What’s Monaco best known for? Its unique history and governmental structure? Perhaps its glittering luxury and connections to Grace Kelly? Maybe its lavish casinos and world-famous Formula 1 circuit. It’s hard to say because Monaco is teeming with so much culture, history, wealth, and just a sprinkle of sparkling scandal, waiting to be discovered by newcomers. We’ll do our best to breeze through just a few of the best things to do in Monaco – but, as for the rest, you’ll just have to see for yourself.
History and Culture
Monaco is its own country, classed as a sovereign city-state and microstate. It lies on the French Riviera just 15km from the state border with Italy and is the second-smallest country in the world (after Vatican City).
The principality of Monaco is governed under a constitutional monarchy with Prince Albert II at the head. The Grimaldi dynasty has ruled over Monaco almost continuously since 1297 and Prince Albert II holds much political power in the state. He is the son of the late Hollywood-sweetheart-turned-princess, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III. The history of Monaco is fascinating and can be studied in more depth here.
Monaco is known as a financial hub with 30% of the population comprising of millionaires. With no income tax, the principality is a tax haven and home to spectacular casino culture. Split into quartiers, Monte Carlo remains the most famous of them all and houses the renowned Monte Carlo Casino, where people from all over the globe flock to try their luck.
The Monaco Grand Prix is held annually in the streets of Monaco and this has been the case since 1929. Each year, millions of spectators line the streets of Monaco to watch the world-famous race.
Monaco is influenced by oceanic climate and humid subtropical climate which contributes to its warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The summer temperature lingers above 20°C but rarely surpasses 30°C due to sea breezes. Winter sees lows of a mild 10°C in January.
Food and Drink
Monegasque food is a hybrid of French and Italian cuisine. National dishes mainly feature seafood, fish, vegetables, and fruit, so during your time in Monaco, look out for:
- Bouillabaisse – a traditional French fish stew originally from the nearby city of Marseille
- Ragout – not to be confused with the Italian ragu, ragout is a French, slow-cooked stew made with meat or fish and vegetables
- Gnocchi – Italian-influenced doughy dumplings served with sauce or butter and herbs
- Porchetta – Also originating from Italy, Porchetta is a flavoursome boneless pork roast
- Stocafi – A local delicacy of stockfish cooked in red wine with tomato sauce
- Brandamincium – A traditional Monegasque dish of pounded salt cod with garlic, cream and cardoons
- Barbagiuan – A Monegasque savoury pastry filled with ricotta, vegetables and swiss chard
- Pan Bagnat – Originating from nearby Nice, this sandwich imitates the Salade Nicoise
- Fougasse – France’s answer to Focaccia – a salty and herby flatbread
While there are many beautiful restaurants where one can enjoy a sit-down meal, it’s worth remembering that eating in Monaco can be expensive. For local delicacies on the go, peruse Marché de La Condamine eateries.
As easy as it could be to spend your days in Monaco wandering around the picturesque streets and sipping champagne by the ports, watching the yachts docking, there are some unmissable Monaco attractions to make note of.
Whether a gambler or not, the Monte Carlo Casino is a sight to behold. Place bets or enjoy a tour of the extravagant rooms. It costs €10 per person to enter and the casino is only open to over 18s. Proper attire is required, so you will be refused entry if wearing shorts, sports shoes or flipflops. Jackets are recommended after 8 pm. If you’re keen to try your hand at betting, it’s worth knowing the minimum bet in the main casino hall is €5 and, in the private rooms, this increases to €10. Interestingly, you won’t see many, if any, Monegasque citizens in the casinos. Citizens are prohibited from gambling and are not even allowed inside the casinos unless they are staff. However, residents of Monaco are allowed to gamble, which is fortunate considering they make up 80% of the population!
If you have an interest in marine life, pay the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco a visit. It also features an aquarium with 4000 species of fish and 200 families of invertebrates.
Located in Fontvieille Park, the Princess Grace Rose Garden which was conceived by Princess Grace’s husband, Prince Rainier III, can be accessed freely at any time of the day. There are 4000 rosebushes lined over 5000 square metres to create a fragrant and calm memorial.
Car lovers will lap up the Museum of Antique Automobiles, also commissioned by Prince Rainier III. Admission costs €6.50 per person for access to see the 100 vehicles on display, including the Rolls Royce which transported Princess Grace Kelly on her wedding day.
The Exotic Garden of Monaco is located on a cliff and houses a thousand cacti and other succulents. There is also an observatory cave to be explored and expert-guided tours are included in the admission price of €7.20 when buying online.
If you’re keen to relax on the beach during your time in Monaco, Larvotto beach is a popular option with its free public access as well as the private beach club should you prefer to hire a parasol and lounger. However, just an hour’s drive away, you can recover from the buzz of Monaco at the hillside Le Mas Candille, before exploring even more of the magical French Riviera. Why not book today?