Renowned for its glitzy parties, luxury yachts and tax-free benefits, Monaco is a truly unique and seductive place, one of the best travel destinations in Europe. Monaco is one of the world’s best-known tourist centers and best resorts of Cote d’Azur. Amazingly, this tiny country covers a territory of only about 2 sq. km and yet every single corner and viewpoint astonishes people with wonderful surprises. Look to the east and you will be fascinated with France and the wonderful Italian Riviera in the distance. This tiny jewel country, landlocked by France and the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, is a perfect place to admire the rich and famous people posing on the top of their floating palaces. It was in this very fairytale town that Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier 3rd and had a magical wedding with him becoming the Princess Grace of Monaco. It is a place for lazy wanderings, having outdoor snacks and the amazing cold French beer. Summers are longer and idyllic, and winters are short and milder in this part of Europe thus allowing one to wear jeans and a petticoat with a sweater rather than a warm coat like in northern parts of Europe.
Millions of people visit Monaco every year, billionaires and oligarchs leave whole fortunes in casinos here, yet it is hard for one to believe that this country with all its splendor, variety and grace, occupies only 200-hectare territory, and the population of the principality is only 35K people. It is world’s second smallest country after Vatican, yet accepted as the most densely populated one. They say Monaco is the only country where the military orchestra consists of more people than the army itself does.The official language is French, but English, Italian and Monegasque are also widely spoken, so feel free to use any of these.
Luckily enough, to visit Monaco, one does not have to be a man about town, a representative of the “golden” youth or a minion of fortune. Undeniably, selling 5-euro postcards and 10-euro sodas to tourists provide a lot of benefit, but the Principality lives exceptionally at the expense of the rich and makes fortunes servicing them. For an ordinary visitor there will open a vast majesty of this country, which is also a wonderful treasury of architectural monuments and cultural landmarks. Besides, magnificent sand beaches, fresh walks in royal gardens, tennis courts, golf clubs are awaiting the tourists.
Tasting the Fleshpot of Monaco Hotels
Monaco boasts incredible hotels to service most needs, but there are very few to meet the high standards of the top wish list. One that makes that great is the hotel Metropole, which is the history’s palatial property. It was the first palace-hotel built in Monaco. Be prepared for the wow-factor as soon as you put a step inside the hotel. The staff is gracious and friendly: here no request is too much trouble. The hotel is perfect for families as well, offering a modern swimming pool, various spa procedures, and even allows pets. The prices are quite naturally high – starting from 1000 dollars for a day per person, but the expense pays all its five stars! Among other hotels in Monaco with almost the same level of service are Hermitage Hotel, Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Hotel de Paris.
A Journey Through the European Las Vegas
In essence, Monaco is a country made up of four regions – Monaco Ville (“Old City”), nightlife center Monte-Carlo, the Condamine (port quarter) and Fontvieille (recreation and light industry region built on a territory fought from the ocean).
Once you appeared to be in Monaco, it is the very time to start its exploration. Monaco has a great variety of modern and historical attractions to offer: multiple museums, palaces to visit, luxurious and spacious malls to go shopping and of course casinos for gambling. You can easily find relaxation spots along the harbor as well near the entertainment centers. Taking one’s time and learning the locations of various shortcuts go navigating Monaco and Monte Carlo. First, get a city map, which is available at most newsstands and shops at a small price. Now that you are ready, let us start the anticipated investigation of luxurious Monaco.
The starting point should be Monaco-Ville, also known as “the rock”. Taking a walk in this picturesque site, you will be astonished by the spirit of medieval life in a village. There are pedestrian streets, passageways, still remaining from the previous century houses as well as hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, where you can stay, eat and shop. When in Monaco-Ville, visit also Prince’s Palace, the City Hall, the Saints Martin Gardens and the Cathedral (here Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier’s wedding took place). The Palais Princier has a gorgeous panoramic view, which overlooks the Port and Monte Carlo. Take one of the guided tours of the palace that go every day and run around the clock. Make sure to appear in front of the Palace’s main entrance any day at 11.55 AM, and you will be present at the changing of the guard ceremony, which is performed by “Carabineers”. Next, going to the Monaco Cathedral, you will be amazed by the splendor of this Romanesque-Byzantine church dedicated to St. Nicolas.
The upcoming must-see spot, the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium is a world-known unique institution. The stunning collections of marine fauna, multiple specimens of submarine creatures, exclusive models of Prince Albert’s laboratory ships and craftworks made from the natural products of the sea will leave you jaw-dropped. On the ground floor in the Conference room, you should go and see the daily held exhibitions and movie projections. Then take pleasure and watch spectacular shows of sea fauna and flora in the basement of the building. After the amazing experience go to have lunch at “La Terrasse” and then buy some symbolic trifles at the museum gift shop.
Adults have to pay 15 euros to enter. There are discounts for students if they show valid IDs. You can reach the aquarium by taking bus 1 or 2 from the Monaco Monte Carlo train station. The latter is the very one to take when heading for Jardin Exotique (Exotic Gardens). Taking a walking tour, you will be able to admire several thousand rare plants from around the world, which includes cacti, desert plants and a handful of subtropical flora. Now you also have the opportunity to a cave-tour that starts every hour and lasts about twenty-five minutes. The entrance fee to the cave costs 8 euros for adults and 3.50 euros for students and those under 16.
