An independent city-state west of the French Côted'Azur, the Principality of Monaco is the playground of Europe'scelebrities and idle rich. Most people are drawn by the sun,glamorous lifestyle, and tax-free income.
There are more millionaires per capita in Monaco thananywhere else on the planet. But true Monacans make up only about15% of the population in country packed with wealth, opulence, andthe world's most expensive real estate.
The sweeping roads of its unofficial capital MonteCarlo serve as the course for the legendary Monaco Grand Prix. Thebuildings which line the streets are themselves unattractivemonstrosities, huge tiered blocks that belie the fabulous lives ofits residents.
However, Monaco does have a suitably glamoroushistory. Disguised as a Franciscan monk, Francois Grimaldireclaimed a fortress on the Rock of Monaco from a rival Italianbloc in 1297. This gave the principality its name, deriving fromthe word 'monk'.
Soon becoming a major prosperous port, Lord Honore IItook power in 1604 and declared himself prince. France laterannexed Monaco, with the Grimaldis regaining power. In the late1800s, Prince Charles created the Societe des Bains de Mer in orderto restore wealth. It consisted of a casino, hotels, and a theatre,from which sprung the glittering Monte Carlo area.
Monaco isn't good for those who love the greatoutdoors, apart from a few ornate parks. Those with light walletsshould also stay away, unless they want to try their luck fillingit up in Monaco's famous Casino de Monte Carlo. If one wants to rubcloaks with royalty and high society, then Monaco is the place tobe.
Established in the 13th century, Monaco's royal palace has beenthe residence of the ruling Grimaldi family ever since. The mostfamous resident was Grace Kelly, who was married to Prince RainierIII.
Every generation has left their mark on the place. As a result,this is not one of Europe's most elegant castles from the outside.It is worth taking a look inside though. 15 rooms, including theThrone Room, are open to the public.
In the south wing of the palace is the Musée des SouvenirsNapoléoniens, containing a collection of Napoleon's memorabilia.The changing of the guard takes place in front of the palace everyday, lasting just two minutes. So take care to be on time.
Prince Albert I opened Monaco's Oceanographic Museum andAquarium in 1910. It houses his personal collection of marine life,models of his laboratory's ships, and other crafts made from marineproducts.
The imposing building is perched dramatically on a cliff andfaces the sea, providing lovely views. The basement houses animpressive aquarium with over 4,000 fish species and 200invertebrates, as well as the Shark Lagoon.
The Monaco Cathedral is a beautiful structure, built in 1875 andresting on a site of a 13th-century church that dedicated to SaintNicholas. The Cathedral houses the tomb of the much-loved PrincessGrace, as well as the former royalty of Monaco.
During religious festivals and religious holidays, the sounds ofthe cathedral's splendid four-keyboard organ can be enjoyed, aswell as the Sunday mass, which is sung by the Cathedral Choir.
Built in 1878 by Charles Garnier, the Monte Carlo Casino isanother feather in the cap of the man who designed the Paris OperaHouse. The Salle Garnier hosts ballet, opera, and concerts, whilethe Gaming Rooms fill with all the glitz and glamour one wouldexpect from a top-class casino. The rooms sport stained glasswindows and sculptures. Jacket and tie are required for men.
Monte-Carlo, like Monaco, has a spectacular Mediterraneanclimate, boasting roughly 300 days of sunshine a year. July andAugust are the hottest months, while spring and autumn are the besttimes to visit, as temperatures are milder.
Monaco enjoys a mild, pleasant Mediterranean climate, averagingabout 300 days of sunshine a year. Summer temperatures are usuallyin the 80-84º F (26-29ºC) range, while winter temperatures rangebetween 48ºF and 58ºF (8-14ºC).
July and August are the hottest months, while spring and autumnare perfect times to travel to Monaco as temperatures are at theirmildest. The winter months of January and February tend to be thecoldest and also receive the most rainfall.
