Window shopping in Monaco, or the real thing, is a joy in this haven of luxury. It’s not all Cartier and Christian Dior – although the Principality has more than its share of Carré d’Or boutiques and Allées Lumières opposite the Casino is a haven of prestige brands. The Fontvieille Shopping Centre has regular stores and even a McDonald’s and La Condamine, around the Port, offers around 200 shops and a traditional produce and flower market each morning.
Casino de Monte-Carlo is Europe's most famous casino. The main salon with its frescoes and 20-foot ceilings are open to the public, while high rollers and celebs are ushered in to the Super Privés Salons beyond highly decorated doors.
Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo, which adjoins the Casino de Monte-Carlo is Monaco's most renowned, and is undergoing major renovations – the first in its 150 year history – until 2018. Monaco's most famous hotel is also the home of the triple-Michelin starred restaurant Louis XV.
Perched on the cliff above the harbour, the Monaco Oceanographic Museum is a fascinating aquarium complete with reef and shark lagoon. Founded by Prince Albert I, great grandfather of HSH Prince Albert II, it was designed as a Palace entirely dedicated to Art and Science. The panoramic terrace affords a sensational sea view and the 90m whale skeleton hovering within is awe-inspiring.
The Prince's Palace is built on the site of a fortress erected by the Genoese in 1215. Marvel at the 15th century frescoes, Louis XVth lounge, the Throne Room, Palatine Chapel, St-Mary's Tower and the Main Courtyard with its double staircase. Visitors can pair entry to the Palace with an exhibition of the Prince's vintage car collection.
Monaco Cathedral houses the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. For the devout or the music lover, each Sunday at 10am the Little Singers of Monaco and Cathedral Choir lead Mass, making the most of the brilliant neo-Byzantine acoustics.
Jardin Exotique is located at the entrance to Monaco and is a haven of luscious succulents. A steep and stunning collection of botanic wonders, it boasts a world-class collection of cacti which is only overshadowed by the panoramic views. Access to the garden's cave which descends 300 steps below ground, and the Museum of Prehistory are included in the entry price.
Larvotto Beach is the local's preference for sunning and being seen, or for the thrill seeker, hiring a jetski, kayak or parasail. La Rose des Vents restaurant on the beachfront is renowned for its excellent seafood.
Rainier III Nautical Stadium is a public sports complex on the Route de la Piscine next to the harbour. During the Grand Prix, the pool chicane is considered the toughest part of the street track, offering brilliant views of the track and the yachts in Port Hercules. The complex comprises a heated saltwater Olympic-size swimming pool, with a series of diving platforms up to 10m and a 45m slide. From December to March, the pool is converted into an ice rink!
Night falls and the buzz in Monaco steps up a notch!
A favourite of the yachties in town for Monaco Yacht Show, Stars N Bars is essentially a burger joint, with a difference. As well as the best burgers, steaks and American-style service in the Principality, there's a diverse menu covering Mexican, Indian and Asian. The restaurant features one of the largest celebrity sports collections in the world, including an actual F1 racing car of two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen.
With incredible views, two excellent restaurants and bars, plus the fascinating Maserati and Ferretti displays in the Riva Aquarama Lounge, Yacht Club de Monaco is open to members, guests and VIPs, as well as members of reciprocal yacht clubs. In the same premises, the Monaco Rowing Club (Société Nautique de Monaco) restaurant is open to the public for lunch every day except Sunday and always attracts a crowd.
Jimmy'z has been an icon for over 40 years and remains a magnet for the international in-crowd. This indoor-outdoor club is over the top in every way and you star-spotting is de riguer.
The Living Room is another Monaco hot spot which comes to life around 10pm and parties til dawn.
Black Legend on Port Hercules is open seven days a week and specialises in blues, jazz and live music.
Brasserie de Monaco is a brewery and beer garden, offering a fine selection of local beers and menu to complement it.
In the Fairmont hotel, Saphir 24 is a 24-hour bistro lounge and bar. NOBU restaurant is just next door and in summer, the pool on the 7th floor becomes a pop-up Nikki Beach Club where from noon til late entertainment includes guest DJs and refreshments.
Images: Oceanographic Museum of Monaco and Visit Monaco.
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