Things we plan on doing in Monaco
There are many great things to do in Monaco and here are some of the best..
Gamble in style at the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo. The casino is located in Monaco's most exclusive quartier, where all the most luxurious and fashionable hotels, restaurants and boutiques can also be found (including the famous Hôtel de Paris). The building's style is distinctively grand and luxurious and the casino is linked to the Salle Garnier Opera House by an impressive atrium lined with 28 Ionic Golden Circle columns made of onyx. The minimum age for entering any of Monte Carlo's casinos is 21. You will need your passport at the door as well as an entry fee of â¬10.
Monaco's royal palace has been around since the 13th century. Every Grimaldi since has found it necessary to leave their mark on the place, and as a result this is not one of Europe's most elegant castles. It is worth taking a look inside though - 15 rooms, including the Throne Room, are open to the public.
If you've already blown your cash and can't afford the entrance fee, the changing of the guard won't cost you a cent. It starts just before noon and is over within two minutes, so be on time. Dressed in spiffy white uniform in summer, black in winter, the guards appear apparently resigned to the comic-opera nature of their duties.
In the south wing of the palace, the Musée des Souvenirs Napoléoniens has a collection of Napoleon's personal knick-knacks, including one sock, a handkerchief and a bunch of medals, coins, uniforms and swords.
Stuck dramatically to the edge of a cliff since 1910, the world-renowned Musée Océanographique - a Prince Albert I (1848-1922) creation - is a stunner. Its centrepiece is the 7.5m-long coral reef, with vivid tropical fish on one side and deep-sea predators on the other. Ninety smaller tanks contain a dazzling 450 Mediterranean and tropical species, sustained by 250,000L of freshly pumped sea water per day.
The Whale Room, filled with cetacean skeletons and pickled embryos, and fanciful seabird-covered chandeliers, mosaic floors and oak doorframes carved into marine shapes at every turn complete the mesmerising ensemble. Kids will love the tactile basin; tickets for the 30-minute feel-the-fish sessions are sold at the entrance.
Finish with a cup of tea in the aquarium's rooftop brasserie.
Monte Carlo's legendary Monte Carlo's Golden Circle is the spot to (window) shop. Get going on av des Beaux Arts, on the southern side of the casino gardens, where you can swirl through Chanel, Christian-Dior, Céline, Louis Vuitton, Yves St-Laurent and Sonia Rykiel. Bow down at the altar of Italian fashion house, Prada, and pay homage to Salvatore Ferragamo inside Hôtel Hermitage.
Nearby, av de Monte Carlo is a short, chic street with a luxury line-up: Gucci, Valentino, Hermès, Lalique (crystal) and Prada.
Tucked beside the casino is Parisian jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels while Kenzo, Marina Rinaldi, D&G and Christian Lacroix hide alongside more affordable names in the indoor Métropole Shopping Centre, on the northern side of the casino gardens.
Reputed to be the Riviera's best restaurant, Ducasse's legendary Louis XV is the height of sophisticated dining. Set jewel-like inside the opulent Hôtel de Paris, the dining room, which looks as though it's been teleported from 17th-century Versailles, sparkles with gold. Nice-born head chef Franck Cerutti uses seasonal ingredients in his themed French menus, with dashes of Italy, Bavaria, Scotland and the Far East to keep things peppy.
The restaurant contains the world's largest wine cellar: 250,000 bottles of wine (many priceless) stashed in a rock cave. Reservations are essential, as are jacket and tie for men.
Bask on Lavartto Beach
This free public access beach is a perfect escape for some sun and sea. Clean and safe, all you need to take is a towel, sun block and binoculars for yacht spotting. There are also handy cafés and kiosks nearby for refreshments and light lunches. If you're curious to see what 'real' people living in Monaco do for fun, this is it - the millionaires have their private beaches.
Discover more than 180 varieties of rose at the Princess Grace Rose Garden. The Museum of Stamps and Coins features rare philatelic items from the postal history of the Principality. The permanent exhibition of Prince Rainier III's Private Collection of Classic Cars, with over 100 classic cars, is nearby. The Naval Museum and the Zoological Terraces are also located here.Gardens
Chill out at the serene and sea-facing Saint-Martin Gardens (also in the Old Town), which inspired the poet Guillaume Apollinaire between 1887 and 1889. Alternatively, visit the Japanese Gardens, right next to the sea.Monaco Cathedral
Consecrated in 1875, Saint Nicholas Cathedral is a special place for Monegasques. It was where Princess Grace married Prince Rainier as well as where they have both been buried. The Grimaldi family have buried their family here for centuries and the tombs are beautiful. MuseumsThe Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium, whose grandiose facade rises spectacularly out of the sea, houses a world-renowned collection of marine fauna and interactive exhibits. Other museums include the Museum of Napoleonic Souvenirs and Collection of the Palace's Historic Archives, which exhibits thousands of objects relating to the First Empire (Napoleon I); the Wax Museum of the Princes of Monaco; and the Monte Carlo Story, a multivision show about Monaco's history.Place du Palais
At Monte Carlo's spiritual heart is Monaco-Ville (old town) where the Place du Palais houses the Prince's Palace and State Apartments. Built around 1215, the palace's focal points are the Throne Room and the Main Courtyard with its horse-shaped marble staircase, adorned with millions of geometric patterns. Attend the Changing of the Palace Guard (admission free), which takes place daily, just before noon (1155).Port Hercule
Spend a morning having a look at the multi million dollar yachts moored at this first class harbour. There are several places where you can sit and have a drink while admiring the vast amount wealth floating before you.Relax at a spa
Relax at Monaco's health spas and beauty centres, the most famous one being the Thermes Marins de Monte Carlo (www.montecarlospa.com/).Take a helicopter ride
Take a panoramic flight over the principality and the surrounding area with Heli-Air Monaco (tel: 0826 105 050; www.heliairmonaco.com). Trips last from 10 to 40 minutes.
The scent of singed tyres fills the air at May's Monaco Formula One Grand Prix . If there's one trophy a Formula One driver would like to have on the mantelpiece, it would have to be from the most glamorous race of the season, the Monaco Grand Prix. This race has everything.
Its spectators are the most sensational: the merely wealthy survey the spectacle from Hôtel Hermitage, the really rich watch from their luxury yachts moored in the harbour, while the Grimaldis see the start and finish from the royal box at the port.
Then there's the setting: the cars scream around the very centre of the city, racing uphill from the start/finish line to place du Casino, then downhill around a tight hairpin and two sharp rights to hurtle through a tunnel and run along the harbourside to a chicane and more tight corners before the start/finish. To top it all off there's the race's history: it was first run in 1929, and the winners' list features a roll-call of racing greats right down to Michael Schumacher's five victories between 1994 and 2001.
But despite its reputation, the Monaco Grand Prix is not really one of the great races. The track is too tight and winding for modern Grand Prix cars, and overtaking is virtually impossible. The Brazilian triple world champion Nelson Piquet famously described racing at Monaco as like 'riding a bicycle around your living room'. Piquet clearly rides a much faster bicycle than most of us; Monaco may be the slowest race on the calendar, but the lap record is still over 160km/h and at the fastest point on the circuit cars reach 280km/h. Even the corner in the gloom of the tunnel is taken at 250km/h (over 150mph).
The 78-lap race happens on a Sunday afternoon in late May, the conclusion of several days of practice, qualifying and supporting races. Tickets are available from Automobile Club de Monaco and the official T-shirt, loo seats et al from L@Boutique and Boutique Formule 1.
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