The Principality of Monaco is one of the tiniest countries in the world. In fact, Monaco is only a few miles long. The Principality is comprised of four distinct quarters: Monte Carlo, which has become famed for its gambling and culture; La Condamine, the business quarter; Monaco-Ville, the capital and rockiest of the small region; and Fontvieille, another business and industry quarter.
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Getting around Monaco is an attraction in and of itself. The area rises sharply from the Mediterranean into rocky rugged hills. Walking is the most convenient way to access the city, but at times a stroll becomes a challenging hike. And during the summer months hiking is hot. The city offers taxis and buses and most hotels have tours to the most popular sights and attractions. Although Monaco is tiny, there are a few must-sees for new visitors.
The Oceanographic Museum was established under the astute guidance of world-renowned explorer Jacques Cousteau. The museum is one of the Principality’s most popular attractions for the unique marine life exhibits. A particular highlight is the aquarium teeming with distinctly Mediterranean marine species of plant and animal life.
Monaco Cathedral was constructed in the late 19th century near a centuries-old cemetery where nearly all the members of the ruling Grimaldi family are buried. The Grimaldis have ruled Monaco for centuries. The Cathedral is a functioning one, with regular mass celebrations. White Italian marble adorns the altar inside.
Casino de Monte Carlo
This casino, besides representing the best of European gambling, is also representative of high architectural style and grandeur that existed during the reign of Napoleon, known as the Belle Epoque style of architecture. The casino is laid out by rooms, or salles, most devoted to the best of European table games and one for slot machines, a more American style of game. These games are strikingly set against the rococo adornment and stained glass windows of the casino. The frescoes and sculptures are worth seeing in and of themselves.
Princess Grace’s Rose Garden
This rose garden is named in honour of Princess Grace, one of the most popular in Monagasque history. More than a hundred different varieties of rose are represented from both American and European stock. Nearby is the beautiful Fontvieille Park.
Hotels in Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo’s situation in relation to the Mediterranean coastline makes it an especially appealing spot to visit in the heart of the French Riviera. Many of the accommodations are upscale and cater to the high-dollar patrons typical to the region.
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Hotel de Paris
The Hotel de Paris is the most exquisite hotel in Monte Carlo, perhaps in all the world. The Hotel de Paris serves up top-notch accommodations literally fit for kings. Royalty, celebrities and the wealthiest casino patrons stay here. The hotel is convenient to the Casino de Monte Carlo, another of the spectacles of Monte Carlo. The Hotel de Paris is indicative of the Belle Epoque architectural style. Ornate balconies overlook the crystal blue Mediterranean coast. The Hotel offers two haute cuisine restaurants, Louis XV and Le Grill.
Hotel Mirabeau affords visitors quick beach access and amazing views of the bays. This hotel features over a hundred rooms in a number of different values. There are two fine restaurants and a few lounges and bars. The décor is distinctively reminiscent of the Art Deco period, lending the hotel a more contemporary, urban feel.
For those conducting business, the Hotel Mirabeau offers convenient work spaces complete with secretarial services and modern business communications.
Hotel Hermitage is another luxury hotel in the high style of the Belle Epoque period. The hotel is distinguished by its glass domed garden that sits atop the hotel. The garden was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Throughout the hotel, frescoes, elaborate crystal chandeliers and rococo stylings are to be enjoyed. The façade of the hotel is an ornamental vista of deep archways and tiny iron worked balconies.
Features of the hotel include nearly three hundred guest rooms, an haute cuisine restaurant, le Vistamar, and conveniences for those needing business services and state-of-the-art technology in communications services. Also convenient to the Hotel Hermitage is the new spa, Les Thermes Marins, one of the most well-appointed and luxurious spas in Europe.
Monte Carlo Beach Hotel
The Monte Carlo Beach Hotel carves its niche along the peninsula edge of Monte Carlo. This hotel is of particular interest to beachgoers, as it affords easy access to water sports. The hotel is limited to just under fifty rooms which helps it maintain an air of intimacy. Despite its smaller capacity, however, the hotel offers four distinct restaurants in a variety of choice settings.
Dining in Monte Carlo
Dining in Monte Carlo can be a fairly expensive venture. Although Monaco offers a host of smaller eateries offering regional cuisine, pizzas and a mixed culinary bag, the true gems of Monte Carlo are located within the hotels themselves.
The Louis XV restaurant is located within the spectacular luxury of the Hotel de Paris. The restaurant is one of three under the direction of world-renowned chef, Alain Ducasse. Chef Franck Cerutti is the presiding chef who favours dishes of French and Italian influence. His seasonal menus are inspired by the abundance of local fish and fresh seasonal vegetables that the mild climate affords.
