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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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