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Beyond the track: things to do in Monaco

The thrilling trackside action and terrific party scene ensure there’s never a dull moment at the Monaco Grand Prix. But if you want to take a break from the racing and ensuing festivities, the principality has a host of attractions to keep you busy.

From a 13th century palace to a glittering casino to a colossal aquarium, Monaco has more to offer than just motor car racing. Read on to discover the top attractions to visit while on a Monaco Grand Prix yacht charter.   

Monte Carlo Casino

fountain in main square on monaco outside casino
famous man and woman in black tie clothing in monaco, next to car
russian roulette board in monte carlo casino

Monte Carlo’s legendary casino has been devoted to the art of gaming since its construction in 1863. Standing proudly in Place du Casino, it cannot fail to go unnoticed with its wonderfully ornate façade which acts as a precursor to the lavish belle époque décor within. 

A gold and marble atrium, columns, gilt, chandeliers, bas-reliefs and sculptures set the stage for high-class gambling. Whirs, pings and chimes emanate from slot machines in Salles Amérique and Renaissance while blackjack, roulette, baccarat and Texas hold’em poker entertain in the main gaming room, Salle Europe.

Frequent clients are treated to the same table games but in a more exclusive setting in the salons privés and tailor-made games are allowed in the salons super- privés. Trainers are strictly forbidden and a jacket and tie is strongly recommended. Gambling starts from 2pm.

Shopping

women in the sunshine carrying designer shopping bags in monaco
branch of designer clothes shop prada in monaco
cartier shop in monaco

As you’d expect from the international capital of luxury, Monaco abounds with designer stores brimming with fresh-from-the-catwalk looks, dazzling jewellery and the latest It-bags. The profusion of boutiques and big brands in the principality are enough to satisfy even the most hard-core fashionista.

The Place du Casino and surrounding streets, known as Carte d’Or, create one huge jewellery hive. This gives way to only the very best names in fashion in Boulevard des Moulins, Boulevard d’Italie and Avenue Princess Grace. A further 200 high-end stores, as well as the traditional market, are then found lining the nearby streets.

A selection of shopping malls have also taken up residence in the principality. The very best is the Metropole Shopping Centre, located opposite the Casino Gardens. Elite shoppers will love indulging in some retail therapy surrounded by its palatial décor of polished marble and sparkling chandeliers.

Amber Lounge Monaco Fashion Show

models on runway at amber lounge fashion show during monaco grand prix
models on catwalk at amber lounge fashion show during monaco grand prix
F1 drivers on catwalk at amber lounge fashion show in monaco during monaco grand prix

Established under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco, the fashion show is the only one in the world to feature Formula 1 drivers on the catwalk. Past models include Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, and a crowd packed full of celebrities and VIPs keen to check out the latest trends is always a given.

Hosted by Amber Lounge, the event is part of the original grand prix after-party and lifestyle brand. Following F1 fixtures around the globe, the exclusive pop-up venue is world-renowned for its glittering night time celebrations as well as its iconic U*NITE fashion show.

Pushing the limits of high fashion, the event combines couture, motorsport and a charity auction. Ted Baker, Missoni, Chopard and Jimmy Choo are just a few of the designers who have showcased their collections here while John Newman, Taio Cruz and Labrinth have headed up the thrilling entertainment bill.

Palais Princier de Monaco

princes palace in monaco
guard outside doors to palace in monaco
old canon and pyramid of canon balls outside princes palace in monaco

Built as a fortress in the 13th century, the palace perched atop Le Rocher has been home to the Grimaldi family since 1297 and is one of the most luxurious residences in the world. Get there at 11.55am and see the daily changing of the guard on the square out front.

The majority of the palace is out of bounds, but it is possible to tour the plush state apartments. Prince Rainier III is credited with restoring the rooms to their former glory and visitors can see elaborate 16th-century frescoes, opulent period furniture, priceless artworks and the official Throne Room.   

While in Le Rocher, also known as Monaco Ville, it is worth exploring the small, winding medieval lanes – this is the only part of the principality to have retained its original old town. Key sights include St Martin gardens and Monaco’s cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace are buried.

Oceanographic Museum

oceanographic museum of monaco on hill by the sea
aquarium at oceanographic museum of monaco
main hall of oceanographic museum with whale sculpture hanging from ceiling
hall in oceanographic museum of monaco with skeletons on ceilings and exhibitions

Following its launch by Prince Albert I in 1910, the Oceanographic Museum has been raising awareness of all things ocean-related from its precarious cliff-edge position. Its main draw is a huge aquarium with a six-metre-deep shark lagoon pool and scores of rare fish species and rainbow-hued coral.

Upstairs, mounted specimens, photographs and archive documents retrace the history of oceanography and marine biology as well as the prince’s contribution to the field. There is also a 27-metre-high whale skeleton.

The museum’s newest feature – Turtle Island – is also proving to be popular. An outdoor space devoted to, unsurprisingly, turtles and tortoises, it boasts panoramic sea views and a play area. There’s also immersive, maritime-themed movies and touch tanks.

Explore Jardin Exotique

jardin exotique as seen from hilltop of monaco looking down over the town
pathway in jardin exotique monaco, with cacti and sea view in background
bridge over river in jardin exotoque in monaco

Tumbling down the rocky cliffside of Moneghetti in north Monaco, the Exotic Gardens boast a world-class collection of succulents and cacti. Altogether there are over 1,000 different plant species, and those that date back to 1933 when the garden was first created are now over 10 metres tall.

Brilliant views over Monaco and the Mediterranean reward those who venture to the top plateau while, at the bottom, the Grotte de l’Observatoire awaits. The prehistoric cave is the only one in Europe where the temperature rises and a tour guide can lead you through the stalactite and stalagmite-lined caverns.  

Tickets also include entry into the Musée d’Anthropologie, which displays prehistoric remains unearthed in Monaco. If you’re into gardens, the botanical gardens if Eze are worth a visit too.

Collection de Voitures Anciennes

car museum of monaco

Prince Rainier III started collecting vintage cars in the late 1950s and, in 1993, decided to share his haul of automobiles with the public. More than 100 vehicles form part of the museum, including various Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces and several F1 and rally cars.

Any petrol head in town for the Monaco Grand Prix will find the collection particularly fascinating but, presented with a strong history angle, it can also appeal to non-car enthusiasts.

The one-of-a-kind exhibition is currently housed within Terrasses de Fontvieille but will move to a new purpose-built facility by Port Hercules in 2020.


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By Rebecca Bradbury   Last Updated 7 February 2019

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