Europe

Is it possible to do Monaco on a budget? How to visit to the billionaire’s playground without going broke

“Budget” and “Monaco” aren’t words that are usually seen next to each other, considering that the tiny principality on the Cote d’Azur is home to more billionaires per square metre than anywhere else in the world.

However, it is possible to enjoy a break on the cheap in this place dripping with money.

For a start, just strolling around – which is easy, as it’s only 2.02 square kilometres in size (the second-smallest sovereign state in the world, after Vatican City) – is great fun, with so much crammed into such little space.

Watching the procession of Ferraris, Porsches, Maseratis and the like glide past is certainly something to behold, as is the sight of Port Hercule with its superyachts. There are lovely gardens in which to stroll and landmark buildings to admire, as well as the Formula One track to walk along, plus some surprisingly affordable restaurants and bars.

Just don’t get tempted to try to emulate James Bond by having a flutter in the Monte Carlo Casino, otherwise your plans for a cheap break will be blown right out of the beautifully turquoise Mediterranean waters that are always in the background.

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The Novotel Monte Carlo has a central location, along with very comfortable rooms, a small gym, sauna, steam room and outdoor pool.

The cheapest accommodation is outside Monaco. Aparthotel Adagio Monaco Monte Cristo, despite the name, has a French address and is just over the border. It’s a five-minute walk from the Monte Carlo train station. Double rooms have the added advantage of a small kitchenette.

Stay in Nice and visit Monaco by bus for the greatest savings. The Hotel Danemark is small and quite basic but clean and friendly, with double rooms that can often be under £70. It’s near the railway station, with trains to Monaco taking 25 minutes.

For such an expensive location, there are lots of surprisingly inexpensive restaurants. Marche de la Condamine (Condamine Market) at 15 Place d’ Armes, dating from 1880, contains several small restaurants serving modestly priced dishes including Lebanese street food, pizzas, seafood, tapas, bakery items and local specialities such as savoury socca and aromatic pissaladiere and fougasse.

The market has a branch of A Roca, which serves Monaco specialities such as fried courgette flowers, and barbagiuan, a fritter stuffed with chard, spinach leaves or squash, plus rice, leeks and onions.

Creperie Pizzeria du Rocher (12 Rue Comte Felix Gastaldi) in the Old Town offers margherita pizza for €7.50 (£6.40) or a three-course meal for €16.50, and Pizza Mama at 7 Place d’Armes has pizzas from €10.50 upwards.

Upmarket Belgian restaurant Smakelijk at Le Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel (22 Avenue Princesse Grace) has a great offer considering the very high quality: €26 for a set lunch with a starter, main course, water and coffee.

Brasserie de Monaco (Rte de la Piscine) was established in 1905 and has a great location overlooking Port Hercule (although this may be obscured, depending on the time of year, by the banks of seating for events such as the Grand Prix). It offers a range of its own craft beers as well as wines, spirits and cocktails and has a good value (for Monaco) main course (salads, burgers, pizzas etc) and drink for €18, 12–2pm, Monday to Friday; happy hour is 5–8pm.

Cute little Bar Le Zinc (La Condamine Market, 15 Place d’Armes) is a lively spot, popular with locals, while La Rascasse (1 Quai Antoine 1er) is relatively inexpensive for Monaco and often has a happy hour 5–8pm, as well as acoustic live music, salsa and DJ nights. Gerhard’s (42 Quai Jean-Charles Rey) is a good value bar-restaurant with beers from €3.50 and cocktails from €7.50.

Being small, Monaco is ideal for exploring on foot. It does have a number of steep hills but, fortunately, being such an affluent place (it has the highest GDP per capita in the world and the lowest poverty rate) means there are numerous lifts and escalators around for ascending the slopes. There are pedestrian underpasses on some busy streets, which are completely spotless.

Bright red electric “MonaBikes”, part of a bike-share scheme, are at 49 stations around the principality. The first 30 minutes are free, the next 30 minutes are €1, and after an hour the additional cost is €2 per 30-minute period.

There are also seven daytime bus routes, two night bus routes, and a water bus that ferries passengers across Port Hercule.

Within the centre is a public sandy man-made beach, Plage Larvotto. It makes a lovely spot for enjoying the sun, having a picnic or that vital French Riviera pastime, people-watching, and it seldom gets crowded. The shallow waters are ideal for children and there’s anti-jellyfish netting.

Xural.com

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