10 Places To Visit In Monaco On A Budget

Monaco has a reputation as a place of luxury, superyachts and supercars but I’m going to shatter the myth that you need to have lots of money to enjoy Monaco as a tourist.

Monaco/Monte Carlo is spread over a lot of hills, so if you’re a first time visitor you may not be aware of this and you should plan a way to get around to save yourself time and effort.

To help Monagasque residents do the same, the Principality has a nifty network of public lifts and walkways (78 lifts, 35 escalators and 8 travelators) so you can move between elevations in the different districts without much effort at all.  For a free downloadable map of where to find the lifts and travelators are you can download it here:  Monacopubliclifts

10 Places To Visit in Monaco On A Budget

From beautiful gardens to historic buildings, there are lots of cheap (or free!) things to do and see in Monaco.  Here are 10 suggestions for top places to go in Monaco when you have no, low or limited budget!

  1. The Changing of the Guards outside Palais Princier

The Palais Princier on Le Rocher (the ‘Rock’) is the official residence of the ruling Prince of Monaco and has a lengthy history.  The Grimaldis, an aristocratic family from Genoa have fought to keep the Palais (and their independence) over centuries, waging wars with France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England and the Earls of Provence in order to do so.

Every day at 11.55am, Monaco’s Changing of the Guards ceremony is held in the large public square in front of the Palais Princier.  It’s free to watch for tourists and a brief insight into a tradition has not changed in more than a century.  Even if you don’t go into the palace, you can watch the ceremony and the square has great photography vantage points over the ports on both sides.  Insider tip:  Look for the guards white uniforms in summer and black in winter.

palais princier

The daily Changing of the Guards ceremony in Monaco

2. Saint Martin Gardens

The free entry public St Martin Gardens are a wonderful place to walk around with wide pathways, fountains, statues, flower beds and shaded benches under pine trees.  The views overlooking Port Fontvieille and toward the Monaco Oceanarium are fantastic.

From the Palais Princier, head for Ruelle Sainte-Barbe and follow that all the way along to the Monaco Oceanarium. Insider tip:  Look for the bronze sailor statue of Prince Albert I.

3. Monaco Cathedral

Another of Le Rocher’s attractions is the Monaco Cathedral.  It is well maintained inside; tourists can visit for free from 8.30am-7pm (6pm in winter) except during mass.

The Cathedral is known for its Bréa altarpiece, as well as being both the place of marriage as well as the final resting place of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.

Monaco Cathedral

4. Musée de la Chapelle de la Visitation

Largely unnoticed by many tourists who visit the hugely popular Monaco Oceanarium nearby, the small Musée de la Chapelle de la Visitation is home to Mrs Piasecka Johnson’s astonishing collection of religious art with baroque masterpieces by Ribera, Rubens and other Italian masters.

It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm. Adults cost €3 / Students €1,50 / Kids under 12 years are free

5. Le Petit Bar

If you are planning on visiting the Palais Princier or Monaco Oceanarium and are looking for a restaurant with friendly service, good prices and tasty food you can’t miss heading to Le Petit Bar on rue Basse.

Le Petit Bar in Monaco, a worthwhile stop if you are sightseeing in Monaco

It gets busy quickly, especially in summer so I recommend making a reservation in advance if you can.  Excellent tapas, fabulous tiramisu and all mains priced under €15.

6. Musée Naval

Unfortunately, major review website TripAdvisor has a ton of reviews from tourists who have mistaken this small museum for the much larger Monaco Oceanarium!  How they could mix up the two vastly different experiences I don’t know but I believe the name having ‘naval’ in it has confused many visitors to Monaco.

The Musée Naval is a small museum dedicated to model ships.  Nothing at all to do with fish or natural history! Located on the Terrasses de Fontvieille, it is home to a collection of 250 model ships including the Titanic, submarines, Viking ships, a Venetian gondola and US battleship Missouri.

The Musée Naval is a museum dedicated to model ships

Ideal for families with kids or anyone keen on model making or seamaship, it is open every day except Christmas Day and New Years Day.  The entry fee is €4 for adults and €2,50 for kids 8-14 years.

7. Musée Collection of Voitures Anciennes

Also at Fontvieille, you can find the private collection of Prince Rainier III showcasing over 100 vintage cars.  The museum is accessible for families with kids in baby strollers or people who are wheelchair bound.

Exposition de Voitures Anciennes, Monaco

Open 7 days from 10am-6pm. The entry fee is €6,50 for adults and € for Students & Kids 8-14 years.

8. Chemin des Sculptures

A free sculpture path from the Jardin de l’Espace de Fontvieille allows visitors to discover some of the sculptures in Monaco.

Chemin des Sculptures in Fontvieille

Many sculptures are placed in lovely flower beds or along scenic paths and throughout Monaco you can find over 100 works from artists including Colombian painter/sculptor Fernando Botero, Marseillais artist César, Emma Sigaldi, and Lalanne.

9. Casino Square

A trip to Monaco must include a visit to place du Casino, better known as Casino Square.

The surrounding caféterias and restaurants are not aimed at the budget traveller, however it remains one of the best locations in Monaco for people watching especially from Café de Paris.

Get your photo taken on the steps outside the Casino de Monte-Carlo or sit in the gardens opposite and admire the supercars that drive past.  The square is really beautiful at night because the surrounding buildings are illuminated.  Insider tip:  In summertime, Casino Square hosts free concerts so check the Monaco Tourism website for dates.

Casino de Monte Carlo is a must-do photo opportunity when visiting Monaco

10. Japanese Garden

Dotted with pines, maples and flowering shrubs, the Japanese Garden was created in 1994 and is a wonderful surprise in Monaco located near the Grimaldi Forum. It is free to visit and open 9am until sunset.

free sightseeing monaco

The Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden) is a free attraction in Monaco

Nearby, you can wander along the free seafront zone and see a small pathway called ‘The Champions Promenade’ that has footprints of some of the world’s top footballers including Diego Maradonna, Pélé, Ryan Giggs and more.  Plage Larvotto, Monaco’s main beach is nearby also with public and private beach zones and a kids playground.

*** SPECIAL GIVEAWAY TO ACCESS RIVIERA FOLLOWERS ***

For a limited time from 17th April 2017 to 24th April 2017, you can be upgraded for FREE when you download the GPSmyCity app to get GPS-enabled directions to all of the Monaco sights mentioned in this article.  Simply download the app here:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/free-city-maps-walks-470-cities/id417207307?mt=8   ** Perfect for families, backpackers, cruise ship passengers, tourists on a budget **

Have you visited all of these locations in Monaco?  Please share this article on social media, thank you!

 

 

 

 

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Monaco Grand Prix 2016 : Last-Minute Tips

May is one of the busiest – and craziest – months for me with 2 major events keeping my email inbox full and social calendar marked.

If you visit the French Riviera during May, you may get the chance to attend either the recently finished Cannes Film Festival and/or Monaco Grand Prix with different atmospheres and experiences.

The Monaco Grand Prix 2016 is held from 26 May to 29 May, with the main race of 78 laps starting on Sunday at 2pm local time.

Monaco1car

Usually I have this guide posted online far in advance, however this year I have been inundated with work for Cannes Film Festival plus chickenpox has hit our household this week making life a bit more challenging!

If you’re reading this now, I hope you can grab some last-minute tips to help you get the most out of your visit this year or in the future.  Also, pop over to read my article on CityOut Monaco about ‘How to Visit Monaco Grand Prix on a shoestring‘.

Note: This guide features supplementary ‘Access Notes’ after many sections specifically giving information for persons with reduced mobility to enable them to enjoy Grand Prix. I hope you find this information useful and share it on social media.

Big deal, it’s just another Formula 1 race, right?

Wrong.  Monaco Grand Prix is THE most desired race by F1 drivers to win and a legendary motor race that brings a huge dose of glamour and atmosphere to one of the world’s smallest principalities.

Monaco Grand Prix is one of the world's most iconic motor races

Monaco Grand Prix is one of the world’s most iconic motor races

Whether you are on board a superyacht, watching from a balcony terrace or sitting on the hillside at Le Rocher, Monaco Grand Prix can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of your budget.

The circuit itself is on Monaco’s city streets, with elevation shifts and tight bends making driver’s skill a huge factor in negotiating the narrow and twisting roads without meeting the barriers.  They also have the addition of a stint through the Fairmont Tunnel which makes it difficult to adjust their eyes from darkness back to sunlight in around 7.5 seconds.

