Monaco – how to get a taste of the champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget
With a total area of 2.1 square kilometres, Monaco is the second smallest sovereign state in the world – only the Vatican City is smaller. Yet it is arguably the best and most extreme proof of the old saying that the best things come in small packages.
Monaco is famous for its yachts, its lavish casino, its famous grand prix and its huge concentration of millionaires. Expensive? Well, of course it is, but it’s still possible to visit and get a taste of that millionaire lifestyle even if you don’t have a seven-figure bank balance.
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Where to stay
Monaco is first and foremost a tourist destination, and contrary to popular rumor, there are all sorts of accommodation options available. Yes, the famous hotels like the Hotel de Paris and the Hermitage charge outrageous prices, but you’ll also find more mundane chains like Novotel with room rates comparable to the rest of Europe. Best of all, however, are the small privately owned guest houses. Here, you can get a room at a reasonable rate and experience genuine Monégasque hospitality in an oasis of calm.
Visit the casino
It’s the most famous building in Monte Carlo, so of course you have to pay a visit! There’s no obligation to be a high roller, though. You can access the atrium and the slot games for free, but you’ll need to pay an entry fee to get to the table games, and the dress code in that area of the casino is very strict. Maybe better to just visit the atrium, play a few slots and if you’re desperate for blackjack or roulette, you can always visit a live casino online when you get back to your hotel!
Dining in Monaco
Like the accommodation, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that all budgets are catered to in Monaco. If you want to sample the wares of a Michelin starred chef and rub shoulders with celebrities, then expect to pay accordingly. But there are fabulous little cafes and pizzerias almost everywhere you turn in Monaco, and they will serve you food that’s fit for a Crown Prince.
One of the greatest pleasures in Monaco is people-watching. We’ve already mentioned the atrium in the casino, but there are two outdoor areas that are ideal vantage points too. One is just outside on Casino Square. Car enthusiasts will be enthralled by the endless parade of luxury and sports vehicles pulling up outside those famous doors day and night. The other area is down by the harbor. The superyachts are breathtaking, and the list of owners reads like a celebrity whose who, including Sir Philip Green, Rafael Nadal and Giorgio Armani.
When to go
The climate in Monaco makes it an ideal place to visit all year round. Spring is perfect, however, the weather is warm without being too hot and you’ll be ahead of peak season. Avoid the last weekend of May, when all of Monaco grinds to a halt for the grand prix, accommodation is impossible to find and prices hit the stratosphere!
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