Located on the north coast of the Mediterranean, Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world. However, the yachts along the navy-blue coastline and the luxury hotels on the mountains make it hard to ignore its presence.
Monaco, located on the north coast of the Mediterranean, enjoys a delightful climate, with over 300 days of sunshine contrasting against the blue tone of the sky and the ocean, which creates a coast spanning only a few hundred meters but with endless romance. Overlooking the harbor from outside the Monaco Palace, the azure sea looks calm yet powerful.
First, the ancient Phoenicians settled here, and in the Middle Ages, Monaco became a town under the protection of the Republic of Genoa. Finally in 1297, the Grimaldis seized the Monaco castle and began a rule of over 700 years. Despite numerous upheavals, Monaco has preserved the best treasures entrusted by time, becoming the crowning jewel on the Mediterranean coastline in the south of France. Even though the size of 300 Monacos combined is not as large as the city center of Shanghai, with its pocket-size scale, Monaco provides tourists with well-rounded luxury experiences.
Historically, Monaco was an absolute monarchy. In 1911, it issued its first constitution, ending autocratic rule, but preserved its royal traditions by becoming a constitutional monarchy. Hundreds of years of royal spirit have endowed Monaco with a distinctive panache. Its downtown area, Monte-Carlo, is prosperous with rows of South European houses and apartment buildings sitting against the mountains and facing the sea; spa centers on the beach refresh one’s mind.
The luxurious architecture styles and breathtaking natural scenery of Monaco have attracted some famous filmmakers. To name just one, the James Bond series further amplified the fame of the Monte-Carlo Casino, familiarizing Chinese audience with it. In fact, the bond between Monaco and the film industry has already begun in the 50s of the last century. To Catch a Thief, starring the would-be Oscar laureate and future Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, was also filmed in Monte-Carlo.
Romantic harbor and yachts
The romance of Monaco is composed of two colors: blue, symbolizing the sea, and white, representing the yachts. The Monacan culture of blue and white manifests itself: both local residents and foreign tourists are used to using the yacht for a vacation on the Mediterranean or business meetings. The mega yacht rental business here is thriving. Professional shipping staff can satisfy almost all your needs. During the Monaco Classic Sailing Week, one can choose to enjoy the privilege of riding a yacht to view the heated competition.
The blue and white culture is not only shown on the waves, but also proven by the prosperity of the yacht industry. Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) is an influential event in the yacht industry all over Europe, and a must-go occasion for our magazine. Every September, all professionals in the industry, including yacht producers, designers, equipment providers, brokers and service providers convene here. MYS is also the only exhibition specifically for yachts over 25 meters in the world. Around 500 internationally leading enterprises in the yacht industry attend the exhibition, bringing 100 yachts ranging from 82 to 262 feet.
Royalty nurtured by time
One will surely visit the palace when in Monaco. First built as a fortress, the palace is the most fitting representative of the Monacan spirit among the treasured buildings. It still serves as the residence for the prince of the Monacan royal family – the Grimaldis. Originally, the palace was a Genoa fortress castle, and was then turned into a royal palace in 1215. The furniture across centuries presents its glorious history: the 16th century Italian hallways and murals, the golden hall of Louis XV with carpets and items designed in the Louis XV style, the ceremony hall still in use today for the prince’s guards to assemble, the blue hall decorated by a dark azure contrasting against gold, the Venetian crystal chandeliers and the silk carpets matching the shiny 19th century Italian furniture, and the throne hall with a renaissance fireplace … all contribute to the glory of the palace. In addition, the palace is home to legendary objects that appear frequently in European historical tales, such as wood carvings and silk carpets.
Aside from the palace, Monaco Cathedral built in 1875 resembles a historic oil-painting. White stones from La Turbie are used to present an ancient Roman and Byzantine architecture. The Monte-Carlo Theatre completed in 1879 has been staging shows for nobles ever since, and even hosted the coronation ceremony for Prince Albert II of Monaco upon reopening on November 19, 2005. With over 150 years of history, Monte-Carlo Symphony Orchestra holds concerts with top solo singers in the world annually.
In summer, open-air concerts are held in the courtyard of the palace. This tradition has been established during the reign of Prince Rainier III. The first performance in August, 1959 was well-received by critics worldwide. Since then, the Monte-Carlo National Orchestra, or Monte-Carlo Philharmonic today, has held international fame. Under the serene summer starry skies, the classical music that were the prerogativeof royalty and nobles now flows into the ears of “commoners”, provoking sympathy and resonance.
Gambling and antique cars
The nights of gaudy luxury contrastwith the historic coastline in the daytime. Monacan nightlife is splendid. Leisure lounges and clubs provide wines from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere. At the beach jazz bar, one can lie on the canvas deck chairs while the music caresses your ears. People from different countries and regions party until dawn in the uniquely-designed interiors, graceful atmosphere and melodious music.
The casino makes one restless. Tourists in Monaco visit the renowned Monte-Carlo Casino, whether they like gambling or not. Its palace-style architecture, exuberant garden, red carpets and chandeliers indoors, well-mannered waiters in suitsattract billionaires worldwide to squander their money here. A line of top-brand luxury cars resting on the front square showcases the purchasing power of the customers at Monte-Carlo Casino.
