Small cities make me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I also love big cities, but being able to walk almost everywhere I want to when I’m staying smack in the centre of town makes everything that much easier and more explorable.
For starters, I get to know the city better. I see shops and museums I wouldn’t have known existed. Ditto restaurants and cafés, and I also save some pocket change on taxi fares. OK, the weather needs to hold up as well, but I’m sure most people would agree with me.
That’s one reason I love Milan. The compact city centre dazzles no matter where you look. Oozing elegance and style to the core, Milan will beckon you back time and time again. So, too, the Mandarin Oriental Milan, mere steps from the enchanting Brera district, a fashionista’s paradise. I should know, I was here just a few days after the hotel opened (summer 2015) and couldn’t wait to get back to see how it had fared in its first few years. I needn’t have wondered.
The buzz when I walked in said it all. From the concierge desk to the reception and on into the spectacular black-and-white geometrically designed bar, guests, visitors and staff were all engaged in making the weekend happen.
The property occupies four gracious, 18th-century buildings, including an old bank headquarters. There remains little of the bank’s former life, save the original coat of arms (now restored) of each Lombardy commune, made in stone and mounted on the exterior walls of one of the two elegant courtyards of the hotel – something to admire while sipping a drink outside in the warmer months.
One block from the Scala, steps away from Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga, a brisk five minutes’ walk from the Duomo and the Rinascente department store, and moments from fabulous museums and some of the world’s most beautiful pieces of art, there’s nothing not to love about the Mandarin Oriental, Milan.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Continental buffet breakfast
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Hotel credit
- US$100 or equivalent food & beverage or Spa credit, conditions apply (one credit per stay)
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
It was the weekend when I arrived, and while things looked busy at the entrance gates, the doormen met my car as soon as I drove up, opening the door and giving me a hand out. They took my bags, and the next time I saw the luggage it was in my room on my return from lunch.
The lobby’s Forties retro furniture looks more like sculpture, in colours you might not expect; it’s Milan, after all. The entire ground floor and all the design there is striking, and the welcome I received was genuine and heartfelt.
I was given a key and asked if I needed the concierge to book anything for me during my visit. Since there was nothing playing at La Scala that I wanted to see, I declined, and made my way up to my room. When I saw it, I was very sorry I wasn’t staying longer.
Rooms and suites
There are 104 rooms and suites, of eight different categories. And because of the varying buildings’ sizes and heights, the corridors go up and down in places, so ask when you book if this is an issue. As well, many of the rooms are different in size and shape; some have terraces and some do not; some have high ceilings and others don’t. Most don’t have sweeping city views, except for some of the higher-floor suites – again, worth asking.
I was taken to my junior suite, decorated in a clean, classic style with just a touch of the Orient. It offered a charming view over a courtyard. A good size at 50sq m² (538 sq ft), there was plenty of space to stash all my goods and purchases, and the cupboard and desk were both ample in size. Best of all, the lighting was great for reading wherever I chose to sit, and the Bluetooth-enabled Bose sound system on the desk very welcome. As it’s such a new property, everything you could imagine in terms of technology is top-notch.
The bed lived up to expectations. A generous king-size with crisp Italian linen and a large pillow menu, it was supremely comfortable, except for the crack. I hate it when there’s a noticeable rift in the bed, made by pushing two beds together. Because even when there’s a mattress topper to cover the join, after a while you can feel it. And just how many people opting for a suite, after all, need two beds? My complaints end there.
That evening, bypassing the well-stocked mini-bar, I resisted the urge to try some of the goodies and headed down to the bar instead. I had heard such great things, I couldn’t pass up the chance to soak up the atmosphere (for the local Milanese crowd frequent this venue) and watch the mixologist in action.
The large marble, chrome and glass bathroom in the junior suite was separated from the bedroom with a glass wall. Inside was a stand-alone bathtub, twin sinks with large vanities for stashing all you need, a separate rain shower, and a WC and bidet room with a proper door – something most people appreciate.