EdWImages_SenateGP_MC13_02092_crop

Monaco Grand Prix 2016 Race Schedule

Every Monaco Grand Prix has 3 practice sessions that allow drivers to familiarize themselves with the circuit and for teams to set-up the cars for qualifying on Saturday and the main race.

Practice 1 and 2 were yesterday and Practice 3 is tomorrow at 11am, with Qualifying at 2pm tomorrow.  The Practice days are one option where spectators who want to experience some of the Grand Prix atmosphere can go along, minus the full race day price tag.

The 74th Monaco Grand Prix race starts at 2pm Sunday (Monaco local time).

Monaco Grand Prix 2016 Tickets

The beauty of Monaco Grand Prix is that if you can source tickets, you can buy tickets for a different Grandstand every day.

The cheapest race day tickets – which usually sell out – are General Admission tickets for Le Rocher (Secteur Rocher) which is the grassy hillside leading up to the Palais.

The best spots are in the centre and on the face of the hillside because once you get near the top your view is obscured by trees.  There are regulars that attend each year and camp out for prime spots.

Rocher tickets for Monaco Grand Prix - cheap but don't expect a clear view

Rocher tickets for Monaco Grand Prix – cheap but don’t expect a clear view

Secteur Rocher tickets are by no means luxurious – you’ll be camped out on the hillside for hours on end so wear comfy shoes, be prepared for all weather conditions, take a chair/padded seat and snacks.

Monaco Grand Prix layout (map: acm.mc)

Monaco Grand Prix layout (map: acm.mc)

Sector Z1, situated on the section between Nouvelle Chicane and Tabac corner is also good for those on a budget and trackside though standing room only. The upside is there are restaurants in this section.

Sector Z1 at Monaco Grand Prix - harbourside but without creature comforts

Sector Z1 at Monaco Grand Prix – harbourside but without creature comforts

Grandstand spectators mostly have good views of the circuit, though check in advance prior to buying your tickets because not all have big screen TV’s so you won’t get replays etc

Stands N, O and P are over the water facing the track and piscine and give a good view of that stretch – choose Stand O (the one in the middle) if you can afford it as its more panoramic. All 3 stands look onto big screen TVs.

Casino Square (Grandstand B) seats are the most expensive tickets and in my opinion over rated though you are sitting in an iconic spot and have big screen TV viewing.

At the end of each day, the race officials open the circuit to the public so you can walk on the actual tarmac (photo opportunities abound!).

For Grand Prix tickets:

Automobile Club of Monaco for tickets www.acm.mc

Yacht charters and hospitality packages www.bespokeyachtcharter.com

For a splurge :  Casino de Café de Paris has options for VIP access to the terrace at Café de Paris with set price menus, the prices are very reasonable for what is offered and much preferable to the Casino Grandstand in my opinion.

There are ticket booths that are open on race days for most Grandstands but you must get there early.

Access notes: ** Special note for spectators with reduced mobility ** There is a Monaco association that assists wheelchair-bound spectators specifically for Monaco-based events.

They have a designated viewing platform on Le Rocher (rue Philibert Florence) for Grand Prix as the Grandstands close to the circuit are inaccessible for persons who are wheelchair-bound.

Contact them a minimum of 48 hours prior to your arrival at the Grand Prix, there is an email link on their website home page, you must give evidence of your mobility to obtain free tickets.

If arriving by car, the security personnel at avenue de la Porte Neuve will give you access up the road only if you have a disabled sticker on your car. There is disabled carparking near to the platform on rue Philibert Florence.

Photos of the platform and more information is found on their website here: http://amhm.chez-alice.fr/Page/Nosevenements.htm  

Monaco Grand Prix Travel Information

  • For Monaco tourist information, head to the Official Government site www.visitmonaco.com
  • To look at train timetables (Note: ‘Gare’ is station; when entering a search the Monaco train station is named ‘Monaco-Monte-Carlo’) go to http://www.ter.sncf.com/paca

 

Rascasse corner (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

Rascasse corner (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

How to get to Monaco Grand Prix

My recommendation is to take the train as many roads are blocked for Grand Prix, and many vehicles have special permits to transport passengers to private events or the yachts.

If you choose to drive, be aware that parking anywhere near the circuit is non existent – your best option is to park at Fontvieille (Stade Louis II) and walk over.

Heliair Monaco offer helicopter transfers between Nice Airport and Monaco. The trip duration is around 7 minutes, cost €170 oneway (€280 return) per passenger which includes a shuttle at Monaco from the heliport to your accommodation. Note: The shuttle does not run on Sunday for the main race due to road restrictions.

Monaco is relatively compact but it is hilly. Don’t be put off though as it’s walkable, and the distance from the train station to the port and Grandstands is no more than 15-20 minutes walking from Monaco Monte Carlo train station and there are police directing the way so you won’t get lost.

Monaco Monte Carlo train station

Monaco Monte Carlo train station (Gare de Monaco) is modern with amenities including a newsagent selling newspapers, phone credit, cigarettes, snacks. You’ll also find toilet facilities, an information centre, caféterias and vending machines there.

Monaco Monte Carlo train station (Gare de Monaco)

Monaco Monte Carlo train station (Gare de Monaco)

My Top Tips:  If doing Monaco Grand Prix by train, buy a return ticket in advance at the station you leave from (e.g. Antibes or Nice) as the trains post-race are always busy and ticket queues horrendous. Use the toilet facilities at the train station, at restaurants in La Condamine or any chance before you enter your Grandstand because as much as you’ll hear that there are toilet facilities within the Grandstand areas they are sparsely located and can have huge queues.

Here is a layout of the Monaco Monte Carlo train station which is handy for the location of elevators, travelators and toilets http://www.garedemonaco.com/plan-dacces

Access notes: Access Plus offer free assistance to passengers at Monaco Monte Carlo train station with reduced mobility. You must give 48 hours notice, email them accessplus@sncf.fr or phone 0890 640 650 (local call when in France).

Wifi hotspots in Monaco

One would assume that free Wifi in a destination known for luxury would be easy, but those elusive free hotspots are harder to source than you realise.

Most hotels offer basic, slow service (slowness is on a par with watching the race and returning and its still downloading one email) or you have to fork out for an expensive room to get an internet package with some oomph.

If you’re searching for places in Monaco with Wifi,  here are some recommendations:

  • Auditorium Rainier III, boulevard Louis II
  • Bilig Café,  rue Princesse Caroline in La Condamine
  • Café de Paris, place du Casino – pricey for food and drinks (around €10 for a glass of house wine and €16 for a beer) but a great spot for people-watching
  • Grimaldi Forum, 10 avenue Princesse Grace
  • McDonald’s, 29 avenue Albert II

Where to eat and drink during Monaco Grand Prix

Contrary to it’s reputation, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find well-priced food and drinks in Monaco during Grand Prix.

There are lots of street vendors selling cheap snacks such as hot dogs, paninis, crepes and the like and you can even grab a beer for around €5.

Here are some of Access Riviera’s other suggestions:

Slammers, 6 rue Suffren Reymond

Small bar that’s really popular during Grand Prix, happy hour between 5pm-8pm and live music / street parties every day during Grand Prix. If you want a few beers before or after Grand Prix, head here.

Access notes: Inside is flat with ground-floor toilets however there are 2 steps from street level to the bar entrance.

Slammers Bar, Monaco

Slammers Bar, Monaco

Marché de la Condamine, Place d’Armes

For a quick bite to eat, head to the indoor covered market at Place d’Armes where you can grab some socca, fougasse or truffle pasta.

Access notes: Fully accessible.

Marché de la Condamine at Place d'Armes, Monaco

Marché de la Condamine at Place d’Armes, Monaco

Monte Carlo Bar, 1 avenue Prince Pierre

Situated right across from Place d’Armes, Monte Carlo Bar is perfect for pizza or pasta, not pretentious at all and in a top location for people-watching.

La Rascasse, 1 quai Antoine 1er

La Rascasse is well known due to the Rascasse corner on the Monaco circuit, but it’s one of the top places for a drink post-race. Happy hour starts from 5pm.

Expect live bands and DJ’s every day during Grand Prix and post-race entertainment that varies from fire shows to stilt walkers ; be warned it gets busy.

La Rascasse - famous bar for GP action

La Rascasse – famous bar for GP action

Stars ‘n’ Bars, 6 quai Antoine 1er

The portside stretch where Stars n Bars is located is a hive of activity during the Grand Prix.

