As one of Europe’s curiosities, one of three medieval principalities still in existence, Monaco and its only city of Monte Carlo is far from an oddball attraction. It is one of the gems of any drive or vacation along the French Riviera and well worth a stopover. We have visited twice over the years when driving to and fro along the Cote D’Azur and it is always a memorable stop off to take.
For those intimidated by the general net worth it takes to live here don’t think that its prohibitive from everyday life. Sure restaurants and hotels are posh, but it has many venues for all sorts of budgets and with some good planning one can find a place that matches any budget large or small. We like to think of it not as a limiting place, but a discerning place where one might like to splurge on a Michelin Starred meal, by a designer hat, enjoy one of the scenic parks with a picnic lunch or simply stop off for a coffee.
Parking becomes an issue straight away if you are driving in. It is not that it is impossible, its simply that as a matter of space most places are underground and it takes being attentive as one circles the streets and squares to pull off on time otherwise you will have to circle around again which can take a while in these busy streets. There is metered parking above ground as well and it is even more affordable, its just less easy to find and make sure you don’t accidentally bump someone’s Bentley or Ferrai parked just in front of yours!
Monaco really is just a stretch of beach and hills perched between the sea and towering cliffs. This means that it is easily walkable as Monte Carlo is the beachfront and other neighborhoods are terraced onto the mountain. You’ll know you’re at the center of it all when you see the iconic Casino at the center of a series of parks and squares. Walking inside is very worthwhile and towards the back, there are nice terraces with sea views.
There are shopping venues on either side of the Casino with more of the high end stores towards the NW (France) and if you go in the opposite direction SE (towards Italy), you will pass by the very hip Nikki Beach part spot as well as several other attractions such as the Japanese Garden and the main public beach. An open air Starbucks set over the area gives unbroken views of the massive yachts, the Port of Hercules and areas where they are expanding the shopping and entertainment district.
It is here in the Port where many choose to take a restaurant lunch break. Many tourists bring their own food or purchase something from a restaurant or shop and bring it away and eating it while sitting on the harbor and admiring the huge and luxurious yachts.
Walking around the port is actually easier than it may seem. When you consider the royalty, starpower and priviledge that these super yachts represent it is amazing that they are so approachable from the docks. They are working docks, so it is important to be alert as to the traffic and movement. There is a little red boat that crosses the port and it is certainly one of the best ways to get a snapshot of the while cityscape without having to bring your own yacht.