Need an insider guide to Monaco? Mary Rose McLean has you covered

Not sure where to eat, drink and play in Monaco? You need an insider guide to Monaco, and Mary Rose McLean who lives and works in this glamourous principality can help. 

If you want to visit Monaco and experience the best places to go and things to do, you need an insider’s view. Mary-Rose McLean lives and works in the tiny principality and knows just what to suggest…

Monaco is tiny. Really tiny. In fact, its entire area is just 0.78 square miles. Despite its miniscule size, it has a population of roughly 38,400. This makes Monaco the most densely populated country in the world. And with it being so small, first time visitors might think it’s simple to see everything. 

Anyone who lives here or is a regular visitor to Monaco knows this is far from the case. While you can walk across the principality easily and follow the tourist trails, in order to enjoy the real Monaco, you need to know exactly where to go. Here’s my suggestions for the best way to indulge in the properly glamorous side of this most magical of city states. 

An insider guide to Monaco 

Many people automatically flock to the world-famous Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo. And it is certainly an iconic place to stay, with five-star luxury right at the centre of the Place du Casino. You’ll find Michelin starred restaurants, the Casino de Monte-Carlo as featured in two James Bond movies, and much more. But for people in the know, the Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo is that bit more exclusive. 

Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo is a masterpiece of Belle Epoque architecture and is found right in heart of Monaco. Overlooking the Mediterranean, the Hotel Hermitage has a range of luxury apartments, rooms and suites. Guests are also given the Cercle Monte-Carlo card, which opens doors to the private beach, tennis courts, golf course and the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo wellness centre. 

For a modern yet timeless seaside hotel, head to The Monte Carlo Beach Hotel. Designed by architect India Mahdavi, it’s an elegant hotel complete with access directly onto its own private beach. It also boasts the biggest sand-bottom swimming pool in the world and is ideal for families and larger groups. 

And while all of the top-class hotels in Monaco have their own Michelin starred restaurants, knowing where to go for the best food in town is priceless. 

Where to eat – an insider’s view

One of the newest places in town is COYA Monte Carlo. This Peruvian restaurant promises to offer Latin American culture with a Mediterranean view. The menu is Peruvian fusion, with light and colourful dishes. More importantly, it’s always party time with a vibrant setting, fabulous views and a specialist cocktail list in the Pisco Bar and Lounge. Expect DJs, late night dancing and fun. 

A firm favourite with locals and visitors alike, the Buddha Bar has been serving fabulous nightlife, food and drinks since 2010. It’s right next to the Casino Monte Carlo and is still very much theplace to be seen. 

For Michelin-starred fabulousness served on a gorgeous terrace, head to the Joel Robuchon Monte Carlo. It’s the Michelin-starred restaurant located in the Hotel Metropole and gives you the chance to sample sublime food while people-watching – something that could lead to spotting all kinds of people in Monaco!

If you want something more relaxed, then go for an Italian meal at Polpetta Restaurant. It’s been around for 33 years and was a favourite of Prince Rainier III himself. Specialities include fish, meat and home-made pasta, and the atmosphere is laid back yet refined.  

Nightlife in Monaco – where to go

Monaco is known for its beauty, its charm, its casinos and its nightlife. There is no finer place to party, and you will undoubtedly see someone rich and famous while you’re here. And a place where you’re more likely to rub shoulders with the glamorous people is Jimmy’z Monte-Carlo

This legendary club has been going since the 1970s and was reopened at the end of June 2017. The refurb managed to retain the classic flavour of the original club and added a floating Summer Bar and open-air tables. It’s an ultra-VIP club attracting an internationally elegant clientele. Expect world-famous DJs, a lot of Champagne and a glam atmosphere. 

If you’re hitting the casinos and want to get a drink, then Le Bar Americain is the best bet. It’s found inside the Hotel de Paris, so easy to access when you’re fed up with the tables. Famous for its signature cocktails and live music.

For something a little less frantic, head to Sass Café. For more than 25 years, this piano bar has been offering sophisticated dining accompanied by music. And at night it turns into an excellent club with live DJ sets. Its exclusive cosy dining atmosphere seamlessly transitions every night at 1am into The Club. 

What to do – a mix of exclusive and tourist-led things to do

You can’t go to Monaco without a good look around the beautiful palace where Princess Grace of Monaco lived, and where her family live now. Book a tour of the Palais Princier de Monaco for a tour around the State Apartments. 

And for Grand Prix enthusiasts, or just lovers of expensive and beautiful cars, a trip to the Automobile Museum is a must. Prince Rainier III was a huge collector of rare and classic cars. In 1993 he opened his collection to the public in the form of this museum. There are more than 100 cars on show including Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos and a 2013 Lotus F1. 

To experience Monaco like the rich and famous do, spend a day at the Monte Carlo Beach Club. Take a day to relax, swim in the Mediterranean and really soak up the atmosphere of this unique city-state.  

These are just a few of my favourite things to do and see in Monaco. First-time visitors are guaranteed to love their visit and will go home wanting more.