With the famous Monaco Grand Prix on the horizon, what better time to reflect on my recent day trip to the principality? A truly regal experience, touring around Monte Carlo, in particular, oozes glamour. Race-goers: take note.
Its name synonymous with wealth, glamour and class, Monaco continues to be a haven for the rich and famous, largely due to its generous tax advantages and geographical position along the French Riviera. Whilst critics lament its built-up topography and consistent expense for a mere bottle of water, a short visit to Monaco promises a once in a lifetime opportunity to mingle with elites, walk along a historically treasured F1 track (aka the principality’s very streets) and relax in the midst of a marina dotted with the most luxurious yachts imaginable.
A royal engagement
Without a doubt, Monaco prizes its royal family, much merchandise in souvenir stores and the content of numerous magazine covers reflecting their commercial importance today. Police escorts are relatively common in the principality, which often gives the impression that tourists and residents are never too far from the Grimaldis, particularly given the proximity Monaco’s small but treasured territory offers. High up on a hilltop, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (originally constructed in 1191) offers breathtaking views of the country. It is not only the Grimaldi name that reinforces Monaco’s regal appeal, but the very fact that the territory is known for hosting royal visitors: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were spotted visiting a monegasque flower market just days after my visit.
A visit to Monte Carlo’s celebrated casino, forever referenced in Hollywood blockbusters (hint: James Bond) is at the top of any savvy tourist’s bucket list. Perhaps more than any other landmark the principality possesses, this luxurious hub of excitement and wealth embodies pure glamour. Whilst exploring the high-stakes area may set you back around 10 euros, the rest of the casino is open for public viewing. Be warned: if you do fancy your chances at the betting table, be sure to dress smartly, avoiding jeans and trainers. Visitors are regularly refused entry due to casual attire.
Play, race, win
Monaco is perhaps most famous for its annual F1 Grand Prix, a street race with sharp turns and scarce scope to overtake along the principality’s narrow roads. A visit to the principality during race weekend guarantees high-adrenaline adventure and the opportunity to mingle with the world’s A-listers (as well as numerous F1 drivers who reside in Monaco). Can’t afford a race ticket? In the months leading up to the Grand Prix, visitors can walk along the very race tracks (exceedingly easy, given the GP’s street circuit status), a stone’s throw from the famous marina. For football fans, the principality offers its famous Louis II stadium, home to AS Monaco.
The shopping experience of a lifetime
Want to blend in with the exceedingly elegant Monegasque citizens who roam the streets, going about their daily business? Shop where they shop! Le Métropole Shopping Monte-Carlo offers a range of outlets, from Spar for a quick snack to a beautiful handbag boutique, stocking all of the finest luxury brands, from Moschino to Versace. Shoppers are greeted with a marble interior and dazzling chandelier, a decadent indication that wallets will be considerably lighter on exit.
Visitors who become tired of hiking up Monaco’s hilly terrain often choose to take the ‘Grand Tour of Monaco’ (aka an open-topped double-decker bus, driving tourists around a circuit of the principality’s most fascinating attractions). Stop off at the Jardin Exotique for some pure relaxation amongst soothing fountains, stunning horticulture and mesmerising sculptures. This stop should perhaps be reserved until the end of your day trip, allowing one to unwind and reflect on their regal tour of Monaco.
Top tip: Hotels in Monaco are, unsurprisingly, pretty pricey. For those happy to spend the day in the principality without paying a fortune for accommodation, staying in nearby Nice is a sensible option. A 20 minute train journey away and a vibrant city in itself, Nice offers the perfect spot to rest your head after a busy day exploring the French Riviera.