La Condamine, the second oldest district in Monaco, is a marvelous spot for one to stop and admire elegant grand yachts and cruise ships, which embellish the docks in the marina. As long as this is Monaco’s thriving business center, there are a lot of modern buildings, beautifully landscaped areas, malls and shopping centers like Condamine Market and Princesse-Caroline mall, which make it a worthy place to visit.
Monaco Opera House or Salle Garnier, built by the renowned architect Charles Garnier, is a gracious example of grandiosity decorated in red and gold with frescoes and sculptures set around the auditorium, and superb paintings on the ceiling. This flamboyant giant accommodated some of the excellent international performances of ballet and opera concerts. During your stay in Monaco, make sure to be present at one of them, but be prepared to pay top dollar! For those affectionate for arts The Marlborough Fine Arts Gallery is a must-go place. It holds a huge collection of post-World War 2nd artists and exclusive exemplars of paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, David Hockney, Joan Miro and Jules Brassai. Admission here is free, and you can check out one of the gallery’s exhibitions as well.
Under no circumstances should you miss admiring the grandeur of the Grimaldi Forum, which is Monaco’s convention center. It is impossible not to marvel this complex consisting of two restaurants, a ballet auditorium, two additional auditoriums for meetings and other affairs, two spacious exhibition halls for trade shows and other layouts. Finally yet importantly, go and see The Prince’s car collection – a dream gallery for any car enthusiast. It contains everything from old cars and carriages to historic racecars of Formula 1.
In the summertime, another thrilling place to go is Monte Carlo Sporting Club. It is ornamented with dazzling concerts, hosting such famous Hollywood artists as Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie, Julio Iglesias and The Beach Boys. As long as it has a casino offering basic games, no person under age 18 is allowed to enter it. The admission fee is 20 euros.
To add more to this candescent tourist-to-do list you should take a yacht chart. These are very popular in Monaco offering simple boats, bareboat yachts and luxurious superyachts. On another occasion rent a sumptuous Bentley and go window-shopping on the palatial streets of Monaco.
More of Monaco’s Fleshpot
Going sightseeing and enjoying the nightlife do not depict the whole picture of life in Monaco. A whole lot of festivals take place in the Principality – the International Circus Festival and the International Festival of Television in winter, the Spring Arts Festival in Monte-Carlo, Festival of Contemporary Sculpture, the World Music Festival, the Festival of Magicians and the International Florists’ Competition in spring and the International Festival of Fireworks held in summer. Not forgetting to count the famous racings Rally “Monte-Carlo” held in February and the Grand Prix of “Formula 1” in May.
Ready to Gamble!
When life gives you lemons, make a lemonade! Gather your money, passport and special dresses: we are heading for the world’s most famous centers of ardor – the famous Grand Casino of Monte Carlo. This is the place where you feel your adrenaline rush; meet the richest, most famous and influential people sitting right at the next table enjoying their time of gaining extreme passion and fervor. The entrance fee ranges for different rooms having the price of 30 euros to several hundreds. Passport is needed to prove you are a newcomer, as long as the citizens of Monaco are not allowed to gamble here. The dress code requires that men wear cotes, suits and ties, on no account casual or tennis shoes. One can visit the casino without gambling, but the nominal fee is charged anyway. The gaming rooms look like magnificent art combinations with stained glass, drawings and sculptures all over them. For more loose regulations, you can go to other two casinos, which have no admission fee and more casual dress codes.
A Car Addict’s Dream-Come-True…
Fasten your seatbelts: it is Formula 1 time! This is one of the most anticipated events all over the world: the Automobile Club of Monaco organizes it every year in May. The chief attraction of Monaco Grand Prix is the proximity of racing Formula 1 cars and the excited spectators. It is understood, that the thrill of the roaring engines, smoking tires and resolute drivers mean everything to the car enthusiasts and crazy fans. There are more than 3000 seats available to enjoy the event. The price ranges from 90 to 500euros. It is also possible to rent the residents’ terraces for the four-day event on a comfortable price range of 8000 to 140000 euros. Of course, the latter is for luxury lovers from the lines of the rich. Those lucky to afford it can ride along the track in performance cars.
Monaco is accepted as the safest place on earth: the level of crime in Monaco is the lowest among all countries of the world. There are cameras set in every street. Besides, there is a security guard of 400 police officers to ensure people’s safety.
Once “a sunny place for shady people” (by W. Somerset Maugham) Monaco is now transforming into a tax oasis for young billionaires, the thirty-year-old guys, who had the luck to win at gambling and acquire the opportunity to do nothing the rest of their lives. These are probably the future of Monaco and it is for them that Prince Albert creates a new infrastructure investing in schools, sports clubs, concert halls, galleries… Of course, the chief rival of Monaco is not asleep: Dubai makes great investments in building artificial luxurious islands, and it has already created a Formula 1 racing road. Anyway the young billionaires, mainly British, consider Monaco’s beautiful retro-style resort and Monte-Carlo casino the best place to spend their holidays in.
Taking every step in Monaco brings you to the most possible exquisite beauties. Even if you have already been to this little jewel country, you are sure to find something new to admire.