Looking for things to do in Monte Carlo? Here’s how to do it jet setter style
There are a lot of glamorous destinations on the French Riviera – and that’s why we love it! Even if you don’t have a yacht of your own, it’s fun to be in a place where they’re more common than tractors (so says the girl from Saskatchewan, Canada). Of all the fabulous destinations in the South of France, no place has more flair than Monte Carlo and there is no better place to mingle with the international elite. But how do you do it?
Answer: You read this travel blog post. I’ll tell you plenty of jet-set-worthy things to do in Monte Carlo, so read on.
Note: If you’re more interested in the tourist sites, check out this Monaco sightseeing post. You’ll still get a good taste of Monte Carlo.
A Monte Carlo mini guide for jet setters
Originally I designed this guide to Monte Carlo so my husband and I, who hadn’t seen each other in weeks and were meeting up in the South of France, could rekindle the romance. My idea was to create the perfect Date Night in Monte Carlo (except it was actually Date Day in Monte Carlo, but as my husband had jet lag I didn’t think he’d notice.)
Monte Carlo and Monaco are not the same thing
Let’s get this confusion out of the way. The country of Monaco (yes, tiny little Monaco is a country), and somehow also a city state and a principality (at this point let’s pause to wonder if there is anything Monaco isn’t?), is divided into neighborhoods. Monte Carlo is Monaco’s ultimate glam ‘hood. With its lofty position overlooking Monaco’s main harbour, Monte Carlo is where you’ll find the casino, the most lavish luxury hotels and high end shopping.
Tip: A romantic jet-setting date day in Monte Carlo is a lot cheaper than a romantic jet-setting night in Monte Carlo. But both are unbeatable. Combine them for twice the fun or stay a few nights for the ultimate high society getaway.
Things to do in Monte Carlo – the Monaco Grand Prix
What you do in Monte Carlo depends on when you’re there. If you’re there in May, you may want to catch some of the Monaco Grand Prix buzz.
About the Monaco Grand Prix
The Monaco Grand Prix is said to be the slowest yet most challenging, circuit Formula 1 World Championship. Winding through the streets of Monaco, the circuit is chock full of elevation changes and tight corners. There’s even a tunnel thrown in for good measure. The famous race is also a huge celebrity draw (many celebs hop over from the Cannes Film Festival, also in May). This makes it great for star spotting. On the downside, if you want to experience the Grand Prix you’ll also have to fight the crowds.
Don’t worry. If you’re not in Monte Carlo during the Grand Prix, you can entertain yourself by looking at the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis outside the the Hôtel de Paris on the Place du Casino instead.
Relaxing Monte Carlo style – Thermes Marin Monte-Carlo
My top pick for non-adrenalin-boosting things to do in Monte Carlo is to head to the spa. The world-class Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo is a four-storey extravaganza of wellness with luxe pool facilities, cutting edge spa treatments and an emphasis on seawater and seaweed therapies.
The price to spa with the jet setters? A Spa Initiation Day at the Thermes Marins with lunch is €220 and includes a body wrap, body jet shower and affusion massage or exfoliation (€175 not including lunch).
If you’re staying overnight, you’ll be pleased to know the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo is directly connected to both the swishy Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo.
More things to do in Monte Carlo, connect with nature (What? Seriously?)
Possibly, as a practising jet setter, getting back to nature is the last thing you feel like doing on a glam visit to Monte Carlo. But I’m not talking baggy chinos, hiking boots and a backpack. I’m talking about putting on your Valentinos and taking an easy stroll through the district’s green spaces such as the Jardins Du Casino and the pretty Allée des Boulingrins. For the best views, circle around the Casino de Monte-Carlo for a spectacular panorama of the Mediterranean below.
High-end shops are concentrated around the Cercle d’Or. The Métropole Shopping Centre also has boutiques. (I actually didn’t find shopping here that fantastic, but given an unlimited credit card I’m sure I could have happily spent millions.)
People watching at the Café de Paris
Sitting right smack on the Place du Casino, which is pretty much the centre of everything, the Belle Epoque Café de Paris, built in 1868, is the ideal place to spy on all the other jet setters (and tourists) in Monte Carlo. Aim for a seat on the terrace.
How to tell a tourist from a jet setter in Monte Carlo
The jet setters are the ones breezing in and out of the posh hotels, casinos and restaurants without hesitation. The tourists are the ones biting their nails, referring to their guidebook and hesitating before entering any Monte Carlo establishment, wondering if they meet the dress code and what kind of damage it’s going to do to their credit card.
If you’re a tourist who wants to be a jet setter, you know what to do. Practice breezing.
Where to eat in Monte Carlo if romance is high on your list
Monte Carlo is a food-filled haven. Just expect to pay for the privilege. This is when the advantages of a date day over a date night in Monte Carlo become clear. Lunch menus are cheaper than evening menus. And remember this: set menus (prix fixe) are your friend. But one thing is certain, when it comes to things to do in Monte Carlo, dining is an absolute highlight.
For the ultimate in haute cuisine, make a reservation at the ornate Louis XV Restaurant on the street level of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. Helmed by French celebrity chef Alain Ducasse, this 3 Michelin star restaurant is consistently listed as one of the top restaurants in the world.
