Telegraph Travel: Monaco In Depth

The best things to do and see in Monaco, including palaces, gardens and boat trips

At just over two square kilometres (less than one square mile), Monaco packs a punch way above its diminutive size. It’s a city that you can easily meander through, from the famous place de Casino with its Rococo architecture to its harbour-lined with super yachts. The Old Town offers numerous sights from the Prince’s Palace and Grace Kelly’s tomb to open-air films beneath the stars, while Jardin Exotique is home to contemporary art and cacti. Before you leave, grab a glimpse of the real Monaco at the daily food market in Condamine. 

Old Town

Spot the tomb of Hollywood actress Grace Kelly

White stones were brought from the hilltop La Turbie village to build the Notre-Dame-Immaculée Cathedral. This Roman-Byzantine landmark is a focal point of Monegasque life. Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier married here in 1956, while many of the ruling Grimaldi family are buried here too. On Sundays, the much-loved Petits Chanteurs de Monaco choir sings during mass.

Insider’s tip: Look out for the futuristic-looking organ. Built in 2011 by the celebrated Belgian manufacturer Thomas, it took almost two years of design and construction. With 7,000 pipes and four keyboards, it’s one of the most powerful organs in the world.

Contact: 00 377 99 99 14 00
Opening times: daily 9am-6pm; Petits Chanteurs de Monaco (Sundays at 10.30am from September to June) 
Prices: Free


Watch film stars beneath the stars

There’s little to beat watching a film beneath the stars on a terrace jutting out from “The Rock”. Local expats crowd here on summer evenings to watch Cinema2Monaco’s English-language films on one of Europe’s largest open-air cinema screens. You can grab a beer and a hamburger from the bar before you settle down to watch the latest blockbuster. 

Insider’s tip: The most comfortable deckchair seating is at the back. These well-cushioned seats cost a little more, but it’s worth the extra. Despite 500 seats, the best seats get booked up early so you should arrive when the ticket office opens at 8pm. 

Contact: 00 377 93 25 36 81;
Opening times: open daily July to early Sept at 8pm (ticket office) and 9pm (film) 
Prices: £

Rock it like a Prince

Surveying the principality from its lofty position on “The Rock”, the 13th-century Prince’s Palace is one of the must-see sites for visitors to Monaco. Though this Genoese fortress is the private residence of the Grimaldi family, you can visit the state apartments where you’ll see the Throne Room and artworks from Holbein and Bruegel to Princess Grace’s state portrait.

Insider’s tip: Time your visit to see the changing of the guard that takes place daily at 11.55am. Since 1917, the Palace Guards have overseen the security of the Palace. They perform their solemn military ritual in Riviera-style immaculate white uniforms.

Contact: 00 377 93 25 18 31;
Opening times: daily 10am-6pm Apr to mid-Oct; until 7pm July and Aug
Prices: £


Dive into oceanic history

From a 150-million-year-old reptile to a bouteille à renversement (used to measure seawater temperatures at different depths), the exhibits at the Oceanographic Museum are nothing if not eclectic. There are interesting collections amassed by Prince Albert I during 28 research trips he made aboard his four yachts between 1885 and 1915 around the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic. 

Insider’s tip: The highlight of this museum is the basement aquarium: a darkened sub-aqua world of diaphanous moon jellies, circling sea bass and floaty seahorses. As well as a shark tank, there are more than 90 tanks to explore. 

Contact: 00 377 93 15 36 00;
Opening times: daily 10am-6pm; until 7pm Apr-Jun & Sept; 9.30am-8pm July & Aug 
Prices: £

City centre

Channel Casino Royale

Place de Casino is one of the world’s most famous squares. It has starred in numerous films: both Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery filmed Bond scenes here. At the upper end of the square are manicured gardens, while the lower end is home to the Rococo architecture of the casino, opera house and luxurious Hôtel de Paris

Insider’s tip: Grab a coffee on the Café de Paris’ outdoor terrace for the best vantage point to survey the bewildering display of sports cars, from Lamborghinis to Ferraris, that happen to be parked outside the casino on any given day.



Set sail from the harbour

If you’ve ever wondered how billionaires spend their money, you should take a look at Port Hercules. A trading port since Greek and Roman times, nowadays it’s home to some of the world’s largest super yachts. With the outer port going to a depth of 40m, it’s also one of the only deep-water harbours along the French Riviera. 

