What are the five best things to see and do in Monte Carlo?

Hayley Bosch

While Monaco is less than one square mile in total, and Monte Carlo as just a fraction of that, the tiny principality is packed with cultural adventures — from ogling the mega-yachts that fill the harbor to exploring the storied palace. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to see and do in Monte Carlo:
 
1. Shop in the Carré d’Or. Surrounding the Place du Casino, the Carré d’Or (the golden circle) is the crème de la crème of shopping districts. International luxury labels such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci fill the gilded area.
 
2. Hit the casino. Monte Carlo is known for its casino and for good reason — the Casino de Monte-Carlo has presided over the glamorous destination for nearly 150 years. From its 19th-century architecture and parade of famous faces to the 1,000-plus slot machines and plethora of table games, this is a must-do in Monaco.
 
3. Tour the palace. Monaco is also known for is its royal family, the Grimaldis. You can tour the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (the royal family’s primary residence) between June and October to stroll through the magnificent palatial rooms.
 
4. Cheer at the Grand Prix. As one of the 20 races included in Formula One’s world championship, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the splashiest events — and one of the most dangerous. The race runs a circuit through the streets of Monaco and drivers must make hairpin turns at high speeds. It’s held every year for four days in May.
 
5. Discover the Oceanographic Museum. The 1901 building that houses the Oceanographic Museum in nearby Monaco Ville — a cross between an aquarium and a history museum — towers cliffside above the Mediterranean Sea. Explore the 90 pools of rare Mediterranean and tropical species and visit the Shark Lagoon — it has bright, colorful fish on one side of a coral reef and predators on the other.

  • On July 9, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What are the five best Monte Carlo food experiences?

    Monte Carlo is a 30-minute drive from both Nice and Italy, and you will taste how the city is influenced by both French and Italian cuisine. But great food experiences in Monte Carlo are defined not so much by any specific regional foods, but from the settings in which meals take place. From star-studded eateries to restaurants serving up some regional fare, there are plenty of great food experiences to be had. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks of the five best Monte Carlo food experiences:
     
    1. An elegant dining room. Since the rich and famous often flock to Monte Carlo, the city is filled with elegant dining rooms where you can rub elbows with A-listers. Our favorite is Le Louis XV — a Monte-Carlo must. Come here for the traditional cuisine, and stay for the luxurious ambience.
     
    2. A sidewalk cafe. There are few better ways to soak in the French Riviera than by watching the day pass by from a sidewalk café. Try Café de Paris, where you can grab a seat on the terrace and savor the seasonal and classic French dishes. Though most tourists know about this hotspot, it’s still a must-do in Monte Carlo. You can eat here day or night — Café de Paris is open until 2 a.m.
     
    3. Dining along the yachts. Monte Carlo is almost always lined with yachts, and we love taking in the glamour while we dine. Stars ‘N’ Bars is a great place to do this. The sports bar — done with an international twist, of course — serves up dishes like sushi and burgers. It’s a legendary bar on the waterfront at Port Hercule, where you can watch mega yachts pull into the harbor from the Star Deck.
     
    4. Visit a celebrity chef restaurant. Both Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse have restaurants in Monte Carlo. Visit Le Grill, one of Alain Ducasse’s outposts, in the summer when the roof slides back and the irresistible Mediterranean sun shines down on the dining room. You’ll enjoy Mediterranean-style gourmet cuisine with a view that will make your jaw drop.
     
    5. Relaxed dining by the race tracks. Every visitor should spend an afternoon at La Rascasse to get a taste of Monte Carlo. Sitting on the famous bend on the Monaco Grand Prix course, it’s a great place to go for an afternoon bite. 
  • On July 9, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    Where is the best nightlife in Monte Carlo?

    If you’re looking for glamorous nightlife, Monte Carlo is the place for you. After all, it’s where the rich and famous go to play. With parties running until the wee hours of the morning, be ready for all-night partying on the VIP level.
     