It is also one of the places you are most likely to get a photo of the drivers as race teams are parked adjacent(though access to the trailers is fenced off).

Stars ‘n’ Bars is always busy during Grand Prix and they know their market – they have a brilliant outdoor terrace and upstairs lounge bar with views of the port, lots of sports memorabilia, a kids play area, and games arcade.

Food wise, the menu is expansive and includes everything from sushi, buffalo wings, salads to vegetarian and vegan-friendly options courtesy of The Clever Kitchen.

Access notes: Wheelchair accessible.

Stars 'n' Bars Monaco

Stars ‘n’ Bars Monaco

Is it possible to watch Monaco Grand Prix for free?

This is by far my number one internet search query my blog links to related to Grand Prix!

And, the answer is no and yes.

NO – If you want to sneak a peek up close to the race circuit you are out of luck – grandstand security is tight, fencing around the circuit is put in place well ahead of the event and views are non existent unless you have a ticket.

YES – If you’re fortunate enough to have hospitable friends with an apartment or yacht berth overlooking the race circuit, grovel as much as possible for a place on their balcony terrace or aft deck.   For everyone else without a purchased ticket, it is sometimes possible to watch a snippet of the race from Rampe Major (the Le Rocher ramp up to the Palais), or there are free public screens at Place d’Armes relaying live race action.

My Big Tip: If you’re not adverse to walking, I have previously watched the race for free from Club Bouliste du Rocher, a small restaurant situated above the port at the Fort Antoine gardens – to find it, walk from the Palace square along rue Basse, then rue Psse-Marie de Lorraine and you will see the pétanque pitch and restaurant on the corner of avenue des Pins and avenue de la Porte Neuve.

There is a small garden terrace and they set up beer kegs outside and sell pints for around €6.

Watch the Monaco Grand Prix for the price of a pint!

Watch the Monaco Grand Prix for the price of a pint!

Granted  you won’t be able to see much of the circuit but you’ll get a view of the cars coming out of the Fairmont Tunnel and heading to the chicanes before the piscine (swimming pool).  Take binoculars!

Accessible toilets are 1 minute away on avenue St Martin. Below are some photos taken from this location:

Where to watch Monaco Grand Prix for free? (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

Where to watch Monaco Grand Prix for free? (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

Monaco Grand Prix Atmosphere & Attractions

Some people hate it, some people love it but I find the atmosphere during Monaco Grand Prix something special.

La Condamine just in behind the port is the heart and soul of the Grand Prix action. This is where you will find bars and restaurants with tables spilling onto the pavement, and much of the atmosphere is centred here.

Rue Suffren Raymond has many tents selling race merchandise; you can pick up a cap for around €10 and t-shirt for about €15 unless you head for the official merchandise tents or shops where the prices quadruple.  Rue Princess Caroline also has restaurants, bars and souvenir stands.

Monaco Grand Prix race merchandise is everywhere

Monaco Grand Prix race merchandise is everywhere

Place d’Armes is a great place to check out during Grand Prix – there are big screen TV’s relaying the circuit, car simulators, entertainment, lots of bars and cafeterias around the square, the indoor Marché de la Condamine with food vendors and accessible toilets across the road.

Access notes: La Condamine is paved and mostly flat – other than crowds, you shouldn’t have any issues getting around. Avoid stairs at the port end of rue de Milo.

Unless you’re on board one of the yachts, walking the length of Monaco Port during race days is off-limits for the general public excluding quai Antoine 1er. You can also head over to the other side of the Rock, to see Fontvieille Port and there are lots of restaurants along the quay. Follow the sculpture path with over 100 sculptures from Fontvieille Park to the Princess Grace Rose Gardens which is a nice place to sit on benches beside the rose gardens.

Access notes: Accessible on paved surfaces.

ROSE-GARDEN

The Palais Square and Monaco Cathedral are 2 free attraction in Monaco-Ville.  The Cathedral is located on rue Colonel-Bellando-de-Castro, and is the burial place of the Princes of Monaco as well as holding the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.  One of Monaco’s most popular tourist attractions, the Monaco Oceanarium is closed during Grand Prix weekend.

Access notes: Families with baby strollers can head up to the Palace square via the Rampe Major (it’s a gradual uphill climb but the stairs are a large width so its manageable).

Rampe Major, Monaco

Rampe Major, Monaco

Access notes:  Wheelchair bound or tourists with reduced mobility can still visit Monaco-Ville by using the elevator from the carpark underneath the Monaco Oceanarium, the streets are paved and the Palace square is paved and flat. Bear in mind that the actual State Apartments are not accessible by wheelchair.

Monaco Grand Prix with Kids

Is Monaco Grand Prix doable with children?  Absolutely.  Children 6-15 years get free entry on the Thursday and a decent discount on the weekend.

Be prepared for crowds so if you have a baby stroller it will take you 3 times longer to get anywhere.  Also, be warned that toilet facilities are often crowded or at really sparse opportunities which isn’t good for toddlers toilet training!   Take snacks with you as the food on offer is mostly fast food (hot dogs, chips etc)

I would recommend smaller kids have ear muffs, even though Monaco isn’t as noisy as it used to be it can still be intense for little ears.  If you forget to take your own, you can buy ear muffs there.

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Grandstand L (Piscine Rainer III) is a good bet, but my favourite spot is Grandstand T which is excellent for seeing the cars come down the short straight (by the swimming pool) then slow right down to take the corner before zooming past Grandstand T towards the Rascasse corner.   Try to get seats higher up in the Grandstand as this stand is directly across from the pits so it is great for photo opportunities.  It is also close enough to escape to Stars n Bars if you need a break.

Grandstand T, good for families and opposite the pit lanes

Grandstand T, good for families and opposite the pit lanes

Grandstand K is also highly recommended to see the cars come out of the Fairmont tunnel and hit the piscine chicane and you get a wide view of the port.

General things to avoid

Not being prepared for all weather conditions – Monaco’s weather can change quickly. The Grandstands are not all covered, so you must prepare for hot sunshine and/or rain.  Take suncream, a hat and rain protection.

Partying till late if you’re not staying in Monaco – The atmosphere during Grand Prix is fantastic and many spectators hit the bars and restaurants after the races for a drink or two. However be aware that if you decide to stay for a drink to double check the train timetables – even though Grand Prix is one of the largest events in the region, the trains don’t run all night. Taxis are expensive on the French Riviera and a cab from Monaco to western destinations such as Nice or Antibes will set you back between €80-€150 depending on distance plus night time surcharges.

champagne

Enjoy the post-race parties but don’t forget to check the train schedules!

If you found these last-minute tips for Monaco Grand Prix 2016 useful please share this post on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!

Image credits: Amber Lounge, Artdevivreparmacha, Biletto, F1 Destinations, Visit Monaco, Senate GP, Stars n Bars, Grimaldi Forum, Palais Princier website, James Bond locations, Panoramio, Cornucopia Events, ExecFlyer

 

 

 

How To Visit Monaco On A Shoestring

If I had a euro for every time someone asked me ‘Is Monaco cheap to visit?’ I’d probably be able to buy a penthouse apartment there myself.

There’s no doubt about it that Monaco is a destination of legend – luxury everything from hotels to superyachts to fast cars is normal there.

Monaco is a place you’re more likely to see Prada than Primark, Mercedes than Mazdas and Moët & Chandon rather than Murphys Irish Stout (Not to say that you won’t find people clothed in Primark or drinking Murphy’s there, you’ll just find it not so prominent).

Monaco is definitely a destination where you can spend a lot of money in a short time – lunch at somewhere fancy, a flutter at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, a swish suite at a luxury hotel won’t get you much change back from €1000, if any at all.

But, it’s also a destination that can be visited on a low or limited budget.  Yes it’s possible – Monaco on a budget.

monaco on a budget

Monaco on a shoestring

MONACO ON A SHOESTRING

This post is for anyone who has asked me THAT question – backpackers, families on a budget, green yachties, intrepid travellers hoping to find out how to make their sightseeing money go further (you know the type – they weigh up the cost of a night out over buying food the next day and have stories of going on a bender then eating pot noodles for a week).

FREE OR CHEAP MONACO SIGHTSEEING

The first thing to mention for first-time visitors to Monaco is the topography.  Monaco/Monte Carlo is spread across a lot of hills, so if you’re not expecting that, are unfit or have restricted mobility you should be aware of that.

