My Day in Monaco
Squished into just 200 hectares, Monaco is the world’s second-smallest country, though what it lacks in size it makes up for in attitude. A mekkah for the rich and the rascals since the start of the last century, it is one of the worlds most celebrated tax havens and also home to the legendary Monaco F1 Grand Prix. Despite its extraordinary wealth, Monaco is far from being the French Riviera's best looking town. It is more of a tribute to concrete and glass high-rise hotels, super yachts and apartment blocks which rise into the hills than a paradise of glitz and glamour one may have envisaged. Nevertheless, well worth ticking off the bucket list!
With less than 24 hours to explore an entire country, trying to fit in as much as possible may seem a daunting task, however a very achievable one. With a smidge of preparation and a positive attitude, you can conquer this little country in just a matter of hours.
The opportunity for me to visit Monaco came about as a result of some Air League business. Each year, the Air League of Monaco – an organisation set up over the last decade to mimic the work of the UK Air League – host an annual reception in the company of His Royal Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco as well as Sir Stelios – the founder and owner of EasyJet – and a number of other inspirational aviation personalities. The reception celebrates aviation feats over the previous year from across Europe. I have had the pleasure of attending this event for two years in a row now and thoroughly enjoyed both.
2018. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Sir Stelios, Bertrand Piccard and Mr Chris Foyle
Previously, I did it all in a day, having flown over from the UK to Nice on the day, hopped on a helicopter right into Monaco which takes around 6 minutes, then headed straight to the reception. This works fine but leaves absolutely no time to experience the culture of the country. This year I stayed in a hotel in Nice the night before as to maximise my time in Monaco during the day before heading to the reception in the afternoon and also to try and save some money. Personally I’d not recommend doing this as I soon found out that hotel prices in Nice did not really differ much from hotel prices in Monaco so if you want to stay overnight, you may as well stay in Monaco. However, you may be able to find yourself a good deal at a different time. If this does work for you, trains from Nice to Monaco take around 25 minutes and cost around€3 each way. You could of course take a helicopter from Nice Airport but this is significantly more expensive!
TOP TIP: Wherever you’re headed in Monaco, make use of the escalators and lifts! Your feet will thank you.
Whatever way you decide to get there, be sure to start the day reasonably early and begin in Monte Carlo – arguably the most famous ward of Monaco. Monte Carlo is the hub of all things wealth and so start with a visit to Place Du Casino – the square which houses the Casino de Monte-Carlo, a historic structure, built in 1863 and one which has taken centre stage in a number of Hollywood Films including several of the James Bond series and Oceans Twelve, among others.
Grab a bite to eat in the famous Café De Paris and people watch as hoards of tourists flock to the casino, glaring at the beautiful belle-epoque architecture, and the magnificent sports cars parked outside. Unless you’re a citizen of Monaco or are accompanied by a citizen which luckily I was, a €17 entry fee is imposed and casino chips start from around €25, so it’s by no means a bargain but definitely worth a look inside of this iconic building as it is simply stunning. All visits must take place before the casino officially opens at 2pm so if you’re keen for a peak, head inside before lunch. If you’re not just interested in a visit and want to gamble in Monaco however, the Casino De Monte-Carlo has somewhat changeable entry requirements. When I visited on the evening of last years reception, the front desk tried to charge me €150 to enter, luckily I was accompanied by a citizen who I had met at the reception and was admitted for free, I have also read that other people have been charged varying amounts. To stay on the safe side, the Sun Casino is free to enter and has complementary drinks for those playing at the tables, so this is probably more of a shout.
Casino de Monte-Carlo
After a morning of perusing Place Du Casino, head towards Monaco’s Old Town. Stop for lunch at one of the many outdoor restaurants scattered at the bottom of the walls surrounding the Palais Princier – The Prince’s Palace.
Take a slow walk up to the Palace and perhaps stop by the Zoological Garden of Monaco or the Jardin de l’UNESCO. Monaco is scattered with beautiful gardens, many of which over look the stunning coast line and rocky outcrop known as Le Rocher. After a quick trip through the gardens, a short ascent upto the Old Town will lead you straight to the Prince’s Palace - often nicknamed the pink palace due to the pink tinge in the paintwork of the exterior walls. The Palace is regularly open to the public and for a small fee of just €8, you are able to explore the state rooms which are still in regular use for royal activities.
Monaco’s Old Town
After a visit to the palace, immerse yourself in the beautiful old town and marvel as the sun starts to descend, lighting up the colourful cobbled passageways filled with busy and bustling shops and restaurants. A world away from the concrete high rises of Monte-Carlo. Work your way through these delightful streets until you come to The Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate, otherwise known as St Nicholas’ Cathedral. A Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Monaco in Monaco-Ville where many of the Grimaldis are buried, including Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III.
A quick tour around the cathedral will take you back outside to a beautiful view of the coast and ready to carry onto the next attraction, the Palais De Justice, another beautiful building and literally 90 degrees on your right. This building is houses the Supreme Court of Monaco which was instituted by the constitution of the 5th of January 1911. It is considered the oldest constitutional court in the world.
Palais De Justice
Lose yourself wandering back through the streets towards the Palace. Look out for the Chapelle de la Miséricorde - Chapel of Mercy in Place de la Mairie, a beautiful chapel built in 1639 paying tribute to Mary the mother of Jesus. Grab yourself a gelato and head back down to Port Hercule, Monacos only deep water port. It was here that my touristy tour of Monaco ended as I sipped an Aperol Spritz in the glowing sun before getting changed and heading off to the reception at Stelios’s EasyGroup HQ apartment. The reception was magical and overlooked Port Hercule. Awards were presented for amazing feats of aviation including one to Gravity Industries for creating their new Jet Suit. Here I also had the opportunity to try a new coaktail - the Monaco Spritz, basically an Aperol Spritz but more orangey in flavour and made with an aperitif called L'Orangerie instead of Aperol. 10/10 would recommend!
Drinking a Monaco Spritz in the glow of the setting sun
Although I did not have time on this occasion, on my last visit to Monaco, I experienced the vibrant nightlife of Monte-Carlo, first off by hopping from bar to bar along the front of Port Hercule and La Condamine before ascending upto the centre of Monte-Carlo and visiting the casino at night with my Monacoian friend– a resident of Monaco. Following a quick look inside the casino, we went from bar to bar again where I would definitely recommend visiting the Buddha Bar - a smart casual establishment and part of a chain across the world, the vibrant atmosphere and intriguing drinks menu make it well worth the trip. There are several bars and clubs scattered about the place, as you would probably expect from the playground of the rich and famous and these come in varying forms, some very casual and some rather smart so it really depends what you're looking for and how you're dressed.
In less than 24 hours it is definitely possible to get to know this energetic principality. Whatever way you decide to get to Monaco, be sure to start the day early and that way you will certainly be able to fit everything in and truly tick a few points off the bucket list. Hop on a bus and see the city from up top if you’re so inclined but whatever you do, make the most of escalators!
One place I do wish I’d had time to visit is the Musée océanographique de Monaco - Oceanographic Museum. Apparently a stunning exhibit with over a thousand marine specialist pieces complementing Monaco’s rich marine heritage. Another place I wish is the Amber Lounge, an open air beach club style bar as seen on many an F1 celebratory video clip. With glorious views overlooking the sea, it seems like the perfect place to relax and unwind with an alcoholic beverage in hand. Hopefully I can tick these two off on my next trip!
Air League of Monaco Reception 2019