Going out for dinner in Monte-Carlo is as glamorous as itsounds. With some of the finest restaurants, offering first-classcuisine prepared by some of the world's most renowned chefs,visitors can anticipate only the best. After a day of sightseeing,yachting and sipping on cocktails, a dining experience of only thevery best quality is what can be expected.
Monte-Carlo being the expensive city that it is means that mostrestaurants will cost substantially more than the average meal, butthat is not to say you won't find something a little morebudget-friendly if you look for it. There are an assortment ofcuisines offered in and around the city, each offering anexperience. Early booking is essential, as is a jacket and tie, atmost restaurants in the city.
For something typically French and sophisticated, Le Louis XVpromises a classy and elegant evening with top notch food usingonly the best local produce. Restaurant Joel Robuchon Monte-Carlooffers similar taste and flare, giving patrons a chance toexperience modern French cuisine, influenced by the Mediterranean.For those wanting something a little more fusion in style, thePacific is the place to go. Here you will likely find the rich andfamous occupying tables. For something a little more down to earth,Il Terrazzino is a great restaurant for typical Italian fare; greatquality for a little less Euro.
With lots on offer, Monte-Carlo is an exciting place to explorein terms of its cuisine and is unlikely to leave visitorsdisappointed.
Le Louis XV is classy, elegant, and stylish, steered by ChefAlain Ducasse and a commitment to pure delicacy. Clean linescombine perfectly with the fresh décor, while crystal chandelierslight up the establishment's expertly prepared and executed fineFrench cuisine. The dishes reflect local tastes, using only thefreshest produce. Open Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner.Jacket required and tie recommended, and booking is essential.
Located in Monte Carlo's famous Épingle de la Rascasse, Pacificsees many of the city's rich and famous walk through its doors.It's a favourite place for socialites and gourmet enthusiastsalike. Pacific has a distinctive design ethos, with both the barand restaurant stylishly and elegantly laid out, incorporatingclean lines and intricate lighting. The atmosphere is perfect forwhen the bar converts into a nightclub later on. Specialising infusion cuisine, diners will not be disappointed. Try the signaturePacific black cod with miso sauce. Open daily for lunch and dinner.Reservations recommended.
The views and cuisine at L'Horizon are simply stunning, leavingdiners returning time and time again. There's nothing moreclientele could ask for when dining out in Monte Carlo, boasting360 degree views over the Opera House and the Prince's Palace.Enjoy the tastes of the region, like Mediterranean fish soup,croutons and saffron sauce, and pan-fried sea bass and vegetables.Open March to November daily, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.Bookings essential.
Specialising in the culinary delights of Naples and southernItalian fare, Il Terrazzino is a must for anyone who loves Italianfood. Reminiscent of a country deli, the home-cooked food and cosydining room will make you feel right at home. Try the LinguineMarinara with capers, olives, marjoram, tomato sauce, and anchovy,or the veal with mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil. Open Mondayto Saturday for lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended.
A friendly and unpretentious restaurant, Mozza consistentlyserves excellent Italian food consistently rated among the best inMonte Carlo. The separate lunch and dinner menus are short, yetmemorable and very reasonably priced. Mozza takes full advantage ofits terrace on the Larvotto end of Monte Carlo to enjoy spectacularview of the Thursday and Friday fireworks displays held in June andJuly.
Restaurant Joël Robuchon Monte Carlo is an elegant restauranthoused in the Hotel Metropole. Serving modern French cuisineinfluenced by the Mediterranean setting, the menu changesseasonally. For a cheaper option, the restaurant offers a fixedprice lunch. Restaurant Joël Robuchon Monte Carlo is small andseats only 60 people at a time, so reservations are essential.
The unit of currency is the Euro (EUR), divided into 100 cents.Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change or hotels. Bankhours are usually 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm Monday to Friday andare closed on weekends. The is open daily. Travellers cheques(US$ are the preferred currency) are not widely accepted and shouldbe exchanged at banks or a bureaux de change. All major creditcards are widely accepted.
The official language of Monaco is French, but Englishand Italian, as well as Mongasque and Occitan (local languages) arealso spoken.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50 Hz. European round2-pin plugs are used.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastthree months beyond period of intended stay in Monaco. No visa isrequired for stays of up to three months.
British passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject'(containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abodeissued by the United Kingdom), 'British Overseas TerritoriesCitizen' issued by Gibraltar, or an identity card issued byGibraltar, must be valid on arrival. British passports with anyother endorsement must be valid for at least three months beyondtheir arrival in Monaco.
A visa is not required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen','British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, and'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to theRight of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and those withidentity cards issued by Gibraltar. Those holding British passportswith any other endorsement do not need a visa for stays of up to 90days.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond their arrival in Monaco. No visa isrequired for stays of up to three months.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond their arrival in Monaco. No visa isrequired for stays of up to three months.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond their arrival in Monaco. A visa isrequired.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Monaco. No visa is required.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastthree months beyond period of intended stay in Monaco. No visa isrequired for stays of up to three months.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond their arrival in Monaco. No visa isrequired for stays of up to three months.
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes thefollowing countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark,Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy,Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands,Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden andSwitzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visathat has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder totravel freely within the borders of all the aforementionedcountries. Additionally, non-EEA passengers to Monaco must holdproof of repatriation - such as return/onward tickets, thenecessary travel documentation for their next destination, andsufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country.NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least sixmonths validity remaining after your intended date of departurefrom your travel destination. Immigration officials often applydifferent rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.
In general, no immunizations are necessary for travel to Monacoand there are no major health risks. The European Health InsuranceCard (EHIC) does not provide health cover in Monaco. It's advisableto carry enough personal medication with accompanying doctor'sletter. Medical insurance is recommended.
Most hotels and restaurants add a service charge in Monaco, buttipping extra for excellent service is appreciated. Porters andvalets usually expect a tip. It is not necessary to tip taxidrivers, as they are self-employed.
Trips to Monaco are usually trouble-free, but the usual,sensible precautions such as being vigilant after dark and takingcare of valuables apply.
Swimsuits, bare chests, and bare feet are restricted to beachesand swimming areas only in Monaco. Appropriate dress is requiredfor visits to religious buildings, with Monaco being largely RomanCatholic. Jacket and tie are required at the Casino.
Business in Monaco is usually conducted formally and suits andties are the norm. Greetings include a handshake and business cardsare exchanged. French is the official language of Monaco, althoughsome English is spoken. It's best to ascertain beforehand whichlanguage will be used. Business hours are usually 9am to 12pm and2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Monaco is +377. The outgoingcode is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for theUnited Kingdom). Mobile phone coverage is excellent and roamingagreements exist with most international mobile companies (it isbest to check with phone providers). Internet cafes are common.
Currency must be declared on arrival and passengers are allowed400 cigarettes, one litre of liquor and a reasonable amount ofperfume for personal use.
Monaco Tourism Office, Monaco: +377 9216 6116 orwww.visitmonaco.com
French Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsiblefor Monaco): +1 202 944 6000.
French Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible forMonaco): +44 (0)20 7073 1000.
Monaco Consulate, Montreal, Canada: +1 514 878 5878.
Honorary Consul of Monaco, Cape Town, South Africa: +27 (0)21702 0991.
French Embassy, Canberra, Australia (also responsible forMonaco): +61 (0)2 6216 0100.
French Embassy, Dublin, Ireland (also responsible for Monaco):+353 (0)1 277 5000.
Consulate of Monaco, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 (0)9 5233313.
United States Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible forMonaco): +33 (0)1 4312 2222.
British Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Monaco):+33 (0)1 4451 3100.
Canadian Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Monaco):+33 (0)1 4443 2900.
South African Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible forMonaco): +33 (0)1 5359 2323.
Australian Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Monaco):+33 (0)1 4059 3300.
Irish Honorary Consulate, Monaco: +377 93 157 045.
New Zealand Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible forMonaco): +33 (0)1 4501 4343.
