My first exposure to Monte Carlo came at the tender age of eleven, technically speaking. I was home in bed with a high fever (probably strep throat or some kind of crazy bug you get when you are young and catching everything under the sun). It was the weekend and I was feeling miserable. I crawled into bed in the afternoon, in my parents room, and my dad came to lay next to me and switched on the TV. Just the weekend before we had watched my first “old movie.” It was Paper Moon, starring Tatum O’Neal. Obviously my dad had remembered how much better I felt, snuggled up and enjoying cinema classics. So, he switched on the TV and I was mesmerized as I watched Cary Grant and Grace Kelly speed through the roads of Monte Carlo. I was a smitten kitten. At that moment, age eleven and with a temperature of 101, I made a promise to the universe that I would one day go there and feel every bit the superstar that Grace Kelly looked in the film.
So, finally at the ripe old age of 36, I made good on that promise to myself and the universe. I may not have had Cary Grant by my side, nor was I driving a sports car with the top down (although this is in the works), but I did do quite a few things, that I think, Mr. Grant and Ms. Kelly would have greatly approved of during my stay. And while I was doing these things, I made a mental list of what exactly a tourist of the Principality of Monaco should do upon their arrival. Here’s your top ten list of what to do with a weekend in Monte Carlo(with a few pics thrown after it all for good measure):
1. Travel into Monte Carlo by helicopter
Now I know what you’re thinking – it’s just as easy to drive or take a train from the Nice airport, so why would I take a helicopter? Well, my friends, first things first – it isn’t anywhere near as expensive as you think it is. Ok, it isn’t cheap either, but you are looking at around 150 euros for an experience that is well worth the investment. I mention this because I thought helicopter travel would be something I could never dream of doing, mainly because I had no idea of the cost. Well, now you do and you can make an educated decision. For seven minutes you are flown on what can only be described as the most luxurious arrival vehicle touching down in the Principality. You have the best view of the city and the easiest form of passport control I’ve yet to encounter.
2. Rent or borrow a car to drive the Grand Prix track
Now, I did not do this on this visit, but a plan of action is in the works. I actually felt wrong leaving Monte Carlo having not done this. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to watch the Grand Prix with my dad and brothers at home and now, being in the city and not driving the famous hairpin turns, it all seems so wrong. So find a friend with a Ferrari, or take you rented Honda and make the turns.
3. Coffee or an ice cream sundae at Cafe de Paris
Cafe de Paris is legendary, mainly because of the location of the cafe. It sits on the other side of the famous Hotel de Paris and runs perpendicular to the famous Monte Carlo Casino. In short, it offers a view of the action that you won’t find anywhere else. Sit and sip your coffee as you watch supercar after supercar pull up to the hotel or casino and hand over their keys to the happiest valets this side of the UK. Ok, it’s also pretty famous because their sweet treats are somewhat epic in nature. Basically, it doesn’t matter about the price. You are paying for the show going on around you as much as you are the beverage or dessert in front of you.
4. Stroll the Avenue Princesse Grace
Once said to the most expensive street in the world, this is a place to view new and old architecture alike, as well as to stargaze and dream about who may be living inside apartments that cost as much as $17,750 a square foot. But, don’t let your strolling end there. Monte Carlo is an easy town to visit by foot. There is plenty to see, both inland and on the shore – and new things popping up all the time.
5. Nobu at the Fairmont Monte Carlo
This just has to be done. Nobu is legendary, and for good reason. Not only is the food superb, but you’re always going to see a familiar face sitting in the restaurant. This is Monte Carlo, and Nobu is one of the best restaurants in the world. You do the math. It’s a dinner worth dressing up for.
6. Stay out until sunrise
You’ll find that every nightclub, worth going to, in Monte Carlo, has a policy of opening late and closing at sunrise. Yup – that’s the only official closing time – when the sun comes up. Seems the night is meant for Monte Carlo fun and the city wants to deliver an experience you won’t forget. From Jimmy’z to Sass Cafe, this scene has something for everything. You just need enough nights to find your perfect match!
7. Get historical with the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
You can’t go to Monaco and not at least try to stop by and say hello to Prince Albert and Princess Charlene, right? It would just be plain rude. So, make your way up to the Prince’s Palace and pay your respects. There are some great places for selfies and a killer view of the city.
8. Shop til you drop!
If you come to Monte Carlo with more money than you know what to do with, you’re going to want to go shopping, right? Well, don’t expect to run into a Gap or a Zara after your coffee at Cafe de Paris. You are surrounded by top end retailers in the Carre d’Or. Everyone from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent has a shop here and they are all too happy to help you spend your hard earned cash. It should be noted that even if you aren’t in line to buy a Chanel bag, the window shopping in this part of the world is second to none. Get out there and give the designers a whirl.
9. The Exotic gardens and observation cave
The world seems to be obsessed with succulents these days, right? Well, Monaco has one of the most impressive collections of succulents in the Exotic Gardens with an impressive view of the city at its feet. You need a little culture while in town, right?
10. Grab the tour bus
I have always said that the best way to start a tour of any city is with a quick ride around on the local tour bus. Even if you just take this to get a lay of the land, it’s totally worth it. Monaco has a The Monaco Grand Tour. Jump on in your first morning in Monte Carlo and make notes of all the places that are of interest – to each their own and my list might just not be your cup of tea. Then take that list and plan a course of attack for however long you’re in town. Easy peasy!