    Of course, you can spend your night at the world-famous Casino de Monte-Carlo, where you’ll be gambling next to high rollers from around the world. With everything from roulette and slots to blackjack and craps, this beautiful casino has a game for everyone.
     
    Legendary Monte Carlo hotspot Jimmy’z is the place to be on the French Riviera. It doesn’t open until 11:30 p.m., and the serious partiers don’t show up until well after 2 a.m. Located at Le Sporting Monte-Carlo, Jimmy’z flaunts a dance floor with music from DJs spinning all night long. It’s a well-known place for the celebrity set.
     
    The Monte Carlo outpost of Buddha Bar is just as exhilarating as its counterparts. Set within an early-20th-century concert hall, Buddha Bar Monte Carlo is exotic and intriguing. The first thing you’ll see is a giant Buddha statue; and when the music gets pumping, so does the rest of the bar. The East-meets-West style is trendy and exclusive.
     
    Perhaps surprisingly, Monte Carlo is a great spot for live music. Venues like Moods and Black Legend attract bands from all over the world. While the crowd is a bit older at these spots, the young flock to the venues around 3 a.m.
  • On July 9, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What is the best way to see Monte Carlo in one day?

    Considering that Monte Carlo is just 30 minutes from both Nice and Italy, it makes for an easy day trip.
     
    Begin your day with a visit to the State Apartments at the Prince’s Palace, which is built on the site of a fortress that dates back to the 13th century. Though the palace is the private residence of Prince Albert II, the State Apartments are open to the public and worth a visit. Like many palaces, this one reads like a museum — with gorgeous art adorning the already grand rooms. You’ll see a big piece of Monaco’s history.
     
    After strolling through the State Apartments, head to a café for lunch. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest making your way down to the yacht-filled harbor and grabbing a seat at one of the many terraces and settling in for some Monegasque specialties. And if you’re visiting during the summer, make a trip to Larvotto Beach, which is Monaco’s only public beach.
     
    With a full stomach, make your way up to the Oceanographic Museum, where you’ll find an aquarium as well as artifacts from Prince Albert I’s numerous expeditions. Whether you’ve brought the kids with you or not, this is a great spot to get out of the sun (Monaco averages 300 days of sun per year) and explore another side of the principality’s history.
     
    If you plan to stay for dinner, make a reservation at Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse. Recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, this world-famous restaurant is located inside the even more famous Hôtel de Paris.
     
    Following your gastronomic experience at dinner, head to the legendary Casino de Monte-Carlo. Gambler or not, a trip to this casino is a must when visiting Monte Carlo. The glamorous casino is always full of celebrities and royalty.
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  • On July 9, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Monte Carlo?

    The restaurants in Monte Carlo complement the luxe French Riviera setting. With establishments helmed by chefs including Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon, you may have a tough time deciding where to eat. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors help you narrow it down to five of the best places to eat in Monte Carlo:
     
    1. Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse. Housed in the world-famous Hôtel de Paris, Le Louis XV may be chef Alain Ducasse’s best restaurant. The restaurant has been around for 25 years and the gorgeous dining room is over-the-top luxurious. Enjoy a seasonal prix fixe menu focused on sublimely simple Mediterranean flavors and a superb wine list. Note that jackets are required.
     
    2. Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo. Celebrity chef Joël Robuchon’s Monte Carlo outpost is Hôtel Metropole’s signature restaurant. The Mediterranean-inspired menu changes regularly but you’re bound to see Robuchon favorites such as the John Dory and the chef’s famous mashed potatoes. The intimate dining room includes an open teppanyaki-style kitchen and features views of the water. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
     
    3. Rampoldi. Perched on the edge of the Casino Gardens, Rampoldi has been around since the 1950s. The Italian spirit adds to the charm of the French menu — after all, Monaco is a mix of both cultures. You’ll find delicious dishes like ravioli stuffed with crayfish and crêpes Suzette for dessert.
     
    4. La Mandarine. Overlooking the yacht-filled harbor, this sleek yet comfortable restaurant offers delightfully inventive Mediterranean fare. The menu features everything from grilled duck foie gras with creamy artichoke and corn to wild sea bass with mushrooms and raviolini filled with chorizo and Italian zucchini.
     