Luckily, the Principality has a network of public lifts and walkways (78 lifts, 35 escalators and 8 travelators) so you can get around without a great deal of effort, in less than an hour.  For a free map of where all the lifts and travelators are you can download it here: MonacoPublicLifts

Changing of the Guards

One of the most popular free things to do in Monaco is to watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony which takes place in the square in front of the Palais Princier at 11.55am daily.    The ceremony has not changed in more than a century; the guards wear white uniforms in summer and black in winter.

Changing of the Guards ceremony, Monaco (image: 1080)

Changing of the Guards ceremony, Monaco (image: 1080)

The Guards are not just military men, their roles include providing escorts for religious, civil and ceremonial processions, ensuring security for sports and other public events in the Principality, providing assistance to the Monaco Red Cross, assisting transportation of the disabled, helping children from the Saint Devote daycare center, and helping with relief and evacuation plans during any national emergency. Among the Guards are trained scuba divers that are charged with underwater security, monitoring water pollution levels and overseeing nautical events held in Monaco waters.

The Palais itself is the official residence of the ruling Prince of Monaco and has a vast history.  The Grimaldis, an aristocratic family from Genoa have fought to keep the Palais (and their independence) over centuries, waging wars with Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England and the Earls of Provence in order to do so.

Palais Princier, Monaco (image: Monaco.hr)

Palais Princier, Monaco (image: Monaco.hr)

The French Revolution significantly impacted the Palace and the Grimaldi reign when the National Convention ordered all occupied lands, including the Principality, be governed by independent administrations based on those of France.

The Palace was occupied and looted by the citizens of Monaco, Roquebrune and Menton and Monaco’s name changed to Fort d’Hercule. The Grimaldi possessions were sold at auction, the State Apartments were turned into a military hospital for the Italian army, the throne room was used as a kitchen and the rest of the Palace designated a Poorhouse.

Prince Rainier III is credited with restoring the Palais to its current state, and tourists can visit the State Apartments from March to October.  Entry is €8 adults / €4 kids (8-14 years), or buy a combined ticket for the State Apartments and the Private Collection of Antique Cars for €11,50 adults / €5 kids. Note:  The Apartments are not wheelchair accessible as there are stairs.

The Throne Room, Palais Princier (image: palais.mc)

The Throne Room, Palais Princier (image: palais.mc)

Saint Martin Gardens (Jardins Saint Martin)

Adjacent to the Monaco Oceanarium and with incredible views overlooking Port Fontvieille, these well-maintained public gardens are a pleasant place to wander with wide pathways, shaded benches under pines and olive trees and numerous sculptures including a bronze of Prince Albert I.

Japanese Garden (Jardin Japonais)

Created in 1994, the Japanese Garden is a municipal garden located on avenue Princesse Grace beside the Grimaldi Forum.

An unexpected surprise in an area of high-rise buildings, it’s a lovely place to visit and take a break among the maples, pines and shrubs.  True to Japanese garden aesthetics and symbolism, you can roam the pathways past lakes with koi, cascades and Zen gardens.

Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden), Monaco (images: gardenso)

Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden), Monaco (images: gardenso)

Stone Fountain’s (Fusen-Ishi) symbolize longevity to the Principality, arched bridges denote happiness and the path (Roji) to the Tea House leads to 5 water stones (Tsukubai) that invite visitors to purify and cleanse their mind and body with a ladle of water, a necessary preparation before entering the ornamental Tea House.

I recommend a visit to this garden when you go to Monaco, it is free to visit and open 9am until sunset.

The Champions Promenade

Free seafront pathway on the Promenade du Larvotto near the Japanese Garden and Grimaldi Forum with footprints of some top footballers including Pele, Diego Maradona, Ryan Giggs and more.

Champions Promenade, Monaco

Champions Promenade, Monaco

Princess Grace’s Legacy

Monaco Cathedral, is located in Monaco-Ville (Old Town) and known for the Bréa altarpiece, as well as the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.  You can visit for free from 8.30am-7pm (6pm in winter) except during mass.

Monaco Cathedral

Monaco Cathedral

The Princess Grace Rose Gardens on avenue del Guelfes at Fontvieille were created in 1984 as a memorial garden to Princess Grace.  The gardens are free entry and have thousands of rose bushes with 300 varieties.

Princess Grace Rose Gardens, Monaco

Princess Grace Rose Gardens, Monaco

Afterwards, head to the Columbus Hotel adjacent to the Rose Gardens and try their ‘Grace cocktail’ that was inspired by the Princess’ fondness of the flower and whipped up from rose petals, rose liquor and Champagne. Even better, go back at Happy Hour when drinks are 50% off.

The ‘Parcours du Princesse Grace’ is a free pedestrian trail through the Principality covering 5.5 kilometres that features 25 points of interest significant to the Princess.  Each stop has a plaque with photograph and comments, there are some touching photos and interesting historical information. Pick up a free map from the Tourist Office at 2a boulevard des Moulins, 98000 Monaco.

things to do monaco

Parcours Princesse Grace follows 25 points of interest throughout Monaco

Larvotto Beach

Plage Larvotto is the main beach in Monaco and while it’s designated as public, there are also sections to hire beach chairs/loungers.

Go early on hot days as it gets busy!  Families will find a kids playground and there are kiosks for ice creams, drinks etc.

Plage Larvotto (Larvotto Beach) is Monaco's main beach

Plage Larvotto (Larvotto Beach) is Monaco’s main beach

Monaco’s Museums

Monaco has many diverse museums covering exhibits from maritime history to vintage toys to manuscripts from Napoléon.

The most visited museum is the Musée Oceanographic (Monaco Oceanarium) and I agree that it is a great place to take kids, but it always gets mentioned in travel posts about Monaco.

Some of Monaco’s lesser known museums offer cheaper sightseeing though they are somewhat special interest, so take your pick and visit a few if you are on a low budget:

  • Musée Naval (Esplanade Rainier II, Terrasses de Fontvieille) is an impressive collection of 250 model ships including the US battleship Missouri, the Titanic, submarines, and Viking ships.  Open every day except Christmas Day and New Years Day, entrance is €4 for adults and €2,50 for kids 8-14 years.
things to do monaco

Museé Naval, Monaco

  • Musée de la Chapelle de la Visitation has masterpieces by Rubens, Ribera and other Italian baroque masters. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm. Adults €3 / Students €1,50 / Kids under 12 years are free
  • Musée Collection of Voitures Anciennes is the private collection of over 100 vintage cars of Prince Rainier III.  Open 7 days, 10am-6pm. Adults Adults €6,50 / Students & Kids 8-14 years €3.  Wheelchair-accessible.
car museum monaco

Cars in the Collection de Voitures de S.A.S. Le Prince de Monaco.

Free Sculpture Trail (Chemin des Sculptures)

Monaco is dotted with over 100 works from artists including Marseillais artist César, Colombian painter/sculptor Fernando Botero, Emma Sigaldi, and Lalanne.  A free sculpture path is in the Fontvieille district to allow visitors to discover some of the sculptures.

Chemin des Sculptures, Monaco

Chemin des Sculptures, Monaco

Monaco Open-Air Cinema

One of the best open-air cinemas I’ve seen, it’s the most expensive activity I’ve included in this blog article however the superb location on the Rock overlooking the sea can’t be beaten.

Open from June to September, films are screened in English (version originale) with French subtitles and to be honest once you sit on the padded chairs with a drink in hand as the sun sets over the sea you’ll agree that the €12 ticket price (€9 for students with I.D) is worth it.

Reservations aren’t possible so plan to arrive well in advance to ensure you get a seat.

Monaco Open Air Cinema (image: Cinema2Monaco)

Monaco Open Air Cinema (image: Cinema2Monaco)

Free concerts

Monaco / Monte Carlo hosts free music and concerts throughout summertime – in 2015, Robbie Williams played for free for Monagasque residents and place du Casino featured free concerts from Murray Head, the stars from the Commitments and Mika.

On 21 June each year, Fête de la Musique is a public event celebrated in both France and Monaco with free music performances from amateur and professional musicians – in Monaco, head to the main port where a stage is set up.

Free summer concerts at place du Casino, Monte Carlo

Free summer concerts at place du Casino, Monte Carlo

Free summer fireworks displays

Every year, the French Riviera is alive with regular free fireworks displays that form international competitions.

