Fontvieille, Monaco

Photo: Columbus Monte-Carlo
Photo: Columbus Monte-Carlo

Monaco. It’s the home of a prince–and now a princess–race car drivers, former Grand Slam champions, and wealthy entrepreneurs looking to evade taxes. It’s full of luxurious casinos, enormous yachts, credit card maxing hotels, and pricey real estate. And it’s the second smallest country in the world–the first being the Vatican–covering 0.78 square miles of land. So how can a mere commoner visit one of the most sought-after destinations on the French Riviera?

First, don’t have your heart set on Monte Carlo. Monaco may be tiny, but it’s still divided into nine quartiers. Monte Carlo, with its celebrity filled hotels and famous gambling complex, might be the most-well known, but it’s certainly not the only option. Fontvieille is one of the younger areas of Monaco. It was created out of reclaimed land on the western border in the 1970s. Today, it’s a residential area protected from the easterly winds by the Rock of Monaco and the southerly swells by a sea wall. Plus, it’s only a short walk away from, well, everything.

Second, select a modern, boutique hotel. Monaco’s grand old hotels are full of marble, gold, and antiques. For years, they were the only options. Then the Columbus Monte-Carlo opened. Despite it’s name, the chic hotel is located in Fontvieille. Balconies overlook the Princess Grace Rose Garden and the Côte d’Azur. Helicopters from Nice land at the nearby heliport. Softly hued rooms–think white with touches of mauve or lavender–are filled with black-and-white images of the French Riviera, super soft beds, and blackout curtains to cocoon yourself in this serene little oasis. Be sure to stop by the cocktail lounge for a drink. The chocolate martini has a melting truffle in the bottom of the glass.

Photo: Columbus Monte-Carlo
Photo: Columbus Monte-Carlo

And third, spend time outside of the casinos. Your second thought, Larvotto Beach, isn’t an option this time of year either. It’s a little too chilly to go topless on the pebbly beach. Instead, ogle the yachts, which are bigger than your apartment, in the Port de Fontvieille. Check out Prince Rainier III’s private collection of vintage cars–Lincolns, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Cadillacs, and even Vespas–at the Museum of Antique Automobiles. See how the country’s currency and postage has changed throughout history at the Stamps and Money Museum. Go shopping. Find what’s in style at the Fontvieille Shopping Centre or search for gems at Les Puces de Fontvieille, a funky Saturday morning flea market. And enjoy a leisurely dinner of seafood risotto and a bottle or two of rosé wine at Constantine, a tiny restaurant near the harbor.

You may not have a tiara, but you’ll still be treated like royalty in the quieter sections of Monaco. Especially in the off-season.

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