How to spend an unforgettable Weekend in Monaco
Monaco is more than glitz and glamour. Here are my best recommendations for a weekend in the charming principality.
Gala Event in Monte Carlo
My friend Daniel von Lison, entrepreneur and a real multi-talent, invited me to participate in a gala event of the Elite Club Monaco, an order supporting handicapped and disadvantaged people. My client Palácio Belmonte, the bespoken guest palace in Lisbon, provided a three-night stay for a draw and I had the pleasure of representing them during the gala at the Café de Paris (just next to the famous casino) in Monte Carlo on October 26, 2019. A perfect reason to stay in this little principality on the glamorous French Riviera for a few days.
Second smallest Country in the World
A pint-sized European nation (the second smallest in the world after the Vatican), Monaco is known for the House of Grimaldi who has been ruling this principality since 1297 and all the glamour events, casinos, big yachts and, of course, the Formula 1 racing event. The dynasty of princes has been in the yellow press for ages. I loved the scandalous stories about Princess Stéphanie, sort of a black sheep of the family, in the 80s. And Princess Grace, the former Hollywood actress Grace Kelly who married Prince Rainier and died in a tragic car accident, would have turned 90 this year! As a kid, I was so proud when people said I resembled Prince Albert (not today though, please…!).
Glitz and Glamour
Glitz and glamour in a Mediterranean setting, one of the most densely populated states with roughly 38,000 people on a land area of only 2,0270 square kilometers. This means there are approximately 18,940 people living on just one square kilometer! This also means an impressive skyline with all those skyscrapers built just next to the Maritime Alps.
Monaco is within easy reach from Nice airport, just a 45-minute train ride away (only 5 EUR one way – as per October 2019). You may wish to take a helicopter though should you prefer to arrive in Monaco in style.
While many people visit Monaco on a one-day excursion, you may consider to stay a few days and to explore Monte Carlo, Monaco Ville, and Fontvieille, the three „cities“ of this glitzy principality. Although most places are pretty expensive in Monaco, there is some good news – you can always find places where you don`t have to spend a fortune and many sites like the beautiful parks and gardens do not cost anything.
My Hotel Tip: the Novotel Monte Carlo
You can stay in one of those traditional pretentious hotels such as L´Hermitage just next to the famous casino, but there are other choices such as the Novotel Montecarlo***, a very cool and laid-back place within walking distance from the station and the casino. Talking about the central station - a pretty interesting construction built into a mountain with state-of-the-art facilities - amazing!
Instead of stiff concierges, you are met and greeted by friendly employees in blue and red t-shirts type "marinière", very refreshing. Modern design and art, bright colours and a spectacular view from the lobby down to the bar, restaurant, and the open-air swimming-pool. "This hotel is inspired by the rivieras of this world,“ says Monika Horvath, Communication Manager of the Novotel Monte Carlo. There are indeed many pastel colours in the hotel, varieties of blue in particular to reflect the coast of the French Riviera.
It`s all pretty casual here. I sip a juice in the Azzurra Bar, listening to lounge music and enjoying all the art and design. It must be nice to sit at the pool in summer while enjoying a coffee or a drink.
My executive room (one of 218 guest rooms) is likewise bright with cool colours and offers a splendid view over the harbour and the rock that houses the residence of Prince Albert. I certainly enjoy the little espresso machine although I would have preferred porcelain cups over paper cups (at least they are recycable) – hopefully, an idea for improvement.
An abundant breakfast buffet is served at the Azzurra Kitchen restaurant which is also a cool place for dinner. Mostly local products are being served here. And you can fry your eggs as you want! Workaholics can rent a coworking space with food service. For those who prefer to relax (and/or workout) there is a hammam with a sauna, as well as a little gym. In summer, the awesome deck on the 7th floor is a great option to get a little tan and enjoy the splendid view over Monte Carlo.
It is pretty easy to explore the major sites of Monaco from the Novotel Monte Carlo. The glorious casino, the opera house, the new One district with luxury shops and the marine thermal baths are just a short walk away. From there you can stroll along the Formula 1 circuit to the Boulevard d´Italie with many friendly places such as the „Il Calcio Café & Kitchen“. In this area, the city is a bit more down to earth. I was impressed by the architectural mix in Monte Carlo – modern skyscrapers just next to historic buildings, an interesting contrast which may not be everyone`s taste.
A manmade Island under Construction
If you go down to the coast, you will even reach a 400 m long beach called Larvotto and see the Grimaldi Forum (with an urban solar plant), just next to a lovely Japanese garden. Here is where Monaco will get a taste of Dubai – a manmade island named Portier Cove is currently under construction in the Larvotto district not far away from the casino. The new 15 acres of land will house luxury apartment blocks, a marina with 30 to 40 berths as well as 120 luxury homes at a price of over $100,000 per square foot – a real bargain, right?
Those who wish to move to Monaco and live like the prince and princess, there is Tour Odeon, Monaco’s newest and tallest residential skyscraper. The sculpted double tower rises to a magnificent 49 stories - one of the tallest residential towers in Europe with a height of 170 m.
Ah - and just next to the Fairmont Monte Carlo is the most beautiful Starbucks coffee shop I have ever seen. I am not really a Starbucks fan (to say the least) but this one has at least a terrific location, with a deck overlooking the Mediterranean.
