The Casino de Monte-Carlo dressed up for the holidays. (Monaco Press Centre photo)

The Monaco Mystique

By Whitney K. Bacon
Fast cars, regal royals and elegant entertainment—the diminutive country is all about living large.

GLITZ, GLAMOUR, CASINOS, YACHTS, LUXURY AND FINE CUISINE ARE GENERALLY WHAT COME TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK OF Monaco. While this is all true, there is more to Monaco beyond being a playground to the rich and famous—it is a place that holds a very unique history. The luxe locale is interestingly the second smallest country in the world packed into one square mile and it is the principality of an independent constitutional monarchy. Perfectly nestled along the beautiful French Riviera and located in the Western part of Europe, with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco has been a go-to destination for centuries.


The centerpiece of Monte Carlo—certainly a must-see and -do—is none other than the famous Casino De Monte-Carlo ( It is a night of entertainment like never before, a playground for gamblers and those new to experiencing the thrills of the high-roller lifestyle. It is no wonder it has been the backdrop to multiple James Bond films. All of its sumptuous accouterments make it the biggest draw in Monaco—as it has been for over a century. The Casino De Monte-Carlo is made up of the Grand Theatre de Monte Carlo, and the office of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. The casino is legendary around the globe for its prestigious architectural design and its lush interiors, made up of stunning marble and bronze. Its many offerings include slot machines and table games from European roulette, Punto Banco all the way to good ol’ blackjack. You’re guaranteed to find yourself amongst a diverse range of international jetsetters—ironically enough, citizens of Monaco are forbidden to enter the gambling rooms. You may also recognize it from Bond flicks, Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye, (it also served as inspiration for the casino described in the Bond novel Casino Royale). Needless to say, it may tempt you to have your drink “shaken, not stirred.”

Come springtime, it’s all about the motors, as the Monaco Grand Prix ( takes to the streets. Easily one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world, this Formula One motor race takes place each year on the Circuit de Monaco. The race is also one of the most difficult races to complete as well as dangerous due to the tight corners, elevation changes and a tunnel that the pilots are faced with each year. The race takes place on a narrow course throughout the small streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine.

Not all the fun takes place on land. Yachting in Monaco is unique from any other place in the world. You will see some of the most lavish and astounding yachts in one place; all of which offer the ultimate luxury experience. It is no surprise that yachts are a staple for Monaco, given its beautiful and convenient waterfront location. The Monaco Yacht Show (MYS, is a four-day event held every year at the end of September in Port Hercules Marina and is considered the most prestigious pleasure boat show in the world. More than 500 exhibitors are on hand to show off their latest and greatest. It is an ideal place for yachters to network as the MYS provides a unique opportunity to mingle with the industry’s leading international super yacht companies. Also, this event promotes up-to-date information of the latest products and technologies. MYS showcases some of the most luxurious and larger-than-life vessels, showcasing such amenities as 3D cinemas, helipads and tennis platforms. MYS grows each year; in fact the 2012 show featured an all-time record of six megayachts that by far outshined the rest—some measuring up at a length of 263 feet, twice the size of a superyacht. The longest yacht in the harbor is the Atlantis II. It’s so large that it is visible from space on Google maps. Megayachts are becoming popular and can be chartered for vacations and rented for events such as business endeavors.

Fans of Princess Grace Kelly and history buffs should take a trip to the Saint Nicholas Cathedral or Monaco Cathedral ( The Cathedral is purely magnificent and the architecture is stunning.

It was dedicated in 1875 on the site where the first parish church in Monaco was built in 1252. Here is where the story of Princess

Grace’s life in Monaco is bookended: this is where the church ceremony for her wedding to Prince Rainier III took place, and it is also where they are both entombed. Other artifacts of note include the Altarpiece of St. Nicolas that dates to 1500, Altarpiece of Saint Devote, Altarpiece of the Pieta Cure Teste and several one-of-a-kind 16th century paintings throughout the cathedral.


Look no further than the award-winning restaurant Louis XV if you’re seeking an unforgettable fine dining experience. Monegasque chef Alain Ducasse ( opened the doors to Louis XV in 1987 showcasing his authenticity and culinary elegance to the world. His excellence stretches beyond Monaco with his three-Michelin-star restaurants in Monaco, Paris and London. The dining room is the epitome of elegance, set in light and gold and very much Versailles-inspired. What makes this timeless restaurant unique is that all the hands on the clocks are stopped at 12 o’clock. This is a reminder that time is of no essence and that you can truly escape in the enchanting ambience with interior that is said to be one of the most spectacular in the world. The menu is just as elegant— serving up exquisite Mediterranean cuisine.

To accompany such a wide range of excellent dishes and flavors, the perfect wine to complement your dish should be available, as the wine cellar houses more than 400,000 bottles of wine. Impeccable service, along with the divine dishes combine to create a culinary experience of a lifetime.

Another dining venue that should tantalize your taste buds is the restaurant Joel Robuchon, which offers a fine array of gastronomic French style cuisine. It is located in the award-winning Hotel Metro-pole ( The head chef is Christophe Cusac, who is partnered with Joel Robuchon. Robuchon is one of the world’s most acclaimed chefs and has won numerous awards; he holds the record of Michelin Stars, holding down 28 and counting. The restaurant’s interior provides a warm and inviting ambience, with its open teppanyaki-style kitchen, the guests and the chef can share a rare relationship. The menu is eclectic and you will find anything from lobster in an iced veloute of avocado, spicy oil and burrata to foie gras of duck served with white grape confit.


Shopping is essential in Monaco, and the Le Metropole Shopping Center ( is where to head for some retail therapy. It is a three-story shopping mall, and just like everything else in Monaco, this place is pure luxury with its stunning marble floors, columns and the spectacular chandelier lighting.

Trendsetters can find anything from fashion and jewelry to cosmetics, home goods, shoes and accessories at this posh complex.

The Golden Circle is a very popular and legendary shopping attraction located on the southern side of the casino gardens and spreading through the Avenue Monte Carlo, Avenue des Beaux Arts and Allees Lumieres. Here you will see haute couture including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior to name a few. It is definitely worth having a stroll down luxury row whilst visiting Monaco.


The Cocktail Bar at Columbus ( is the place to unwind and enjoy a drink or two within an intimate environment. Overlooking the Princess Grace Rose Gardens they have paid homage to Princess Grace by launching a cocktail called—you guessed it—Grace, which is infused with rose liqueur and floral scents. If you are looking to dance the night away then Jimmy’Z’s ( premier nightclub is the place to be! Don’t be surprised if you see celebrities and models wandering about—in fact, U2 frontman Bono and ’80s pop icon Boy George are regulars.


If you are after a history experience with a twist, then visit the Oceanographic Museum (, which is home to a plethora of species of sea fauna. Take a gander at sea horses, jellyfish, sharks, and lobsters, just to name a few, in skeletal form and stuffed. Due to its position set on the cliff tops in the Monaco Ville, Oceano-graphic Museum also offers up beautiful views. It is a very popular museum amongst tourists and is quite fascinating. Alongside the interesting exhibitions of the sea fauna, you will find an aquarium located in the basement of the museum, where over 4,000 species of fish can be seen.

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