Insider’s tip: After you’ve wandered around the quayside, you can take the return journey across the port on a solar-powered boat service. It departs from the end of quai Antoine 1 and operates daily from 8am-7.50pm for just €2.


Glimpse the real Monaco

The daily La Condamine fruit, flower and food market is a staple in the lives of local Monegasques. It takes place in place d’Armes: a pretty arcaded square lined with cafés whose tables spill out onto the terracotta tiles. This indoor and outdoor market is a good place to discover local specialties such as barbagiuans, pissaladière, fougasse and socca. 

Insider’s tip:
 The covered market is an excellent option for a well-priced lunchtime snack. Look out for San Maurizio 1619, a truffle bistro that serves excellent steaks, asparagus and pasta: all infused with truffle shavings. 

Contact: 00 377 97 97 97 77;
Opening times: Daily 7am-3pm

Jardin Exotique

Contemplate art with a view

The whitewashed Villa Paloma is Monaco’s newest contemporary art museum. Along with its sister museum Villa Sauber (more on which below), they collectively form the New National Museum of Monaco (NMNM). The NMNM exhibits work by famous artists linked with the French Riviera region such as Jean Cocteau, Claude Monet and Kees Van Dongen. 

Insider’s tip: Don’t miss the beautiful stained-glass window on the staircase made by Niçoise glazier, Fassi Cadet. After your visit, take a peek at the thoughtfully landscaped garden with its stone terraces filled with Mediterranean plants and its dramatic vista of Monte-Carlo. 

Contact: 00 377 98 98 48 60;
Opening times: daily 10am-6pm
Prices: £ (free entrance on Sundays)

Combine cacti with caves 

Hewn into the side of a rock, the Jardin Exotique is known for its cacti collection and its splendid principality views. The idea for this botanical garden began when Prince Albert I’s chief gardener brought back succulents from Mexico in the 1860s, though the gardens didn’t open to the public until 1933. Nowadays there are succulents from all over the globe. 

Insider’s tip: Don’t miss the limestone cave at the bottom of Jardin Exotique. The caverns, filled with exotic-sounding concretions such as draperies and spaghettis, will impress you. With 300 steps, it isn’t for the unsure of foot.

Contact: 00 377 93 15 29 80;
Opening times: Daily 9am-5pm; until 6pm Feb-Apr and Oct; until 7pm May-Sept
Prices: £

Fuse historic architecture with contemporary art

Villa Sauber is one half of the New National Museum of Monaco. The other half is housed in Villa Paloma in Jardin Exotique. The modern art exhibitions here fuse art with fashion and performance. Since 2002, the museum has conserved 4,000 costumes and 400 stage-set models from the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.

Insider’s tip: Arguably as interesting as the art is the building itself - one of Monaco’s only Belle Époque villas left. Given the similarities to the Charles Garnier-designed opera house, the design has often been attributed to this famous Belle Époque architect. 

Contact: 00 377 98 98 91 26;
Opening times: daily 10am-6pm
Prices: £ (free entrance on Sundays)

Floating bars and champagne cocktails: Monaco's most glamorous places to party

Monaco is known for its glamorous, celebrity-spotting nightlife. Venues take advantage of warm temperatures with numerous outdoor options – you can drink at a floating bar on a lagoon, dance to jazz with your toes in the sand or smoke a shisha overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. In this tiny principality, most bars are within walking distance so you don’t have to worry about driving home after a night out drinking. As well as the permanent clubs below, look out for pop-up clubs such as Amber Lounge during the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix.

City centre

Casino de Monte-Carlo

With its fairytale Belle-Époque architecture, the Casino de Monte-Carlo is hard to miss. François Blanc developed the Casino de Monte-Carlo into the most famous in the world, attracting the exiled aristocracy of Russia and the exotic dancer Mata Hari. With its gilded ceilings and elaborate wall murals, the Europe Bar is the place to unwind to the sound of piano music as you survey the roulette, blackjack and punto banco players. A vodkatini is the drink of choice here as you channel your inner James Bond – indeed two Bond movies were filmed here.  

Contact: 00 377 98 06 21 21;
Prices: £££
Getting in: You must show a passport or other photo ID and be at least 18. Proper attire required so no shorts or sports shoes. After 8pm, men should wear jackets for entrance to the private rooms. 

