Travel diary: Monaco
PUBLISHED: 13:17 25 April 2016 | UPDATED: 13:17 25 April 2016
Few places in the world can match the glamour and glitz of Monaco. Rebecca Underwood paid a visit to discover just some of the primary attractions of this famous principality
Monaco, the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican City, covers only 200 hectares and is subdivided into the traditional districts of La Condamine (which includes the port), Monaco Ville (known as The Rock), Fontvielle and Monte Carlo. Situated on the French Riviera, overlooking the sparkling translucent waters of the Mediterranean, Monaco is a tax haven and has the world’s highest GDP per capita.
Monaco is known for the glamorous Grimaldi royal family, now headed by Prince Albert II. In 1956 the world was captivated when the elegant Hollywood film star Grace Kelly married the dashing Prince Rainier III and since then the family has remained firmly in the public eye. The Prince’s Palace was returned to the Grimaldi family in 1814 and restored by each successor.
Today, the state apartments are open to the public from April to October and include the striking Mirror Gallery, which is used during state visits. Descendants of the Grimaldi family, including Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III, are buried in Monaco’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which is a short walk away from the palace. Consecrated in 1875, the magnificent cathedral was erected on the site of the first parish church, which was built in 1252.
Monte Carlo, the administrative district of Monaco, is the place to be seen, and appeals to a host of international celebrities, royalty and prominent figures on the world stage — all keen to attend popular events such as the annual Grand Prix motor race, which began in 1929. It is said that the 3.2 kilometre Formula One circuit takes six weeks to erect and is the most challenging racing track due to its narrow tunnel, elevation changes and hairpin bends. Stages of the Monte Carlo Rally are also held in the principality and it is thought to be one of the most arduous rallying events attended by thousands of fans.
For a more tranquil experience, head for the Terrasses de Fontvieille and view the personal collection of vintage cars owned by the late Prince Rainier III. Highlights include the champion William Grover-Williams’ Bugatti Type 35, which won the first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, and the Citroen DS3 WRC driven by Sébastien Loeb, the champion of the 2013 Monte Carlo Rally. The collection also includes some of the most celebrated models from Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Mercedes and Maserati.
For those with funds to spare and intent on ‘breaking the bank of Monte Carlo’, the Casino de Monte Carlo beckons, or you may prefer to splurge on a high end shopping experience at the Metropole Shopping Centre. The luxurious Hotel Metropole, which dates back to 1886, is steps away. The opulent accommodation is spacious and comfortable and the service is of the highest standard. Features include the Odyssey swimming pool, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, with plump sun loungers, verdant gardens and a sundeck overlooking the pool. For a very special dining experience, Joël Robuchon, the hotel’s main restaurant, offers a wide range of Mediterranean dishes.
Why not join the jet set and visit the principality of Monaco for a taste of the finer things in life?