Having explored this hood of Monte Carlo, it is time to visit „le rocher“, the rock. You can reach this hill from the Novotel Monte Carlo in a 30-minute walk but be prepared to climb many stairs before enjoying the stunning vistas. Alternatively, you can take the public service (praiseworthy: the hybrid buses) just from the hotel to reach the royal rock in just a few minutes. Take your photos of the Monte Carlo skyline and harbour and stroll through lovely gardens with the smell of pines before reaching the old town.
Yes, Monaco Ville is totally different from the glamorous Monte Carlo, with beautiful, well maintained old buildings and little alleys with many shops and restaurants (although a bit touristy). The square in front of the princely palace is full of crowds. I just got a few photos taken and strolled to the other side of the rock with splendid views over the yacht harbour of Fontvieille and a nice path high above the Mediterranean Sea, through beautiful gardens with modern art and the impressive basilica.
You cannot miss the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco in a beautiful old building high above the sea. Big aquariums and a section that is dedicated to the protection of the oceans, with messages of Prince Albert who is pretty environmentally conscious. Consider at least half a day on the rock, in particular, if you want to visit the exhibitions in the museum.
I took many stairs on my way back just to reach a platform where people were sunbathing and enjoying a swim in the sea – at the end of October! From there, walk along the harbour (Port Herculé) to reach a lovely area just under the rock. You will find many (affordable) nice restaurants with decks at Rue Caroline. On your way back to downtown Monte Carlo, visit the Jardin Exotique high above the city, an oasis of tranquility with splendid vistas.
On my last day, I took the train to Menton, a popular seaside resort in France, just 15 minutes away (train ride approx. 4.00 EUR). The huge pebble beach was full of people this summer like Sunday end of October. A lunch costs about half of the price compared to Monaco. Mediterranean and Italian feeling in the old town – no wonder, Italy is just a stone throw away! From Menton you can see Ventimglia, the first Italian city after having crossed the border. Such a lovely region with the mountains in the backdrop and true Mediterranean atmosphere. And you can visit other French villages such as Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Eze, or, of course, wonderful Nice if you take the train from Monte Carlo in the other direction.
My summary: sure, Monaco is the place for the super-rich. Here you may see more Bentley`s than in any other place in the world. There are plenty of events and concerts of world-famous stars year-round.Needless to say that no designer boutique is missing. Beautiful young women are looking for a billionaire at the famous Buddha Club just next to the Fairmont Hotel. A friend tells me that some of them ask the guys for their profession right away. Oh well.
But you can also find quiet and even authentic places. And the setting with the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the Maritime Alps on the other one is just second to none. I would definitely go back after the summer season (it usually gets pretty hot). October is a wonderful month for travel with pleasant temperatures, ideal for the many walks in the city and excursions to the French or Italian Riviera. A little paradise for sure!
Where to sleep
Novotel Monte Carlo
16 Boulevard Princesse Charlotte
98000 Monte Carlo, MONACO
Where to eat
16 Boulevard Princesse Charlotte
98000 MONTE CARLO
CAFE & KITCHEN Il Calcio
15 Boulevard des Moulins
98000 Monte-Carlo, Monaco
CASINO CAFÉ DE PARIS
Place du Casino 98000 Monaco
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
More restaurant tips on this page.
More information at VISIT MONACO and the Monte Carlo Tourist Office. And have a look at my video clip.
How to communicate in Monaco
The official language is French, though Italian, English, and Monégasque (who speaks that?) are widely spoken, so you need not worry too much about being misunderstood.
TIPS FROM LOCALS
Daniel von Lison, Vice President of the Elite Club OStS Monaco and his glamourous wife Marina spend a big time of the year in the principality where they organize their high-level charity events. Here are their personal Monaco tips:
Metropole Shopping Monte Carlo
We love to shop here. You will find most of the international luxury brands but also less known ones. This mall is right downtown Monte Carlo - not to miss!
Le Grill at Hôtel de Paris
Located on the 8th floor of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Mediterranean while having a wonderful lunch or dinner.
Quai des Artistes
Luxurious brasserie Parisian style right on Port Herculé. We love to sit on the large terrace overlooking the harbour. A real secret tip!
If you are into people watching while enjoying innovative gastronomy or classic creations, don´t miss this place in the heart of Monte Carlo!
Yulia Berisset, luxury Lifestyle blogger, founder and owner of TheGlam PR and Production Centre in Monte Carlo, TheGlam Luxury Lifestyle Magazine and online media source is also the organizer of the most beautiful events in Regency Miss TheGlam Monaco International Beauty Pageant. Together with her sister and partner Katerina Santorina, Yulia has launched the international movement “Beauty Against Pollution”. Yulia has been living in Monte Carlo for five years and following is a selection of her preferred places to visit.
Le Bar Américaine in the legendary Hôtel de Paris. The best place to spend an evening with good live music and ambiance. In summer, the bar opens up on a fabulous terrace working from morning to late night.
The One district for shopping and lunch - best selection of high-end brands boutiques are here. Mada One is a brand new day time restaurant with amazing breakfasts and late lunches.
Gaia is a fabulous Greek Restaurant with tasty food, a beautiful bar inside and a huge selection of cocktails which turns into a night club on Fridays and Saturdays. Located in Le Metropole Shopping Centre.
The Mozza restaurant is modern Italian restaurant. Food is tasty but not heavy. Very good option for lunch.
More information at VISIT MONACO and the Monte Carlo Tourist Office.
Special thanks to Jean-Philippe Combeau, a fantastic Paris-based photographer, for the shooting in Monaco.