    5. Le Vistamar. Chef Joël Garault heads up Hôtel Hermitage’s top-notch seafood restaurant. As if the décor by Pierre Yves Rochon weren’t enough, the elegant restaurant thrives on its seaside location. With fish dominating the menu, you can taste the freshness as you look out onto the harbor. In the summer, opt for a table on the terrace for a great view of the famous Rock. 
  • On July 9, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Monte Carlo?

    Monte Carlo is a playground for the rich and famous, but the luxe destination on the French Riviera has something for kids, too. From exploring the renowned Oceanographic Museum to checking out Prince Rainier III’s vintage car collection, your kids will have plenty to explore. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks of the five best things to do with kids in Monte Carlo:
     
    1. The Oceanographic Museum. The 1901 building that houses the Oceanographic Museum in nearby Monaco-Ville towers cliffside above the Mediterranean Sea. Your kids will love exploring the 90 pools of rare Mediterranean and tropical species and visiting the Shark Lagoon — it has bright, colorful fish on one side of a coral reef and predators on the other.
     
    2. The beach. Larvotto Beach, Monaco’s only public beach, is a great place to take the little ones. Set in front of Avenue Princess Grace, the popular beach features a playground and calm waters for swimming or snorkeling. A lifeguard is on duty in July and August to ensure a safe beach day.
     
    3. Classic cars. Prince Rainier III’s classic car collection will impress both you and your kids. Located in the Fontvieille district, the Monaco Top Cars Collection is home to all sorts of beauties — everything from sports cars to horse-drawn carriages. Around 100 vehicles are on display from names like Ford, Maserati and Rolls Royce.
     
    4. Exotic Gardens. Your children may not be budding botanists, but the Exotic Gardens are interesting for just about everyone. It’s a lovely display of stalactites and cacti in a glorious setting overlooking the French Riviera. Your kids might think looking at a bunch of plants is a snooze but there’s cave at the bottom that you can tour that they’ll find cool. Be sure to also visit the Anthropology Museum within the gardens to learn a little more about the archeological side of things.
     
    5. Zoological Gardens. Though not one of the larger zoos we’ve seen, these gardens are a fun activity for kids. Founded in 1954 by Prince Rainier III, the zoo is home to approximately 50 different species like exotic birds, primates, hippopotamus and black panthers.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What is the best time of the year to visit Monte Carlo?

    Our Forbes Travel Guide editors deem May as the best time of the year to visit Monte Carlo. Aside from its mega-yacht-filled harbor, Monte Carlo is known for the Formula 1 race that winds through Monaco each May. This is not only an excellent event to plan your trip around, but Monte Carlo is beautiful during this season. While the destination sees more than 300 days of sun each year, late spring and early summer are the prime times to visit because the temperature lingers around a warm and comfortable 70F.
     
    Come later on in the summer ,though, to thoroughly enjoy the cool, crystal-blue Mediterranean at one of the many beach clubs. Monaco — and Monte Carlo — may be small, but there’s something to do all year long, whether it’s checking out the Prince’s Palace or trying your luck in the world-famous Casino de Monte-Carlo.
  • On June 12, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What is the best thing to bring home from Monte Carlo?

    As a playground of the famous and fabulous, Monte Carlo is filled with high-end designer shopping where you can pick up something special to bring home. But for something out of the ordinary, our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest bypassing the designer shops and heading straight for the world-famous Casino de Monte-Carlo. Go ahead and play some roulette, but save yourself a chip from this legendary luxury casino — it is worth every euro. The small souvenir will remind you of the time you rubbed shoulders with tuxedoed high rollers in the opulent, castle-like casino.
  • On June 12, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    Where is the best shopping in Monte Carlo?

