The Old Casino in Monte Carlo
If your wallet permits it, try your luck in the Grand Casino and gamble alongside the world’s richest and often most famous. You’ll need your passport to enter (as Monégasque citizens are prohibited from gambling at the casino), and the fees for entry range enormously depending on what room you are going to – often from 30€ right up into the hundreds. You can also visit the casino without gambling, but also for a nominal fee. The dress code inside is extremely strict – men are required to wear coats and ties, and casual or ‘tennis’ shoes are forbidden. The gaming rooms themselves are spectacular, with stained glass, paintings, and sculptures everywhere. There are two other more Americanized casinos in Monte Carlo. Neither of these has an admission fee, and the dress code is more casual.
Monaco’s streets hosts the best known Formula 1 Grand Prix. It is also one of Europe’s premier social highlights of the year. The Automobile Club of Monaco organizes this spectacular Formula 1 race each year. The Grand Prix is 77 laps around 263-kilometers of Monte Carlo’s narrowest and twisted streets. The main attraction of the Monaco Grand Prix is the proximity of the speeding Formula One cars to the race spectators. The thrill of screaming engines, smoking tires and determined drivers also makes the Monaco Grand Prix one of the most exciting races in the world. There are more than 3,000 seats available for sale on the circuit ranging from 90€ to more than 500€. Monaco residents often rent out their terraces for the event with prices ranging from 8000€ to 140,000€ for the four days. During the off season, it is possible to walk around the circuit. Tourist office maps have the route clearly marked on their maps, although devotees won’t need them! For those who can afford it, you can also take a ride around the track in a performance car.
Aquavision: Discover Monaco from the sea during this fascinating boat tour! “Aquavision” is a catamaran-type boat equipped with two windows in the hull for underwater vision, thus allowing the passengers to explore the natural seabed of the coast in an unusual way. The boat can take up to 120 people per journey. The cost for adults is 11€, while the cost for children and students ages 3-18 is 8€.
Azur Express: Fun tourist trains make daily tours all over Monaco. You will visit the Monaco Port, Monte-Carlo and its Palaces, the famous Casino and its gardens, the Old Town for City Hall and finally the royal Prince’s Palace. Commentaries are in English, Italian, German and French. This enjoyable tour runs about 30 minutes long and cost is 6€, children under age 5 ride free.
In the summer time, Monte-Carlo is illuminated with dazzling concerts at the exclusive Monte-Carlo Sporting Club. The club has featured such artist as Natalie Cole, Andrea Bocelli, the Beach Boys, Lionel Richie and Julio Iglesias among others. The club also hosts a small casino which includes basic casino games. With no one under the age of 18, the rate per person is 20€.
While staying in Monaco, you can take a full-day-journey (or half-day-journey, whichever you prefer) to surrounding areas like France and Italy. Monaco is connected to France by highways so renting a car would be the best way to go. You can also take the “train bleu” or a bus to European cities closer to Monaco including Paris, Nice and Ventimiglia. If you want to travel to farther countries in Europe, do so by plane. Amsterdam, Rome, Brussels, Frankfurt and Zurich are less than two hours away by plane.
Monaco has the euro (EUR, €) as its currency. Therewith, Monaco belongs to the 23 European countries that use the common European money. These 23 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. These countries together have a population of 327 million.
One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse as well as all bills look the same throughout the eurozone. Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
Shopping in Monte Carlo is usually quite exclusive and is certainly no place for a budget holiday. There are plenty of places to melt the credit card alongside Europe’s high rollers. The chic clothes shops are in the Golden Circle, framed by Avenue Monte Carlo, Avenue des Beaux-Arts and Allees Lumieres, where Hermes, Christian Dior, Gucci and Prada all have a presence. The area on and around Place du Casino is home to high-end jewelers such as Bulgari, Cartier and Chopard. You will find, however, that most tourists will simply enjoy wandering the area and window shopping, even if you don’t buy anything. The normal shopping hours are from 9AM to noon and 3PM to 7PM.
For a more cultured take on shopping in Monte Carlo, try the Condamine Market. The market, which can be found in the Place d’Armes, has been in existence since 1880 and is lively and attractive – many hours can be spent simply wandering around, bargaining for souvenirs from the many tiny shops, boutiques and friendly locals. If however, your shopping tastes are more modern, just take a short walk along the esplanade to the rue Princess Caroline pedestrian mall.
