Monte Carlo

The Hôtel de Paris and the Villa Sauber
The old town of Monaco-Ville
The village of St-Paul-de-Vence

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Monte Carlo

The meeting place of the international jet set

Monte-Carlo is where the real money is flung about, and its famous casino demands to be seen on an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion. Adjoining it is the gaudy opera house, and around the palm-tree-lined place du Casino are more casinos, palace-hotels and grands cafés.

The American Bar of the Hôtel de Paris is the place for the elite to meet, while the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Hermitage has a beautiful Gustave Eiffel iron-and-glass dome.

The Villa Sauber is one of the few surviving belle époque villas in the principality, set amid concrete apartment blocks. It comprises one half of the Nouveau Musée National, and presents interesting temporary art exhibitions, often on Monaco-related themes. MSC Mediterranean cruises also offer excursions to the old town of Monaco-Ville which has been spared the developers’ worst.

On place du Palais you can watch the changing of the guard or see the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace in the nineteenth-century cathedral. One of Monaco’s MSC best excursion is the beautiful fortified village of St-Paul-de-Vence. It’s a village squeezed onto a hilltop just 3km south of Vence towards Cagnes.

While the village itself is a delight, and is usually crammed with visitors throughout the summer, its popularity owes as much to the Fondation Maeght, a wonderful museum of modern art and sculpture tucked into the woods nearby, as it does to its medieval core. You can’t miss its most famous landmark, right outside the walls on the only approach road – the Colombe d’Or, a hotel-restaurant that’s celebrated for the art on its walls, donated in lieu of payment for meals by the then-impoverished Braque, Picasso, Matisse and Bonnard in the lean years following World War I.

Must see places in Monte Carlo

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    A great little state
    A great little state

    The tiny independent Principality of Monaco, no bigger than London’s Hyde Park, has been in the hands of the autocratic Grimaldi family since the 13th century, save for the two decades following the French Revolution, and in theory would become part of France were the royal line to die out.

    When you’re on a cruise to Monaco it’s easy to understand how the last hundred years the principality has lived off gambling, tourism and its status as a tax haven. Among its inhabitants, French citizens outnumber native-born Monegasques.

    Along with the Pope and the house of Liechtenstein, Prince Albert II is one of Europe’s few remaining constitutionally autocratic rulers. A holiday to Monaco is like taking a stroll along the Mediterranean. The three-kilometre-long state consists of several distinct quarters.

    The pretty old town of Monaco-Ville around the palace stands on the high promontory, with the densely built suburb and marina of Fontvieille in its western shadow. La Condamine is the old port quarter on the other side of the rock; Larvotto, the rather ugly bathing resort with artificial beaches of imported sand, reaches to the eastern border; and Monte Carlo is in the middle. French Beausoleil, uphill to the north, is merely an extension of the conurbation – the border is often unmarked and always easily crossed on foot.