If you are looking for an exclusive getaway where you can rub shoulders with the rich and famous, there is no better destination than the tiny principality of Monaco. At just over two square kilometers, or 500 acres, it is the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican. But it is also one of the best known, especially among those whose wealth is measured by the size of their yachts.
Make no mistake, living the life of luxury in Monaco is not cheap. But why not push the boat – or indeed the yacht – out, at least for a weekend? There’s no better place to sample the high-flying lifestyle.
When To Go And How To Get There
Nestled on the French Riviera, Monaco enjoys a warm climate. Nevertheless, to catch it at its best, avoid visiting during the fall or winter months. The ideal time to go is May or June, as in later summer, Monaco can become crowded, and the temperature is liable to be uncomfortably hot.
Keep in mind that Monte Carlo is transformed into a motor racing circuit over the last weekend of May every year for the iconic Monaco Grand Prix. Unless you are specifically visiting to catch the Formula One action, this is a weekend to avoid, as hotels will be fully booked and the marina and casino areas rendered inaccessible without a ticket.
The closest airport is Nice, located around 14 miles away. Many choose to use the regular bus services that operate all day every day, but those looking to make an entrance will want to consider something a little more exclusive. There are numerous limousine services, but for the ultimate luxury experience, why not follow the lead of movie stars and racing drivers by opting for a helicopter transfer straight into Monte Carlo helipad?
This is the location to which most visitors first gravitate, as it brings together the two things for which Monte Carlo is most famous: the cars and the gambling. Casino Monte Carlo must be one of the most famous and instantly recognizable buildings on the planet. It has been the focal point for dozens of blockbuster movies, including, of course, Casino Royale.
We will talk a little more about what’s inside in a moment, but when it comes to Monte Carlo casino culture, one of the most important considerations is the method of arrival. Monaco has by far the highest number of millionaires per capita of any country in the world, and this is reflected in their choice of vehicle. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the beautiful cars on every street in Monaco, and Casino Square is where they all parade, pulling up outside the famous building one after another. It’s a supercar spotter’s dream, with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bugattis and other exotica a constant presence. The cafes on Casino Square are always packed with people sipping coffee, or maybe something a little stronger, and viewing this unique spectacle.
Casino Monte Carlo
So what of the casino itself? In this digital age, most of us has spun the reels on the slots and played a game of roulette or blackjack in an online casino. That might prepare you for the games you will find within this famous building, but it is still easy to be overawed by the sheer majesty and history of the place.
To get down to business, anyone can enter the building, but if you want to attend the casino floor itself, make sure you have your photo ID and the €10 admission fee. There’s an extra €10 to pay, should you wish to visit any of the private rooms. As far as dress code is concerned, there’s no need to go the full James Bond if you don’t want to – the casino merely demands “proper attire,” so shorts and t-shirts are definitely out. Having said that, the Casino Monte Carlo is a unique experience, so why not pull out the tuxedo or cocktail dress as appropriate and dress for the occasion?
You will see no shortage of high rollers, but there is no obligation to join them. On the main casino floor, the minimum wager is €5 and the maximum is €2,000. In private rooms such as the iconic Salle Médecin, where Pierce Brosnan filmed key scenes in GoldenEye, you will find all the classic table games such as blackjack, craps and baccarat. The minimum stake here is €10, and surprisingly, there is no upper limit at all.
Where To Stay
There are half a dozen prestigious hotels in the principality, but for the ultimate in luxury accommodation, it boils down to a choice of two: The Hotel de Paris or the Fairmont. Both are part of Monaco folklore and have welcomed movie stars, royalty and captains of industry.
The Hotel de Paris is, perhaps, the most famous. Built in the 1860s, it is adjacent to Casino Square and features exquisite marble colonnades, crystal chandeliers and every other kind of excess imaginable. There are 99 guest rooms, ranging from Superior through Ocean View to a range of suites. Expect to pay between €500 and €600 per night for a superior room, while suites start at around €1,200 and go right up to an eye-watering €40,000 per night for the newly opened Prince Rainer Suite.
The Fairmont has a similarly legendary reputation. One of the largest hotels in all of Europe, it has breathtaking and uninterrupted views across the Mediterranean, and rooms that are more contemporary than the traditional ones in the Hotel de Paris. Room rates start at around €450 per night, with suites available from €700 per night upwards. The hotel is famed for its dining facilities, especially the Horizon Deck and Champagne Bar on the seventh floor, where you can sample the very finest of French cuisine.
Monaco is a country unlike any other, and fully deserves its reputation as the most luxurious nation on the planet. There is simply nowhere better to sample the millionaire lifestyle.