A good place to get into the swing of things is Le Bar Américainwhere the upper-crust mingle and socialise with their Champagne andcocktails in hand, while a jazz trio belts out some upbeat tunes toget you in the mood. But on a perfect warm summer's evening there'sno better place to watch the sun go down that at the hip and trendySea Lounge where party people meet over a cocktail or two by thewater's edge in Monte Carlo Beach. The Living Room and the BlackLegend are popular nightclubs where anyone wanting to get theirgroove on can dance the night away, while lively bars like the Shipand Castle or Black Diamond are more upmarket and many come here topose and be seen. Jimmy'z on avenue Princesse Grace is place to go where you can don your favouriteparty outfit, slip into those killer heels and dance the night awaywith Monte-Carlo's beautiful people.
If live music is what you're after, visit Moods on place duCasino, which has already attracted some big international actswhile Sass Café is another hot spot for live music, lots of dancingand a rip roaring good time. Or if jazz is more your thing, head tothe Blue Note to get your groove on! For a quieter and moresophisticated night out, the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo is theplace to go to see international ballets and other productions aswell as the Ballets de Monte Carlo. Mention the resident operacompany, and the symphony, while the Monte Carlo Opera also drawshundreds of visitors to its world-class performances.
One of the most glamorous cities in the world, it's notsurprising the shopping in Monte Carlo is both exclusive andexpensive. Be sure to bring your 'flexible friend' along becauseits sure get have a good workout on a shopping trip in Monte Carlo.With some of the most exclusive designer brands in the world andtop notch boutiques selling haute couture, the streets of MonteCarlo are a dream come true for shopaholics and, although many ofthe shops can be found in most other major cities across the globe,there's something special about shopping here. For big names likeGucci, Armani and Versace, head to Avenue des Beaux-Arts, under theHotel Metropole. The Cercle d'Or (Golden Square) comprises AvenueMonte-Carlo, Avenue des Beaux Arts and Les Allées Lumières and eventhough most travellers will only be able to afford to window shop,it's still worth a visit. Head to the Place du Casino for the bestselection of jewellery stores, while the pedestrianised RuePrincess Caroline is one of the city's more popular shopping areasand attracts tourists and avid shoppers by the dozen. TheFontvieille Shopping Centre boasts 36 shops, while malls such asLes Allées Lumières, the Metropole and the Principality are alsogood for a day of shopping, with restaurants and cafés for wearyshoppers to rest their legs and refuel. And for those who are on avery tight budget, head to Monte Carlo's Condamine Market in thePlace d'Armes where shoppers can stop to view the luxurious yachtsin the docks and pick up some cheaper souvenirs such as F1memorabilia and souvenir number plates.
Monte-Carlo has an efficient public transport system, with fivebus lines. An excellent way to save money is to buy the DailyTourist Pass, which at a flat rate, allows unlimited travel allday. A series of elevators also operate to transport visitors andresidents up and down the steep streets of the city. Perhaps thebest way to explore the city, however, is on foot.
Monte-Carlo offers a lot more than just striking natural beauty,it also features some historical and modern attractions sure tokeep visitors of all persuasions happy. With a Mediterraneanclimate, Monte-Carlo is pleasant all year round, though winters cansometimes be a little chilly, and summers very crowded. The city isfairly easy to navigate your way around, once you know the shortcuts.
There is plenty to see and do here. Head to the OceanographicMuseum and Aquarium to see Prince Albert's personal collection ofmarine life or just visit the 4,000 fish in the aquarium, as wellas the Shark Lagoon. Visit the Prince's Palace, which wasestablished in the 13th century and has been the residence of theGrimaldi family ever since, where 15 rooms are open to the public,including the throne room, or check out the magnificent MonacoCathedral which houses the tombs of the late Princess Grace andformer princes of Monaco.
Big spenders should spend some time making or blowing theirfortune at the Monte-Carlo casino, or if that's too much for you,enjoy relaxing in the Jardin Exotique where the thousands of plantswill amaze green-fingered travellers, or spend an afternoonmarvelling at the fabulous yachts in La Condamine, one of Monaco'soldest districts, where you can even spend some time browsingthrough the Condamine Market.