Wanderers are not lost souls but are travelers and modern-day explorers – backpackers, nomads with purpose. As the great Dalai Lama said, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before,” and with that ideology in mind, Monte Carlo should be at the top of your travel destinations’ list.
The city of Monte Carlo, or Mount Charles, is situated at the center of Monaco and has always been synonymous with luxury and extravagance. Its Italian name was adapted from the reigning prince of Monaco, Prince Charles III, back in 1866. Because it is home to the well-famed Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco Grand Prix, Prince’s Palace, and Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium, it’s no wonder the city has been dubbed time and time again the “ultimate playground for the rich and famous.” Its marbled streets will give you a welcoming experience of grandeur and royalty while its stupendous and gregarious architecture will remind you that the city has a rich contribution to European history (and that Monte Carlo is doing a remarkable job of preserving it).
A cosmopolitan lifestyle usually has a hefty price tag, but not always. Monte Carlo is not entirely exclusive to the mega-rich as there are places to go and things to do there that aren’t tourist traps and can be done on a frugal budget. Check out the top 6 activities and places to visit at Monte Carlo that won’t leave you shortchanged.
The Burial Site of Princess Grace in Monaco Cathedral
Admission to the gravesite of Princess Grace of Monaco is free, although donations are accepted. Princess Grace, a woman well-loved and adored, was the famous and beautiful American actress known by many as “Grace Kelly.” She was the wife of Prince Rainier III of the House of Grimaldi. Princess Grace suffered a tragic fate in a car accident in 1982. Her daughter, Princess Stephanie, was the lone survivor of the wreck. Following the death of Prince Rainier III in 2005, he was buried next to his lovely wife as he requested.
The Rocher de Monaco
More commonly known as “Le Rocher” or “The Rock,” the Rocher de Monaco offers a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea, especially for those looking for a taste of Monte Carlo history. Le Rocher is also regarded as the “heart of old Monaco.” You can reach the top of Le Rocher either by walking up the ramps or stone walkway, or by using the elevator. For those wanting to steal away, if you can find it, there is a secret staircase that will lead you to a stunning rock beach great for those who want to get sun kissed or those looking to go for a quick dip.
Place du Palais – The Prince’s Palace
The Prince of Monaco’s home sits atop Le Rocher. Today, this headquarters is the official palace residence of Prince Albert II, the successor of Prince Rainier. The palace dates back to the 17th century, which is relatively young compared to other historical landmarks in Monte Carlo. This was originally referred to as “Palais Cardinal” because this used to be the official residence of Cardinal Richelieu in which construction began in 1633 and was finished in 1639. When the cardinal passed away in 1643, the property was then acquired by the King and was named as “Palais-Royal.”
In the 17th century, this was the home of the European ruling family: the Grimaldis. The Prince’s Palace is seen as a status symbol of glamor and luxury in its embrace of modern and Renaissance architecture. This is also a real-time working headquarters for the prince of Monaco, complete with palace guards on duty. The changing of the guards’ ceremony, or Carabiniers du Prince, takes place at exactly 11:55 am, so get there early.
This combo hotspot and museum is great for travelers who want to take part in the history and grandeur of Monte Carlo. The state rooms are usually open to the public during summer. For the music lovers, one can usually watch concerts by the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in the palace’s courtyard.
If you happen to be a huge fan of Formula One races, then you should not miss this spot. This is considerably one of the most scenic spots in Monte Carlo as it is great for strolling, sightseeing, shopping, and dining. Port Hercule is also one of the frequently photographed sights in Monte Carlo. Get your selfie stick ready because you’ll definitely want to use it here.
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Enjoy Vegan Dining at Restaurant Le Louis XV
There are several restaurants that can please the palate of vegan travelers in Monte Carlo. One that tops them all is Le Louis XV, at the Hotel de Paris. If you are looking for a top-of-the-line fine dining experience, then you have come to the right place. Le Louis XV offers vegan food with the elegant taste of Italian flavors. From the quaintness of the restaurant to the professionalism of the staff, Le Louis XV ensures that everything is prepped to perfection. Their specialty vegan dishes are prepared by Chef Alain Ducasse, one of the greatest names in the culinary world. In 1987, Prince Rainier III challenged this culinary great to earn 3 Michelin stars in a period of 4 years for Le Louis XV. Not only did he rise to the challenge, but he completed his task well before his deadline.
Ducasse has great respect for local breeders and farmers and uses locally sourced ingredients for his cuisine, which are a feast to the eyes and the palate. The Mini Pan Bagna, which is a bread basket of veggies shaped in an attractive fashion, is one of the crowd favorites. Additionally, one highlight in vegan dining is the “Cookpot of Haute-Provence,” which is Ducasse’s signature dish. This is a sumptuous dish rendered as a complete meal composed of seven veggies: asparagus, turnips, morels, carrots, peas, artichokes, and broad beans, which are all locally sourced. This assortment of vegetables are coated with asparagus and cooked with small spelt or cereal which is oily but delectable. Truly, if you are looking for a sophisticated Italian treat with a vegan twist, then XV marks the spot.
Monte Carlo Casino
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You know that you’ve hit it big when people associate your business with James Bond, and no casino has that reputation more than the legendary Monte Carlo Casino. It has been the setting for Bond classics such as GoldenEye and Never Say Never Again. Even spin offs and television specials did what they could to recreate the Monte Carlo experience of playing baccarat, poker and roulette that was made famous by Bond. Former-Bond Roger Moore chose the Monte Carlo Casino for several episodes of his action/adventure series The Persuaders. In one episode, Mission: Monte Carlo, after cooly winning 10,000 francs by strategically placing bets on both the inside and outside sections of the roulette table, Moore describes the Casino Monte Carlo as a “marvelous masquerade of marble, mink, music, and millionaires.” Take it from Roger Moore: you don’t have to be a millionaire or have a mink coat to go inside and enjoy the fun.
The allure of the casino, especially this one, has made it a hot commodity for movie settings and storylines. This massive entertainment and gambling complex was also the setting for the blockbuster hits Ocean’s Twelve, In Time, Cars 2, and even a recent episode of Archer. You can choose from a number of casino gaming favorites like Punto Banco, Blackjack, Baccarat and European Roulette. Get loose and reenact your favorite casino scenes in the Monte Carlo Casino, which is one of the world’s top gambling destinations.
Monte Carlo is comparably stellar to all other European cities, in all aspects. Whether you are looking for entertainment, fine dining, shopping, or history, you will find everything you could want, plus more! Monte Carlo is much more than just living the high-rollers lifestyle, it’s basking in the history, drama, and modernity of the world, all rolled into one elegant location.