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Eat, Play + Stay: The Ultimate Monaco Travel Guide

June 23, 2020
Wide-angle view of Montecarlo, Monaco, and the sea

It may be a state known as a playground for the wealthy, but there’s more to Monaco than meets the eye. Find out more about the golden state of Europe with this travel guide to Monaco.

Port Hercules of Monaco with boats and cruise ship

Monaco’s Port Hercules, courtesy Raging Wire/Flickr

Tucked away on the furthest edge of France is the state of Monaco, the second-smallest country in the world. Known for its tax-haven status, it has a shiny reputation for being a playground of the wealthy, with luxury steeped in all its corners. Every year, hundreds of tourists and travelers from neighboring countries descend upon Monaco for major events like the Grand Prix and to visit the Place du Casino in Monte-Carlo.

But there’s more to this marble-and-glass-fronted paradise than meets the eye. It’s home to more adventure and cultural experiences — everything from diving to scenic outdoor cinemas — than you could ever fit into just one weekend.

So why not stay longer? As soon as you arrive, you’ll glide into holiday mode, enjoy the warm welcome you’ll experience — and you won’t want to leave. From music to food to history to, of course, the stunning views, you’ll quickly learn why this is Europe’s golden state. Here’s your travel guide to Monaco, ideal if you’re looking for somewhere a little different to go later this year.

Wide-angle view of Montecarlo, Monaco, and the sea

Monaco views, courtesy Sacha Pachoutinsky/Flickr

Jaw-dropping coastal scenery

Thanks to Monaco’s location on the outer edges of France, close to the Italian border, the country’s coastline offers incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea in all its glory. Go for a drive, cruise down the French Riviera at sunset — and don’t forget to stop off for an evening drink to take in the scenery. It won’t be one you’ll forget in a hurry.

A night in the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel

The Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel is one of the most famous and frequented hotels in the city, so if you manage to secure a booking it’s well worth the trip. Just looking out your bedroom window, you’ll be able to see the sweeping panorama of the Larvotto Peninsula and the uninterrupted deep blues of the ocean.

From your terrace, enjoy one of the five-star dining experiences on offer — like the Michelin-starred Blue Bay, where Caribbean cuisine meets the Mediterranean — and then refresh yourself in the hotel’s lavish pool before a trip to the Cinq Mondes Spa for true relaxation.

The Palais du Prince in Monaco, with the Grimaldi flag flying above

The Palais du Prince in Monaco, courtesy Benjamin/Flickr

Time-travel at the Palais du Prince

If you’re lucky enough to be in Monaco when the prince’s state apartments are open to visitors (reopening from April 2021), it’s sure to be an experience to tick off your bucket list. It’s a cheap thrill too, at just 10 euros.

With some parts of the palace dating back to the 13th century, a trip to the apartments is a dive into the rich cultural heritage of Monaco. Frescoes depicting mythological figures catch your gaze as you stroll through the first gallery, and then you enter the Mirror gallery — so called because of the mirrors that line the walls in imitation of the Palace of Versailles — continuing your way through the timeline of the country’s royal history.

You can even visit the Throne Room, where all of Monaco’s official ceremonies take place.

View of cacti against backdrop of Monaco skyline at the Jardin Exotique

Cacti and views for days at the Jardin Exotique, courtesy Daniel70mi Falciola/Flickr

Botanical world exploration at Jardin Exotique

Monaco is not a country lacking in natural beauty and that includes the natural vegetation, much of which can be explored at the Jardin Exotique.

These gardens sit high above the sea level and offer luscious colorful surroundings, along with the inescapable stunning vista of the ocean. There are more than 7,000 different species of plants to see, from towering cacti to colorful bougainvillea and olive trees, some of which come from Africa, Latin America, and even the southwestern U.S. but thrive in Monaco due to the warm climate.

A musical spectacle at the Opera de Monte Carlo

Built in 1878, the opera house in Monte-Carlo is one of the country’s most iconic buildings. It’s by no means the oldest, showing exactly how rich the culture is here, but its ornate red and gold interior certainly makes it memorable.

Take in an opera here and you’ll witness some of the finest performances you can find in Europe — with Italy just on Monaco’s doorstep, this is another opera house offering a home to famed Italian singers and artists.

Shopping on the Avenue de Monte-Carlo and beyond

When in Monte-Carlo, you’d be amiss to not take advantage of the wonderful shopping opportunities available. From jewelry to clothes, perfume to designer bags and other goodies, you can find anything in Monte-Carlo.

Whether you’re looking for an evening outfit, a present to take home, or just an afternoon of luxe window shopping, be sure to stop by one of the three top shopping destinations in Monaco: Avenue de Monte-Carlo, Boulevard des Moulins, and Avenue Princess Grace.

View of the Monte-Carlo Casino and pool through a mirror

The Casino Monte-Carlo, courtesy Miguel Mendez/Flickr

Take a chance at the Casino Monte-Carlo

It wouldn’t be a trip to Monaco without a stop at the Casino Monte-Carlo. Said to be the setting for a scene in the James Bond film Casino Royale, this casino is easily one of the most famous in the world.

So whether you’re willing to try your luck at one of the tables or just wish to wander through the historic halls, taking in the architectural delights, a visit to the Casino Monte-Carlo should definitely be one on your Monaco to-do list.

Eat like a local

Looking to eat in a family restaurant? Look no further than Graziella (42 Quai Jean Charles Rey, Fontvieille), beloved by locals and holidaymakers alike. The owner makes it her mission to produce the best Italian food around, and the views are impeccable: The restaurant is in a precious spot of the Fontvieille quay overlooking the rock. Be sure to book ahead to guarantee yourself a table.

As the culinary traditions of Monaco fuse French and Italian cuisine, keep your eyes out for dishes such as bouillabaisse, porchetta, gnocchi, and all manner of seafood as you dine around town.

With so much to see and do in Monaco, you’d never be able to take it all in over just a weekend. So extend that trip to relax and take in the best of everything this Mediterranean dream has to offer. 

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  • Reply
    Josh Clement-Sutcliffe
    July 17, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    I had a great time in Monaco, although it was pretty expensive. Seeing the harbour was eye opening, I had never seen so much wealth before. One of the great things about Monaco for me though is its location, it’s so easy to get to Italy or elsewhere in the French Riviera, even if its only for day trips.

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