The restaurant is top-notch and expensive, but the dining experience is unrivalled, some say, anywhere else in Europe. Dress is formal and appropriate within the 17th-century French décor. Visitors can dine at Louis XV and then cross the street for an equally splendid evening of European gaming in the Casino de Monte Carlo.
Bar and Boeuf
Another Alain Ducasse directed restaurant, this one is located within the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort. The Hotel is the newest addition to Monte Carlo and is the first marriage of a hotel with casino and fine dining experiences, too.
The Bar and Boeuf is designed around dishes that are primarily based on beef and bass choices complimented with hand-picked wines. The Bar and Boeuf is only open for the summer season.
La Vigie is an upscale dining venue offered by the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel. The specialities weigh on the side of lobster and alternative grilled fish specialities local to the Mediterranean region. Open air dining dictates this be a seasonal dining experience. This is upscale dining by the blue Monegasque bays.
Located within the Hotel Hermitage, the Vistamar’s name speaks for itself. Diners enjoy an upscale experience overlooking the Mediterranean. The restaurant’s chef offers interpretations of regional Monegasque favourites.
One of three restaurants located within the Hotel Mirabeau, La Coupole is open year-round for gourmet dining options. The menu is more trendy and perhaps meant to appeal to a broader range of today’s tastes by lending fresh interpretations to Mediterranean specialities.
Monte Carlo Nightlife
Much of Monte Carlo life does not begin until nightfall. In comparison to other gambling resorts that seem to never sleep, daily commerce in Monte Carlo has a distinct beginning, middle and end. Casinos do not open until midday. Lunchtime is decidedly late in keeping with European convention, and both cultural nightlife and casino nightlife are abundant before retiring in the wee hours of the morning.
European Style Gaming
Since the casinos in Monte Carlo keep vastly different hours from their American counterparts, with many gaming rooms in Monte Carlo casinos not even open until evening, it stands to reason that a vigorous part of the nightlife in Monte Carlo is the luxurious parlours of the casinos.
The Monte Carlo Opera House, also known as the Salle Garnier, is a functioning opera house in the heart of Monte Carlo. Built in 1879 by the architect Charles Garnier, the opera house rose simultaneously to fame in the company of the nearby Casino de Monte Carlo. The whole design of Monte Carlo, as directed by Prince Charles III at the end of the nineteenth century, was to provide a fusion of luxury, arts and culture and high styled European games of chance for the entertainment of the European aristocracy.
Besides enjoying a colourful history, the Opera House maintains a busy schedule throughout the year.
During the summer months, nighttime concerts are open to the public at the Prince’s Palace. The world-renowned Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra presents the evenings of music.
Jimmy Z’s nightclub is open all night for music and dancing. Located in the Monte Carlo Sporting Club casino, Jimmy Z’s affords convenience for casino visitors who do not want the evening to end.
Monte Carlo is often touted as being one of the safest towns in which to be out and about. A romantic night would not be complete without a leisurely stroll along the street which offers amazing views of the lights of the bays and Monte Carlo’s secluded harbour.
Although most sources agree that the typical upscale retailers are all present and accounted for, a pleasant walk along the Avenue des Beaux-Arts offers one a feast for window-shoppers’ eyes, nevertheless.
Events in Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo has a long history with automobile racing. The city has been hosting major auto rallies and races since 1911. Why Monte Carlo? France itself was the first country to pioneer the performance car and the first to host a race. France’s history is so thick with automotive tradition that it is no wonder that the challenging roadways of Monte Carlo, heart of the French Riviera, have become the race tracks for some of the region’s most exciting racing events.
Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix
The Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix race is one of automobile’s biggest events of each year. The four-day long event, held annually in May, launches formula 1 cars, the single seaters, racing throughout the twisting and tortuously winding city streets. The Grand Prix race is one of the major attractions in Monaco and visitors come from all over the world to witness the unique event. Audiences can even find locations from which to dine and drink right alongside the race routes.
Monte Carlo Rally
The Monte Carlo Rally has been a racing institution in Monaco since 1911. The race is run over the course of a few days in January. Modified cars negotiate the treacherous curves of the city before climbing into the more Alpine territory that rises sharply above Monte Carlo. Here is where cars have infamously navigated snowy, blustery, even blizzard-like conditions of the race.
Monte Carlo Historic Grand Prix
The Monte Carlo Historic Grand Prix is a fairly recent addition to the auto racing schedule. However, the race pays historic homage to the long love affair with auto racing that has helped shape this region of Europe. Cars are required to be vintage and many of the roads they race along are virtually unchanged since the 1920s.
Tennis Masters Open
Held annually in April at the Monte Carlo Country Club, the Tennis Masters Open has become one of the most respected preludes to the famous French Open.