A Brief Overview of Monaco
Monaco needs no introduction. The tiny but fabulous Principality has been loved by the jet set for years, and its world famous Formula 1 Grand Prix race ensures all eyes are on Monaco every May. Geographically-speaking Monaco is pretty small at just 2.02 km², but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in glamour and atmosphere. Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, the Principality also has a fabulous stretch of beach and an ideal location on the French/Italian border, no wonder then that it’s one of the top vacation resorts in the world.
According to legend, Monaco was founded and named by the god Hercules who discovered the town and promptly threw all the other gods out, proclaiming it ‘Heracles Monoikos’ or ‘For Hercules Alone’. These days there are more movie stars and football players than Greek gods in the principality but Monaco has not entirely forgotten its founder. Port Hercules which is home to many a luxury superyacht, was named after the mythical god. After it fell into the hands of the mortals, Monaco was hotly contested by neighbouring France and Italy for many years, but thanks to the cunning of one Genoese nobleman was eventually given over to the House of Grimaldi who have ruled it ever since. Today Monaco is an internationally renowned business and banking centre and hosts some of the world’s top sporting and entertainment events every year.
The heart of Monaco and the most well-known area is glamorous Monte-Carlo, where you’ll find the famous Belle Epoque casino surrounded by world-class restaurants and bars. The square around the casino is a great place to sip an aperitif and watch the world go by. This is also a great place to go shopping, as the Carré d’Or is home to all the big-name designer brands. You’ll find everything from the latest must-have handbag to classic diamond jewellery on offer in the boutiques around the square. Your biggest problem will be deciding just how many pairs of shoes is too many?
Monte-Carlo comes alive in the evenings with lounges like the Buddha Bar and Le Bar Américan serving up cocktails and live music in one of the world's most fabulous settings.
Just below the casino, sitting on the water's edge is Larvotto Beach. This is Monaco’s backyard, where the locals come to spend the day on a sunlounger and enjoy the ever-changing view. The private beach club is perfect for a relaxed sunny lunch, and the wide range of watersports will keep the more adventurous members of your party from ever getting bored. If you’re a fan of salt-water, take a dip in the Med and cool off after a long day at the beach.
Sitting right alongside the beach is the Grimaldi Forum, the venue for many international business conferences and congresses. The forum also hosts several glittering TV and music ceremonies during the year, with international DJs and musicians lighting up the decks on the open air terrace overlooking the sea. As venues go, it would be tough to find a more glamorous one! Avenue Princesse Grace which runs behind the Grimaldi Forum and Larvotto plage is reputedly the most expensive street in the world. With its direct view over the crystal clear water and pristine white (imported) sand, it’s not hard to understand why.
The Larvotto coast runs round the edge of the Principality then ends in the Port Hercules, Monaco’s deepwater port and home of its modern new Yacht Club. Port Hercules is home to some of the most luxurious and expensive superyachts in the world and really comes into its own during the Grand Prix with a front row seat to all the action. Port Hercules is also the location for a lot of the big sporting and cultural events in Monaco. Throughout the year it hosts show jumping and swimming competitions, a classic car rally, a fun fair and much more besides.It’s the ideal place to view the annual fireworks competition held during the summer months too. We suggest you arrive early and grab a table at one of the quayside cafés for the best seat in town when the skies light up with music and illuminations for a couple of hours. When night falls, the port buzzes with some of the busiest bars and restaurants found on the strip overlooking the sea front. Don’t miss La Brasserie de Monaco, one of the oldest industries in the Principality. They have been brewing delicious beers on the premises since 1905, and it’s one of the most popular spots in the port for a sundowner. If you fancy a quick flutter during the evening, the legendary La Rascasse bar now has an open air terrasse with a casino overlooking the port. Stop in for a few games and stay for the live music and epic parties during the summer season.
Monaco’s second port, Fontvieille, may not be as old as its neighbour Hercules, but it is still well worth a visit. Built on reclaimed land in the 1980’s, Fontvieille is home to the Stade Louis II, which the national team AS Monaco FC use as their home ground. There is a popular shopping centre with fashion and homeware, and lots of restaurants and bars dotted along the quayside. Hidden in the centre of Fontvieille just a short stroll away from the water is the beautiful Princess Grace Rose Garden, created in memory of Grace Kelly. The garden features over 4000 roses and when the flowers are in bloom it looks and smells fabulous. It’s well worth heading a little off the beaten track to check out this little slice of paradise in the centre of the port. Just behind the gardens, you might also be surprised to see a full-size circus tent amongst all the private residences. It was built by Prince Rainier, a lifelong circus fan, to celebrate and promote circus art in Monaco. Today it’s used for the annual International Circus Festival de Monte-Carlo, which is definitely not one to miss if you happen to enjoy clowns and be in town in January.