Cannes, Juan les Pins, Monaco all host displays in July and August – click on the hyperlink for dates in 2016 for Monaco fireworks.

Casino Square (place du Casino)

The iconic Casino Square is a great people watching area though the immediate cafeterias and restaurants are not for the budget traveller; regardless most people put a visit to Café de Paris and/or Casino de Monte-Carlo on their ‘must do’ list.  Sit in the gardens opposite the main Casino de Monte-Carlo and watch the supercars cruise past.

Casino Square is a great place for people watching

Casino Square is a great place for people watching

National Day of Monaco

As you walk around Monaco you’ll see many businesses with portraits of the Prince and Monagasque flags. For a small Principality, it is quite patriotic.

Every year on 19 November, the Sovereign Prince’s Day, also known as Fête Nationale or the National Day of Monaco is observed – if you’re in Monaco around this time, there is a free public fireworks display the evening before over Port Hercule.

The actual day involves a mass for royalty, dignatories and the Knights of Malta at the Monaco Cathedral followed by brass bands in the Palais Square and the royal family waving from the Palais.

National Day of Monaco celebrations each year on 19 November

National Day of Monaco celebrations each year on 19 November

Stade Louis II

Home to Monaco’s football team, AS Monaco, they host Ligue 1 French matches, and the occasional Europa or Champions League games e.g. against Tottenham Hotspurs last year.

Stade Louis II, Monaco

Stade Louis II, Monaco

Match tickets are a fraction of what you’d pay in the UK and if you buy in advance online via the AS Monaco website you get a 10% discount (you must take photo I.D when you present your ticket at the stadium).

Ticket discounts also apply if you want to go to a game with a group of 10 or more people.  The stadium rarely fills up, so you can usually grab a ticket at the gate too.

Pre-match, head to Monte Carlo Bar (1 avenue Prince Pierre) on the intersection near Place d’Armes which is a meeting spot for football fans, it’s open late and good for a beer and snack during Grand Prix too.

Access to Stade Louis II from Monaco train station - take exit 'Fontvieille'

Access to Stade Louis II from Monaco train station – take exit ‘Fontvieille’

MONACO GRAND PRIX ON A BUDGET

Monaco Grand Prix is one of my favourite events here on the French Riviera and it’s a complete myth you have to be stacked with cash to enjoy it (though that can help immensely!).

If you want to visit the Grand Prix, the main race is Sunday and there’s usually no way to get around the price of tickets, so unless you have hospitable friends with apartments or offices overlooking the circuit or plan to charter a superyacht , you’ll have to pay up.

I'm really lucky to get invited to Monaco Grand Prix each year, though I won't be winning any style awards for ear muffs :)

I’m really lucky to get invited to Monaco Grand Prix each year, though I won’t be winning any style awards for ear muffs 🙂

However, you can buy tickets for the Thursday practice day at a fraction of Sunday’s prices, or head to Monaco on the Friday for the free day.  FREE!  Same circuit, different cars but there are always lots of people around and I find the atmosphere is great the entire 4-days anyway.

If you’re a complete cheap skate, you can still get to Monaco and head to Place d’Armes on Sunday where they have free big screens relaying the race action and driver simulators, beer kiosks and other free entertainment so you can soak up the atmosphere.

Place d'Armes has big screens relaying race action and lots of places selling reasonably priced beer

Place d’Armes has big screens relaying race action and lots of places selling reasonably priced beer

If you’re hoping to get a free glimpse of the circuit up close, you’re out of luck – the fencing goes into place well in advance and entry to the stands is via gated security HOWEVER I have a super tip for somewhere in Monaco where you can watch a snippet of the live race for free and no I’m not referring to a pub television!   Stay tuned for my Grand Prix blog coming soon with more GP info….

At the end of each race day, they open up the circuit so you can walk on it.  Race merchandise can be bought any day for less than €15 (caps, t-shirts etc) and well-priced food and drinks including beer is sold everywhere.  The crowds in the bars are generally well behaved and I’ve never seen the local police turf anyone off the street for wandering around with a plastic beer cup in public during Grand Prix.

If you love motor racing, another option is to get a ticket for the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique which is held every 2 years in Monaco on the same circuit and always a few weeks before the F1 event.

In 2016, Grand Prix de Monaco Historique is held from 13-15 May, with the F1 Grand Prix from 26-29 May.   I actually prefer the GP Historique over the F1 racing as it features classic cars including F1 Grand Prix cars from the 1960’s and 1970’s as well as sports cars from the 1950’s such as Astons and Jags.

Historic Grand Prix Monaco

Grand Prix de Monaco Historique is held every 2 years

I will be posting another blog article in the coming weeks about tips specifically for Monaco Grand Prix, so stay tuned!

TRANSPORT TIPS

Regional train tickets

If you plan to travel by train on the French Riviera, there are a number of train ticket options you can get.

You can buy a single-use ticket (oneway or return) however the most economical option if you’re travelling to a few towns on the same day is to buy a ZOU ! Pass.

The ZOU ! Pass replaced the old Carte Isabelle and costs just €15 for unlimited train travel between Ventimiglia and St Raphael (including Monaco, and the trains to Grasse or Tende) so you can hop on and off as much as you like in one day.  It is available only in summer, between June and September from any ticket office or the ticket machines at the station.

The PASS Isabelle Famille is the same concept but costs €35 for one day’s unlimited train travel for 2 adults and 2 children.  It’s sold year round.

Monagasque red and white trains

Monagasque red and white trains

If you intend to stay in the region for longer, buy the ZOU ! Hebdo-Mensuel passes that are sold year round.  ZOU ! Hebdo is valid for 7 consecutive days; ZOU ! Mensuel for one month from the 1st day.  They give up to 75% fare discounts and are available to tourists or residents.  You have to specify your origin point and destination point – for example, Nice to Monaco, or Antibes to Cannes.  These passes are super handy if you’re in the region for longer events such as Monaco Grand Prix, Cannes Film Festival, MIPCOM, ILTM, MIPTV etc

TER SNCF, the regional train providers offer many different fare discounts including discounts if you’re under 26 years of age so ask at the train stations as they don’t willingly sell them unless you ask!  The TER trains are mostly blue and silver and the TER Monaco trains are white and red but all regional tickets can be used on both trains.

Regional Buses to Monaco

From Nice to Monaco, there are a few bus options:

  • You can travel on the number 100 bus (Nice to Menton via Monaco) for the princely sum of €1,50 oneway.  Kids under 4 years are free.  The journey takes about 30-35 minutes. Note: Local regional buses are not particularly well set up for luggage storage and sometimes they’re tricky navigating with baby strollers, so bear that in mind if you are travelling with either lots of luggage or as a family with small children.
  • The 100x bus travels on the highway (autoroute) from Nice to Monaco.
  • You can take the Airport Express from Nice Airport to Monaco, it is Line 110.

For timetables for buses 100, 100x and the Airport Express you can see them here:  https://www.departement06.fr/vous-deplacer-en-bus/lignes-et-horaires-3029.html

Buses within Monaco

Within Monaco, the local buses with CAM cost just €1,50 per trip if you buy from a bus ticket agent, or €2 if you buy it from the driver.  You can change to any other CAM bus within 30 minutes of the first validation and continue your single trip around Monaco.

A Day Pass for unlimited bus travel in Monaco costs €5,50; a Weekly Pass is €15.  Kids under 5 years travel for free.  As an extension of the ‘road bus’ system, Bateau Bus is a solar electric 50-seat boat that shuttles across Port Hercule between Quai des Etats-Unis and Quai Rainier 1er every day from 8am to 8pm, so you use your bus ticket for the Bateau Bus in the same way.

buses in Monaco

Local buses in Monaco with CAM; The ‘Bateau Bus’ in Monaco is a cheap way to cross the harbour

For people with restricted mobility or who are wheelchair-bound, Monaco is phasing in ramps on all the fleet (currently about a third of Monaco buses have ramps). Line 5 is completely wheelchair accessible.

Timetables for CAM buses are found here: http://www.cam.mc/informations-pratiques.php?lang=en

Driving

Self-drive tourists should know that you can’t drive into Monaco-Ville (Old Town) – the only cars allowed are those having Monaco license plates or French license plates with the last two digits ’06’ from the Alpes Maritimes Department.   All other vehicles are strictly forbidden to drive to Monaco-Ville.  You can however  park in the ‘Parking des Pecheurs’ regardless of what license plate your car has…this carpark is under Monaco-Ville, then you simply take the elevator up to street level.

