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Monaco

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
While Monaco may be the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican, its immense personality, staggering natural beauty and air of exclusivity has made it Europe's favourite haunt for the rich and famous. Surrounded on all sides by the Mediterranean French coast, you would not be at fault for thinking that the principality has adopted the cultural traditions of its neighbour however this is far from the truth. Monaco's 1.25 miles² surface area is infused with local culture, history and tradition. Luxury hotels and casinos, VIP residents, a ruling royal family, Formula 1, all bathed in the Mediterranean sun are what make Monaco the glamorous paradise that it is.

Travel guide

Monaco-Ville

To truly experience Monaco's centuries old culture, leave the modern city centre and take a stroll through Monaco-Ville, also known as ?Le Rocher? or ?The Rock.? Monaco's old city is still a medieval village at heart and an astonishingly picturesque one at that. Made up almost entirely of cobble-stoned pedestrian streets and alleyways which are lined by centuries old, yet perfectly renovated, houses Monaco-Ville offers a unique opportunity to travel back through time to a nobler age. Throughout the old city you will find a number of hotels, restaurant and souvenir shops, while this in undoubtedly convenient it does propel you back to the 21st century and thus break the old city's spell. While the Monaco-Ville is undeniably small it is almost overflowing with significant sights, which include the Prince's Palace, the St. Nicolas Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum, City Hall and the Saint Martin Gardens.

Grand Prix

Every year Monaco's streets host the Formula 1 Grand Prix, perhaps one of the most important events in the racing calendar. For country's population the Grand Prix is not just a race, it's one of the most important social highlights of the year. Organized by the Automobile Club of Monaco, the race is 78 laps around 3.34km of Monte Carlo's narrow streets. What makes the Monaco Grand Prix stand out from other races is the proximity of the speeding cars to the spectators. There are over 3,000 seats available each year, with prices ranging from 90EUR to over 500EUR. Locals who live close to the track often rent out their terraces and balconies to those willing to pay a bit extra, and by extra we mean anywhere from 8,00EUR to 130,000EUR for the four day event.

Zoo

Located in Monaco's Fontvieille district on the Esplanade Rainer III, the Monaco zoo might be tiny, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the principality's most intriguing sites. Established in 1954 by the Prince of Monaco Rainier III, the zoo is home to over 250 animals representing some 50 species. There are two specific reasons which make Monaco's zoo so unique. Firstly the location, located on four levels on the Monaco Rock, the views on offer to both visitors and inhabitants are truly awe inspiring. Secondly, none of the animals that you shall see were purchased; instead they were either seized from circuses, airport customs or were donated.

Jardin Exotique

Monaco's Jardin Exotique is home to the world's largest cactus collection. Here you will find everything from tiny echinocereus to African candelabras well over 10m tall. The gardens are found on the slopes of Moneghetti, which apart from offering a spectacular local for the exotic plans also boast some impressive views of the principality. The jardin's admission fee also includes access to the Musée d'Anthropologie, where visitors will find an impressive collection of prehistoric remains unearthed in Monaco, as well as and half hour long guided tour of the Grotte de l'Observatoire, a prehistoric cave famous for its stalactites and stalagmites. What makes the cave even more intriguing is the fact that it is the only cave in Europe where the temperature rises as you descend deeper underground.

Museum

Situated on the edge of cliff, some 279m above sea level, Monaco's Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium is among the most renowned museums in the world. Opened in 1910 by Prince Albert I, the museum's key attraction, which is located in the basement, is a 6m-deep aquarium with a lagoon where sharks and other marine predators are separated from colourful tropical fish by a coral reef. With nearly 4,000 species of marine life the aquarium is a world authority on the presentation of the Mediterranean and tropical marine ecosystem. The ground and first floor of the museum hold two enormous colonnaded rooms which are dedicated to the history of oceanography and marine biology, as well as Prince Albert's contribution to the field. Here visitors will also find numerous exhibitions as well as film screenings and conferences.

Our Editorial team's advice

Monaco's status as one of the world's most luxurious European destinations can create the impression that it is not worth visiting unless you have a seriously impressive bank statement. However this is not completely true, while yes Monaco is a luxurious destination with many of its hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues developed with VIP clients in mind, it also has much to offer a more modest traveller.

