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Things To Do In Monaco
Monaco is a sovereign independent state located along the French Riviera, lying in between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. The city-state occupies an area of just 2 sq. km and is the second smallest country in the world, yet the strategic location and the warm coastal climate of Monaco have made it a favourite among vacationers. Synonymous with luxury and glamour, Monaco is a haven for the rich and famous; yet, even the common folk will fall in love with the old-world charm of this quintessentially European state. Whether it’s trying your luck in the casinos or learning about the history of Monaco in the numerous museums here, you’ll find yourself wanting to come back for more each time you visit. Here’s what’s to know about the best things to do when in Monaco.
Watch the Changing of the Guard at the Palais du Prince
The Palais du Prince is a 13th-century fortress located high above Monaco atop the old town Le Rocher and serves as the residence of the royal Grimaldi family. The palace is available for visiting tours when the Prince is not in town; if the flag on the palace’s main tower is raised, it means the Prince is at home. While the tour of the palace itself is an interesting experience, with its Italian interior designs and ornately decorated state apartments, the main highlight is usually the Carabiniers du Prince. The Prince’s Company of Riflemen is a smartly dressed blue-helmeted, white-socked group of guards that are present outside the palace at all times. At 11.55 am every day, the Changing of the Guard takes place, which has been a traditional ritual and is quite a spectacle to watch.
Gamble at Monte Carlo Casino
Casino Square is one of the most iconic places in Monaco and features the Casino of Monte Carlo, made famous by the James Bond movie Casino Royale. The entire square appears brightly illuminated at night with other important buildings like the opera house a part of the neighbourhood as well. The Casino of Monte Carlo itself is a fantastic building to explore even if you are not the kind who’s interested in gambling. The different gaming rooms of the casino have been decorated in various themes, whereas the main lobby that is open to visitors every morning displays amazing décor and ambience. A fantastic collection of cars decorates the lobby as well, adding to the existing glamour of the building.
Watch a Movie at the Open-Air Cinema
The world’s only 3D open-air cinema is located in Monaco. Watching a good movie, most of which are in English, under a starry night will prove to be one of the most memorable moments from your trip to Monaco. During the months of June and July, the films begin at 10 pm every night, whereas in August and September they are shown from 9.30 pm onwards. Since there is space for only 500 seats with no arrangements for advance booking, it is advisable to arrive on time when the doors open at 8.45 pm.
Sunbathing at Larvotto Beach
The only public beach in Monaco, Larvotto Beach is just as popular for water sports like kayaking and jet skiing as it is for people-watching on its clean tidy shores. The sand on this beach is imported fine gravel that imparts a polished look to the entire shoreline. The beach is surrounded by nets in the water so swimmers can splash around in the sparkling Mediterranean without fear of jellyfishes. While most of the beach is free to the public, it also has a private area where visitors can hire parasols and sun-loungers from the beach club. Summers witness a large influx of holiday crowds to Larvotto Beach.
Watch the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix
The world’s most famous car-racing event, the Formula One Grand Prix takes place in Monte Carlo for four days in May every year. The event has been in operation since the beginning of the 20th-century and marks the most iconic time of the year for Monaco. The race entries cut through the roads of the city and for this purpose, all streets of Monaco are shut down while the race is in progress. During other times of the year, the 3.2 km race circuit is open to visitors and fans to walk through; the local tourist office readily provides maps.
Watch a show at the Opera de Monte Carlo
The Monte Carlo Opera is located in Casino Square and was constructed in the year 1878. Also known as Salle Garnier, the opera house was designed by Charles Garnier who is also credited with designing the Paris opera house. Performance season runs between October and April and visitors can catch shows like ballets, operas and musical concerts while on their trip. It also serves as the venue for performances by the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Moreover, the building also features ornate carvings in the form of sculptures and frescoes that will appeal to architecture lovers as well.
Admire the Collection de Voitures Anciennes
The Prince of Monaco, Prince Rainier, was known for his love of cars and the impressive array of automobiles that he amassed within his lifetime. These cars are now a part of an exhibition known as the Collection de Voitures Anciennes located in the neighbourhood of Fontvielle. This collection of almost 100 cars includes a variety of European and American models and vintage vehicles as well. Visitors will be able to admire numerous Maseratis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, and the Lexus that the current Prince used in his wedding in 2011. The exhibition was opened to the general public by Prince Rainier himself in the year 1993. A new purpose-built home for all the cars is under construction and is due to open in 2020.
Watch a Match at Louis II Stadium
This sports arena dating back to the year 1939 is the host of Monaco’s two football teams. International football matches are frequently played here, and if you happen to be in town while one of the teams is playing, do take some time out to watch a match here on your trip. Even on the days when there are no matches going on, visitors can simply purchase a ticket to enjoy a 20-minute tour of the stadium.
Walk Around the Old Town
Le Rocher, which translates to ‘The Rock’, is Monaco’s old town and features a maze of streets and alleys dating back to the Middle Ages. The neighbourhood is located on a hilly rock that rises skyward with the palatial residence of the royal Grimaldi family situated at the top. A wide range of attractions that are native to Monaco can be enjoyed here, but simply strolling through the medieval lanes of the town and stopping by the little boutiques and cafes can be a fascinating experience of its own. A number of paths and stairs lead up to Le Rocher, but the best route is through Rampe Major, which starts from Place d’Armes near the harbour.
Walk through the Sculpture Path in Fontvieille Park
Out of the numerous parks in Monaco, Fontvieille Park is one of the loveliest green spaces in the city. The park features beautiful palm trees and olive groves, along with several lakes and ponds where ducks and swans can be seen swimming all year round. A Sculpture Path that spans an area of four hectares is something of a free exhibition that can be enjoyed all year long. Around 100 sculptures are dotted along this path and consist of internationally renowned works of art.