Another thing to note if families are driving to Monaco, it is law that children up to 10 years of age travel in the back seat of the car and wear a seat belt or are strapped into a proper child safety seat.  Only children over 10 years or adults can travel in the front passenger seat.  The only exception is when there are no rear seat belts.

For details of parking in Monaco, you can see the list and tariffs of the public carparks here:  https://www.monaco-parkings.mc/carpark

ACCOMMODATION TIPS

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’re not booked into the Hôtel Hermitage or Hôtel de Paris.

While Monaco hotels can be super pricey, staying in the off-season and outside of Grand Prix and major events can mean great reductions on room rates.

Beausoleil is on the fringe of Monte-Carlo and has some cheap and clean – though not super modern – hotels.  Nice is just 25 minutes by train from Monaco and has lots of budget-friendly places to stay.  There are also accommodation options such as Homeaway or AirBNB.  A few options are:

Hotel de France, 6 rue de la Turbie, is centrally located in Monaco about 5 minutes walk from the main port. The airport bus stop is nearby, they have free Wifi and rooms are air-conditioned and clean. The pay-off for a budget hotel in a good location means there is no elevator.  Prices from €95 upwards.

Azur Hotel, 12 boulevard de la Republique, Beausoleil is within walking distance to Casino Square.  Their website says they are a 5-minute walk to the Monaco train station which is a bit misleading; it’s uphill from the station and takes at least 15-minutes’ walk so take a taxi if you have lots of luggage.  The upsides are the rooms are clean with air-conditioning, the location is near to restaurants and they have free Wifi. Prices from €79 excluding events.

Nice Garden Hotel, 11 rue du Congrès, 06600 Nice, is situated 2 blocks from the seafront and easy walking distance to Vieux Nice (Old Town) and the train station.  If you can see past the unappealing hotel entrance you’ll be pleased you made the effort.  It’s run by 3 generations of a warm and hospitable family and the 9 rooms all overlook a lovely garden with orange trees where you can eat breakfast if the weather’s nice.  Low season prices start at €59 per room per night (Simple Double); high season start at €75; Grand Prix from €150 p/nt.

cheap hotel Nice France

Nice Garden Hotel, budget-friendly hotel in Nice

Monaco doesn’t have a central hostel and although there is a Relais Jeunesse Villa Thalassa at nearby Cap d’Ail I recommend you read reviews first and decide if the property versus budget suits your needs.

GOOD VALUE PLACES TO EAT & DRINK IN MONACO

Cheap can sometimes equate to nasty in culinary terms and I’ve had my fair share of grease-laden, overcooked/undercooked meals in different destinations.

If your budget can’t extend to the Gourmet Menu (€310) at Le Louis XV at Hôtel de Paris, or Joël Robuchon’s €199 Menu Decouverte at Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo, then there are still other value-priced places to eat and drink in Monaco.

If you do want to experience a meal at the luxury restaurants, dine at lunch where the set menus are better value and still offer a few choices for starters, mains and desserts.  If you want to drink in style, head to the Fairmont Monte Carlo where Nobu restaurant has 50% off cocktails at daily Happy Hour from 6pm-8pm and L’Horizon Deck has a champagne Happy Hour daily from 6pm-8pm.

happy hour monaco

The Fairmont Monte Carlo has daily Happy Hour so you can enjoy this view with a cocktail or champagne!

For the ultimate do-it-yourself food option, grab a sandwich from the supermarkets – try the Casino supermarket on boulevard Albert 1er near Port Hercule or the Carrefour Monaco at Centre Commercial Fontvieille.

Boulangeries (bakeries) also have good value snacks such as slices of pizza, focaccia,  pissaladière (pizza-type tart with caramelised onions, olives and anchovies), or barbajuan which is a Monagasque specialty and best described as a fried pastry package filled with chard, cheese and egg.  The best barbajuans are from Costa’s; you’ll find 8 Costa Boulangerie’s throughout Monaco but you can easily head to the Marche de la Condamine to find them there and a bargain price at €1,30 each.

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Le Petit Bar is situated on Le Rocher at 35 rue Basse (a good dining choice if you’re visiting the Palais Princier or Monaco Oceanarium) and it gets a mention from me because Fafa (Fabrice) and Lolo (Laurent) the owners serve a tasty menu with good prices.  The tapas plates are excellent, the mains are all priced under €15 and most desserts are €5.  Make a reservation for dinner as the place is small and gets busy quickly, especially in summer.

cheap restaurant Monaco

Le Petit Bar, Monaco-Ville

Constantine, located at Fontvieille port is awesome for people who have both carnivores and vegetarians in their group (not always easy to satisfy both sides when dining). Their menus are good value and include a glass of wine or soft drink, water and coffee.  Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner;  Saturday and Sunday for dinner only.

Gerhard’s Café is a German-themed pub open 7 days for lunch and dinner (their lunch menus are the better value with most food options costing €8 or less). If you like spirits and cocktails, their large Long Island iced tea is a third of the price cheaper than what you’ll pay over the other side of Monaco near Larvotto.  They have free Wifi and are a fun place to go for drinks during Grand Prix or during their annual Oktoberfest complete with sauerkraut and Paulaner beer.

Thanks for reading my blog post about Monaco on a shoestring!  You can now take all these best bits of Monaco in your pocket with my GPSmyCity Monaco on a Shoestring app found here

If you appreciate my research and found it informative or have any comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Please share this post on social media including Facebook or Twitter. thanks!

Sources:  Palais.mc, Visit Monaco, Gouvernement Princier, Monte-Carlo.mc

Lou Messugo

 

 

Monaco Grand Prix 2015 – The Ultimate Guide

The last few weeks of May every year are quite chaotic on the French Riviera – you have two major events that cross over (The Cannes Film Festival, and Monaco Grand Prix) as well as numerous other local events such as Le Pain en Fête in Golfe Juan, Printemps Musical in Mouans-Sartoux and Fête ses Cultures in Vence.

Accommodation prices spike to coincide with the influx of visitors, and public transport is pushed to capacity.

However, while some residents despair about the month of May (and the craziness it brings to the region), I love it ! Both the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix are unrivalled for atmosphere, experience and thrills – and you don’t need a hefty credit card limit to enjoy them.

The Monaco Grand Prix runs from 21 May – 24 May in 2015, with the main race of 78 laps starting on Sunday at 2pm local time.

Monaco1car

Whether you’re a first time visitor or a regular race fan, Access Riviera presents ‘Monaco Grand Prix 2015 – The Ultimate Guide’ with free advice and local tips to help you get the most out of your visit.

Note: This guide features supplementary ‘Access Notes’ after many sections specifically giving information for persons with reduced mobility to enable them to enjoy Grand Prix. I hope you find this information useful and share it on social media.

Why visit the Monaco Grand Prix?

The Monaco Grand Prix is iconic and one of the most famous motor races in the world. Situated on a race circuit hugging Port Hercules and Monaco’s city streets, the race brings excitement, glamour and a huge dose of atmosphere to one of the world’s smallest principalities and it can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of your budget.

Traditional race fans of Grand Prix may find the Monaco circuit lacking – it is the slowest circuit of the Formula One championships. However, it is beyond exciting, and whilst there is rarely over-taking as the circuit width is narrow, the course has elevation shifts and tight bends and all of the driver’s skill is in negotiating the narrow and twisting roads. The longest period at full throttle is through the Fairmont tunnel, about 7.5 seconds.

Aerial view of Monaco GP / Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

Aerial view of Monaco GP / Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

There are 3 practice sessions at every Monaco Grand Prix to allow drivers to familiarize themselves with the circuit and for teams to set-up the cars for qualifying and the race. For Monaco 2015, the Formula 1 practice sessions are held on 21 May and 23 May – perfect for those spectators who want to experience some of the event, but not the full race day price tag.

The cheapest race day tickets – which invariably sell out – are the General Admission tickets for Le Rocher (Secteur Rocher) which is the grassy steep hillside leading up to the Palais. There are big screens to cover the action if you can’t see properly. The best spots are in the centre and on the face of the hillside because once you get near the top your view is obscured by trees. Secteur Rocher tickets are by no means luxurious – you’ll be camped out on the hillside for hours on end so wear comfy shoes, be prepared for all weather conditions, take a padded seat and snacks.

