After discovering the beautiful Marseille, I headed off to Monte Carlo as part of my cruise itinerary. It is one of the cities that always fascinated me. So if you are about to visit this city, stay tuned!
A bit of history, in 1297 the Grimaldi family seized this fortified town and, except for a short break under Napoléon, they have ruled ever since. It’s the very favourable tax system, not the gambling that makes Monaco one of the most desirable addresses in the world.
If I remember, cruise ships dock at Port Hercule, just below Monaco-Ville. There are few facilities at the port itself. An elevator about 500 yards away leads up to the town, where the attractions of old Monaco are located. It is about 1 mile from the port to the Monte Carlo district; this is a 15 to 30 minute walk depending on your level of fitness. Although the distance is not too great, there are many hills. Ouch!
If you are going to stay in the city centre, you don’t need to hire a car. All the attractions of the Old town are less than a 10 minute walk apart. Bus services 1 and 2 link Monaco-Ville with Monte Carlo. Prices are 1 euro per journey. Bargain!
I must admit, I was got confused on whether to say Monte Carlo or Monaco. Officially, the Old town or Vieille Ville is called Monaco-Ville.
The casino itself is a must see, even if you don’t bet a sou. It would be like going to Las Vegas and not exploring the inside of the casinos! Jacket and ties are required in the back rooms which opens at 3PM and don’t forget to bring your passport even if you look above 21.
Carved out of the rock face and one of Monte Carlo’s most stunning escape hatches – the exotic gardens is studded with thousands of succulents and cacti, all set along promenades and belvederes over the sea. It is stunning. There are rare plants from Africa and Mexico. Thanks go to Prince Albert I who started it all.
At the prow of the Rock, the grand oceanography museum perches dramatically on a cliff. The main floor displays skeletons and taxidermy of enormous sea creatures and submarines and diving gear dating from the Middle Ages.
After a long day of hard walking, you will be pleased to know there a little train that takes a little tour around Monaco and Monte Carlo, passing all the major sites and with accompanying audio guide in English. It last 30 minutes and saves those tired feet!
Place du Casino on the hill has a range of souvenir emporia with a predominance of Princess Grace Memorabilia, from the tacky to the tasteful.
This store handles official rare merchandise. The race takes in May and it is one of the highlights of the social season. I didn’t get the chance to see it as I booked my holiday during the summer period.
Monte Carlo Golf Club has a highly rated course just outside the principality and offers a range of provision but is most renewed for its tennis. Admission to the club is 38 euros, plus green fees for golf, which is a slightly expensive especially if you are going to play for only a day.
Larvotto is the public beach, but many people choose to buy a temporary membership in a private beach club, which also has facilities such as changing cabins, showers and restaurants.
For those wanting to try Alain Ducasse cuisne without having to break the bank, this bar and boeuf concept restaurant is a treat. The sea view is gorgeous for those seated of the terrace, and the up-to-the minute service is actually laid back enough for you to relax and simply enjoy.
This landmark belle époque brasserie, across from the casino, offers the usual classics such as shellfish, steak tartare and much more. Supercilious and super pro waiters!
You are now all set to explore Monte Carlo and happy cruising if you’re going on one!
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