Whether you’re a cafe lover, a coffee snob, a baked goods enthusiast or simply want to experience the quintessential urban Italian experience, the best cafes and coffee shops in Milan deliver on the promise of sensational vibes and atmosphere in Italy’s fashion capital.
The subtle details of cafe culture in Milan, Italy are part of what makes it so charming. Pouring Acqua Panna water into an elegant crystal glass as the default drink alongside your coffee, enjoying pastries with tiny cake forks, tasteful smoking (just kidding– that’s gross, but very Old World European, I must say!), etc. These are the fixtures of the cafe experience in Milan– a must for coffee lovers and those who just love a good cafe.
Below, we spotlight the coolest and most classic cafes in Milan. Whether you’re in it for the coffee or the pastry, these coffee shops with excellent pastry offerings do both.
Oh, and just one small thing– when you’re out exploring any of these Milan cafes, be sure to look for Espresso Wine To Go in a jar. It’s hilarious, and I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere in the world. It’s a portable jar of wine (red or white, either Merlot or Chardonnay) that you can sometimes find in counter-serve cafes.
^ It has a peel-off foil lid like the apple juice cups they used to serve in American elementary schools in the ’90s. And it’s sort of the Milanese equivalent of hot canned coffee you can get from vending machines in Tokyo– equal parts novelty and intrigue. Just wanted to mention this so that you can keep your eyes peeled!
Now, without further ado, here’s our guide to the best cafes and coffee shops in Milan today. These are in no particular order, as they each have different charms.
Bookmark this list for easy reference later!
Pasticceria Cova on via Montenapoleone is a longtime trendy, chic cafe and cake shop for the hip, artsy crowd. As we wrote in our guide to the 15 Best Restaurants in Milan, it is the oldest pastry shop in Milan. Know your history!
This elegant tearoom in Milan’s fashion district has been serving up rich shortbread and hot bevvies since 1817! (They moved to this location in the 1950s, but other than that, not much has changed.)
Basically, this is a classic pasticceria– old school. No Instagram fads here. Only classic Italian pastry and coffee. They also sell iconic pannetone and cute housemade chocolates, which get really thematically jazzed up around the holidays.
If you go in the summer and are craving something light, opt for a fruit- or custard-filled dessert; these are often as tasty and ethereal as the season produce itself.
Bar Luce at Fondazione Prada
Fondazione Prada is one of Milan’s premiere cultural institutions, and, as I wrote in our guide to the Best Restaurants in Milan, it’s also “a beautiful place to partake in the wonderful Italian tradition of mid-day coffee and cake”.
This ultra-hip art gallery on the South side of Milan isn’t always easy to get to– I would definitely take an Uber or taxi if you can– but it’s worth the trek.
Here’s why (to quote myself in our aforementioned Milan Restaurant guide):
“The vibe at this cafe-inside-an-art-gallery is Anderson’s take on an Old Milanese cafe, circa the 1950s and 1960s. Incorporating references to Italian Neorealism– specifically Miracle in Milan (1951) by Vittorio De Sica and Rocco and his brothers (1960) by Luchino Visconti, this eatery feels like an inspired, living work of art.
As a result– and by design– the cafe looks like a movie set!
Get a slice of the classic pink chiffon cake and an adorable cappuccino for the quintessential (and highly Instagrammable) experience. All tarts are served on dainty little plates to complete the experience.
Bar Luce also boasts a Life Aquatic-themed pinball machine; pink monogrammed sugar packets; and an amazing retro jukebox that yes, you can play with to your heart’s content.
If you don’t explore the art gallery either before or after your visit, you’re doing it wrong! Fondazione Prada is a world-renowned art destination, so make an afternoon of it. On your way out, stop at the bookstore to shop Milan’s most esoteric collection of art books. (There’s some cool stuff in there.)
Bar Luce, moreover, is not so much a bakery or cafe as it is a whole experience. If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, you’ll notice subtle references to his movies throughout the cafe. That’s part of the charm.
And even if you haven’t seen any Wes Anderson movies, the mint green and baby pink terrazzo-covered interior is still super charming! From the retro chromatic range to the Formica surfaces and 1960s-inspired fake “Palladio” wallpaper, it’s all so… cool.
If you want an original keepsake, be sure to save one of their disposable pink insignia napkins as a souvenir. Even these are almost too cute to use!”
Since 1936, Pasticceria Cucchi has been an OG place to grab a coffee and pastry in Milan. It’s also a great place to get old time-y fruit and custard parfaits in the summer. If you’re looking for a traditional coffee shop in Milan, look no further.
We love the 1950s-style formality (waiters here still wear formal attire) and the iconic raspberry pie (a local favorite when the berries are in season, usually from June to September). With its lush, towering, cream-filled berries, this is easy to spot as one of Pasticceria Cucchi’s most recognizable desserts.
The Saint-Honore dessert– a French-style cake made from puff pastry, balls of choux pastry, and pastry cream– is also a veritable hit. They also have savory pastries featuring fillings like herby cheeses, tomato, and turkey, for those who favor salinity in their baked goods. Overall, there’s a wide variety of choices, and all of them are good.
Ultimately, Pasticceria Cucchi isn’t super flashy by modern standards– but that’s part of the charm. If Bar Luce (detailed above) is a highly Instagrammable place to see and be seen, this cafe is more like a peaceful respite where you could lovingly take your nonna.
With its easy-to-access location near Piazza del Duomo, Motta is a popular local chain that offers great pastries and such cheap coffee! The espresso and cappuccino, in particular, are the real hits.
They have great, crunchy-creamy Sicilian cannolis and pistachio bignes (aka cream puffs), as well. (<— These are great options if you want to try Southern Italian pastries in the city. Otherwise, Milan is known for its traditional Northern Italian desserts like panna cotta, a crumbly-buttery almond cake known as Sbrisolona, and various styles of alcohol- and coffee-infused treats like tiramisu and torta barozzi.)
Motta, moreover, does a fast, roaring trade with locals and tourists, alike. It’s quick, efficient, flashy without being pretentious, and located right in the heart of the city inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Helmed by Salvatore Di Riso, arguably one of Italy’s most famous pastry chefs, it’s a classic cafe and coffee shop that ranks among the most recognizable in Milan.
Like most classic Milanese cafes, Pasticceria Marchesi specializes in the trifecta of fresh pastry, panettone, and housemade chocolates.
This old-fashioned bakery and chocolate shop near The Last Supper mural has been open since 1824! Today, the flagship still operates out of that same original location. (Gotta love this about Europe, no?)
Italians, of course, are big on tradition– e.g. always doing things the same way and not trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to culinary exploits. As a result, Pasticceria Marchesi stays close to the Northern Italian playbook when it comes to curating the menu at this popular Milan cafe.
And the emphasis on simplicity has paid off, and its reputation proceeds it. (Giorgio Armani famously loves the pastries here.)
They now have secondary locations near Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and in the Mayfair district of London. But if you’re in Milan, go to the original. That’s part of the experience.
Find more insider guides to the world’s coolest travel destinations in our critically-acclaimed Travel Well section.