Even the name of Monte Carlo conjures up images of lavish and indulgent surroundings of a bygone era. Fortunately, that air of decadence lingers today as Monte Carlo remains one of the must-see destinations on the Mediterranean coastline. As a principality bordered by France and the stunning Alps, millions of tourists flock to Monte Carlo each year to enjoy the slow pace and sophisticated style of life.
It’s just a short train ride from other quintessential French seaside resorts such as Nice and Cannes, making it easy to fly into from overseas. Monte Carlo benefits hugely from its balmy, Mediterranean climate, ensuring no month is a bad month to visit. The peak season for tourists is mid-summer when temperatures are at their hottest. However, if dense crowds aren’t your scene, then you might be wise to visit later or earlier in the year.
The area comes alive when the world of Formula 1 rolls into town every May. The Monaco Grand Prix is the world’s most famous street race, as the elite in motorsport does battle around the narrow roads of Monte Carlo. Many Formula 1 enthusiasts make the pilgrimage here to walk the circuit, including the infamous tunnel, which runs beneath the Fairmont Hotel.
For those who enjoy a flutter, Monte Carlo’s history with grandiose, high-stakes casinos goes back to the middle of the 19th century and continues today as one of the most stylish high-roller lairs. Princess Caroline, the wife of the Prince of Monaco, requested the construction of her own casino to entice upmarket tourists and provide a much-needed source of income to the ruling family. The magnificent Casino de Monte Carlo goes back to 1878 and was a prototype by architect Charles Garnier for the Paris Opera. It’s a beautiful place to spend an evening, playing traditional casino games and dining among the rich and famous.
If you’re fascinated by history, a visit to the Prince’s Palace should be a top priority, too. When the Prince’s family is away, the palace is opened to visitors. The park that surrounds the palace grounds is stunning, with panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the rest of Monte Carlo and Monaco. There’s also the Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedrale de Monaco, which was the last place of rest for Princess Grace.
Monte Carlo caters brilliantly to both young and old. While there’s plenty to see and do for older visitors, Monte Carlo’s nightlife offers plenty for the younger crowd. Jimmy’z is the place to be for celebrity-spotting, but it’s almost impossible to get into over the weekend of the Formula 1 race. The Living Room Club is also popular, with the festivities not getting started until 11 p.m. and continuing until sunrise.
What Monte Carlo lacks in size, it more than makes up for in glamor. Although its beautiful architecture and scenery is one facet of life here, there’s no denying that it is driven by money. Those who have the cash to splash reside here, mooring their super-yachts and shopping in the high-end boutiques that make the world go around in Monte Carlo. Though it might not be somewhere you’ll venture to again and again, it should be on your bucket list for luxury getaways.