While it’s currently closed for renovations, Le Grill, also in the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, on the 8th floor, serves a fresh take on Mediterranean cuisine. The most exciting thing about Le Grill is that if the weather is good the roof slides back to show the sky. It just splits right open. I do hope the renovations don’t permanently sew it back up.
Other options for restaurants in Monte Carlo – Nobu
With a younger vibe and a less formal atmosphere, Nobu Fairmont Monte Carlo in the Fairmont Monte Carlo hotel is a great option.
Monte Carlo Jet Setting Deal: If your ‘things to do in Monte Carlo’ itinerary includes drinks, you’ll be pleased to know that every night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nobu offers half-priced happy hour cocktails, because even jet setters like a bargain.
FYI: The only day you can have lunch at Nobu is on Saturdays, otherwise it’s open for dinner.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo
When it comes to jet setty things to do in Monte Carlo, the Casino de Monte-Carlo is probably the first thing people think of. For good reason. A James Bond staple, there is probably not one other place in the world that screams (discreetly, of course) money, power and style like this hallowed hall of gambling.
The casino itself is a Belle Epoque beauty built in 1863. And while you can go in, as long as you pay €10, don’t wear flip flops or shorts, are over 18 and bring your passport, citizens of Monaco aren’t allowed to play here. (Which is perverse, because I know someone who gambled with Prince Albert in this very spot – at least he said he did – either my
ex boyfriend acquaintance is lying or allowances are made if you’re part of the ruling family.)
Inside the casino
The interior of the Monte-Carlo Casino is, if possible, even more opulent than the outside. Marble columns, chandeliers … you get the idea. The best thing to do here is win money. Amazingly enough, my husband and I did, by playing roulette, and it paid for our dinner. We didn’t, however, hobnob with European aristocrats. Every single person we met was from Canada.
Where are the Monte Carlo jet setters hiding?
We didn’t see the elite gamblers because we played in the main gambling room, the cavernous and beautiful Salle Europe. Glittering with Bohemian crystals and gilt, the Salle Europe is a feast for the eyes. If you want to seek out the high rollers, however, pay another €10 to gamble in one of the private rooms such as the lovely Salle Médecin. (And if you really are a high roller, you probably don’t need me to tell you about the very private Salon Anglais.)
Nightlife in Monte Carlo
If you do last all day and into the night, and you want to rub shoulders with the Beautiful People, Jimmy’z nightclub is a long-standing institution. Dress for the occasion. Wait! There’s a catch. If you want to see the really Beautiful People, look up. The VIP area called the Boom Boom Room overlooks the dance floor. Jimmy’z opens at 11:30 p.m. It’s located at Sporting Club, 26 Avenue Princess Grace, Monaco.
Monte Carlo culture – Opéra de Monte-Carlo
If you’re looking for cultural things to do in Monte Carlo, the Monte-Carlo Opera House in the Salle Garnier of the Monte-Carlo Casino is your new home. In addition to opera, the Salle Garnier holds concerts, attracting big names such as Lionel Richie, Patti Smith and Peter Doherty (you know, the bad boy who dated Kate Moss.)
Where to stay in Monte Carlo
When it comes to hotels in Monte Carlo my top choice would absolutely be the impossibly elegant Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo on the Place du Casino. It’s old world grandeur at its best.
A bit like the Hôtel de Paris’s little sister, the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, built in 1900, is pure Belle Epoque elegance with a dome designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.
Not as central, but if you want a high society beach-y type of resort, the Monte-Carlo Beach hotel is a 5-star property with an olympic-sized swimming pool, a beach location and a history that goes back to the Roaring Twenties.
If you want an ultra central location and an outdoor pool, the 4-star 602-room Fairmont Monte-Carlo has both.
Thinking of staying in Monte Carlo? Compare prices here:
Getting to Monte Carlo
Getting from Nice to Monte Carlo is an easy 20-minute trip by regional train from Nice Ville Station. Trains depart frequently. Get off at the Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo Station. There are two exits. You want the Sortie Monte Carlo, the exit toward the front of the train. Go up the escalator, then take an elevator up. From the Sortie Monte Carlo exit turn left. Eventually you’ll have to head downhill, one way is through the Metropole Shopping Centre. Walk through the Jardin du Casino to the Place du Casino and presto, you’re in the heart of exciting Monte Carlo, one of the world’s most luxe jet-setter destinations.
Note: You can also take the train to Monaco from Cannes, Antibes, Menton and many of the other South of France towns.
From Paris to Monte Carlo by high speed train. The TGV from Paris to Nice takes about 6 hours, from there you can transfer to a train to Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo by bus: The bus to Monaco from Nice is super cheap €1.50 and super slow. Personally, it makes me crazy. But, to each his own – take Bus #100.
Getting to Monte Carlo by helicopter. Now we’re talking. From Nice Airport it takes 7 minutes. Visit Heli Air Monaco to learn more.
Travelling around the Riviera? Now that you know all the fun things to do in Monte Carlo find out what to do in The Sexy South of France.