Overlooking Fontvieille is of course the oldest and best-known area of Monaco, The Rock. This is where Francesco Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk back in the 13th Century to gain possession of the city, and it has been home to the Grimaldi Family ever since. The Rock houses many of Monaco’s historical monuments including the Prince’s Palace, Monaco Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum and even a small and apparently very comfortable prison overlooking the Mediterranean. In summer time, The Rock boasts a fabulous outdoor cinema with luxurious sun loungers and stunning views over the sea below, this is not your everyday multiplex.
For a taste of life in Monaco, stroll the narrow streets of the Old Town and sit in one of the beautiful Medieval squares with a coffee. Monaco might be one of the most popular destinations in the world, but early in the morning The Rock still feels like a small village. Just before noon head towards the Prince’s Palace and catch the daily changing of the guard ceremony complete with musical accompaniment. This tradition has been going on for hundreds of years and delights visitors from around the world every day. From the courtyard in front of the Palace, you can see the coast of Italy stretching away into the distance on your left and the beautiful French Riviera below you on your right. With views like this, it’s no wonder that The Rock is considered to be the jewel in Monaco’s crown.
Best Time of Year to Visit Monaco
Monaco must be one of the best year-round destinations in the world. With its glorious summer sunshine and gentle winter season, you’ll be delighted by the weather whenever you choose to visit. Peak season in Monte Carlo starts in May when the Formula 1 Grand Prix race rolls into town, and ends in September when the international yacht show takes over Port Hercules and the surrounding area for a week.
Summer sees events such as the international fireworks festival and Sporting season which will keep you entertained during the months of July and August. But winter and spring in Monaco are just as exciting. A month-long funfair is held in the port culminating on the Prince’s birthday celebration in November, and the feast of Ste Devote patron saint of Monaco, falls in January.
Also, with the Southern Alps just a short drive or helicopter ride away, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of the fresh powder for a few days if you visit during the winter period.
In short, there is so much going on throughout the year in Monaco, that you’ll never be at a loss for things to do. The Principality's prime location and busy social calendar will have you planning your next trip as soon as you get home again.
Top Events in Monaco
Spending time in Monaco means access to world-class entertainment all year round. No matter what time of year you decide to visit, you’ll have a front-row seat to some of the very best music and sports events in the world. Here are some of the highlights which we think you may enjoy during your stay:
- Monte Carlo Opera Season ~ January- March
- International Circus Festival ~ January
- Monte Carlo Rally ~ January
- The Rose Ball ~ March
- Monte Carlo Rolex Tennis Masters ~ April
- Top Marques Monaco ~ April
- Monte-Carlo Spring Arts Festival ~ April
- Monaco Grand Prix & Historic Grand Prix ~ May
- Longine Global Showjumping ~ June
- Summer Festival at Le Sporting ~ July & August
- Monte Carlo International Fireworks Festival ~ July & August
- Palace Concerts ~ July
- Red Cross Gala Ball ~ August
- Monaco Classic Week ~September
- Monaco Yacht Show ~ September
- Monaco Fair ~ October & November
- Monte Carlo Jazz Festival ~ November
- Monaco National Day ~ November
- Monaco Christmas Fair ~ December
- Monaco Dance Forum ~ December
Luxury Monaco Rentals
As you would expect, our Monaco rentals are nothing short of fabulous. The Principality is full of incredible properties with each building more ornate than the last, this is luxury real-estate at its absolute finest.
This beautiful neo-provençal villa is just 2 minutes away from Monaco in the hills surrounding Cap d’Ail. If you’re looking for a slice of life in Provence, you’ll love the garden with its ancient olive and pine trees overlooking the Mediterranean. The 6-bedroom villa is spacious and elegant, and the living spaces are flooded with light thanks to its south-facing position on the hillside. Enjoy the calm surroundings and laidback lifestyle by day before heading down to Monaco in the evening to sample some of the famous Monte-Carlo nightlife for yourself.
Sitting pretty in Roquebrune Cap Martin is this modern property. Recently renovated, this vacation rental features 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, with stunning sea views. There is a triple reception room for entertaining guests, and a beautiful swimming pool complete with a summer kitchen to take full advantage of all that French Riviera sunshine. Spend your evenings sitting on the terrace with a drink and watching the lights of the Principality below you, you’ll feel as if you’re on top of the world.
Just 10 minutes away from the bustling Principality, this Belle Epoque villa is set in a private domaine with 24 hour security for complete peace of mind. The spacious living areas contain many of the original 19th Century features including marble fireplaces and ornate staircases. Spend time relaxing with the family in the library and music rooms on the 2nd floor while the kids check out the playroom next door. Outside, you’ll love the pool area with its bar and grill plus large dining area for eating alfresco. Private and quiet, with lots to enjoy both inside and out, this is exactly what a vacation home should look like.