Monaco Grand Prix circuit layout (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

Monaco Grand Prix circuit layout (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

The proximity to the circuit for Grandstand spectators is excellent. My favourite spot is Grandstand T which is excellent for seeing the cars come down the short straight (by the swimming pool) then slow right down to take the corner before roaring past Grandstand T towards the Rascasse corner. Grandstand T is directly across from the pits so it is great for photo opportunities.   Grandstand K is also highly recommended to see the cars come out of the Fairmont tunnel and hit the piscine chicane and you get a wide view of the port.

At the end of each day, the race officials open the circuit to the public so you can walk on the actual tarmac (photo opportunities abound!).

Useful links for visitors to Monaco Grand Prix

For race tickets, check last minute availability at:

Automobile Club of Monaco for tickets www.acm.mc

http://www.formula1-grand-prix.com/redirticket.php?idgp=15&lang=en

There are ticket booths that are open on race days but you must get there early.

Rascasse corner (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

Rascasse corner (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

** Special note for spectators with reduced mobility ** There is a Monaco association that assists wheelchair-bound spectators specifically for Monaco-based events. They have a designated viewing platform on Le Rocher (rue Philibert Florence) for Grand Prix as the Grandstands close to the circuit are inaccessible for persons who are wheelchair-bound.  Contact them at least 48 hours in advance of your arrival at the Grand Prix, there is an email link on their website home page, you must give evidence of your mobility to obtain free tickets. If arriving by car, the security personnel at avenue de la Porte Neuve will give you access up the road only if you have a disabled sticker on your car. There is disabled carparking near to the platform on rue Philibert Florence. Photos of the platform and more information is found on their website here: http://amhm.chez-alice.fr/Page/Nosevenements.htm  

Transport

My recommendation is to take the train as many roads are blocked for Grand Prix, and many vehicles have special permits to transport passengers to private events or the yachts.

Monaco is relatively compact but it is hilly. Don’t be put off though as it’s walkable, and the distance from the train station to the port and Grandstands is no more than 15-20 minutes walking from Monaco Monte Carlo train station.

There are also many escalators and elevators scattered throughout Monaco and any regional Tourist Office on the French Riviera can give you a map which details where they are.

Monaco Monte Carlo train station

The Monaco Monte Carlo train station (Gare de Monaco) is a modern station but it has multiple exit points so it’s quite possible to get confused if you aren’t familiar with the layout.

Monaco Monte Carlo train station (Gare de Monaco)

Monaco Monte Carlo train station (Gare de Monaco)

If arriving by train, buy a return ticket in advance at the station you leave from (e.g. Nice) as the trains post-race are always busy and ticket queues horrendous.

Monaco Monte Carlo train station has a newsagent selling newspapers, phone credit, cigarettes, snacks. There are toilet facilities, an information centre, caféterias and vending machines onsite.

Use the toilet facilities at the train station, at restaurants in La Condamine or before you enter your Grandstand because toilet facilities within the Grandstand areas are sparse and can have queues.

Here is a layout of the Monaco Monte Carlo train station which is handy for the location of elevators, travelators and toilets http://www.garedemonaco.com/plan-dacces

Access notes: Access Plus offer free assistance to passengers at Monaco Monte Carlo train station with reduced mobility. You must give 48 hours notice, email them accessplus@sncf.fr or phone 0890 640 650 (local call when in France).

Premier services

Heliair Monaco offer helicopter transfers between Nice Airport and Monaco. The trip duration is around 7 minutes, cost €165 oneway (€280 return) per passenger which includes a shuttle at Monaco from the heliport to your accommodation. Note: The shuttle does not run on Sunday for the main race due to road restrictions. Book via www.heliairmonaco.com

Heli Securite offer 8 daily helicopter transfers between Nice and Monaco, including direct landings at Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort and Vista Palace Hotel and Beach at Roquebrune Cap Martin, cost €130 oneway (€250 return) per passenger. Book via www.helicopter-saint-tropez.com

For VIP Grand Prix hospitality options including private balconies overlooking the circuit, and race-side berths on superyachts get in touch with Bespoke Yacht Charter and Experience the French Riviera.

VIPyacht

Where to find Wifi hotspots

Finding free Wifi in Monaco is harder than you realise. Most hotels offer basic, slow service (slowness is on a par with watching the race and returning and its still downloading one email) or you have to fork out for an expensive room to get an internet package with some oomph. If you’re searching for Wifi hotspots, here are some places to go:

  • Auditorium Rainier III, boulevard Louis II
  • Bilig Café, rue Princesse Caroline in La Condamine (last time their Wifi password was espresso, then it changed to Nutella1 so give it a try)
  • Café de Paris, place du Casino – pricey for food and drinks (around €10 for a glass of house wine and €16 for a beer) but a great spot for people-watching
  • Columbus Monte-Carlo, 23 avenue des Papalins – smile and make friends with reception and its possible they’ll give you a one-month login with no password needed. As a bonus, David Coulthard used to own this hotel so it’s still a favourite jaunt for F1 types especially the GP winners.
  • Grimaldi Forum, 10 avenue Princesse Grace
  • McDonald’s, 29 avenue Albert II – one thing you can always count on when you visit the Golden Arches – Wifi with your greasy burger

Where to wine and dine

Contrary to it’s reputation, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find well-priced food and drinks in Monaco during Grand Prix. Here are some of Access Riviera’s favourite places for budget-friendly food and drinks, atmosphere or a good Grand Prix experience:

Café Llorca, 10 avenue Princesse Grace

Located at the Grimaldi Forum and close to the Japanese Garden, Michelin-starred chef Alain Llorca’s bistro eatery has superb views over Larvotto and you can dine for less than €25 if you choose the set menu (entrée, main and dessert or glass of wine).

Access notes: Wheelchair accessible.

Café Llorca

Café Llorca

Slammers, 6 rue Suffren Reymond

Very popular during Grand Prix, happy hour between 5pm-8pm and live music / street parties every day during Grand Prix. If you want to party after Grand Prix, head here.

Access notes: Inside is flat with ground-floor toilets however there are 2 steps from street level to the bar entrance.

Slammers Bar, Monaco

Slammers Bar, Monaco

La Bionda, 7 rue Suffren Reymond

Carnivores would be well recommended to head here for steak and grilled meats; there are also salads and vegetables on the menu for those not partial to meat.

Marché de la Condamine, Place d’Armes

For a quick bite to eat, head to the indoor covered market at Place d’Armes where you can grab some socca, fougasse or truffle pasta.

Access notes: Fully accessible.

Marché de la Condamine at Place d'Armes, Monaco

Marché de la Condamine at Place d’Armes, Monaco

Monte Carlo Bar, 1 avenue Prince Pierre

Situated right across from Place d’Armes, Monte Carlo Bar is not pretentious at all and a great bistro for people-watching. A good bet for pizza or pasta.

La Rascasse, 1 quai Antoine 1er

A top spot for a drink post-race. Happy hour starts from 5pm. They have live bands and DJ’s every day during Grand Prix and post-race entertainment that varies from fire shows to stilt walkers ; be warned it gets busy.

Stars ‘n’ Bars, 6 quai Antoine 1er

The portside stretch where Stars n Bars is located is a hive of activity during the Grand Prix. This year, race teams Mercedes-Benz, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari are parked adjacent, so there’s a high chance you’ll get a photo of one of the drivers wandering past (though access to the trailers is fenced off).

Stars ‘n’ Bars is extremely popular during Grand Prix and it’s no wonder – they have lots of sports memorabilia, a kids play area, games arcade, outdoor terrace and upstairs lounge bar with views of the port. Try their cocktails too! The menu is expansive and includes buffalo wings, sushi, and salads and they have recently partnered with Superfood advocates The Clever Kitchen to bring vegetarian and vegan-friendly options to the digital menu.

Access notes: Wheelchair accessible.

Stars 'n' Bars Monaco

Stars ‘n’ Bars Monaco

Can you watch Monaco Grand Prix for free?

This is the number one internet search query my blog links to related to Grand Prix!   Well, the answer is no and yes.

NO – If you want to sneak a peek up close to the race circuit you are out of luck – grandstand security is tight, fencing around the circuit is colossal and views are very restricted unless you have a ticket.

YES – If you’re fortunate enough to have friends with an apartment or yacht berth overlooking the race circuit, grovel as much as possible for a place on their balcony terrace or aft deck.   For everyone else without a purchased ticket, it is sometimes possible to watch a snippet of the race from Rampe Major (the Le Rocher ramp up to the Palais), or there are free public screens at Place d’Armes relaying live race action.

