteca Braidense

In the same building, is the Braidense National Library. It is one of Italy’s oldest and most beautiful, with a spectacular interior. It’s a great place to rest and enjoy some peace and quiet after a hectic day exploring.

Brera Botanical Garden

Lush botanical garden in the Brera district of Milan, Italy.

A secret little oasis in the heart of Milan. This botanical garden is full of plants and medicinal herbs that have been used since the 14th century by priests and Jesuits. It’s now run by the University of Milan.

Palazzo Brera

Front of Palazzo Brera in the Brera district of Milan, Italy.

This monumental palace is home to many of Brera’s attractions, like the Pinacoteca and the Braidense library.  One of its most spectacular sights is just inside the courtyard – a colossal bronze statue of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker.

The Brera Astronomy Museum

The Museo Astronomico di Brera is part of the Brera Observatory. It contains instruments used to observe the stars and planets through the centuries and was founded by Giovanni Schiaparelli, one of Italy’s most famous astronomers.

Museo del Risorgimento

If you’re interested in Italian history then this museum is a must-see. The Risorgimento is the uprising that led to Italy being unified in 1861. It includes objects like the first Italian flag and the cloak Napoleon wore when he was crowned ruler of Italy in Milan’s cathedral.

Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine

This red-brick church is easy to recognize, also because of the unique modern bronze sculpture of a man’s torso outside. It has rich neo-Gothic architecture, overlooks a lovely square, and Sunday mass is not only spoken in Italian but also in English and Tagalog!

Parco Sempione

Perhaps this is a bit controversial, as it’s not technically Brera, but it’s so close it’s well worth including. Parco Sempione is an enormous green park that allows the city to breathe. It’s a great place to wander, walk your dog or just take a break from the summer heat.

Inside you’ll find :

Acquario Civico di Milano

The Aquarium is one of Europe’s oldest and it’s a great place to see some sea life nowhere near the sea especially if you’re with kids.

Castello Sforzesco

Also located inside the park, Milan’s castle was the seat of power for the ruling Visconti and Sforza families for centuries. It has an incredible museum and art gallery inside.

Both the Aquarium and the Castle in Parco Sempione are just a 10-minute walk from Brera.

Shopping in Brera, Milan

  • Cavalli e Nastri – A great store with pre-loved, vintage fashion from 1920-1990. If you’re looking for a vintage Chanel suit, this is the place to find it!
  • Massimo Alba – Seriously stylish tailoring for men and women.
  • Mercante di Venezia – The Merchant of Venice perfume store. Gorgeous scents in elegant bottles for yourself or perfect as gifts.
  • Rigadritto – A lovely little stationery and toy store where you can find a selection of quirky objects from all over the world.
  • Fabriano Boutique – The Fabriano paper mill was founded in 1264 but this achingly hip store in Via Ponte Vetero 17 doesn’t show its age. Gorgeous stationery, pens, books, bags, and cases.
  • ControBuffet – Adorable objects for the home and table. A great gift selection.

Aperitivo in Brera, Milan

Group toasts glasses at the table full of aperitivo snacks.
  • Cinc – Cinc is perfect at any time of the day for a snack and a drink but try out its creative cocktails at aperitivo hour.
  • La Prosciutteria – This is the perfect spot for a plate of cold cuts, cheese, and wine. Sit outside and watch the world go by.
  • Casa Iberica – A little corner of Spain in Italy. Tapas, Sangria, great wines, jamon not prosciutto…olè! Best for aperitivo and dinner.
  • La Tartina – Another great place for a snack and drink. A tartina is a little like the Venetian cicchetto, a tiny open sandwich with all sorts of delicious toppings.
  • N’Ombra di Vin – The name literally means ‘a glass of (red) wine’ and that’s what you’ll get (and more) in this atmospheric wine cellar.

Where to Eat in Brera, Milan

Street with outdoor dining in the Brera district of Milan, Italy.
  • Sette Cucina Urbana – A contemporary café, lounge, and wine bar serving creative Italian cuisine.
  • Pizzacoteca  – Its tagline is ‘where pizza meets art’. Enjoy a Caravaggio or a Tintoretto pizza with gourmet ingredients.
  • Ristorante Nabucco – This elegant lounge and restaurant has been serving great Italian cuisine for over 50 years in the heart of Brera.
  • Botinero – This restaurant specializes in fine beef and is owned by ex-soccer player and vice president of Inter, Javier Zanetti, as you’ll see from the soccer-inspired décor.
  • Il Consolare – If you like seafood you’ll love Il Consolare. Freshly caught produce, a great wine list, and expert staff on hand to offer recommendations.

How to Get to Brera, Milan

Brera is in the center of Milan. It is within walking distance of many of the main sites of the city center, like the Milan cathedral (Duomo), the Teatro alla Scala, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (shopping center).

The closest subway stops are Montenapoleone (M3) Lanza (M2) or Cairoli (M1). You can also take tram number 1 from Milan’s central station, which stops at Via Montenapoleone.

If you’re driving to Brera, you can park in the neighborhood (there are a few garages).

If you’re arriving by plane, the most convenient airport is Milan Linate Airport (LIN), followed by Milan Malpensa (MXP) and Milan Bergamo (BGY).

Brera, Milan With Kids

Buildings with plants and flowers on the balconies in the Brera district of Milan, Italy.

Brera is a very walkable district with less traffic, plenty of pedestrian areas, and many roads only open to residents. Some of the sidewalks are narrow, however, and cobbles may be a little more difficult with strollers. The nearby Parco Sempione is perfect for kids.

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