The construction of the casino was ordered by Prince Charles III in 1856 in response to a fiscal crisis of the royal family. The impressive team of designers include architect of the Paris Opera House, Charles Garnier, who realized the addition of a theatre to the casino. Shows by Monte Carlo Ballet entertain gamblers in their spare time. The grand terrace enables customers to view all the way to Bordighera in Italy. Tourists and local residents like to use the square as a gathering spot. The opera garden at the back of the casino can house 700 people and serve as a private venue for high-class activities.
The Vintage Cars Museum in Fontvieille is a unique scenic spot in Monaco. The late Prince Rainier III collected vintage cars as a hobby. In 1993, the palace garage could not hold his sizeable collection any more. Therefore, the prince decided to build a vintage car museum to share with people his collection. Over a hundred exhibits, which range from old-school British classic cars to sports cars that raced F1 battlefields, serve as raconteurs for the story of cars in a space of 5000 m2. Car fans should make sure they don’t miss this museum.
Fast and furious
Monaco is a paradise for racing enthusiasts. The Monaco Grand Prix held yearly is the top among all F1 competitions. The course goes through Monte-Carlo and La Condamine, heaving and dipping along the mountains. The demanding course, combined with the beautiful street views, attracts numerous tourists and racing fans to come. Further, a part of the race runs alongside the Monte-Carlo Harbor, where most spectators gather to view the race in sea breezes. The affluent board their own yachts at the harbor, which serve as private audience stands. During the race, balconies and terraces in hotels become audience areas, too. The Ermanno Palace Penthouse has been named “the best view for Grand Prix” by the organizer Automobile Club of Monaco. There are multiple ways to view the race. Regardless of how, the nervous excitement and the audience’s cheering are sure to make your blood boil.
Monaco is a bona fide luxury metropolis. Brand boutiques comprise the downtown “golden ring”, with dozens of luxury brands establishing their kingdoms. Aside from leading brands in the fashion industry and fancy windows of jewelers, renowned antique shops have found their fan base here among art enthusiasts.
Experiencing the culture
Monaco is host to various cultural events. The annual Monte-Carlo Circus Festival held between January and February brings joy to the city. Clowns, animal tamers and acrobats put on giddy costumes and present endless visual feasts. The board give out some most respected awards in the circus world, including the “Golden Clown” (Clown d’Or) award.
The patron of the Circus Festival, Princess Stephanie of Monaco herself is a legendary figure. Youngest daughter of Prince Rainer III and Princess Grace Kelly, she has been a singer, swimming suit designer and model and had a wide range of hobbies. She did gymnastics competitively at school. Since she saw the Circus Festival in 1974, she has grown a deep interest in acrobatics, which explains why she would sponsor the event in the future.
From mid-July to September this year, an exhibition with the theme “the Forbidden City” will be held at Grimaldi Forum Monaco, displaying the imperial court life of the Qing emperors, mainly Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong and demonstrating the colorful traditional arts of China through works of calligraphy, paintings, china and so on. By the time, the luxury of an ancient Eastern world and the magnificence of modern Monaco with long-lasting customs would contrast against each other. It remains a mystery what kind of sparkles the collision would create. The exhibition also provides Chinese people enthusiastic for traditional culture an opportunity to visit Monaco.
As a nation where multiple cultures meld with each other, Monaco boasts gourmet food from all over the world. The most famous Chinese restaurant is “Song Qi”. The name stands for the breath of Song Dynasty, the peak of culture and technology development in ancient China. The restaurant was established by Alan Yau, who previously founded multiple Michelin restaurants, among which Hakkasan is probably the best-known in China. At Song Qi, verdant chairs foiled by golden bars please your eyes; artfully designed dishes ranging from Cantonese dim sum to Peking Roast duck satisfy your taste buds.
Joel Robuchon at Hotel Metropole is not to be missed. Both the gorgeous delicacies and the artistic interior design live up to its two Michelin starts. An open kitchen enables guests to have a unique and pleasant experience of watching their dishes being made and conversing with the chefs. From the terrace, guests can overlook the streets of Monte-Carlo.
Blue Bay at Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel is noteworthy. Ranked top in ratings on TripAdvisor, its popularity is manifest. The restaurant uses seasonal Mediterranean ingredients to provide Mediterranean and French cuisine. Compared with Joel Robuchon, Blue Bay has adopted a simpler and more modern design. At night, violet lighting creates a magical atmosphere for the restaurant, which is an ideal choice for lovers to have a romantic dinner – eating on the panoramic terrace, customers feel like they are directly above the sea.
In addition to these high-class eateries, Monacan street food is mouthwatering: the crispy steamed-bread made with Swiss Chard and Italian ricotta cheese, Barbagiuan; the leaf-shaped orange pancake available at local bakeries, Fougasse; the stew made from air-dried codfish cooked in tomato sauce, Stocafi.
Such a fantastic Monaco reasonably attracts many immigrants. For example, F1 racer Tomas Scheckter and acknowledged screenwriter Daniel Thompson are both Monacan residents. 19th century writer Sherwood said that in Monaco, “one gets tired of the word beautiful,” as it’s used so often. Tiny Monaco is only half the size of Central Park in New York, but offers endless beauty. Let go of daily troubles and immerse yourself in Monaco. A wonderful vacation awaits.
“If there is anything so romantic as that castle-palace-fortress of Monaco I have not seen it. If there is anything more delicious than the lovely terraces and villas of Monte Carlo I do not wish to see them. There is nothing beyond the semi-tropical vegetation, the projecting promontories into the Mediterranean, the all-embracing sweep of the ocean, the olive groves, and the enchanting climate! One gets tired of the word beautiful.”