If you’re not adverse to walking, I have previously watched the race for free from a small restaurant situated above the port at the Fort Antoine gardens – to find it, walk from the Palace square along rue Basse, then rue Psse-Marie de Lorraine and you will see the restaurant on the corner of avenue des Pins and avenue de la Porte Neuve.   There is a small garden terrace and they sell beer for around €6 a pint. Take binoculars as you won’t be able to see much of the circuit but you’ll get a view of the cars coming out of the Fairmont tunnel and heading to the chicanes before the piscine (swimming pool). Accessible toilets are 1 minute away on avenue St Martin. Below are some photos taken from this location:

Where to watch Monaco Grand Prix for free? (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

Where to watch Monaco Grand Prix for free? (accessriviera.wordpress.com)

Things to see and do in Monaco

Whether you have a ticket for the races or not, you can still enjoy Monaco and the atmosphere at the Grand Prix for free (or a low budget). It’s important to note that many attractions in Monaco are closed during the F1 races including the Monaco Oceanarium so don’t base your entire visit around attractions and places of interest being open – the Grand Prix is the main attraction!   Access Riviera has many tips and snippets of advice:

La Condamine

La Condamine is the heart and soul of the Grand Prix action. This is where you will find bars and restaurants with tables spilling onto the pavement, and much of the atmosphere is centred here.

Rue Suffren Raymond has many tents selling race souvenirs (you can pick up a cap for around €10 and t-shirt for about €15 unless you head for the official merchandise tents where the prices quadruple). You’ll also find beer in ample supply and food trucks selling everything from baguette sandwiches and hotdogs to crepes.

Rue Princess Caroline also has restaurants, bars and souvenir stands. Place d’Armes is a great place to check out during Grand Prix – there are big screen TV’s relaying the circuit, car simulators, entertainment, lots of bars and cafeterias around the square, the indoor Marché de la Condamine with food vendors and accessible toilets across the road.

Access notes: La Condamine is paved and mostly flat – other than crowds, you shouldn’t have any issues getting around. Avoid stairs at the port end of rue de Milo.

Japanese Garden (Jardin Japonais de Monaco), avenue Princesse Grace

Situated in the Larvotto area, the Japanese Garden is a relaxed place to visit with a man-made lake, bridges and rock gardens. Free entry and open from 9am until 5pm drop by here if you need a break from racing action.

Japanese Garden, Monaco (Jardin Japonais de Monaco) - a relaxing spot from the Grand Prix bustle

Japanese Garden, Monaco (Jardin Japonais de Monaco) – a relaxing spot from the Grand Prix bustle

Monaco Port, Fontvieille Port, Fontvieille Park and Princess Grace Rose Garden

Unless you have a pass to get onto the yachts, walking the length of Monaco Port during race days is off-limits for the general public excluding quai Antoine 1er. You can also head over to the other side of the Rock, to see Fontvieille Port and there are lots of restaurants along the quay. Follow the sculpture path with over 100 sculptures from Fontvieille Park to the Princess Grace Rose Gardens which is a nice place to sit on benches beside the rose gardens.

Access notes: Accessible on paved surfaces.

ROSE-GARDEN

Monaco-Ville

Monaco-Ville is Monaco’s old town and sits on the rocky headland known as Le Rocher (the Rock).

The Prince’s Palace (Palais Princier de Monaco) is the private residence of the ruling Prince and the main attraction of Monaco-Ville. You can visit the State Apartments (entrance fee applies) year round, tickets can be purchased from the Palace website www.palais.mc There is also a free Changing of the Guards ceremony in front of the Palace at 11.55am daily.

Palais Princier, Monaco (Prince's Palace)

Palais Princier de Monaco (Prince’s Palace)

The Cathedral is a free attraction in Monaco-Ville. It is located on rue Colonel-Bellando-de-Castro, and is the burial place of the Princes of Monaco as well as holding the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.

One of Monaco’s most popular tourist attractions, the Monaco Oceanarium is closed during Grand Prix weekend.

Access notes: Families with baby strollers can head up to the Palace square via the Rampe Major (it’s a gradual uphill climb but the stairs are a large width so its manageable).

Rampe Major, Monaco

Rampe Major, Monaco

Wheelchair bound or tourists with reduced mobility can still visit Monaco-Ville by using the elevator from the carpark underneath the Monaco Oceanarium, the streets are paved and the Palace square is paved and flat. Bear in mind that the actual State Apartments are not accessible by wheelchair.

Shopping

If you fancy shopping while in Monaco, the big shopping complex is Centre Commercial de Fontvieille where you’ll find major brands and boutiques, McDonalds and a Carrefour supermarket. Le Metropole, near the Casino has restaurants, boutiques and a money exchanger. For luxury shopping, head to the streets closest to the Casino, avenue de la Costa and on avenue Princesse Grace by Larvotto beach.

Things to avoid

Not being prepared for all weather conditions – Monaco has it’s own micro-climate and the weather can change quickly. The Grandstands are not covered, so you must prepare for hot sunshine and/or rain.

Driving – avoid driving if at all possible, especially anywhere near La Condamine. During Grand Prix, there are many road blockages and unannounced road diversions. Park at Cap d’Ail, find a car park on the outer rim of Monaco or catch a train.

Partying till late if you’re not staying in Monaco – The atmosphere during Grand Prix is fantastic and many spectators hit the bars and restaurants after the races for a drink or two. However be aware that if you decide to stay for a drink to double check the train timetables – even though Grand Prix is one of the largest events in the region, the trains don’t run all night. Taxis are expensive on the French Riviera and a cab from Monaco to western destinations such as Nice or Antibes will set you back between €60-€150 depending on distance plus night time surcharges.

champagne

Enjoy the post-race parties but don’t forget to check the train schedules!

FEATURED COMPANY BIO

In the lead-up to Monaco Grand Prix I have the privilege to chat to many forward-thinking companies based along the French Riviera. One of these is The Clever Kitchen who will be collaborating with Stars ‘n’ Bars, one of Access Riviera’s recommended Grand Prix restaurants.

The Clever Kitchen offers an inspirational and realistic approach to healthy living in the real world. We know it’s not always easy to make the right eating choices thanks to our busy lives and constant exposure to the temptations of convenience foods – not to mention the confusion surrounding what we should eat and what we shouldn’t!  Our aim is to make it easier to be healthy by offering nutritional enlightenment and healthy recipes based on fresh, seasonal produce and nutrient dense Superfoods.

Healthy food options on the French Riviera with The Clever Kitchen (http://clever.kitchen)

Healthy food options on the French Riviera with The Clever Kitchen (http://theclever.kitchen)

Professional Nutritionist Susan Tomassini is the ‘brains’ of the kitchen, bringing scientific knowledge and experience as a certified Nutritionist to The Clever Kitchen and explaining how different foods benefit and nourish our body and mind. Melanie Gulliver is a finance expert who is also passionate about healthy eating and recipe creator for The Clever Kitchen.

The Clever Kitchen is delighted to be collaborating with Stars ’n’ Bars to introduce nutrient-rich vegetarian and vegan options on their brand new digital menu. In the words of Kate and Didier – co-founders of Stars ’n’ Bars – “It has always been about giving our customers choices. We cook great steaks but a vegetarian will never go hungry in our restaurant. Now with TCK’s involvement as professional nutritionists, SNBs can also introduce and spotlight a recognized brand of ‘healthy’ dishes independent of our own efforts. Our partnership with the Clever Kitchen is a natural next step.”

To find out more about The Clever Kitchen, connect with them via:

Website:             http://theclever.kitchen (Subscribe to their newsletter or purchase some healthy goodies via their shop)

Twitter:               http://twitter.com/clever_kitchen

Facebook:          https://www.facebook.com/thecleverkitchen1/

Instagram:         http://instagram.com/thecleverkitchen

Google+:            https://plus.google.com/115822412199734975884/posts

Thank you to Melanie and Susan from The Clever Kitchen for their time and insights for this article.

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Image credits: Amber Lounge, Artdevivreparmacha, Biletto, Visit Monaco, Stars n Bars, Grimaldi Forum, Palais Princier website, James Bond locations, Panoramio, Cornucopia Events, ExecFlyer

Logo: The Clever Kitchen logo used courtesy of TCK