Milan is also known throughout the world for its leading high fashion and design excellence.
For fashion, the so-called quadrilatero d'oro, or golden rectangle, is the magnet. The two key streets of Via Montenapoleone (Montenàpo to the locals) and Via della Spiga form the long side of the rectangle, while Via Sant'Andrea connects the two around halfway down.
All the big names are here: Gucci, Prada, Versace, Valentino and Ferragamo in Via Montenapoleone; Dolce & Gabbana, Gigli, Ferré and yet more Prada in Via Spiga; Armani, Fendi, Trussardi and Missoni in Via Sant'Andrea.
These outlets are often design statements in themselves (check out Dolce & Gabbana's post-modern rococo boutique at Spiga 26). Via Manzoni, at the top end of both streets, takes some of the fashion overspill, but furniture and household design is what it's known for, with outlets like the cutting-edge Sawaya & Moroni (11) or Driade (30). Design addicts should also cross over Piazza San Babilà - at the southern end of Via Montenapoleone - to Corso Monforte, Via Durini and the surrounding streets, which are lined with showrooms selling the kind of chairs, lamps and vases you could display on a plinth. For street fashion and younger boutiques - plus antiques and bijoux objets - head for the pedestrianised area around Via dei Fiori Chiari (by the Brera museum) and its northern extension in Via Solferino.
Affordable fashion - with plenty of shoeshops and stockhouses offering last year's designer styles at slashed prices - is the speciality of the city's brashest retail strip, Corso Buenos Aires, near the station. Finally, the area around the Navigli - a network of canals south-west of the centre - is becoming Milan's Portobello road, with antiques, ethnic shops, secondhand fashion and record shops.