Glamour and opulence rule in tiny Monaco

Created date

February 15th, 2019
Transportation is usually luxurious in Monte Carlo. Here, a driver rolls up to Hôtel de Paris in Casino Square in a luxury vehicle.

Transportation is usually luxurious in Monte Carlo. Here, a driver rolls up to Hôtel de Paris in Casino Square.

A tiny pocket of glamour and opulence, Monaco is home to the famous Monaco Grand Prix road race and the world’s highest density of mega-millionaires. An independent city-state stretching just over three miles along the French Riviera, Monaco offers human-made elegance and excess, coupled with the natural beauty of the Mediterranean.

Monaco is just a 30-minute drive from Nice International Airport and a convenient launching pad from which to jet off to the nearby islands of Corsica or Sardinia. The world’s smallest city-state after the Vatican, Monaco has been ruled by the Genoese House of Grimaldi—with minor interruptions—since 1297. Today Monaco is a tax haven attracting some of the world’s richest people and cultivates an appreciation for the finer things.

Casinos and culture

A few days in Monte Carlo, the epicenter of Monaco’s glitz, is plenty of time to tour the town. Begin in Casino Square, where a palm-tree-lined central green and Sky Mirror sculpture give way to a panorama of iconic architecture and people watching. Perfumed air exudes from carefully manicured shops, passersby, and gardens.

The Monte Carlo Casino and adjacent Hôtel de Paris, both designed in the elaborate Beaux Arts style, offer ornate facades and equally impressive interior decor. Also eye-catching is the ubiquitous line of sport cars parked in front, many draped in tourists capturing photos of themselves in the wishful moment.

Car lovers should plan a visit to the Palace Princier de Monaco and the car collection of Prince Rainier III, who took the throne in 1949 and amassed a significant collection. Monaco’s current prince, Albert II, is the son of Rainier III and American actress Grace Kelly. Visitors to the palace in April through early October can purchase a combined ticket to tour the State Apartments, a misnomer for palace rooms replete with frescoed walls, marble staircases, and portraits. In the summer, Monaco’s orchestral philharmonic gives weekly concerts in the palace courtyard.     

Musical and ballet performances are also available inside Monte Carlo’s casino building, which houses one of Monaco’s four casinos and the small but ornate Opera Monte Carlo, also known as the Salle Garnier Opera House for its French architect Charles Garnier.

For an aerial view of the glittering Mediterranean, treat yourself to a daytime meal at Le Grill, the eighth-floor restaurant of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating options.

Beaches and boutiques

From the Casino Square, make your way downhill along a steep cobblestone walkway to stairs that reveal the Grand Prix’s famous Fairmont hairpin turn, traveled daily by tour buses, taxis, and tourists.

A ten-minute walk beyond the Fairmont Hotel is Larvotto Beach, a well-maintained public beach lined with beach-side restaurants and shops. If you intend to swim, bring water shoes to walk the pebbly shore. Beyond the sunbathers and swimmers, a steady flow of cruise ships and yachts breezes past.

Beyond Larvotto Beach, make your way toward the eastern edge of Monte Carlo and up the steep winding roads to Boulevard des Moulins, a boutique-lined street with quintessential pastry shops and photogenic architecture.

For more shopping, stroll below the chandeliers of Le Metropole shopping center. Just outside Casino Square, Metropole offers specialty shops with elegant items for the home, perfumes, apparel, and a small supermarket.

As day turns to night, return to Casino Square for an evening cocktail on the street-level patio at Café de Paris, watching the activity of chicly dressed Monégasques and tourists alike. One can get nearly swept away in the elegance of it all but then remembers the enticingly humble comforts of home.