For the last ten years, I have been coming to sunny and opulent Monaco for the odd weekend here and there. My mother moved here following my parents’ divorce.
Monaco a strange place, rather like Disneyland. It’s full of mega rich businessmen (like Stelios Haji-Ioannou of easyJet), royals (not only local ones, but the Kuwaiti royal family as well), super models (such as Karen Mulden), as well as the odd film star (Roger Moore lives just above the public beach). Unlike tourists, these people are here not to gamble and take in the sights, but to benefit from zero taxes.
Monaco is Monte Carlo. I’m sure once upon a time Monte Carlo was a town in the middle of the countryside, but now that real estate has become so valuable, every inch of Monaco has been built on, and the country has been swallowed up by the city.
Even the harbor is being expanded so that more yachts can anchor there. Not to mention an island being build out on the sea, with a surface area of some 275,000 square meters. This new development might take the pressure off the Monegasque property market, which has some of highest real-estate prices in the world: a 3-bedroom flat costs up to 5 million euros!
If you do not own any property here, you can stay in fabulous hotels: Hotel de Paris, the Hermitage, or the Metropole, to name a few. Every other weekend there’s some wonderful event going on, such as Red Cross Ball or the Bal de Ete, with expensive tickets attached. Or else there are sporting events such as the Tennis Master Series, or the Monaco Marathon, not to mention the Grand Prix.
In case you arrive with nothing to wear for these events, fret not, Monaco’s streets are full of very expensive designer shops (come armed with your gold credit card, if you have one). Nobody on a normal salary could ever afford to shop here, and the one big supermarket is right on the other side of town, near the French border (of course, nobody here does their own supermarket shopping). Shopping for mere mortals can be done in nearby Italy.
For sightseeing, check out: the royal palace, the sea aquarium, the mega yachts (see if you can spot Niachos’s boat moored here along with Mona Ayoub’s). For holidaymakers wanting to relax, there’s a public swimming pool and a public beach which has just been built (with gravel). Next to the beach, there is an open-air cinema and nice sandwich places.
Further down the coast there’s the beach club, which is very hard to get into. If you’re staying in Hermitage hotel there’s the Thermes Marins Spa Center, which offers amazing treatments: seaweed wraps, seaweed bath, salt scrubs and so on. For dinner check out bar Metropole, or Fusion by the port, or Sass Café.
If you’re looking for a night-spot that won’t break your wallet, I recommend Stars’N’Bars, a regular bar serving beers to guys in scruffy jeans and t-shirts. For something more upscale, go for the Zebra Bar, with – you’ve guessed it – zebra prints on sofas. Last time I was there I hung out with famous football star Wayne Rooney and his WAG wife Charlene, and I’m sure you will also spot a celebrity or two. If you’re really going for broke, right next to the exclusive beach club that’s impossible to get into, there’s the famous Jimmy’z Bar.
If you’re coming here via the airport in Nice, be aware that the helicopter to Monaco is actually cheaper than a taxi. Yes, this place is that crazy.
Don’t come here unless you’re ready to have your wallet annihilated!