With this in mind we would not recommend actually renting a hotel in Monaco unless you are prepared to pay the somewhat exaggerated fees. Instead stay in the neighbouring city of Menton, which is located about 15 minutes by train from Monaco and is famous for its tranquil atmosphere and lemons. Another option is to stay in the Italian city of Ventimiglia, found just after Menton and only about 25 minutes from Monaco.

If you are planning on driving to Monaco we would highly recommend you leave your vehicle at a car park as soon as you arrive in to the Principality. Monaco's narrow intertwining streets and frequent traffic jams can lead to a rather frustrating start of your stay in the tiny state. To avoid these anxieties embrace local public transport, perhaps the two most popular forms of which are buses and lifts, yes we did say lifts. The highly punctual bus services offer easy connections between all of Monaco's neighbourhoods as well as connections between various attractions. Because Monaco is not located on a plain, you will have to spend a considerable amount of time going up and downhill, this is where the elevators come in, which offer quick access from point A to point B minus the 15 minute uphill trek.

We would recommend avoiding visiting Monaco in July and August, which are a peak tourist season and are also when the temperatures in the Principality are at their highest. Trust us when we say climbing to Monaco-Ville from the port is something you would rather not do in 30+ heat. To avoid all of this, plan a trip for sometime between March and June, or September and November, when you will avoid the crowds, the traffic and the scorching heat and intense humidity.

pros

  • +The quality of the country's tourist infrastructure is excellent.
  • +A short break is easy to organise, given its proximity to France.

cons

  • -An extremely expensive destination.
  • -The principality is taken over by tourists in summer.

Traditions

If there is one piece of advice we could give you regarding interactions with the Monegasque population it is do not underestimate their culture and its importance to the citizens. Perhaps the best evidence of just how much local culture means to the Principality's population is the National Committee of Monegasque Traditions which was founded in 1924.

Created by several old Monegasque families the role of the National Committee of Monegasque Traditions is to "Maintain civil and religious traditions, preserve and promote the Monegasque language, search and maintain the works, documents and objects belonging to historical and cultural heritage, preserve sites and monuments, observe the customary principles of mutual aid, unity, hospitality and honour."

Monaco celebrates several national holidays perhaps the most important of which is the Feast of the Prince, which is regarded as Monaco's National Day. While undoubtedly worth attending, we should warn that it takes place on November 19, so do not plan on having a refreshing dip in the sea after the festivities.

Every year since 1543 the Principality's festival committee has been organizing the Saint-Roman Festival. The festival takes place between the end of July and August 9, which is the patron saint's day. The Saint Roman Festival gives visitors the opportunity to sample a local fish soup pesto and bask in the glory of an orchestra in Saint-Martin Gardens. On August 9, mass takes place at the altar of St. Roman in the Monaco Cathedral.

If you find yourself in Monaco during the Christmas period, you will see in the Monegasque bakeries Pan de Natale. The large bread is decorated by several nuts which are laid out in the form of a cross and inside you will find a small olive branch, which is a tradition that dates back centuries.

Food

From the exquisitely refined meals on offer in intimate dining rooms of luxurious hotels to the small unpretentious restaurants of the Old City, where food is concerned you will be spoiled for choice in Monaco. It goes without saying that you will be offered a wide selection of excellent French and international cuisine.

And believe us when we say the food you will be offered will be of the highest quality, although we do recommend avoiding the typical tourist cafes which offer the typical dinner food at slightly ridiculous prices. Despite its size Monaco has a number of local specialities such as "fougasse de Monaco" which is a fish and potato dish.

Ideal Weather Search

Find weekly weather forecasts for Monaco . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Monaco . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Monaco .

Reviewed hotels

Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin

Our journalists' reviews for you 15 hotels Monaco . Take a look at our hotels, their facilities or their value-for-money score according to your departure dates so that we can find the best offer to suit you Monaco . Book a hotel Monaco it's never been so simple !

Souvenirs

If you have had a particularly fine day at one of Monaco's casinos and now wish to squander the newly acquired fortune, you could not find yourself in the better place. It goes without saying that Monaco is not cheap. That being said Monaco offers souvenirs for every type of budget, from diamond earrings bought at one of the renowned jewellery stores to little trinkets on offer at the many souvenir shops which line the medieval streets of Monaco-Ville. Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9am until 19pm.