From the outside looking in, Monaco can be a little bit hard to get a handle on. Sometimes thought of as its own country, sometimes counted as a sort of extension of the French Riviera, it’s actually a small, independent city-state along France’s Mediterranean coastline. Undeniably associated with a sort of opulent reputation, it’s best known for the wonderful city of Monte-Carlo – which, as you’ll see in this piece, is where the must-do activities are.
1.) Monaco Grand Prix
We’ll start off with perhaps the most famous event that takes place in Monaco, which is the renowned Monaco Grand Prix. This annual competition offers the chance to experience F1 (Formula One) motor racing up close and personal in a unique and beautiful setting. During the May event (which takes up a few days when you consider the build-up and aftermath), the whole of Monaco (and a large population of tourists) goes completely car crazy, and nearly every street is shut down for the race.
The Grand Prix course – the Circuit de Monaco – has been ranked as the second-best circuit in Formula 1 history, and includes hairpin turns, tapered streets, and stretches running parallel to the yacht-filled harbour that is famously at the centre of Monte-Carlo. Drivers must expertly navigate the two-mile-long course 78 times to complete the race, ultimately making it one of the more exciting competitions in sports.
As a tourist, you can enjoy the race in multiple ways. It’s often recommended to buy tickets to the practice sessions before the actual race day, when you can get closer to the circuit and see the drivers in a more intimate fashion; the race itself can be viewed from almost anywhere in the city, to some extent; and if you have money to spend (and a lot of it), you can even rent a yacht deck and watch the action from the water!
2.) Monte-Carlo Casino
Monte-Carlo’s famous casino is more of a treat with each passing year. This is because, thanks to the efforts of countries like the UK and New Zealand, digitally-based casino games have taken over the very concept of gambling activity. It’s so convenient to find and play these games online that there’s less innovation in actual casinos. But that’s what makes the Monte-Carlo Casino a gem – it’s a spectacular, classic establishment that’s stood the test of time, and which is now a gleaming example of how a real venue can still attract an audience.
Officially named Casino de Monte-Carlo, it first opened its opulent doors way back in 1863. The lavish gaming and entertainment complex also houses the Opéra de Monte-Carlo and the office of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo (The Monte-Carlo Ballet). The establishment is known as much for its architecture as for the venues it houses, however. A palatial exterior and interior design marked by decadent gold décor, a marble atrium, and onyx columns make the whole place magnificent to behold – and that’s before we even mention the mounted artwork and chandeliers you can find from room to room.
The casino itself is still the main attraction though, and while it largely attracts “high rollers,” so to speak, it’s still worth a stop. Slots, poker, and traditional table games are all available, and there are special, private rooms for tournaments and specific events. Just keep two things in mind if you visit: you’re expected to dress reasonably sharply, and you should be careful with your money!
3.) Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
Having covered Monte-Carlo’s biggest event and one of the most popular activities in town, we’ll wrap things up with a simpler look at a more constant and leisurely attraction. The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco was founded in 1910 by Prince Albert I, who was also a sea captain and seems to have had an abiding love for all things relating to the ocean. Some of the exhibits are actually relics from the prince’s numerous expeditions!
This highly-regarded museum-aquarium combination is a must-see when visiting Monaco. The aquarium features over 90 habitat tanks, including an impressive shark lagoon, a turtle island, and separate areas for Mediterranean and tropical sea life. The museum, meanwhile, contains a zoology room, a touch tank, interactive exhibits, and immersive ocean-themed children’s games.
These may only be three suggestions, but they can give you a surprisingly complete picture of what a trip to Monaco (and Monte-Carlo specifically) can be like. You’ll also enjoy a comfortable hotel, beach access, and some wonderful sightseeing, dining, and shopping opportunities. But the experiences above are what it’s all about at this extraordinary European destination.
Disclaimer: This is a collaboration post.