There is really only one industry in the tiny principality of Monaco, and that is glamour. From the superyachts in the harbour to the bijou boutiques, Monaco is always ready for its close-up. Slip on the stilettoes and follow our itinerary for a stylish three-day stay.
It is worth remembering that Monaco is a dress code destination. Aim to look as if you have just stepped off your yacht.
Day 1: Arriving in style
Talk about making an entrance. The helicopter transfer from Nice Airport gets you to Monaco in just seven minutes; spectacular views are thrown in for free. No annoying passport formalities on arrival, either; just a quick trip the hotel, check in and we are ready to explore.
That’s the plan, at least. However, we quickly find ourselves seduced by the window-shopping on offer: Prada, Alexander McQueen, YSL. We wander from the elegant Metropole Shopping Centre to the sinuous Monte-Carlo Pavilions, avant-garde structures housing the likes of Balenciaga and Piaget.
Eventually we find ourselves heading to the water, along the way passing hairpin turns that we recognise from the Grand Prix, as well as several stops on the Princess Grace Trail, which commemorates Monaco’s best-loved royal. Download the brochure from the Visit Monaco website and keep it handy as you explore.
We head back up the hill to the Casino, drawn less by blackjack than by its ornate interiors. The Casino has strict no-shorts, no-thongs rules, but it is worth remembering that Monaco is a dress code destination. Aim to look as if you have just stepped off your yacht.
Next to the Casino is the equally spectacular Opera House. Only ticketholders get to peek at these interiors, so investigate what’s on while you are in town: opera performances alternate with gigs by the likes of Lionel Richie and Prince.
We finish the day with dinner at Song Qi, the latest restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Alan Yau, where we sink onto green velvet banquettes to savour superb Chinese haute cuisine.
Day 2: Markets and marine life
The Rock is Monaco’s power centre, a craggy fortified plateau that is the oldest part of the principality. Although the State Apartments of the Prince’s Palace are not yet open for the summer season, we catch the changing of the guard ceremony. We also stop in at the cathedral, where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier are buried, and the Oceanographic Museum, its aquarium filled with sharks, rays and reef fish.
Walking down the long ramp back down to town, we find ourselves facing the Marché Condamine. La Condamine is a locals’ neighbourhood; the covered market, which also has some outdoor stalls, has a typical Provencal feel. Amid the stalls laden with artichokes and eggplant, fish and meat, there are plenty of dining options; we take the rustic route and graze on a picnic-style lunch of fresh bread, olives and cheese.
After lunch, we explore La Condamine’s picturesque knot of streets, including the pedestrian Rue Princesse Caroline, lined with aromatic orange trees. We finish the day by the water, sampling the organic wares at Monaco’s own micro-brewery, Brasserie de Monaco. A charcuterie plate washed down with a glass of La Blonde de Monaco pils is a lovely way to end the day.
Day 3: Gardens and gourmet dining
This morning’s destination is the vertiginous Jardin Exotique, one of Monaco’s loveliest cliff-top parks. A narrow path winds its way past giant cacti and succulents, offering ever-changing perspectives on the city and the ocean beyond. Next door, housed in an elegant villa, the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco showcases the work of artists such as Anish Kapoor and Cerith Wyn Evans.
Having worked up an appetite, we treat ourselves to a long lunch at one of Monaco’s best restaurants: Joël Robuchon. named after and run by the French double Michelin-starred chef. From the moment the waiter wheels over a bread trolley, laden with a bewildering array of breads, we realise this meal is going to be very special.
Instead of opting for the standard three courses, we choose from the small plates menu, enjoying a selection of dishes such as thorny artichokes with squid and thyme. The dessert trolley is so tempting, we end up sampling half a dozen different portions, including a superb cinnamon tart. We finish the day with one final walk through the now-familiar streets, savouring our final helping of Monaco style.