    Monte Carlo is famous for its excess of fine restaurants, luxury hotels and, naturally, shopping. The rich and richer go here for designer shops and exquisite clothing. Take a stroll through Monte Carlo’s Carré d’Or (golden circle), the city-state’s best shopping district. Avenue des Beaux-Arts boasts labels such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Céline, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent; while Avenue de Monte-Carlo has Gucci, Valentino, Prada, Hermès and Lalique. Like a giant-sized jewelry box, the Place du Casino glitters with shops such as Cartier, Chopard and Bulgari.
     
    If you’re looking for more affordable shopping, head to Métropole Shopping Center. The marble-clad shopping center has a gorgeous oversized chandelier and more than 80 stores with a few designer boutiques sprinkled throughout.
  • On June 12, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What are the five best things to see and do in Monte Carlo?

    While Monaco is less than one square mile in total, and Monte Carlo as just a fraction of that, the tiny principality is packed with cultural adventures — from ogling the mega-yachts that fill the harbor to exploring the storied palace. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to see and do in Monte Carlo:
     
    1. Shop in the Carré d’Or. Surrounding the Place du Casino, the Carré d’Or (the golden circle) is the crème de la crème of shopping districts. International luxury labels such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci fill the gilded area.
     
    2. Hit the casino. Monte Carlo is known for its casino and for good reason — the Casino de Monte-Carlo has presided over the glamorous destination for nearly 150 years. From its 19th-century architecture and parade of famous faces to the 1,000-plus slot machines and plethora of table games, this is a must-do in Monaco.
     
    3. Tour the palace. Monaco is also known for is its royal family, the Grimaldis. You can tour the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (the royal family’s primary residence) between June and October to stroll through the magnificent palatial rooms.
     
    4. Cheer at the Grand Prix. As one of the 20 races included in Formula One’s world championship, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the splashiest events — and one of the most dangerous. The race runs a circuit through the streets of Monaco and drivers must make hairpin turns at high speeds. It’s held every year for four days in May.
     
    5. Discover the Oceanographic Museum. The 1901 building that houses the Oceanographic Museum in nearby Monaco Ville — a cross between an aquarium and a history museum — towers cliffside above the Mediterranean Sea. Explore the 90 pools of rare Mediterranean and tropical species and visit the Shark Lagoon — it has bright, colorful fish on one side of a coral reef and predators on the other.
  • On May 14, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Monte Carlo?

    Monte Carlo remains one of the most glamorous destinations in Europe, thanks to its harbor filled with larger-than-life yachts, designer shopping and luxury hotels. Here’s Forbes Travel Guide’s take on the five best places to stay in Monte Carlo:
     
    1. Hôtel de Paris. This is one of the world’s most famous hotels and has been for quite some time. Located in Place du Casino and home to one of the best restaurants on the Mediterranean, Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse, Hôtel de Paris is a place to see and be seen. The rooms are decked out in rich, elegant furnishings — some evoke the classic Empire style, others are from the Belle Époque era.
     
    2. Hôtel Hermitage. From the signature glass dome above the hotel’s Winter Garden to its world-class spa, this spot has been a mainstay in Monte Carlo since it was built in the early 20th century. Guest rooms have an array of lovely views, from the Mediterranean and the harbor to the courtyard and gardens.
     
    3. Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. Open between April and October, Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort is a sister property of both Hôtel de Paris and Hôtel Hermitage. The vibe is that of an exclusive club with its classic décor and French Riviera setting. With 334 rooms, including 22 suites, four restaurants and beautifully landscaped grounds, this is one of the premier resorts in Monte Carlo.
     
    4. Hôtel Metropole. This gorgeous piece of neoclassical architecture also happens to be one of Monaco’s top hotels. Though it’s grand and awe-inspiring, it feels warm and welcoming. Renowned restaurants Joël Robuchon and Yoshi are located within the hotel.
     
    5. Fairmont Monte Carlo. After a $58.6 million renovation, Fairmont Monte Carlo is on par with the best in the principality — and one of the largest, with 602 rooms. Hugging the coast, the luxury hotel is home to two restaurants, an in-house casino, a spa and a stunning rooftop pool.