Buddha Bar Monte-Carlo

East meets west at the Buddha Bar. This high-ceilinged venue brings extravagance to Monaco’s nightlife. The drinks list features many cocktails and sakés. Sip their signature Warsaw Mojito (with apple and elderflower) while you gaze upon young, dressed-to-impress Monegasques or at the red-and-gold furnishings complete with an enormous Buddha. With a live DJ, the chill-out music has its own branded playlist with electro-ethnic rhythms. Upstairs is the mezzanine dining area where Asian fusion cuisine is served. The bar area isn’t that big, but it does extend onto outdoor terraces overlooking verdant Casino Square gardens.

Contact: 00 377 98 06 19 19;
Opening times: daily 6pm-2am
Prices: £££
Getting in: Smart-casual dress code. Reservations recommended.

American Bar

With its terrace surveying Casino Square, the American Bar at the Hôtel de Paris is the classic place for a glass of bubbly and barbagiuans (fried ravioli) while listening to live jazz from the grand piano and watching the moneyed Monaco crowd at play. With its shiny wood and leather armchairs, the interiors are straight out of the 1920s, while the outdoor terrace looks onto the casino. The champagne list is long and even the cocktails contain champagne: the classic one is La Roseraie with vodka and champagne infused with rose, rhubarb, cranberry and lemon juice. 

Contact: 00 377 98 06 38 38;
Prices: £££
Getting in: Smart-casual dress code with no shorts or sports shoes. Reservations recommended.



Sass Café

Sass Café has been at the year-round epicentre of Monaco’s nightlife for the last 25 years. On any given evening, you’ll find the place packed with stars and starlets drowning in champagne and boogying cheek-by-jowl squeezed between, and even on, tables until the early hours. This restaurant-cum-piano bar keeps its perennial deep-red, brothel-like décor regularly updated. Resident DJs and live musicians play every night from 11pm. Pricey Mediterranean cuisine is served here too. At weekends and in high season, you’ll have to book a table to dine in order to ensure entry. 

Contact: 00 377 93 25 52 00;
Prices: £££
Getting in: Smart dress code. Reservations recommended.

La Note Bleue

If you’re looking for a relaxed beach vibe, head down to this beach club and restaurant. White beach furniture and cushioned sofas spill onto the sand, while the Jazz Lounge features live concerts on Wednesday through Saturday evenings from mid-June to the end of August. The concert programme mixes jazz, soul, funk and Brazilian music. Choose from multiple styles of mojito and fruit cocktails with or without alcohol. You can dine here too on reliable Mediterranean cuisine or lounge upon a beach recliner and take a dip in the sea. Children and families are welcome. Note that the bar won't be opening until June 2021. 

Contact: 00 377 93 50 05 02;
Prices: ££
Getting in: Reservations recommended. Kaftans and beach leisurewear are de rigueur here.

Jimmy’z Monte-Carlo

The summertime showstopper of Monaco’s nightlife is Jimmy’z in the Sporting d’Eté, whose garden overlooks the Mediterranean and has a roof open to the skies. You’ll be able to spot multiple stars of the stellar and celebrity variety. Top DJs including Mark Ronson, Bob Sinclair, Michael Calfan and Fatboy Slim have all hit the turntables here. Take a spin on the dancefloor or have a drink at the floating summer bar on the lagoon. Be prepared for sky-high prices if you want to book a table where methusalehs of champagne can be shared amongst your table guests.

Contact: 00 377 98 06 73 73;
Prices: £££
Getting in: Reservations recommended. Smart dress code.

Blue Gin

For a leisurely evening drink overlooking the Riviera coastline and the Mediterranean, the Blue Gin won’t disappoint. The brightly coloured interior appeals with its billiard table. Live DJs play disco funk from Thursdays to Saturdays. All the same, it’s the outdoor space with its well-spaced sofas and hookah corner that is the reason to come. There’s no better place to watch the sun set at the water’s edge with a signature Gatsby Americano cocktail in hand. Finger food by chef Marcel Ravin brings some Caribbean flavour with his cod-fish fritters.

Contact: 00 377 98 06 03 60;
Prices: ££
Getting in: Smart-casual attire.