The Fontvieille Shopping Centre is also a more “normal” shopping experience with 36 shops selling electronic goods, CDs, furniture, and clothes as well as a Carrefour supermarket and McDonald’s. The tourist office also issues a useful free shopping guide to the city.
Some stores to browse or buy:
Fred Boutique, 6, av des Beaux-Arts, Monte Carlo 98000. Situated on the exclusive avenue des Beaux-Arts, this is one of only a handful of Fred boutiques in the world. An official jeweler of Monaco’s royal family and a favorite of celebrities, you may not be able to afford much in this boutique, but its worth a jaw dropping visit.
Boutique du Rocher, 1, av de la Madone, Monte Carlo 98000. Opened by Princess Grace in the 60’s, travelers still flock here to grab the very best in take home souvenirs. Choose from hand-carved frames and mirrors, ceramics, homewares and toys. Prices are moderate and all proceeds go to local charities.
Davidoff, 17, av des Spélugues, Les galeries du Métropole, Monte Carlo 98000. High end cigar and cigarette store, where you are assisted by staff that know their product well.
Galerie Moghadam, 23 & 41, bd des Moulins, Monte Carlo 98000. Award-winning speciality shop that offers superb hand woven tapestries and carpets.
Pratoni Monaco, 7, Avenue Princesse Grace (Larvotto), 10-12:30/14-19:30. Monaco fashion brand Pratoni offers a variety of ready-to-wear clothing & accessories for gentlemen in addition to wide range of made-to-measure services. All items are of high quality and made in Italy or Monaco.
How to go wrong? Food in Monaco is universally excellent. There are many fine restaurants, beginning with the Cafe de Paris across the street from the casino, to the waterfront restaurants along the Port de Fontvieille. During the winter months, you will find the restaurants to be decently priced–for Monaco. Bouillabaisse is excellent here.
There are a huge variety of other restaurants and cafés in the city with a moderate price tag and excellent food. There are a few simple cafés along the marina-side, more like beach bars than anything else, that serve simple meals such as pizza, salads and hotdogs throughout the day. These can be excellent for simply sitting back during the hot midday with a cold beer or glass of wine, a snack to recharge your batteries from exploring the city, and the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean (and often the roar of supercars) in your ears. Most of these restaurants are equipped with water-misters in the ceilings that gently cool and refresh the clientele.
Stars ‘n’ Bars, 6 quai Antoine-1, tel 97-97-95-95. June-Sept daily 11AM-midnight; Oct-May Tues-Sun 11AM-midnight. Bar open until 3AM. American style sports bar serving standard burgers pizzas and sandwiches. Drinking or dining during Happy Hour offers reasonable value for money. edit
Pizzeria Monégasque, 4 rue Terrazzani, tel 93-30-16-38. Mon-Sat noon-1:45PM and 7:30-11PM (until midnight Fri-Sat). For those on a budget, be sure to grab a slice of one of their delicious gourmet pizzas that taste even better when sitting on the outdoor terrace. Main courses are also available from 10€-22€. edit
Somewhere in between these two dining experiences comes the world-famous Café de Paris, just outside the Casino. Tourists and locals alike can often be found during the afternoon and all through the night laughing, drinking, and eating some fabulous (but verging on expensive) meals. It is definitely a must-go during your stay in Monte Carlo, even if it is just for a snack in the afternoon – it is well worth it. A new favorite in Monaco is Beefbar located in the Port of La Condamine, they serve excellent meat.
