The Drive’s City Guide to Monaco
Class, culture and cars take the coast.
Monaco. There’s no more iconic location in the motoring world. Home to the Grand Prix, hub of high-end car culture. A tiny sliver of breathtaking coastline where icons meet and mingle. Monaco, and its best-known district, Monte Carlo, is a glittering enclave for six-figure supercars and eight-figure super-yachts. Monaco is a tasteful testament to excess and luxury. Yet, remarkably, the principality is charmingly approachable.
The Oceanographic Museum
Rising out of the Mediterranean cliffside just south of Monaco’s famous harbor is the Oceanographic Museum. A quiet oasis in a bustling town, it has operated since 1910 and was once run by none other than Jacques Cousteau. The magnificent Neo-Baroque building is reason enough to visit, but the wonders inside can easily steal away the rest of your day. Packed with floor to ceiling displays of pioneering oceanography in a space suited to a palace, the Oceanographic Museum is at once breathtaking and perfectly family-friendly. Whole pods of whale skeletons swim through the center of one grand hall, while in another, an entire whaling boat and the laboratory of a research vessel have been preserved. Downstairs, floors are dedicated to a massive modern aquarium. From the rooftop observation deck, one of the best views of Monaco is yours for the taking.
The Bateau Bus
When you manage to tear yourself away from the captivating Oceanographic Museum, leave your car in the garage and take the narrow path winding down to the Mediterranean, and the Quai Ranier III. You’ll pass a broad amphitheater cut into the rocks for swimmers and sunbathers, and eventually find yourself harborside. There, seek out the red Bateau Bus. The little electric ferry makes regular runs from one side of the harbor to the other, weaving between superyachts and depositing passengers just down the hill from the famous Monte Carlo Casino. The €2 ride is good for a million-dollar view. If you’ve missed the ferry by a minute and have a little time before the next crossing, try the nearby STARS’N’BARS restaurant. It’s a race-weekend hangout of F1 drivers—a bizarre confluence of American burger joint and European motorsport fetish with a harborside patio and a friendly staff of attractive polyglots. A perfect place to stop for a drink.
The F1 Course
Just a few quick steps off the ferry you’ll find yourself on the Monaco Grand Prix course. You can’t miss it; it’s unmistakable. Red-and-white curbing will guide the way. Seen firsthand, the course is all the more remarkable for its tightness (F1 cars, the fastest cars on the planet, take the Fairmont Hairpin at a whopping 30-mph). Packed with tourists and opposing traffic? It’s a tiptoe.
But the Grand Prix course is hallowed ground. You might be a wide-eyed novice on the track, but you're still carving the same path as legends like Andretti and Sena and Hill. And without the blur of panning cameras you can see so much more of the character of the track. The tunnel? Who knew it was lined with driveways? Walk the course or drive it, you’ll climb curbs, gawk, and leave Monaco with a unique feel for the greatest street circuit in racing.
Drive Like a Local
If the Grand Prix course seemed tight, the parking in Monaco is tighter still. In the busy season, it’s a wonder that people manage to drive cars in Monaco at all. Wanting to avoid curb rash and door dings, we asked an expert on the best way to get around Monte Carlo. YouTube star Seb Delanney has unmistakable car-guy cred. Before racking up 12,000,000 views while gushing about the automotive scene, the youngster grew up driving sportscars through the principality.
Drink Coffee and Watch A Parade of Characters
The Monte Carlo Casino is Monaco’s most famous attraction. Both an inspiration and the setting for countless thrillers and spy films, the Casino is unquestionably the star of any Monaco tour. And fair enough: it’s an icon. But if you’re not drawn to the roulette wheel, have a coffee at the neighboring Cafe de Paris. With streetside seating, there's no better view of the revolving wheel of the rich and royal as they dodge tourists and negotiate parking their four-wheeled finest out front. The spectacle is as entertaining as any hand of cards. The cafe shares the same Belle Epoque style as its neighbor, and serves everything from champagne or a reasonably priced coffee to a $15 milkshake on its broad patio, making it a perfect place to kick up your feet and spectate like you own the joint.
- RELATEDScenes from the Sweden Record RunAlex Roy and the 2017 Volvo S90 conquer Sweden.READ NOW
- RELATEDSetting Records: Sweden’s Midnight-Sun RunAlex Roy and Volvo’s semi-autonomous Pilot Assist technology steers the new Volvo S90 down the length of Sweden.READ NOW
- RELATEDGothenburg DiariesA day in the life of Sweden's southern cultural center.READ NOW
- RELATEDThe Drive's City Guide to GothenburgVolvo's hometown is secretly the coolest city in Sweden.READ NOW
- RELATEDSetting Records: The International Run of Intrigue and EspionageAlex Roy and the Volvo S90 chase a record from Paris to Monaco.READ NOW