Twiga Monte-Carlo

Flavio Briatore doesn’t like to stand still. He has morphed seamlessly from Formula One and football to celebrity nightclubs. A long passageway lined with golden bamboo rods leads you to this kingpin of Monaco’s nightclub scene. The Asian-influenced interiors feature black cushioned benches and a golden honeycomb bar. Outside is the lounge bar where you can smoke shisha and enjoy the dreamy sea vista. Saké is the drink of choice here, while the culinary offering mixes Japanese and Italian flavours – though more work could be done on sourcing fresh seafood.

Contact: 00 377 98 06 03 60;
Prices: as above
Getting in: Dress to impress. Reservations recommended. 


Jack Monaco

This quayside bar is a popular haunt for post-work drinks that wind on from Happy Hour til the early hours. You’ll find a young, local crowd here on the large outdoor terrace overlooking the superyachts of Port Hercules. Friday evenings are busiest when guest DJs play electronic and acoustic music. Everything about this place is charmingly eclectic. The interiors blend contemporary and baroque furniture dolled up in bright colours, while the global cuisine varies from Asian wok dishes to tapas and pizzas. With myriad beers, wines and cocktails to choose from, drinks are served with tasty amuse-bouches.

Contact: 00 377 97 98 34 56;
Prices: ££ 


A short walk from Port Hercules, Slammers is about as down and dirty as it gets in Monte-Carlo. This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bar is popular with local expats grabbing a pint of beer or two after work. With its stone bar and simple furnishings, the ambience is informal enough that you can rock up here in a pair of shorts or flip-flops without feeling out of place. The beers are also reasonably priced by Monaco standards. There’s a party vibe here during sports events: rugby and football matches are played live as revellers spill out onto the narrow street outside.

Contact: 00 377 97 70 36 56;
Prices: £ 

From Kobe beef to fresh oysters: Monaco's Best Restaurants

The Monegasque dining game is like Snakes and Ladders. With multiple barriers to entry, only well-established or well-connected names can thrive. This diminutive principality is chock-a-block with Michelin-starred cuisine and elite international restaurant brands. Mediterranean cuisine is the order of the day with culinary heavyweights such as Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon vying for prominence in central Monte-Carlo’s Casino Square. Elsewhere, recent restaurant openings have brought global flavours from Peru and China. 

City centre

Mada One

If you’re in the mood for a speedy gastronomic snack, look no further than this café in the swanky One Monte-Carlo district. It’s the perfect place to unwind at any time of day from breakfast to high tea and early evening drinks. At lunchtime, look out for the well-priced bento trays. This new food-to-go restaurant concept is the brainchild of Caribbean chef Marcel Ravin, who also runs the Michelin-starred Blue Bay restaurant nearby. With its clever contraction of “Madame” and “Madinia” (from Ravin’s native Martinique), Mada One is a delicious fusion of French and Caribbean flavours.

Contact: 00 377 9806 6868;
Prices: ££
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 8am-8pm
Reservations: Recommended

Joël Robuchon

For the world’s best buttery mashed potato, head to this Michelin-starred restaurant at the Hôtel Métropole just off Casino Square. Every detail has been considered from the sumptuous décor designed by Jacques Garcia to the tea trolley frothing with pots of herbs. The late Robuchon had more Michelin stars to his name than any other living chef. His name lives on in the safe hands of Executive Chef Christophe Cussac whose team conjures Mediterranean magic before your eyes in the open-plan kitchen. Classic dishes include John Dory fillet, foie-gras-stuffed quail and milk-fed lamb.

Contact: 00 377 9315 1510;
Opening times: Thurs-Tues, 12.15pm-2pm and 7.30pm-10.30pm
Reservations: Essential
Best table: The chef’s table beside the open-plan kitchen
Prices: £££


Les Perles de Monte-Carlo

On the edge of the pier lies a ramshackle café that happens to be Monaco’s best oyster bar. It’s run by biologist Brice and his Breton partner Frédéric who spent two decades researching every aspect of marine reproduction (from plankton to water parameters) before opening the French Riviera’s first oyster nursery. Officially they aren’t a restaurant, but offer tastings a.k.a. sumptuous selections of seafood from lobster to sea urchins and plenty more in between. With sea views up towards the Prince’s Palace, this is the place to join locals over a glass of organic wine.

