After the Vatican, the principality of Monaco is the world’s smallest country. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in glitz and wealth per capita. Thanks to its status as a tax haven and its famous Monte Carlo Casino, this microstate on the French Riveria attracts the super rich and those who fancy glamming up for the day.
Whether you’re trying your luck on the dice, cruising round the port in a yacht or strutting your bikini on the Monte Carlo Beach Club’s artificial beach, it’s important to look the part and there are plenty of designer shops in Monte Carlo to help you do so.
People don’t come to Monaco to get back to nature – it’s the most urban country in the world with over 30,000 residents packed into a space no bigger than London’s Hyde Park. But if you do get fed up with people-watching and being watched, there are a few quiet, green spots hidden away.
Try your luck at the Grand Casino – you’ll need your passport, as Monégasque citizens are banned from gambling here.
See Prince Rainier III’s 100-strong collection of classic automobiles.
Wander through the cobbled streets of Monaco-Ville and take a tour of Prince’s palace and state apartments.
Visit the Princess Grace Rose Garden to see over 150 varieties of roses.
Head to the Jardin Exotique, renowned for its cactus collection and splendid views of the principality.
Browse the bric-a-brac at the small and quirky Les Puce des Fontvieille flea market, open all on Saturday on the Quai Jean-Charles Rey.
Because of its many tiers, Monaco can be a confusing place to navigate, so it’s worth picking up a free map from the tourist office, located in the train station.
The most idyllic months to visit are May and June, when it’s very warm but not uncomfortable. July and August are the hottest and busiest months. October and November are the wettest months. December and January are the coldest, although not unpleasant at an average of 12°C.
The world-renowned Formula 1 Grand Prix is held in May. Unless you’re an avid motor fan, avoid visiting at this time as every space in sight of the circuit, which runs round the port and casino, is inaccessible without a ticket. An arts festival is held every April, which sees performances by famous classical and contemporary dance troupes from all over the world.
There are no international airports in Monaco but there are plenty of helicopter pads! The nearest airport is 22km away in Nice (NCE) and runs regular buses to Monaco.
Getting around and accommodation in Monaco
Trains arrive every 30 minutes from Cannes, Nice, Menton and Antibes.
Buses serve a variety of places within the principality, with most stopping in Monte Carlo and the train station. There are also buses connecting Monaco with Menton and Nice. Taxis are readily available throughout the principality. Car parking in Monaco is plentiful, if expensive.
Bikes can be rented on quai des Etats-Unis on the port. Walking is a good way to get around Monaco and you can take advantage of the free public lifts linking the lower and higher streets.
The 3km-long state consists of several distinct quarters. You’ll find the cheapest accommodation in La Condamine quarter, though don’t expect any bargains.
Monaco has no campsites and caravans are illegal.
In Monaco’s extraordinarily pricey restaurants you’ll find fine cuisine and wines from around the world. Local specialities include barbagiuan (pastry with rice and pumpkin), socca (chickpea-flour pancakes) and stocafi (dried cod with tomatoes). The best-value food is usually found in Italian restaurants in La Condamine and Monaco-Ville areas. There’s a good daily food market in Beausoleil, just across the border in France. There’s no shortage of shops where you can buy caviar, champagne and smoked salmon.
Monaco is not a member of the European Union and therefore EU reciprocal medical arrangements do not apply. Make sure you take out comprehensive medical insurance before travelling to the principality. It’s worth checking you’re tetanus jab is up-to-date. The tap water is safe to drink.
Monaco is generally a safe place for tourists and there is a strong police presence. Be aware, though, that pickpockets continue to operate here.
Monaco guide courtesy of Wanderlust Travel Magazine