When I realised that champagne is the official drink of Monaco, it became clear to me that this is no ordinary country. This tiny principality is the world’s premier destination for ultimate luxury. While some of the world’s movers and shakers are fortunate to call Monaco their home, for lesser mortals like us, visiting Monaco is the closest we can get to enjoying a taste of the high life.
Here’s a list of seven things you should not miss:
1. Chill by the harbour and spot yachts: here’s only one way to live life in Monaco—king size. Saunter by the iconic Monegasque harbour (Port Hercules), lined with rows of expensive yachts and sailboats. In fact, sailing enthusiasts will have a ball spotting some of the most luxurious yachts in the world. The harbour is especially beautiful at sunset when the sky comes alive in vivid hues.
2. Experience a heritage casino: The grand old Monte-Carlo Casino, with its arts-beaux design and iconic columns of onyx is a landmark. Stepping inside is like entering a whole new world – the gaming rooms are an architectural marvel in themselves, spelling undiluted class. Nestled between the slot machines are beautiful bronze statues, masterpieces are hung above roulette tables. Giant stained-glass windows and elegant carpets complete the picture. Do remember that formal attire (including shoes) is a prerequisite for entry and tourists must carry a passport.
3. Hobnob with the Royals: Monaco’s royal family has an interesting and rich history (if you watch Formula 1, you will know them from their presence at the annual Monaco Grand Prix). The Palais Princier (Prince's Palace) itself is not at glorious as you would imagine from the outside, but from the inside, it is gorgeously decorated with a flamboyant Rennaisance décor with frescoes and a columned courtyard. Leaving the Palace, take in the all-round views from the square, the glorious rock-side St Martin gardens. Don’t miss the breathtakingly beautiful Monaco Cathedral. Built in the Roman Byzantine style of white stone, the structure houses the tombs of deceased royalty.
4. Watch the change of guards: Check in at palace any morning at 11:55 AM, to witness the ceremonial changing of guard ceremony. The routine is performed by ‘Carabiniers,’ also known as the royal escorts. With their ink blue helmets, blaring trumpets and pulsating red drum, they make a pretty picture.
5. Pay homage to Café de Paris: This iconic restaurant (modelled along the lines of a in the image of old Parisian bistro) is a must-visit, especially if you want to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Enjoy the sprawling terrace with breath-taking views of the city as a live orchestra plays in the background. As a disclaimer, the food isn’t much too write home about despite being frightfully expensive, so fill your stomach with the ambience.
6. Check out Monaco Village: Yes, there is a Monaco beyond the gloss and sheen. Take a walkthrough Monaco Village (Le Rocher) to know why. A bazaar village nestled in the heart of the metropolis, its twisted by-lanes and vibrant little cottages (with a laidback vibe) are in stark contrast to the glamour and grandeur of the main city.
7. Watch a F1 race live: The Monaco Grand Prix is surely one of the most iconic and high profile races on the F1 calender and is held annually every May. If you are a motor sporting enthusiast, don't miss this experience - watch the world's best racers battle it out on the tight, twisted street circuit of Monaco.
Photo credits: Trip Advisor, Telegraph UK, Wikipedia, Mayfair Casinos
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