Contact: 00 377 9777 8431;
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 8am-5pm; Wed-Thurs, 8pm-11pm
Reservations: Essential
Prices: ££



This Peruvian restaurant is a runaway summertime success. No doubt its location helps: wedged between the Salle des Etoiles summer concert venue, Jimmy’z nightclub and the Mediterranean Sea. A vibrant Latin-American palate and bespoke furnishings have been used in the interiors that fuse seamlessly with the outdoor terrace. From here, exotic plants frame the backdrop of Monte-Carlo’s harbour. The menu contains elaborate dishes such as corvina with truffle, ponzu and chives, and wagyu beef tacos. Of course, such extravagant dining doesn’t come cheap so arrive prepared for a punchy bill.

Contact: 00 377 9806 2020;
Prices: £££
Opening times: Thurs-Mon, 7am-2am (from April to October)
Reservations: Essential

Cantinetta Antinori

Locals flock to Cantinetta Antinori: a joint venture between the 700-year-old Florentine wine dynasty and the Monaco Restaurant group. The smart Italian canteen atmosphere is set off by the marble-and-brass décor. No doubt the regulars are drawn by the comforting Tuscan cuisine featuring plenty of fish and meat as well as pasta dishes. Don’t miss the handmade pasta with Kobe beef and black truffles. Lunchtime menus at €24 (£20) include a glass of wine from the Antinori wine estates in Italy. The breakfast menu is also excellent.

Contact: 00 377 9777 0880;
Opening times: Daily, 7am-11pm
Reservations: Recommended
Prices: ££

Maya Jah

What began life as a somewhat hesitant Moroccan-Indian fusion restaurant has morphed into an elite Indian restaurant club with a little Moroccan corner. Expect smiling table service with flavoursome curries, well-marinated Tandoori lamb chops and sweet Indian breads aplenty. Lunchtime diners can now enjoy well-priced Tiffin box menu at just €22 (£19). Moorish elements remain in the décor with its Moroccan lanterns and trellis ceiling that curves into the walls. An excellent barman dreaming up exotic cocktails alongside a live DJ lend to the lively atmosphere.

Contact: 00 377 9999 4949;
Prices: £££
Opening times: Wed-Sun, 12pm-2.30pm and 7.30pm-11pm
Reservations: Recommended

Song Qi

Opposite the Japanese Garden, Chinese cuisine has been perfected at Song Qi. Alan Yau, the man behind Hakkasan and Wagamama, masterminded this upscale restaurant. The dining room resonates understated affluence from the chartreuse-velour seating to the marble tables and central crescent of golden poles. Dim sum and lettuce wraps are the signature starters, while the most popular main course is Peking Duck. Patience is required as the duck takes 60 minutes to prepare. Another option is the personal wok where you create your own dish from a choice of meat, fish and sauces.

Contact: 00 377 9999 3333;
Opening times: Daily, 12pm-2.30pm and 7.30pm-11pm
Reservations: Recommended
Prices: £££


Quai des Artistes

This harbourside restaurant is a Monegasque institution. With its enviable location on Port Hercules, this is the place to dawdle over French cuisine and a glass of rosé as you admire the super yachts beside you. Inside the style is warehouse-meets-Parisian-brasserie with neo-Art Deco details. The seafood and caviar are excellent, though it’s hard to beat the lamb shanks cooked slowly on the bone and served with rosemary-infused mashed potato. It’s popular with tourists and locals alike so make sure you book a table in summer months.

Contact: 00 377 9797 9777;
Opening times: Daily, 12pm-2.30pm, 7.30pm-11pm
Reservations: Recommended
Prices: £££
Best table: On the outdoor terrace beside the harbour


La Vigie

La Vigie translates as nautical lookout. It’s an apt name for this cliff-top restaurant that offers unforgettable views over Monte-Carlo’s curving coastline. The order of the day is Mediterranean seafood and live jazz. The open kitchen serves up delicious grilled fish and meats as well as a wide selection of sharing starters such as San Remo raw gamberoni and Brillat-Savarin cheese with black figs and 25-year-old balsamic vinegar. The wine menu focuses on champagne. Despite its Roquebrune-Cap-Martin address, this restaurant is part of the government-owned Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel whose road access is in Monaco.

Contact: 00 377 9806 5252;
Opening times: Daily, 12pm-12am (from mid-June to mid-September)
Reservations: Recommended
Prices: £££
Best table: On the far deck (except on windy nights when your tablecloth might blow off so it’s best to stick to the covered terrace)







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