The cliffside port town of Monte Carlo has been a timeless playground for the see-and-be-seen crowd for more than 150 yearsWords Nikki Beach Global
A principality carved out of the south of France, complete with its own royal family, Monaco is a glamorous spot.
Lose yourself for the afternoon over a café crème, amble along the harbor among the super yachts and experience the slow-paced, yet refined, Monégasque savoir-vivre. Imagine yourself in a 007 movie – Monaco is the site of many a James Bond plot, as well as the occasional jewelry heist, or track the twists of the annual Monaco Grand Prix through the streets of Monte Carlo.
Quaint, narrow streets radiate from the aquarium’s grand, Baroque revival building. Explore further and you’ll find yourself feeling the thrill of a mid-century action film, fast paced mopeds and all. There’s a small cathedral across the plaza, and a seafront park descends the cliff face, but it’s the aquarium, sitting squarely in the center, that appears to own the city. It’s visibly French, only a good thing when it comes to food, wine and shopping.
The crown jewel of Monte Carlo has to be the street circuit for the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, which takes over the city – in its entirety – on the last weekend in May each year.
It has featured in one way or another since 1929, and is the reason celebrities and royalty flock to the principality. Drivers are almost as famous as the A-list crowd looking on!
ABOVE: The crown jewel of Monte Carlo has to be the Formula One Grand Prix, which takes over the city in May
Monaco is a tax-free principality surrounded by France and the Maritime Alps, and it’s a place where glamour is certainly not lost.
Down by the harbor, small cafés and shops dot the coastline; the southernmost neighborhood of Monte Carlo, the Prince’s Palace, is also home to a giant oceanographic museum – aquarium for those who prefer – which was established by Prince Albert I himself. In his day, none other than Jacques Cousteau was in charge and, even if you don’t fancy a jaunt with the fishes, the building is impressive enough from the outside.
The famous Monte Carlo Casino is a short walk from the even more famous Hotel Hermitage – which is certainly worth a visit simply as a visual icon – but for the gambler in you, it’s also still functional and a lot of fun. Weekday afternoons are busy, men in suit jackets, collars undone, having finished a day in the office, line the craps tables, but it’s in the evening when this place really comes into its own.
Playing a hand at the famed Casino de Monte Carlo is something we’d say must be ticked off your bucket list.
If having a flutter simply isn’t your thing then why not visit the 19th-century Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedrale de Monaco, also the final resting place of past sovereigns, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Built with the stark white stones from La Turbie in 1875, stop and admire the altar by the Niçois painter Louis Bréa dating back to the 1500s, as well as the high altar and the Episcopal throne made of Carrara white marble.
The colorful Jardin Exotique can offer some green relief from the city and touring neighboring Monaco Ville, the old town also known as Le Rocher, home to the Grimaldi’s historic royal residence, is worth a look.
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If it’s crowds, fast-paced and adrenaline-fueled action you’re after, then there’s no better time to visit than during the Formula One Grand Prix weekend – which is at the end of May each year.
It’s a sporting festival like no other and draws celebrity royalty. Look out for the likes of Kendall and Kylie Jenner and Gigi and Bella Hadid, who usually arrive to cheer on the drivers – with special attention given to UK driver and four-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton. With an Instagram following in the millions he rivals most social media famous model-influencers!
ABOVE: Azure waters, chic style and an exciting history of motor sport make Monte Carlo one of Europe’s most-loved destinations
Visit Nearby Nice
Throughout the Cannes Film Festival, Nice airport is overrun with actors and models flooding through customs en route to the beach and the famous festival. During Grand Prix weekend it can be the same as Nice is an equally convenient access point to Monte Carlo. However, Nice also boasts a helicopter pad with private charters departing every 15 minutes, and while a private helicopter may seem a little extravagant, let’s face it, there’s no better way to start embracing your inner 007 before you even disembark.