Cafe de Paris, Place du Casino, ☎ 92-16-20-20. Daily 8AM-3AM. The nerve centre of Monte Carlo, where people go to see and be seen, buzzing with the feel of old time Monte Carlo, circa early 1900s. Menu items change frequently, as do the waiters, who seem intent on rushing patrons through their meals. For people-watching, you could try a diet Coke for a mere €6. Reservations to dine are recommended. edit
Beefbar, quai Jean Charles Ray, 98000. Quality cuts of beef on offer, attached with high, though surprisingly worthwhile price tag. Small cups on puree are available for the meat, though an additional cup (one is far too small), costs 8.5€. Wine selections are paired perfectly with the red meat. Chic atmosphere and the staff are extremely attentive. edit
Baccarat, 4 Escalier Saint-Charles, ☎ 93-50-66-92. Serving some of the finest Italian fare in Monte Carlo, Baccarat has an airy and authentic atmosphere. The oven-baked turbot with artichokes has customers such as Robbie Williams coming back again and again. edit
Fuji, 4 av de la Madone. Sleek and sexy Japanese restaurant that offers authentic sushi favorites at reasonable prices. edit
Dining in Monaco can be a very sobering experience to whomever is paying the bill. Perhaps the most exclusive and famous restaurants in the city are the Louis XV Restaurant and the Le Grill de L’Hotel de Paris, both centered on the very exclusive Hotel de Paris. You are more than likely to be seated next to a member of the rich and famous, and the gourmet food is simply out-of-this-world – however, these experiences come with a rather hefty price tag!
Louis XV, Hôtel de Paris, place du Casino. In one of the finest hotels in the world, run by one of the finest chefs in the world (Alain Ducasse) this Michelin 3 star rated restaurant serves dining perfection amongst luxurious glitterati. The level of sophistication for all dishes is hard to be surpassed, the sea bass with Italian artichokes regularly reaches a score of 19/20 by restaurant critics. The restaurant contains the world’s largest wine cellar: 250,000 bottles of wine (many priceless) stashed in a rock cave. Reservations are essential, as are jacket and tie for men.
Le Grill de L’Hotel de Paris, In the Hôtel de Paris, place du Casino, tel 92-16-29-66. Although often overlooked by the famed ‘Louis XV’, look above to the Hotel de Paris’s rooftop for its equally elegant contender. Less intimidating than the Ducasse citadel downstairs, Le Grill offers every imaginable sort of grilled fish, and meat that come from the nearby Alps. The selection of 600,000 wines are the perfect accompaniment to every dish, and the service is impeccable. Dining on the rooftop affords you stunning, panoramic views of Monte Carlo, and in the summer, a blanket of starry sky.
Champagne has the status of a national beverage in Monaco. A single glass can cost as much as €40 at a fashionable restaurant!
Zelos, Top Floor Grimaldi Forum Ave. Princesse Grace, tel +377 99 99 25 50. Showcasing panoramic views from the top floor of the Grimaldi Forum, the outdoor seating area offers the perfect spot to see yachts cruising into the harbor. Top models and the people who want to be with them dance the early mornings away here and we defy you not to do the same. Cocktail list is impressive and bite sized treats are available.
Bar at the Columbus Monaco, 23 Avenue des Papalins Monte Carlo, tel 00 377 92 059000. More laidback and informal than some of its counterparts, its subdued atmosphere is a refreshing change from some of the high energy Monaco bars. Decked out in shades of chocolate, its almost as sweet as the chocolate martinis, which come with a big truffle in each glass which slowly melts into your drinks and tastes heavenly. Formula One race car driver David Coulthard is a co owner, which means you’re likely to run into some of his race car competitors.
Jimmy’z, Le Sporting Club Avenue Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo, tel+ 377 9216 20 00. The ultimate night club in Monte Carlo, the famed Jimmy’z is frequented by royalty and the uber-rich, which isn’t a surprise considering some of the hefty price tags, a beer will cost you upwards of £20. If you can’t afford it, there are other clubs to go to. There are two entrances -one, two floors down in Le Sporting Club, the other at street level, and many a rock star and billionaire have walked through both. Staff can be quite rude, but so are most of the patrons. Definitely an experience.
If you’re on a budget, Monaco is not the best place to be. For example, a two star hotel without breakfast and bathroom will cost around €60 per person. A better option is to stay in one of the many towns outside of Monaco, for example Ventimiglia, which is a sea-side town situated on the French-Italian border on the Italian side. Nice is only 1/2 hour away from Monaco and it’s very cheap to use the frequent trains. During the winter season, a comfortable two star hotel will only cost you about €20 a person.
The Monaco Tourism center staff will also sit down and make phone calls to assist walk-ins in finding accomodation. Even if you ask for “cheap” lodging.