The Ultimate Travel Guide to Monte Carlo, Monaco
The principality of Monaco, mostly consisting of a prominent escarpment at the foot of the Maritime Alps over the Mediterranean, is divided into five districts, one of which is Monte Carlo. Reached from the French border town of Beausoleil, you are about to enter the epitome of glamour and seemingly endless wealth. Famous for the Grand Prix, the casino, exquisite shopping, and lavish hotels, as well as the superyachts anchored in the Marina, some of the wealthiest people in the world have made Monte Carlo their home – mostly for tax reasons.
Lesser mortals visit to enjoy an atmosphere and abundance of parks, flowers and in the hope of glimpsing one or the other celebrity or even a member of the photogenic Grimaldi family. Talking of which: Grace Kelly was not the first American to become the Princess of Monaco. She was preceded by Alice Heine from New Orleans who married Prince Albert I in 1889.
In this Monte Carlo Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Monte Carlo travel tips and advice on how to get around, recommended activities, places to eat, accommodation, tour packages and more.
Best time to visit
Monte Carlo’s Mediterranean climate makes for hot summers and mild winters. The best time to visit is in spring when the Cote d’Azur is in full bloom and so are the many gardens of Monte Carlo.
How to get there
The nearest international airport is Nice in France. From there, buses (Nice Airport Express Line 110) and trains run to Monte Carlo. Budget allowing you can shorten the trip by taking a helicopter.
There are very few flat areas in Monte Carlo. It’s basically built up a steep rock with winding streets between. Walking is the best way to explore the city. Thankfully there are several public elevators in operation, which take you from one level to the next. If you wish to take the strain off your feet, you can get pretty much anywhere on one of the six bus lines, operated by CAM. Tickets can be purchased from the driver.
Places to stay
If you wish to stay overnight in Monte Carlo, be prepared to have to spend some money.
Hotel Hermitage on Beaumarchais Place
Adding great style, tradition and history to modern luxury, opt for the Hotel Hermitage on Beaumarchais Place. Located just 200m from the Casino, this beautiful hotel with Belle Epoque décor is in the center of Monte Carlo. The rooms are very spacious, the bathrooms come with plenty of goodies, you can have breakfast under a glass roof or sip champagne in the Crystal Bar. A huge spa will relax you and the service is outstanding. WiFi everywhere and should you be bored you can even ask for video games.
Novotel in Boulevard Princesse Charlotte
For the medium budget, the modern Novotel in Boulevard Princesse Charlotte is a good choice. No belle Epoque décor, but big rooms with ensuite bathrooms, good parking facilities, a seasonal outdoor pool and a short walk to the Casino as well as Port Hercule. WiFi throughout plus two public computers if you haven’t brought your laptop. Three choices of breakfast included in the price.
Hotel de France in Rue de la Turbie
Monte Carlo does simple too, as confirmed by the 2star Hotel de France in Rue de la Turbie. Nice enough rooms and bathrooms, access only by stairs, no elevator and WiFi with extra charge. But breakfast is included and the location is in perfect, walking distance from the Casino and Port Hercule.
Best places to eat
You simply cannot visit Monte Carlo without eating at least one meal on the terrace of the legendary Café de Paris in Place du Casino.
The brasserie atmosphere is as enticing as is the exquisite menu and people watching because it’s here where life in Monte Carlo happens. Like so many other places, the art nouveau décor will keep you looking and admiring as much as the food on your plate.
The proximity of France on one side and Italy on the other makes for a great variety of cuisine in Monte Carlo. Southern Italian fare is to be found in Il Terrazzino in 2 Rue des Iris.
Finally, you should definitely go local, scrabble up the steep streets of the rock and find U Cavagnetu in 14 Rue Comte Felix Gastaldi. The name translates from the local dialect into ‘Picnic basket’ which means you find a great variety of smaller dishes of Italian and French influence. And it’s a place where the only really Monegasque specialty can be found: Barbajuan, a sort of big ravioli, stuffed with vegetables, egg, herbs and then fried.
Language, money matters etc
The official language is French but English is spoken practically everywhere. The currency is the EURO. ATMs are not as frequent as you might think and if you need to change other currencies, you need to find a Bureau de Change. Banks don’t change money.
Credit cards are widely accepted and there is pretty good wifi in all public areas.
Things to do and see
Whether you want to try your luck or not, a visit to the Casino is a must. Get blown away by the elaborate façade and even more so by the lavish interior. Room after room of gambling, with marble, gilt and chandeliers as far as the eye can see. Sadly, even the Grand Old Lady of gambling (only Baden Baden in Germany is older) has not resisted the advent of slot machines and the not so elegant gamblers who go with it. However, deeper inside you find salons privees which indeed require at least a tie, a jacket and decent clothing for ladies.
Around the Casino you find some of the celebrated gardens of Monte Carlo and behind it the Allees des Boulingrins, terraced gardens which lead down to sea level.
Recent renovations have added bars and restaurants to the Casino complex too, and this is one of the places where you can exchange cash..naturally.
Next photo op: the Palace. From the outside it looks just massive but not so elaborate, but as soon as you enter, the picture changes. Renaissance pure everywhere, just don’t expect to bump into Princess Charlotte.
Next to it, you find the Cathedral, a richly ornamented Neo-Byzantine church. Pay your respect to the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace on the left from the choir before making your way down to Port Hercule to have a look at the multi-million dollar yachts berthed there.
Rising straight up from the rock cliff is Monte Carlo’s best museum: the Oceanographic Museum in Avenue St. Martin. It provides a splendid overview of any imaginable form of maritime life, including a shark lagoon pool and an outdoors tortoise island. Plenty of entertainment for kids too, from movies to touch tanks.
If you want even more green and exotic plants, visit the Jardin Exotique. It drops nearly perpendicularly down the rock face and contains an incredible amount of cacti and succulents.
Finally, take a look at the place where all the rich and famous get their suntans: The Sporting Club in the district called Larvotto.
Best places to shop
The oldest and most prestigious shopping mall in Monte Carlo is the Metropole. The circular gallery is a work of art all by itself. Don’t only look at the designer boutiques, look at the mosaic floor and the glass ceiling too.
Another one, newer and bigger is the Fontvieille Shopping Mall but less exclusive as you will find a Carrefour supermarket and… a McDonalds.
Otherwise, the streets around the Hotel Hermitage are full of fabulous boutiques, some famous names, some unique to Monte Carlo.
There is no shortage of places to shop till you drop in Monte Carlo.
If you have an upcoming anniversary or special event to celebrate, you may well choose Monte Carlo to do so. You can’t find a more romantic and opulent background which you will never forget.
Monte Carlo Travel and Tour Packages
Monaco Hop-On Hop-Off Le Grand Tour
The glittering world of Monaco is your oyster with the Le Grand Tour hop on hop off bus pass that takes you to twelve of its most famous landmarks. Explore this playground of the ultra-elite, and discover why Monaco is the destination of choice to the ultimate in luxury and high society.
Find Hotels in Monte Carlo, Monaco according to your budget via Agoda.
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