I can probably think of a thousand reasons to visit Monaco but then this would be a book instead of a blog post. So for now, here are 16 reasons why Monaco should be on your list of must-visit destinations:
Monaco is located on the French Riviera in western Europe. It’s bordered by France on three sides, with one side bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Its center is about 16 kilometers from Italy and is only 13 kilometers northeast of Nice, France.
It rarely gets too cold or too hot in Monaco. That’s because the winters are mild with average January temperature of about 8°C (46°F). The average high in the summer (July and August) is 26°C (79°F). Plus, there’s usually a nice sea breeze. On top of that, the average rainfall is about 77 cm (30 inches) a year and there are usually 300+ days with no precipitation. Here’s the current 10-day weather forecast for Monaco.
3. Getting There
Getting to Monaco is easy from the Nice International Airport (NCE); it’s just 24 kilometers (15 miles) away. You can rent a car, take a bus or take a helicopter like my wife Natalie and I did (here’s my story with tons of photos). There’s also frequent train service from downtown Nice, Cannes and Ventimiglia, Italy into Monaco.
For those who love high-end shopping or at least window-shopping (ahem, my wife www.OhTravelissima.com) Monte-Carlo has perhaps one of the most expensive and exclusive shopping locations in the world. There are multiple stores of Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent and every high end car dealership you can imagine. That’s saying a lot for the world’s second smallest country, which has an area of just 1.25 square miles (2.02 km).
Monte Carlo has arguably one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. What makes it so spectacular? The dramatic cliffs and the multi-million dollar mega-yachts.
6. Luxurious Hotels
Natalie and I stayed at Hotel de Paris (you can check out my story and photos here), which is the country’s oldest and most famous hotel. But according to TripAdvisor, Monaco has a total of 11 hotels and B&Bs. I visited four of them and they were all exquisite. Monte-Carlo Beach is perfect for travelers looking for a small hotel (40 rooms) and want to be steps from the beach … or an Olympic-sized pool that has three diving boards including a high dive! Hôtel Hermitage is similar to Hotel de Paris in its exquisite ambiance and decor. This hotel has 280 rooms and a buffet breakfast served in their Winter Garden room; Gustave Eiffel designed the incredible domed ceiling. Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort is a modern hotel with 334 rooms (75% with an ocean view) and it’s connected to the legendary Jimmy’z nightclub. It’s the host hotel of the Monte Carlo tennis tournament so this is where all the players stay during that week in April.
7. Pay in Euros
Monaco doesn’t have some confusing monetary unit. Instead, they use the euro, which replaced the French franc as the official currency in 2002.
8. They speak English
Although French is the official language in Monaco, most people speak English and Italian. In fact, I didn’t come across anyone that didn’t speak English, which can be very helpful for tourists.
9. Incredible Food
There are tons of great restaurants in Monaco. One of my best meals was at Hotel de Paris’ Le Grill, which serves Mediterranean-style gourmet cuisine. The place is not cheap (lunch is from €75, which is about $98) and the dinner à la carte menu ranges from €130-€150 , which is between $170 and $196. Jackets are required for men but this is where you go to celebrate a special occasion. Unless of course, you live in Monte Carlo or are super rich … then you might go for a regular Tuesday night dinner! With the exception of the amazing service, decor, food and harbor views, the highlight of the evening was when the ceiling began to slide open, revealing the heavens above. Since it was a chilly night they didn’t leave it open for more than a couple of minutes, but for a moment, Natalie and I sat under a canopy of night sky and stars and marveled at the beauty of it all. The roof opened and closed throughout the night, each time giving us a peek at the stars. Don’t miss the enormous soufflé for dessert. It’s the specialty of the house and is more than enough to share between two.
My other favorite meal was at Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel’s Elsa restaurant. Chef Paolo Sari uses all organic and locally sourced ingredients in his cuisine, influenced by the foods of both the French and Italian Rivieras. I had the golden risotto and can you believe it actually had gold leaf in it?!
We didn’t eat here but if I had deep pockets I would’ve been sure to dine at Le Louis XV at Hotel de Paris. Chef Alain Ducasse opened it 25 years ago and the cuisine is inspired by the French and Italian Rivieras has a 3-star rating in the Michelin Guide.
10. You Can Gamble
There are five casinos in Monaco, including one of the world’s most famous – Casino de Monte-Carlo. Even if you don’t like to gamble, be sure to visit to see the amazing decor. Note: Casino games start at just 5EUR ($6.56)
L’Opéra de Monte-Carlo was built in six months in 1878 by Charles Garnier but it took two years for this beautiful space to be renovated in 2004. The 520-seat theatre has been the setting for international operatic creations, prestigious concerts (Prince performed here), and exceptional ballets. Here’s the 2013-2014 calendar.
12. Fancy Cars
Since Monaco is home to the most millionaires per capita in the world (citizens here don’t have to pay tax), there are incredible fancy cars everywhere. You can’t go into any of the hotels without seeing a shiny new half a million dollar car parked out front.
13. There’s an Old Town
Near Prince Albert’s palace and cathedral you will find the old town. It’s a 20-minute walk from Hotel de Paris. Up there, you will be treated to sweeping vistas of the Mediterranean.
14. Monaco Grand Prix
One of the first things that comes to everyone’s mind when you mention Monaco is the Grand Prix. It’s arguably the most famous car race in the world and it takes place every year in May. Natalie and I were there a month before the race was scheduled to take place and they already had most of the stands and walls up, ready to go!
15. The Grocery Stores
Although everyone I met who worked in Monaco lived in France or Italy, I did find a grocery store that had reasonable prices, like 1.5 liters of bottled Volvic water for 0.62EUR ($0.81).
16. You can visit three countries in one day!
There aren’t too many places in the world where you can visit three countries in mere minutes. Since the Principality of Monaco is located on the French Riviera and has an area of just 1.25 square miles (2.02 km), it’s literally within walking distance of France and biking distance to Italy.
One incredible unadvertised fact about staying in Monte Carlo is that you can easily do something remarkable without even realizing it. In fact, my wife, Natalie, brought it to my attention. One day, we had breakfast in Monaco, lunch in Italy and dinner in France! And it was all within a 16-mile radius. Imagine that! Here are my story and photos.
As you can see, there are tons of reasons to visit Monaco. If you think I left any out, please leave a comment below and tell me about it. I also want to thank the good folks over at Monte-Carlo SBM who invited me and Natalie to visit so we could experience all that Monte Carlo has to offer! Happy 150th anniversary!