Monaco is a truly fascinating country. It is the second smallest country in the world, preceded only by the Vatican. Simultaneously, it is also the most densely populated country in the world. Under the continuing rule of the royal Grimaldi family for more than 700 years, Monaco is one of the most luxurious and glamorous places one can visit. This small nation on the French Riviera is one of the most expensive places in the world. It is a magnet to the wealthy, its allure and enigma heightened by its constant featuring in James Bond movies.
There are several reasons to visit Monaco. As one of the top travel magazines, Travel Links brings you the most famous attractions in Monaco to help you plan your trip. The glitz and glamour of the country can be best experienced with the help of your trusted magazine.
What to do in Monaco
While the entire country of Monaco can be covered on a one day trip from Nice, a longer vacation is a feast for the eyes. Moreover, the country’s excellent fine dining options and bars are unparalleled, with its rich historical sights offering a peek into the country’s legacy. The best time to visit Monaco is in the summer months of May/June or in September/October. It is easy to travel here- you can do it on foot, take a bus or get a taxi. Do wear a comfortable pair of shoes as you are going to be walking a lot. The alleys, with their boutiques and gift shops make for a fascinating walk.
Although Monaco is a short drive from more popular destinations in the French Riviera, direct flights to Monaco Heliport and Monte Carlo exist. Popular air routes include those from London, Barcelona, Paris, Milan and Liverpool. For India, a direct flight to Monaco would take off from Mumbai. Covering a distance of 6612 kilometres in approximately 12 hours, a one-way trip may cost upwards of INR 35,000.
The Old Town is where some of the most important places are. Located on a hill, it is surrounded by water on three sides. Here, you would find the Prince’s Place, Saint Martin Gardens, Monaco Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum.
The Prince’s Palace is, as the name suggests, home to the ruling Prince Albert II. Originally built as a fortress in the thirteenth century, the palace has been subsequently renovated to be the epitome of opulence and wealth. You can witness the changing of the guards each day at 11:55 am. In the months of April to October, the State Apartments of the palace are open for visitors.
Saint Martin Gardens
The first public garden in Monaco, the Saint Martin was inaugurated in 1816. It offers some of the best views of the city and the sea. The garden itself is home to beautiful flowers and bronze sculptures, and is the perfect way to find some solitude and quiet. You can spread your blanket here and have a cosy picnic.
The Monaco Cathedral was built in 1911 at the same spot where the old Church stood. The Cathedral is also known as Saint Nicholas Cathedral, although it is officially called the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The most famous attraction here are the tombs of the ruling Grimaldi family.
Monte Carlo Casino
Built in 1863, the Casino was meant to be a way of making money for the struggling nation. Today, some of the wealthiest people in the world try their luck at the renowned casino. It is undoubtedly the most famous thing in Monaco. Beautifully decorated with paintings and sculptures, gambling at the Monte Carlo Casino is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
Located opposite the Casino, Café de Paris is one of the most distinguished dining options in Monaco. Seated on the terrace here, you can enjoy the view of luxurious cars strolling into the Casino.
Opera de Monte Carlo
The opera theatre is adjacent to the casino and is often considered to be one with it. However, its ornate decorations and opulent architecture makes it a distinct attraction in its own right. Regardless, most of the tours through the Casino make their way to the Opera de Monte Carlo.
Monaco Yacht Club
A prestigious and exclusive one, the Monaco Yacht Club hosts big events such as the Grand Prix throughout the year. Since one needs to be a member to enter the club, simply walking along the port is also a wonderful way to view the modern and luxurious yachts docked here.
Curiously, for being a coastal nation, Monaco does not have many beaches. However, the Larvotto is a strip of sand which serves the purpose of one. A number of people go here to sunbathe and enjoy the sea. It is a man made beach with both public and private sections.
Selling a large collection of condiments and offering exquisite options for dining, the Condamine Market is the best way to explore the delicacies of Monaco. Additionally, the daily market on the Place d’Armes is a wonderful way to get a feel of the local culture.
There are a number of museums to explore in Monaco:
- Oceanographic Museum- Being a coastal nation, the Oceanographic Museum is testament to the efforts of Monaco in conserving ocean life. Here, too, the monarchical family played a crucial role. The museum was founded by Albert I in 1906. With exhibitions of both indigenous and exotic species, the Oceanographic Museum displays the role of Monaco in the advancement of oceanography.
- Cars Collection of HSH the Prince of Monaco- Likewise, with more than a hundred cars on display, this Museum began as the private collection of Prince Rainier III in the 1950s. The range on display include Formula 1 racing cars, sports cars, classic models of cars like Rolls Royce and cars of historical significance are housed here.
- Naval Museum- With 1200 scale models on display, the Naval Museum is a guidebook to shipbuilding. The museum houses ships from Ancient Egypt to Medieval Europe, with many military ships and submarines included in the collection.
Built during the 1970s and 1990s, Fontvieille is one of the newest neighbourhoods in Monaco. While it may not have many historic sights, it offers exciting seafood restaurants and unique bars with wonderful views of the sea. Additionally, it also has the Fontvieille Park and the Princess Grace Rose Garden. These offer undeniably picturesque views of Monaco and are favourable spots for having picnics.
Another top attraction of Monaco are the car rallies held here. Beginning in January, the Monte Carlo Rally is renowned for its exciting races. It started in 1911 as an attempt to further Monaco’s prestige as a tourist destination. The oldest event under the World Rally Championship, the Rallye Monte Carlo draws some of the most famous racers, along with a large number of fans and spectators.
Other than these attractions, Monaco boasts a vibrant shopping scene. As with everything else, here too, luxury is the motto. While you can find traditional souvenirs in the Old Town or in Fontvieille Shopping Market, Carre d’Or (golden square) is where the high end stores are. With outlets like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Christian Dior, Gucci and Chanel, the place will bring out the fashionista in you.
Given these points, you can discern why a trip to Monaco is one of a kind. Its rich 700-year-long history seamlessly blends with the luxury and wealth that the city today reflects. What more, the night life and the Arts Festival are some other things to look forward to while visiting the country! It is home to and attracts some of the wealthiest people in the world, and luxury cars and jewellery are not a rare sight. Moreover, the yachts, the super cars and fashion give you a glimpse into their lives. Thus, it is no wonder that the city is synonymous with glamour and glitz in popular imagination.
By Shantha Sriram