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Sports enthusiasts

Race to watch the Monaco Grand Prix

The billionaire’s playground plays host to the Grand Prix, the most coveted and dangerous Formula 1 race in the world, but there’s plenty more excitement to be discovered off track.

By Karen Pasquali Jones

When it comes to attitude, Monaco – the second smallest country in the world and host of the world famous Grand Prix – is in pole position. 

The billionaire’s playground is squeezed into precisely 0.78 square miles – just over half the size of New York’s Central Park – on the French Riveria.  

But with its lavish wealth – it has 12,261 millionaires squeezed into less than a mile – casinos and glitzy events such as the annual Monaco Grand Prix and Yacht Show it races ahead of its glamorous rivals. 

The wealthy flock to the teeny city-state because it is a notorious tax haven, and boasts a royal heritage – Hollywood actress Grace Kelly was a Princess here after marrying Prince Rainier III in 1956 before dying in a car accident almost 30 years later at the age of 52.

Just 30 miles west of Cannes, Monaco has zero poverty, is home to one of the most expensive avenues in the world, and every May or early June the most legendary race on earth rolls in to ensure all eyes are on the principality. 

The Monaco Grand Prix is the most coveted, and the most dangerous, on the Formula 1 circuit. First held there in 1929, drivers must change gear a staggering 54 times per lap testing their skills and courage, as well as their finely-tuned cars, to the limit.

The circuit de Monaco has 78 laps including hairpin turns at speeds of up to 200 mph through the city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine around the principality’s harbour. From 26-29 May, this year, grab yourself a birds-eye view trackside – from one of Monaco’s five-star hotels or a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea to watch the Grand Prix in style. 

The elegant Hotel Hermitage has a Diamond Suite Princiere overlooking the course – you’ll be able to smell the burning rubber and hear the roar of the cars –  while Place du Casino is so close to the track you’re practically in the pits. For the best view, the Fairmont Monte Carlo has a suite that looks onto the Fairmont Hairpin turn and the Louis II tunnel, but at 69,000 euros for a suite it’s out of most mortals’ price range, though it does include access to the rooftop terrace and a Grand Prix welcome package

It’s not all about cars 

Once the engines are switched off, there’s plenty more excitement on offer. Head to the golden Belle Epoque Casino de Monte-Carlo that inspired James Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale. Put on your tux (no trainers allowed and tie is compulsory for the exclusive salon privés), or LBD, and order a martini, shaken not stirred. 

Visit after 2pm – over 18s only – to try your hand at Blackjack, roulette and poker. 

For some retail therapy, head to One Monte-Carlo to discover designer labels in Casino Square and in the neighboring streets of Avenue de Monte-Carlo and Avenue de Beaux-Arts. Perfect for a tax-free spending spree. 

Published 03.01.22