Magnificent Monaco: Savor Exquisite Luxury on the Mediterranean

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Monaco is a luxurious Mediterranean retreat surrounded by French Alps. It’s known for fast cars, yachts, fine dining, shopping, and breathtaking settings.

Monaco is a postcard-sized country poised on the Mediterranean coast. As a luxurious retreat surrounded by the French Alps, France, and Italy, it’s known for royalty, fast cars, expensive yachts, fine dining, high-end shopping, and breathtaking settings.

Discover Monaco

Americans usually know Monaco for Princess Grace, the Monte Carlo Casino, and the Grand Prix. All of that and so much more is waiting to discover. The tiny municipality is walkable—it takes about 45 minutes to stroll from one end to the other—or you can hop in a taxi.

Casino Monte Carlo

Casino Monte Carlo. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Monaco is tiny but diverse; although home to only 32,000 permanent residents, the population represents more than 120 countries. As you wander the shops and streets, you will hear many different languages. French is the official language, but English and Italian are prevalent almost everywhere.

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The Grand Prix de Monaco

One of the most popular events is the Grand Prix de Monaco, held each May throughout the streets. Visitors watch from bleachers along the streets, hotel terraces, yachts, and other vantage points throughout the town.

Grand Prix Monte Carlo. Photo by Jolibois

Grand Prix Monte Carlo. Photo by Jolibois

You can get a great view from Nikki Beach at the Fairmont Monte Carlo, where you can watch the cars go through the curves and in and out of the tunnels.

Exploring Monaco

Monaco is quite a blend of Old World and modern influences. No trip is complete without visiting the casino, built in the late 1800s in Paris’s grand Belle Époque style. Entering the lobby is free, but pay 10€ (about $10.87 US) to enter the Salon Europe, which opens at 2 p.m. daily. Even if you aren’t a casino fan, this is a magnificent experience—and doesn’t everyone expect James Bond to swagger past?

exploring monaco

Looking down on Monaco. Photo courtesy Fairmont Monte Carlo

As you walk through Monte Carlo, past shops holding Bentleys, Maseratis, and Lamborghinis next to Chanel, Christian Louboutin, and Diro, the glitz and glamour surround you. Be sure to explore the shops at La Métropole Shopping Center, which consists of three levels under the Métropole Hotel, and then pass the casino to the most exclusive shopping area: Monte-Carlo Pavilions. These futuristic-shaped buildings house the world’s most luxurious brands.

Plan to spend one day at Monaco-ville (also known as The Rock), the old, walled city. Accessible by a cobbled path, the climb up is steep but worth the walk. After absorbing the breathtaking views of the harbor, tour the Prince’s Palace. Open April through October, it is the official residence of Prince Albert II, Monaco’s royal leader and son of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. Guided audio tours take place every 30 minutes, detailing the history of Monaco and the Grimaldi family, forever tied to the US after Hollywood star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956.

Peruse the winding old town streets, boutiques, sidewalk cafés, and the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. Monaco is also dotted with gardens, so as you explore, uncover the bounties of flora and fauna.

gardens of Monaco

I love the gardens of Monaco. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Gourmet Gastronomy

Food and hotels are plentiful in Monaco, and dining is only a challenge because you can’t eat at every restaurant. A can’t-miss experience is Joël Robuchon at Hotel Métropole, a Michelin two-star restaurant. Book a seat at the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen and order the langoustine in truffled ravioli.

Restaurant JOEL ROBUCHON in Monte Carlo. Photo by B.Touillon, courtesy Hotel Métropole

Restaurant JOEL ROBUCHON in Monte Carlo. Photo by B.Touillon, courtesy Hotel Métropole

The seafood is always fresh wherever you go; if it’s spring, be sure to order the asparagus. Because there are so many international visitors, you can find a variety of foods. Stop by Song Qi for lunch or dinner to sample some of the best Asian food outside of Asia. The dim sum lunch (with a glass of wine) is perfection.

dining at Song Qi in Monaco

I enjoyed lunch at Song Qi in Monaco. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

For a dinner to remember, head to Cipriani Monte Carlo. It features classic Italian flavors and feels like stepping onto a yacht. This is the place to see and be seen, but it also embodies simple, great food with fantastic service. With so much homemade pasta, it’s hard not to over eat but save room for dessert—and a limoncello.

Luxe Lodging

Hotels vary from high-end to small boutique properties. For a luxury stay in the city’s center, you will feel wrapped in opulence and history at the Hotel Métropole Monte-Carlo, which dates back to 1886. Honestly, it is a most exquisite stay in the heart of Monaco.

I stayed in a beautiful Junior Suite Deluxe at Hotel Métropole. Photo by F.Rambert, courtesy Hotel Métropole

I stayed in a beautiful Junior Suite Deluxe at Hotel Métropole. Photo by F.Rambert, courtesy Hotel Métropole

The Fairmont Monte Carlo is a modern beachfront option where every room offers unparalleled Mediterranean views, and evenings with Champagne on the Horizon Deck are unforgettable.

Fairmont Monte Carlo

The view from my room at Fairmont Monte Carlo was breathtaking. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Grand Prix fans will enjoy Columbus Monte-Carlo, a small boutique property in Fontvieille previously owned by race car driver David Coulthard. Many of the teams still stay at the hotel, and the chic, urban feel of the space is much different from the other two options.

Columbus Hotel Monaco

The Columbus Hotel Monaco offers a boutique stay in a quiet part of Monaco. Photo courtesy Columbus Hotel Monaco

Monaco is a bit of fantasy, but while watching the sunset over the Mediterranean, you may realize that fairy tales can come true.

Monaco is a postcard-sized country poised on the Mediterranean coast. As a luxurious retreat surrounded by the French Alps, France, and Italy, it's known for royalty, fast cars, expensive yachts, fine dining high-end shopping, and breathtaking settings.

Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan is also the managing editor of North Peoria Lifestyle, a print lifestyle publication in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Susan's work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders,,,,, Paradise Valley City Lifestyle, Scottsdale City Lifestyle, So Scottsdale, Green Living AZ, Modern Luxury,, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.

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