Monaco, with its 1.95 square kilometres of land, makes you think of betting stakes, huge yachts, Russian oligarchs, race cars, James Bond movies, and magnificent boulevards. Apartments in the hotels overlooking the sea, especially during the Grand Prix can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of euros per night. An appetizer consisting of pea soup with gnocchi can reach astronomic prices at Louis XV, the 3-star Michelin-rated restaurant of Chef Alain Ducasse, located inside the Hôtel de Paris. Monaco is the place where beautiful women with exotic accents can be seen in nightclubs and hotel lobbies.
But despite all this luxury, Prince Albert II has proposed to make Monaco a vacation destination that addresses the families too, and for this reason in this tiny country can also be discovered a world of art, natural beauties and quality food and accommodations at affordable prices.
So what is there to do and see in Monaco if you’re not rich and famous, but just a regular tourist in search of a perfect holiday? Choose your favourite activities from this selection.
1. Grace Kelly
The story of Grace Kelly, a talented American actress who has married a prince, becoming a princess, is written in Monaco. A boulevard, a rose garden, a foundation and even a fish species are now named after her. Both she and her husband, Prince Rainier III, are buried in the Roman-Byzantine style cathedral of Monaco.
But to discover her true spirit, go to the Princess Grace Irish Library and discover her own collection of Irish books, but also many other objects that she possessed, like a collection of music sheets and newspaper clippings, napkins with flowers drawn by the princess, a kit of sewing utensils and some beautiful armchairs.
2. Casino de Monte-Carlo
Casino de Monte-Carlo is a true architectural marvel. Opened in 1863 and rebuilt in 1878 by Charles Garnier, the casino boasts an incredible atrium covered in marble and surrounded by 28 onyx columns. The casino can be visited even if you don’t play, and remember to admire the Opera House as well, which is located next to the casino. From the Casino can be reached Salle Blanche, one of the most stylish places in town where you can enjoy a splendid view and a delicious cocktail while listening to live music.
3. Gardens and Sea
Prince Albert was not only a sovereign but also a scientist and oceanologist. He built the Oceanographic Museum in 1910 as a temple which combines art and science. The building is a tribute to the Mediterranean region: the façade is decorated with crabs, shrimps, scorpion fish, jellyfish, and squids and the mosaic floors evoke the sea. The ship used by Albert to hunt whales is kept here, while the aquarium boasts an impressive collection of exotic fish, including sharks, octopuses, and turtles
After visiting the museum, go to Jardin Exotique, where a wide variety of exotic cactuses and succulent plants grow among the rocks and steep peaks of the botanical garden. You can admire a splendid view while resting on one of the benches, or discover the beautiful underground cave.
4. A Fast Food Lunch with Class
Every morning, the esplanade of Place d'Armes, in the centre of Monaco, is filled with red and yellow umbrellas, becoming an open-air market with food and flower stalls, known as Marché de la Condamine. Some sellers come here from their farms in Italy, from hundreds of kilometres away, selling olive oil and jars of preserved vegetables. Here are also located numerous cafés where you can have lunch at reasonable prices, including ham sandwiches or fried squid.
No candles are burning and no religious services are held at the Museum Chapelle de la Visitation. No pipe organ sounds, no incense and no flowers. But the walls still hold many masterpieces signed by Rubens, Zurbarán, Ribera and other Italian artists of the Baroque period, which can be found in the collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson, an American of Polish origin dealing with acts of philanthropy.
6. New Monaco
Focusing on works of art, architecture, and contemporary design, the new Musée National de Monaco has two locations: Villa Paloma and Villa Sauber. There is no permanent collection, but temporary exhibitions include paintings, sculptures, photographs, films, costumes and relics of the Monegasque history. The entry is free the first Sunday of each month.
As you can see, Monaco is not an exclusive destination of the rich ones. Here can be found many attractions, and a holiday doesn’t have to cost a fortune in this place. Or you can always find accommodation in France and visit Monaco as a day-trip. Bon voyage!