Photos by Eric Martin - Text by Ally Redmond
Spanning only three and a half miles from end-to-end, Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world, behind the Vatican. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in, well… everything else.
It might be hard to separate Monaco from visions of hedonists and high rollers, but this sunny city-state on the glistening Mediterranean coast has more to offer than superyachts and good poker.
Divided into five quarters, Monaco is unique in that it is essentially both a self-governed and tax-free principality and enjoys a sweet spot on the Riviera — kissing the border of Italy and surrounded by the French Maritime Alps. On its south side is Le Rocher (“The Rock”): a jagged outcrop upon which sits Monaco-Ville, its Old Town, featuring the medieval royal palace overlooking the sea. Head inland, and it’s all glitz and glamour — impossibly luxurious hotels, designer fashion boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants and flashy sports cars galore.
Monaco’s status as a destination for the jet-setting elite has been cemented since the early 20th century, thanks in part to the late American movie star, Grace Kelly, who married into the royal family in the 1950s and became Princess of the Principality.
If a luxurious vacation is what you’re after, Monaco offers the experience of a lifetime, and nothing says opulence like Monte-Carlo. A veritable playground for the rich and beautiful, it is known for its dazzling events, such as the yearly Monaco Grand Prix; its legendary Belle Époque casino; and, of course, the famous yacht-filled harbor — Port Hercules.
And rest assured, Monaco is much more than an epicenter of thrills and decadence. It also boasts a rich ancient history, beautiful beaches dotted with resorts and plenty of things to do and see… all set against the spectacular backdrop of the shimmering Mediterranean Sea.
Things To Do
Place du Casino, 98000
Feeling lucky? Whether you’re a seasoned gambler or a visitor looking for a bit of fun, paying a visit to the iconic Monte-Carlo Casino deserves a spot on every Monaco hit list. Whatever your game of choice… Blackjack, Roulette or Texas Hold’em — or if you simply want to sip a James Bond martini in one of the many restaurants, bars or lounges — there is something at this Art Nouveau entertainment establishment to please everyone.
Le Palais Princier, 98015
The Prince of Monaco’s private residence.
Built in 1215, the Palais Princier has been in the hands of the Grimaldi family for 700 years. A blend of architectural styles, the ancient edifice has seen myriad changes over many centuries. Today, its mix of medieval fortifications, classical façades and Renaissance-style features makes it an incredible representation of Monaco’s history. The Grands Appartements —— which house the ceremonial rooms, each outfitted in original frescoes, ornate furnishings and intricate tapestries —— are open to the public.
Avenue Saint-Martin, 98000
Carved into a rock overlooking the ocean, this grandiose three-floor museum —— which showcases both permanent and temporary exhibits —— is a cabinet of curiosities dedicated to the deep blue sea. Wonderful for families, there is also a restaurant on the roof terrace with a playground and a new “turtle island” habitat.
Avenue des Papalins, 98000
Inside Fontvieille Park, the Roseraie Princesse Grace has been delighting visitors since the 1980s, when Prince Rainier III created it in memory of his late wife – the beloved Grace Kelly, whose bronze statue presides over the 55,0000-square-foot garden. Home to a whopping 6,000 rose bushes (of 315 varieties), the space is divided into seven themes, each as beautiful as the next. One of the most colorful and tranquil places to visit in Monaco.
Photo Credit: @elena.stogova
Wind through the narrow, medieval streets of the Old Town, fondly nicknamed “Le Rocher,” which houses the principality’s most stately buildings (Le Palais Princier, the Town Hall and Parliament, to name a few), along with a smattering of shops, perfectly preserved Renaissance homes and the gorgeous Monaco Cathedral, built in Romanesque-Byzantine-style with white stone. Head out for a morning jaunt, and end up at the Place du Palais at 11:55 a.m. to see the daily changing of the Monégasque Guard.
The big-ticket event of the year. The Monaco Grand Prix is a world-renowned Formula 1 motor race held annually in late May or early June. It is the most well-known and challenging (78 laps with elevation changes, tight corners and an infamous tunnel) of all the circuits in the Formula 1 World Championship and is attended by the high adrenaline sport’s most wealthy and famous fans. Start your engines!
17 Avenue des Spélugues, 98000
A gallery of 80 shops and six restaurants, where everything from fashion, accessories and antiques to beauty treatments and gourmet food can be found. This famed shopping center — with its Italian marble walkways and majestic Faustig chandeliers — is a must-visit for fashionistas and open Monday through Saturday. Pro-tip: if you’re a non-EU resident, you can take advantage of its immediate tax refund service on the first floor.
Quai Louis II (Port Hercules)
Arguably the biggest player on the international yachting scene. Founded in 1953 by Prince Rainier, the Monaco Yacht Club boasts over 2,500 members from 80 countries — and, naturally, some of the world’s most prestigious private boats. Setting the standard of naval etiquette, its mission is to perpetuate and pass on a heritage that is deeply ingrained in Monégasque culture. Head to the harbor to check out the yachts — a truly jaw-dropping site — then swing by the club for an apéritif.
11 Rue Terrazzani, 98000
Located on the Place d’Armes, a stone’s throw from the port, this indoor/outdoor market and gourmet food hall brings together an array of local vendors — butchers, fish and cheesemongers, bakers, florists, fruit and vegetable producers — offering up regional specialties, like socca, barbagiuans and pissaladière. The market, with its warm and sunny Southern spirit, has been around since 1880 but received an overhaul in 2012, landing on the radar of foodies far and wide.
Where To Stay
Where To Eat
Place du Casino, 98000
Across from Hôtel de Paris, on the other side of the Casino, you’ll find Le Café de Paris, a bustling brasserie that’s been at the heart of Monégasque life for over 150 years. Headed by celebrated Chef Frank Lefon, here, local dishes — seafood, meats, soups, pastas and desserts — all share the spotlight. With convivial, delicious and unpretentious food and a trendy terrace, it is the perfect place to relax and refuel.