Living it up in Monte Carlo

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco is a picture perfect country to the east of the French Riviera, dominated by the city of Monte Carlo. Everything in the principality caters to the affluent, and Monte Carlo exudes glamour and panache.

Historically, the royal House of Grimaldi has and continues to head Monaco. Their influence is everywhere and they have managed to stay in power for hundreds of years turning Monaco into the expat haven of Europe through favorable tax laws. Once considered as just another European retreat, Monaco was transformed by Prince Rainier into one of Europe’s best known getaways, blending sophistication with an income-tax free policy that has attracted millionaires and billionaires to the principality for the last four decades. As well as being a tax haven, Monaco hosts the best known Formula One Grand Prix of the year around the streets of Monte Carlo and Fontveille in May. In recent years, Monaco has also become a preferred holiday destination for the wealthy in September, when it hosts the annual Monaco Yacht Show, during which the most elite yachts in the world berth at the harbour in Fontvieille

The central village of Monaco-Ville, located high on “the rock” as referred to by the residents, is a picturesque town with shops and cafes and an incredible view of the sea. Eze is a small medieval village located on a hill, which draws both tourists and artists during the summer months because of its beautiful setting and magnificent views.

Of course, Monaco’s most famous town is Monte Carlo, drawing in the uber rich crowd with its casinos, boutiques and exotic gardens. A 15 minute train ride from Nice, hotels here could cost a bomb, so you could stay in Nice and make the short trip into the city. Nestled above the ocean and remarkably spectacular, there is an old Europe charm. A charming combination of chic city ambience and fabulous sun-kissed beaches, Monte Carlo is a compact city best explored on foot.

Within a day, you could walk around Monte Carlo easily, from the yacht-dotted Harbour, through the Monaco Cathedral and the Change of Guard at the Prince’s Palace to the Japanese Gardens. The Azur Express is a fun ride. If you want to try your luck, have the bucks to splurge, and care to wear strict formals, you could head to the Monte Carlo Casino (Joseph Jagger-style). You could catch a performance at the Opera in the evening. There are also afternoon shows on some weekends, so you should check out the schedule before you leave.

Walk your way around and find some interesting things to do –

1. Monte Carlo Casino

Built in 1863, this architectural masterpiece overlooks the Mediterranean and must be a priority on your sightseeing list. It has a remarkable gold and marble atrium designed by the legendary architect Charles Garnier. Formal attire will get you in.

2. Grand Prix Racing Route

The Monaco Grand Prix ranks among the top sporting events in the world, and for good reason. The conjunction of Formula One cars street racing and the influx of celebrities to the playground of Europe make an intoxicating cocktail for the annual event which was started in 1929 by the founding president of the Automobile Club de Monaco, Anthony Noghes. The circuit passes by the Casino Square and the renowned Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, making it one of the most well-known hotels in the world.

3. Prince’s Palace

The palace is open to the public from June to October. The courtyard is paved with over 3 million colored pebbles, beautifully arranged in geometrical patterns. Built in 1215, the palace was originally a fortress before being transformed into a luxury residence.

4. Monaco Cathedral

This glorious cathedral was constructed in 1875 and is the final resting ground of Princess Grace. The cathedral’s fabulous organ was painstakingly restored to its former glory in 1988.

5. Monte-Carlo Thermes Marins

For over a century this luxury spa has pampered and delivered the ultimate in relaxation. Treat yourself to a day you will never forget.

6. Metropole Shopping Centre

Filled with designer stores to match those in Paris and Rome, the Metropole is a shopper’s paradise.

7. The Old Town

A variety of premium bistros and bars line up the more traditional parts of town. Here you can tuck into local specialties such as Monegasque cuisine.

8. Café de Paris

Located in Casino Square, Café de Paris is the place to be seen. The mingling of locals and travelers creates a lively atmosphere, and the international menu caters to a wide variety of palates.

9. The Grimaldi Forum

The magnificent Grimaldi Forum is home to a host of cultural events. Watch concerts, opera, ballet, as well as festivals and exhibitions, including the Monte-Carlo Masters tennis.

10. Stade Louis II

What the home of AS Monaco Football Club lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in quality. Despite a capacity of only 18,500 (smaller than most top football clubs), the ground’s architecture make it one of the more memorable stadia.

Monte Carlo is a fabulous city of glitz, glamour and a little over the top indulgence. In fact, if you’re in the mood to splurge, you can even drive a Ferrari around the Riviera. Picture perfect and luxurious, it is the ideal mini-vacation getaway in Europe.