Monaco-Ville, Monaco

Photo: Tobi 87 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Tobi 87 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s a perfect day along the Côte d’Azur. The sun is shining. You keep catching whiffs of lemon, lavender, and rose when the wind blows to cool things off. The azure water is sparkling. Boats—from old fishing boats to graceful sailboats to huge yachts—glide in and out of the harbor. While the Rock juts prominently out into the Mediterranean Sea.

That rock—the Rock—is Monaco-Ville, the medieval heart of Monaco. It was first called Monoikos, when the Phocaean Greeks settled it in the 6th century BC. A fortress was built on it during the Middle Ages. Then the Grimaldis seized the rocky headland in 1297. Monaco’s royal family has lived there ever since.

Spend the morning exploring Monaco-Ville. Walk through the quiet, pedestrian-only streets. Watch the changing of the guard outside the gates of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, where Prince Albert II lives. Visit the churches. St. Nicholas Cathedral is where Monaco’s royalty—including Princess Grace—is buried. The Chapel of Mercy is the starting point for a torch-lit procession every year on Good Friday. And the Museum of the Chapel of Visitation is both a chapel and an art museum. Stroll through St. Martin Gardens, where Aleppo pines and yellow agaves stand along the rocky paths. And don’t miss the Fort Antoine Theatre, an amphitheater at the bottom of the rock.

Photo: Monte-Carlo SBM
Photo: Monte-Carlo SBM

After walking around the old town, you’re in for a treat for lunch. At the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel, on Av Princesse Grace, you find Elsa Restaurant. The interior is decorated with white tablecloths, deep chairs, and blue-and-white walls. The white tables, chairs, and umbrellas on the terrace create a perfect contrast to the blue sea. All of the food is organic and seasonal. In fact, Elsa was the first all-organic restaurant to receive a Michelin star.

Your meal takes you on a journey through the Mediterranean. Freshly baked bread and four types of olive oil are set on the table first. A Côte de Provence rosé is chilling in an ice bucket beside you. Your appetizer, the bio sama, is an artsy dish of summer vegetables—including wild asparagus, baby carrots, and fava beans. You can’t decide between gold risotto with saffron pistils or potato dumplings with baby-squid ragout for your pasta course.

All the seafood dishes sound amazing, as well. You ultimately select the rock fish fillet that was slowly stewed in extra virgin olive oil with basil and sun-dried tomatoes. While Parmigiano-Reggiano is served three ways—in a barbajuan (stuffed pastry), as ice cream, and shaved—with 25-year-old balsamic juice for the cheese course. Dessert is simply out of the question. But you’ll continue to feel like royalty long after your amazing meal is complete.

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