While Monaco takes up less than one square mile in area, it has an outsized reputation as the ultimate luxury destination on the French Riviera. This is the place to experience Belle Époque architecture, a glamorous Casino and the Grand Prix. But you can also enjoy terrific museums, lovely gardens and a country with a deep commitment to sustainability. Below is a suggested itinerary that includes many of the country’s most beloved sites.
The closest airport to Monaco is in Nice. Why not arrive in style by signing up for a Blade helicopter ride from the airport to Monaco? Upon arrival, the Blade staff will drive you to your hotel. The seven minute flight provides spectacular views of the coast. After a quick stop at your hotel, it’s time to go exploring. For a taste of local culture, head over to the Condamine Market. Here you can find outdoor stalls selling local produce and inside you can discover numerous small restaurants that feature everything from sushi to pizza. You can also try a “barbajuan,” the local version of an empanada stuffed with veggies or meat.
If you time your visit correctly, you can see the changing of the guards outside the palace, which takes place at noon. Afterwards, plan on spending a bit of time exploring the public rooms of the palace. The frescos are elaborate and many have been recently restored.
For the ultimate evening activity, plan on enjoying dinner at one of Monte Carlo’s best restaurants: Les Ambassadeurs. The “La Degustation” tasting menu has seven indulgent courses including lobster lasagna and lamb cutlets with chickpeas. The bread trolley arrives with 15 choices and the dessert trolley is equally impressive, although the recommended dessert is the Grand Marnier souffle.
Monaco’s best-known museum is the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, which was originally founded by Prince Albert I in 1910 as a research institution. (Jacques Cousteau was the director for almost 30 years.) While ideal for families, adults will also enjoy the very relaxing aquarium tanks, as well as the historical importance of the museum. Currently, there is an excellent interactive exhibit that focuses on the melting polar caps; sustainability is an important commitment in the country that borders the sea. For a more modern art experience, the Nouveau Musee National de Monaco has two locations and rotating exhibitions. Nearby, you can find the lovely Japanese gardens.
For an afternoon activity, be sure to devote an hour or two to the beach, your hotel pool or exploring Monte Carlo’s exclusive shopping streets. Once evening arrives, choose another terrific dinner option. The Michelin-starred Le Grill at the Hotel de Paris provides both great views and amazing cuisine. Favorite starters include fois gras and Scottish smoked salmon with toast. For a main course, try the Mediterranean sea bass with crushed basil or the rack of lamb with a savory crust. After dinner, stroll over to the Casino of Monte Carlo, which is only steps away. This is your chance to experience a stunningly beautiful casino and the only place to play Texas Hold’em in the midst of a James Bond vibe. (Roulette, craps, black jack and slot machines are also on site).
On your last day, why not explore a few iconic exhibits. Car enthusiasts should stop by the Car Collection of H.S.H. the Prince. Here you can explore the personal collection of Prince Ranier III and can see the Lexus used for the 2011 royal wedding, the racing cars of the Monte Carlo Rally and the Formula 1s from the Grand Prix, as well as the Prince’s Maserati, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, and Rolls Royce. At the nearby Quai Antoine 1er Gallery, you can explore a photo exhibit that focuses on the modern history of Monaco.
This small city state provides masses of European charm, a luxurious vibe, stunning cliffside views and just the right amount of fun. It is also an excellent jumping off point to explore other spots on the Côte d’Azur. You can easily drive to the medieval town of Èze, explore Nice, or stop off in Saint Tropez.