Gorgeous bathrobes and velveteen slippers, his and her sizes, were at my disposal and no one here was skimping on toiletries, the likes of which I have never smelled before. I wanted more, so I looked it up online, but Dr Vranjes’s products, from Florence, with the exception of room diffusers and the like, do not seem to be available anywhere. Of course they’re not.
I had arrived in Milan following a few days in Barolo and La Morra, where I’d eaten my bodyweight in white truffles and Tajarin pasta. So I wasn’t, on this occasion, tempted by the fare at Seta, the in-house extravaganza with two Michelin stars: one received in December 2015, and one a year later.
The other dining option here is at the bar, in what they call the bistro section. But that didn’t beckon either, so I opted to sit at the bar itself, on a very comfortable stool, and have some drinks and delicious nibbles. There’s dining outside in the courtyards in summer, but no real formal tables inside in the winter.
Breakfast, a grandiose affair, is also served in this beautiful bar and bistro. The area is turned into a buffet with everything imaginable (including congee for any Asian guests, and focaccia with tomato for the local crowd), as well as a menu for hot food orders. The coffee in Italy is so good that, although there was a Nespresso machine in the room, I wasn’t having any of that. I stayed on here, soaking up the ambience and happily sipping away while perusing a copy of The International New York Times until it was almost lunchtime.
Other restaurant options
Italy has so many of its own liquors and spirits that I had been warned that I would regret it if I didn’t have a locally inspired cocktail in the bar. Here they launch a new drinks menu seasonally. Also, I was sure I might pick up tips on what’s hot and what’s not (in terms of fashion) just by glancing around the tables at other guests. So I enjoyed an hour’s entertainment, watching the bartender whip up what could only be described as modern works of art, which tasted equally creative. I let him choose my drink, after explaining what I liked and disliked in terms of sweetness and flavours. Not to be outdone by Seta just a few steps away, if they were handing out Michelin stars to mixologists, the team here should win a few.
Spa and wellness
Mandarin Oriental excels when it comes to well-being and spas. The swimming pool alone will make you want to forget there’s a world outside, and with six private treatment rooms, a dedicated Thai massage room, two couples’ suites and a VIP suite, there’s a lot to love. There’s also a beauty studio, hair salon and spa shop, should you have forgotten your swimming costume. The gym is next to the pool and has all the latest equipment, plus lots of extras, including personal training and yoga on request.
Pool and beach
Not only is the size of the pool a surprise (at 900sq m and 15 metres long, it’s the biggest in Milan), but there are loungers to relax on pre- or post-swim, there’s fibre-optic lighting and music piped in underwater. It made me think of the Hollywood aquatic star Esther Williams, who would have welcomed the peaceful and graceful locale.
Milan is not a destination for kids. Having said that, Italians love children, so yours will be welcomed. Many rooms and suites have interconnecting options, special menus, and babysitting can be provided. And when you think the kids have almost reached their limit in terms of adult pursuits, there’s always the thrill of feeding the pigeons outside the Duomo, with plenty of space to run around too.
Staff and service
From the moment I arrived to the time I left, it was clear nothing was too much trouble for the staff, many of whom stopped to chat and ask about my visit to Milan and my work. Everyone, from bartenders to receptionists, went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed.
Like any city hotel, there’s a distinct difference between who’s staying here and who frequents the hotel. Well-heeled Milanese come by for a drink, a date or dinner in the evenings. In the lead-up to what was Thanksgiving weekend in the USA, there were several Americans staying, plus some Asians and a few Arabian Gulf nationals, dedicated shoppers that they are.
The hotel has a car park underground where, if you arrive by car, your vehicle is parked. Since I had, my car had been brought up while I checked out and loaded up by the valet. They offered me water to take on the road, and I quickly departed, thankful it was a Sunday and the roads were less busy than they would have been on a weekday.
How to get here
55 minutes by road from Malpensa International Airport
104 rooms and suites