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Must See and Do in Monaco
The list of things to see and do in Monaco is a pretty long one. The Principality is home to boutiques, museums, historical monuments and beach clubs, so you’ll definitely have lots to keep you busy during the day. After hours, the Principality really comes into its own with some of the French Riviera’s best restaurants and most glamorous nightlife all to be found in Monaco. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to going out for the evening in Monaco. In fact, one trip might not be enough to sample the best Monte Carlo has to offer! As a starter, we’ve put together a few suggestions of places to go and things to do while you’re in town.
There are restaurants all over the Principality. You can find literally anything from a quick and easy sandwich joint to a 5-star gourmet experience complete with celebrity chef. But sometimes only Italian food will do, with pasta top of the list. For a meal to remember, head to Le Sans Souci tucked away on Boulevard d’Italie. This family-run bistro has been serving up fantastic pasta and meat dishes in Monaco for years but has managed to remain under the radar with a mostly local clientele. Shhh, it's a secret! The decor is cosy, and the service is excellent, with very friendly staff who have been with the restaurant forever. Ask for a table on the pretty garden terrace and make sure you order the melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with its choice of 3 sauces, we promise you won’t regret it. This is Italian food at its very best, in the heart of the Principality. Tell only your best friends.
To market, to market...
Monaco is, of course, world-famous for its luxury boutiques and designer shopping malls. But the Monegasques need groceries just like everyone else, and one of their favourite places to shop is the daily market in the Place d’Armes. This is a real Southern market, where locals come to shop and catch up on the latest gossip over coffee. Outside, the fruit and vegetable stalls sell fresh produce all year round, but the best-kept secrets can be found inside in the covered market. Inside the wooden hall, you’ll find a dazzling array of local cuisine, try Monegasque specialities like barbagiuan or fougasse which comes decorated in the same colours as the Monaco flag. One of the most popular stands is Roger’s socca stall. He’s been making the delicious chickpea pancakes in the market as long as anyone can remember. And the market isn’t just busy during the daytime. Once the stalls shut up shop for the evening, the Place fills up with locals meeting for aperitifs and tapas after work. It may not be as glamorous as Monte Carlo, but this little square is an authentic slice of life in the Principality.
Take to the skies
Monaco and the surrounding area has without a doubt some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. And what better way to see it than from the air? Heli Air Monaco offers scenic flights over the Principality and the coast, from Monaco down to Cannes and back again in time for dinner. Charter one of their 5-person helicopters for a 30-minute flight which starts in the Fontvieille Port, and circles the Rock before cruising over some of the medieval villages in the hills around Monaco. Fly over the mountains and coastal villages like Beaulieu, Villefranche Sur Mer and Juan les Pins before swooping over Cannes and the Lerins islands out in the bay. Then head back towards Monaco taking in historical Eze village and La Turbie before descending with all the lights of the Principality twinkling below you. Heli Air Monaco even offers a photo opportunity with the helicopter before your flight, so you’ll have a great souvenir to remember your trip through the skies over the French Riviera.
Pearls of wisdom
Monaco may be famous for many things, but not many people know it has its own oyster farm. Since 2011, Les Perles de Monte-Carlo have been farming oysters in the port of Fontvieille and serving them up along with a whole range of deliciously fresh seafood. The restaurant and farm were started by two certified biologists who wanted to bring Breton-style oyster-farming to the Riviera. The restaurant serves simple, delicious dishes in a laid-back atmosphere, and is definitely one of the best-kept-secrets in the Principality. Head down to the tip of the pier in Fontvieille to grab a seat at one of the wooden benches on the sunny terrace and try a plate of their homegrown oysters with a glass of organic wine. Seafood doesn’t come any fresher than this!
For more ideas about things to do in and around Monaco, please give our concierge team a call. They will be delighted to provide you with further suggestions and recommendations.
How to get to Monaco
Whether you’re travelling to Monaco from within France or from further afield, it couldn’t be simpler to get to here. Situated right on the border between France and Italy, there are lots of travel options.
By plane: Fly into the Nice Côte d'Azur International Airport just 25 minutes down the coast from Monaco
By helicopter: Hop on board a helicopter in Nice and transfer to Monaco in less than 10 minutes
By rail: Travel by train directly to Monaco’s ultra-modern railway station
By yacht: We have partnerships with local yacht brokers if you would like to reserve a yacht berth in Monaco during your stay
If you are coming to Monaco from the French Riviera, we can arrange a private car service. You will be picked up and driven directly to the Principality in comfort. For more information or to organise a reservation, please contact us directly.
If you have any questions or would like any more information about our Monaco luxury rental properties, please get in touch.
Our team would love to help you organise a dream vacation in the Principality.