48 Hours In: Monaco

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

This tiny principality is big on glamour. Enjoy it now before the high rollers and F1 speed demons come to town.



Click
here for the 48 Hours in... Monaco map


Travel essentials

Why go now?

This tiny principality – small enough to fit inside Hyde Park – offers a taste of the high life. With an abundance of historic belle époque architecture and exotic public sculptures it's easy to feel like an extra on a movie set or a guest of the ruling Grimaldi royal family.

March has an average temperature of 14C, making it warm enough to walk around with a short-sleeved shirt and shorts – yet it is still low season, so prices are lower than the wallet-busting highs of summer. And the cafés and restaurants around the harbour and the beach-facing Avenue Princesse Grace aren't crammed with tourists.

Touch down

Nice-Côte d'Azur airport is 16km west of Monaco. You can fly from Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Bristol, East Midlands, Liverpool and Newcastle on easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com ), from Heathrow with British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ), from Birmingham and East Midlands with Bmibaby (0905 828 2828; bmibaby.com ), from Manchester and Leeds/Bradford with Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com ) and from Southampton and Jersey on Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com ).

Bus 110 from Nice airport departs every half-hour direct to the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel (1) and the Meridien (2) in around 45 minutes for a fare of €18. A helicopter flight from Heliair Monaco (00 377 9205 0505; heliairmonaco.com ) takes just seven minutes from Nice to Monaco's heliport (3) in Fontvieille, with a one-way fare of €120.

Get your bearings

The principality is divided into four quartiers; contrary to popular belief, Monte Carlo is not a city within the state but simply one of its quartiers – albeit the one with Monaco's sandy beaches and the world-renowned Casino (4). The other three are La Condamine, which includes Monaco's main harbour; Fontvielle, where a new, smaller harbour is located; and Monaco-Ville, the ancient quarter overlooking the harbour and housing the cathedral (5) and palace (6) of Monaco's ruler, Prince Albert II. The tourist office (7) at 2a Boulevard des Moulins (00 377 9216 6116; visitmonaco.com ) opens 9am-7pm, 10am-noon Sunday.

Check in

The stars stay at the Hôtel de Paris at the Place du Casino (4) (00 377 9806 3000; hoteldeparismontecarlo.com ), a confection built in the 1860s. It is Monaco's most opulent hotel and has hosted the likes of Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck and Frank Sinatra. A double room in March costs from €340 including breakfast.

A more modern atmosphere is found at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel (1) at 40 Avenue Princesse Grace (00 377 9806 0200; montecarlobay.com ), which wouldn't look out of place in Las Vegas. It has Europe's first sand-bottomed swimming lagoon, a fountain choreographed to classical music and room balconies big enough for sofas to be set into the side of them; double rooms from €179 including breakfast.

Petrol heads will find paradise at the Fairmont (8) at 12 Avenue des Spélugues (0845 071 0170; fairmont.com ) on the hairpin of the Grand Prix circuit that snakes through Monaco's streets. After a €41.5m renovation it is now the sleekest hotel in Monaco, with a cream and mahogany colour scheme designed to evoke an ocean liner and circular door mirrors to mimic portholes; €299 per double, room only. Fewer frills are found at the Novotel Monte Carlo (9) at 16 Boulevard Princesse Charlotte (0870 609 0962; novotel.com ), with doubles at €165, room only.

Day one

Take a hike

...through the narrow streets of the old town. Start at the Place du Palais (10), one of the few places in Europe where you can clearly see three countries in one sweep, and stroll through the passageways until you get to Place de la Visitation (11). Here you can cool off in the 17th-century Museum of the Chapel de la Visitation (00 377 9350 0700; visitmonaco.com ), which has paintings by a number of Italian masters; it opens 10am-4pm daily except Monday, admission €3.

From here take the narrow ruelle des Ecoles to the Oceanographic Museum (12) (00 377 9315 3600; www.oceano.mc/anglais/sommaireinfos_anglais.htm), whose grandiose façade rises from an 85m sheer cliff. It opens daily 9am-7pm, admission €12.50, and reflects the diversity of the area's marine heritage. Then take a small diversion into Jardins St Martin (13) before heading back along the Avenue Saint-Martin. Finish at Monaco's Cathedral (5) at 4 rue du Colonel Bellando de Castro (00 377 9330 8770; cathedrale.mc ). It opens daily 8am-6pm.

Lunch on the run

Pick one of the cafés in Place St Nicholas (14), hidden in the alleys behind the cathedral.

