Destinations

Monaco: low-key local vs lavish luxury

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, which makes it a manageable place to tackle. At a fast pace, you could cut through Monaco on the diagonal in less than an hour. But this is a holiday, not a race, so take your time to explore the diverse quarters and choose between luxury and local experiences, or mix and match as you please. 

It may be miniscule, but this is a country that punches above its weight with legends and a reputation that goes beyond glamour. There are more millionaires per square metre here than anywhere else in the world. Approximately 2000 millionaires and 50 billionaires have chosen to live in this geographically blessed and conveniently tax free enclave.  

Monaco is the most expensive place to live in the world, with real estate setting buyers back an eye-watering $70,000 per square metre. The Monegasque people also hold the current ruler, Prince Albert, in high regard, even affection. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you may even encounter the prince, as he is renowned for socialising with Monegasque society. Paparazzi aren’t permitted in Monaco either, making it a haven for privacy-seeking celebrities.  

But there is a working class in Monaco that does not enjoy all the trapping of the uber rich. Where do they go? You’re about to find out. 

Lavish: 

Le Louis XV is Alain Ducasse’s flagship restaurant and if you’re going to splurge on a gastronomic experience, this is the destination du jour. Ducasse promised Prince Rainier III that his restaurant would be awarded three Michelin stars, and this promise was duly kept. The Mediterranean fare is locally sourced, with red mullet fished from the Bay of Monaco, spelt from the Haute Provence Alps and Alba white truffle from the surrounding countryside.  

Local: 

The food at Condamine Market is equally as regional as Mr Ducasse’s establishment. The market kicks off with locals downing espressos before buying their produce. Local man Rinaldi is the last remaining fisherman in Monaco and he sells his catch early in the morning. Elderly residents tend to head to the market at a more civilised 10am, where they will meet friends over a glass of rose or pastis. 

Lavish: 

Hotel de Paris is almost as famous as the Monte Carlo Casino, and has genuine retro glamour. For a nostalgic trip to Hollywood’s golden age, head to the hotel's American Bar. Black and white photos of stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Errol Flynn hang proudly on the wall.  

local: 

The Brasserie de Monaco is located on the harbour and is home to the country’s one and only microbrewery. The food and drink is reasonably priced, with set course lunch specials and happy hour in the evening.  

Lavish:  

Monte Carlo Casino was built in 1863, and this wagering palace is single-handedly responsible for Monaco being income-tax free; it makes so much money that taxation is unnecessary. Look out for mirrors: all is not as it appears. Often the super-wealthy will be closeted away in gambling rooms that the passer-by cannot see, and will not see without invitation and a fair whack of cash.  

Local: 

Club de la Boulistes is a local institution, hosting the French games of p√àtanque and boules. Located on high overlooking the narrow peninsula that Monaco occupies, the club sees old gentleman playing cards and residents enjoying a short glass of ricard on ice.  

Lavish: 

Do as the mega-rich do and travel by helicopter. Except, it’s not as expensive as you may think. French Travel Connection has a Passport to Monte Carlo promotion that includes a free helicopter transfer between Nice and Monaco, a welcome drink and museum tickets when clients book a minimum two-night hotel stay, which starts from $640 per person for a three-night stay.  

Local: 

The public transport in Monaco is high quality, reliable and reasonably priced. A bus trip is two euros and a 24 hour pass is five euros and provides travel on the ferry and the bus. It is eight euros for 48 hours’ unlimited travel and just eleven euros for 72 hours. 

Lavish: 

The Prince’s Palace is the most opulent residence in Monaco and has the luxury of gardens, which many squeezed-for-space apartments in Monaco duly lack. Visit the palace for the history of the Grimaldi dynasty who have ruled for nigh on 700 years. Of course, we know all about Prince Rainier III as he married Hollywood star Grace Kelly, making her a princess in true fairy tale style. 

Local:  

There are many public gardens in Monaco that are no less beautiful for being common instead of royal. They are either free or charge a small fee for upkeep. Try the Exotic Garden for a experience you wouldn’t expect to find in Europe – the world’s largest cactus collection. More than the desert landscape by sea, this park also has underground caves teeming with prehistoric stalagmites and stalactites.  

Lavish: 

Walk the harbour and see the absurdly over-the-top yachts of the rich and famous. These boats are big enough to carry paying passengers, but of course, that’s not their intention. The yachts in this harbour can cost in excess of 45 million euros – that’s just a lazy $65 million dollars.  

Local: 

Take a ferry from Nice to Monaco and see the best of the coastline. Taking 45 minutes from Nice to the port you will get an unusual perspective on the homes of the rich and famous. But don’t expect sprawling Hollywood Hills style mansions. Given the land constraints, most residents, no matter how wealthy, live in apartments.

 

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