A tiny country with a dazzling personality, Monaco lies on the Mediterranean coast, next to the French Riveria. A principality with its own glamorous royals, palaces and monuments, Monaco is equally renowned for the annual Grand Prix races and the opulent Monte Carlo Casino.
So whether you fancy watching the yachts go by with a cocktail in your hand or marvelling at the abundant, stylish architecture, make sure you squeeze the most out of a flying visit with these top tips.
Get your glamour fix.
A trip to Monaco wouldn’t be complete with taking a peek inside the famous casino. The building of the Monte Carlo Opera House dates back to 1878 and boasts an atrium paved in marble, onyx pillars and artful frescoes in the red and gold auditorium. Whilst the Opera House has heard the voices of Sarah Bernhard and Caruso over the years, the gaming rooms are open only to visitors (not residents) and allow only the smartest of attire over the threshold.
If there’s not enough glitz here, try the state apartments at the Prince’s Palace (open to the public in summer). The palace has stood here since the 13th century and today, the grand faaade still lords over its sovereign state; inside, treasures such as the Italian gallery, Mazarin wood-panels and Renaissance Throne Room are too many to mention in their entirety. If you arrive in time, make an appointment at noon to see the changing of the guard for free.
Take in the elegant culture.
The old Monaco-Ville quarter surrounding the Palace is worth a wander in itself if you have time. Built on the outcrop known as ‘La Rocher’ or the Rock, narrow streets wend their way towards wide plazas, green spaces and the Palais de Justice, a world away from the hotels and luxury cars of the busy habour. Stop to admire Saint Nicholas Cathedral, a Romanesque-Byzantine jewel which is also where you’ll find the graves of Prince Rainer III and his Hollywood bride, Grace Kelly.
While you’re here, pop into the Oceanographic Museum, an impressive building that towers over the cliffs and houses marine displays, both living and fossilised. See the exhibits collected by Prince Albert I above and then visit the Aquarium on the lower floor for huge tropical fish tanks and the ‘Shark Lagoon’ coral pool spanning 450 cubic metres. If underwater life’s not your thing, try the impressive Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology instead and see the idyllic Jardin Exotique for the same admission price. Not only will you find 7000 varieties of cacti here, but you can also take a half-hour tour down into prehistoric caves.
In fact, much of Monaco’s charm can be soaked up on foot or pausing in the busy harbour to peruse the extravagant yachts. If you’re pushed for time on a day excursion, choose one or two sights and finish off your day in style with evening drinks by the marina, where watching the lifestyles of the rich and famous play out before the sinking sun and twinkling city lights will be all the entertainment you need.
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