Window shopping

The Métropole shopping complex (15) at 17 Avenue des Spélugues (metropoleshoppingcenter.com) opens 10am-7.30pm daily except Sunday. It is one of the most majestic places to shop in any country with its huge chandeliers and chic boutiques – plus epicurean treats such as truffles at Comtesse du Barry (00 337 9212 9140; comtessedubarry.com ).

Monaco's Grand Prix takes place in May, but at any time of year you can pick up some souvenirs from the official shop of the Automobile Club de Monaco (16) at 46 rue Grimaldi (00 377 9770 4535; laboutique-automobileclubmonaco.com ). The best place to pick up memorabilia from all the Formula One teams is Boutique Formule 1 (00 377 9315 9244), along the street at number 15; it even sells genuine parts from the cars themselves. For something a little more subtle there's Monalisa Motorsport (17) on the Quai Jean-Charles Rey, Port de Fontvieille (00 377 9205 7005; monalisamotorsport.com ), which sells stunning F1 artwork.

An aperitif

The best way to immerse yourself in Monaco's sporting heritage is at Stars and Bars (18), by the harbour at 6 Quai Antoine 1er (00 377 9797 9595; starsnbars.com ; closed on Mondays). Past customers include Roger Federer, Rod Stewart and Kevin Costner. David Beckham's LA Galaxy shirt hangs from the rafters. Racing overalls are displayed under glass table-tops, and signed football shirts are used to separate tables, with alcoves themed to memorabilia from different sports. A beer costs €3.

Dining with the locals

Being located close to Italy is a bonus for Monaco as it has some excellent Italian restaurants. The best is Pulcinella (19) at 17 rue du Portier (00 377 9330 7361; pulcinella.mc ), where you can pick up three courses for €30; wine ranges from €12 to €450 a bottle.

For a truly world-class dinner visit Alain Ducasse's three Michelin-starred Louis XV (00 377 9806 8864; alain-ducasse.com ) restaurant in the Hôtel de Paris (4). The white walls are punctuated with gilded pilasters, cartouches and cornices and the ceiling is adorned with a fresco featuring gambolling cherubs. It seats a maximum of 50 diners, who are treated to gilded cutlery and footstools for ladies' handbags next to the tables. The price for the evening menu comes to €210 per head without wine.

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

Built more than 1,000 years ago, l'Eglise Sainte Devote (20) (00 377 9350 5260; sainte-devote.com ) at Place Sainte Devote is probably the most beautiful of Monaco's churches. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the principality and to the prince and his family. Mass is held at 10.30am every Sunday.

Take a ride

If the steep roads take their toll on your feet, let a scooter take the strain. Monte Carlo Rent (21) on Quai des Etats-Unis (00 377 9999 9779; montecarlorent@hotmail.com) hires by the hour or day. Prices start from €20 per hour. You can cycle, scoot or even walk the most famous racing circuit in the world; the starting grid is in front of the Automobile Club de Monaco (22).

Out to brunch

Take a café au lait and pain au chocolat on the sprawling Terrasse Parisienne at Le Café de Paris at Place du Casino (4) (00 37 79216 2020), where locals and tourists enjoy watching lines of Bentleys and Lamborghinis being valet-parked while their owners browse the shop windows. Cultural afternoon

Head for Prince Rainier's Palace (6) (00 377 9325 1831; palais.mc ), to watch the Carabiniers performing their daily changing of the guard at 11.55am sharp. Then pay a visit to the Exhibition of His Serene Highness, the Prince of Monaco's Private Collection of Classic Cars (23) on Terrasses de Fontvielle (00 377 9205 2856; palais.mc ). It houses around 100 classic cars telling the story of 20th century motoring. Open 10am-6pm daily, admission €6.

A walk in the park

Monaco's gardens are as grand as their surroundings. Looking down on the principality is the Jardin Exotique (24) (00 377 9315 2980; jardin-exotique.mc ), which has one of the world's largest collections of cacti and a cave with stunning stalactites. It opens 9am-6pm daily, admission €7.

Monaco's other gardens are free and even more ornately themed. The Japanese Garden (25) on Avenue Princesse Grace, open 9am to sunset, sits next to the beach but takes guests to the Orient with its pagodas, koi carp ponds and bonsai trees. A sculpture trail leads to perhaps the most peaceful garden in Monaco – Fontveille's Princess Grace Rose Garden (26), open from sunrise to sunset. Sitting in the middle of 5,000 rose bushes is a statue of the late American starlet Princess Grace Kelly, Prince Albert's mother.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn