PopulationMetro: 5,290,000
A no-nonsense devotion to the finer things makes Italy’s northern power a cultural and fashion vanguard.

What Europe’s fashion and design capital may lack in architectural landmarks, it most certainly makes up for in Programming (Milan ranks #25), our category that measures experiential pillars of a great visit: food, shows and cultural events, shopping, and nightlife.

Showing up in style is half the fun of knowing the hottest places to go—after all, this is a city where residents worship at the temple of Prada and Versace. But while crashing Milan Fashion Week and Salone di Mobile might be impossible, there’s nothing stopping you from soaking in the city’s packed cultural calendar. Or from spending a few euro at one of the beautiful shops that line Via Montenapoleone.

The city ranks #20 in the world for Shopping and a less moneyed crowd shops for vintage threads and custom shoes at edgy boutiques on the strip along the ancient Roman columns of San Lorenzo in Corso di Porta Ticinese. Wherever you end up, don’t miss out on the early evening cocktail tradition where, for the price of a glass of wine, beer or skillfully mixed cocktail, you get to sample a variety of traditional appetizers. At Bar Straf, the happy hour marathon lasts all night and might include live music or DJ sets. Need a respite from the busy Milan streets? Take a breather at Parco Sempione where locals flock at lunchtime for a quick siesta on park benches surrounded by beautiful lakes, bridges and meadows.

Place 56
Product 36
Programming 20
People 45
Prosperity 40
Promotion 27

Milan also has a vibrant art scene and La Triennale and Fondazione Prada showcases established artists and rising stars of photography, industrial designs and mixed media. A mixed crowd of young creatives, models and executives flock to Corso Sempione, a lively street lined with a number of cool bars like Duomo. Nearby is Castello Sforzesco’s museum and gallery, featuring original works by Da Vinci and Michelangelo on permanent display, and rotating exhibits throughout the year. Fashionistas flock to the pedestrian-only Corso Como, where the multifunctional concept store at #10 is a popular place for music, art, design and cuisine. Sit out in the courtyard with your sunglasses, an espresso and a fashion magazine and you’ll fit right in.