This spring, I decided to visit a place that’s been on my travel bucket list for a while: Monaco.
I’ve long heard how glamorous Monaco is, and always wanted to visit. I love posh European cities, specifically Paris and London, and I wanted to see how it stacked up.
I’m also intrigued by the fact that the country is so small in size — just 0.78 square miles — yet filled with so much wealth. It’s nicknamed the Billionaire’s playground and is the richest country in the world when measured by GDP per capita, according to the World Bank Group. Monaco possesses a $173,688.20 GDP per capita, USA Today reported.
This summer, I decided to finally make it happen and made my first visit to the country, traveling from my home in the tri-state area.
From the moment I landed in Nice, France, and made the short drive over, I was blown away by all the examples of luxury I saw. Here’s what caught my eye right away.
To get to Monaco, I flew from New Jersey to Nice, France. As soon as I landed, I saw many private luxury jets.
For my short 3-day trip to Monaco, I flew from my home airport of Newark to Nice, France. Monaco doesn’t have its own airport, and from Nice, Monaco is only about 19 miles away by train or car.
Upon arrival at the airport, I gasped as my aircraft drove past private planes in all sizes to reach our gate. I noticed many private jets that were lined up and a whole slew of others parked further off on the runway. In addition to planes that appeared to be privately owned, I also noticed ones from companies like VistaJet.
Chartering a jet can cost thousands of dollars; owning one is even more expensive, which only furthered previewed the wealth I was about to encounter.
At the airport in Nice, I spotted several different helicopter companies advertising rides to Monaco. It seemed like one way to arrive in style.
While Monaco might not have its own airport, it can accomodate helicopters. As I walked through the airport in Nice, I noticed that there were a lot of advertisements for helicopter companies to get to Monaco, and it seemed to me like another way to appeal to luxury travelers.
I even noticed a separate terminal for helicopter departures, which is something I haven’t seen before.
The arrivals area had stands for different companies like Blade and Monacair, which offers 7-minute helicopter flights year-round from Nice Airport to Monaco. Monacair fares start at 210 euros for one seat, or 750 euros for a fully private helicopter ride for up to six passengers, including chauffeur service.
From Nice Airport, it was only a short drive to Monaco. I booked a standard car service and was surprised to be picked up in a luxury Mercedes Benz.
Once I landed, I met up with my driver that I pre-booked. The drive itself was about 30 minutes, though it can be a bit more with traffic. I saw that taxis were also available.
Even though I booked a regular car service for around $100, I ended up in a luxury Mercedes Benz, which felt like an appropriate way to make my way into Monaco.
As I arrived into the city of Monte Carlo in Monaco, where I’d be staying, I was impressed by architecture. It reminded me of posh European towns I’ve visited that are steeped in history and exude wealth.
Before I arrived in Monaco, I had expectations that it might feel overcrowded since it’s a small country, but after seeing it in person, I didn’t feel that way at all.
As I drove past buildings in Monte Carlo with luxe exteriors, gorgeous views, and old-style exteriors, I was reminded me of Paris.
The buildings impressed me with historic facades that I thought appeared charming, grand, atmospheric, and expensive. Monaco’s real estate is the most expensive market in the world where the average price per square meter in Monaco is about $55,000 USD, and I thought most buildings I passed exuded that sense of wealth.
I was shocked to learn that most of the five-star hotels in Monaco are owned by one management company and come with access to the Monte Carlo Beach Club, which is private for members only.
Monaco is home to many five-star hotels and The Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) group owns several of them, including Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo, Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo, The Monte Carlo Beach, and The Monte Carlo Bay Hotel + Resort. The group also owns the Monte Carlo Beach Club, so guests at these hotels receive exclusive access to it.
While walking around Monte Carlo in Monaco, I saw Hotel de Paris, Hotel Hermitage, and The Monte Carlo Bay Hotel + Resort.
Hotel de Paris impressed me right away. It was established in 1864 and is a significant hotel development in Monaco since it’s located right next to the famed Casino. It’s also hosted celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Elton John.
According to a Google search, a standard room at Hotel de Paris starts at $517 in the low winter season, but doubles to $1,000 per night in summer. Splurge on a suite and you’ll easily pay close to $5,000 per night in high season, according to search results on the hotel’s website.
In my opinion, the hotel looked absolutely stunning with historic architecture that fit in with the rest of the city. When I popped inside, I also found it to be beautifully renovated and completely modern.
According to the country’s tourism website, the city of Monte Carlo only has 13 hotels, including the aforementioned properties.
All of the Monte Carlo hotels I saw impressed me with ornate exteriors, fancy restaurants, and luxe accommodations.
According to the country’s tourism website, there are just 13 hotels in the entire country, which range from high-end five-star to two, three, and four-star hotels.
Rooms at the luxury Hotel Metropole begin at $360 a night on average, according to a google search, for a basic room, yet can go up to $41,000+ a night or more for some of the most expensive suites.
I also learned about the the Monte Carlo Yacht Club, another place known to be ultra exclusive. Here, I saw many examples of luxury.
The ultra-exclusive Monaco Yacht Club was founded by the late Ranier III, the former Prince of Monaco and husband of Grace Kelly.
As reported by Bloomberg, someone may only become a member of the club if they receive two sponsors, approval by the club President Prince Albert II, and pay a non disclosed fee.
As I looked over the marina of the Yacht Club, I saw so many signs of wealth. Almost every spot was filled with super yachts of all shapes and sizes.
I also learned that during times like the Monaco Grand Prix, the price for a five-day stay in Monaco’s prime berths can cost $100,000 or more.
In the past, people like Las Vegas businessman Steve Wynn and auto parts billionaire Shahid Khan docked their yachts here for the Monaco Yacht Show, the latter of whom has chartered his boat to Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
Another place for exclusive luxury is the Casino de Monte Carlo, which to me was just as grand as I thought it would be.
The Casino de Monte Carlo is perhaps one of the country’s closest association with wealth at it’s considered to be the world’s most spectacular place to gamble.
This casino was featured in multiple James Bond movies, such as the most recent “No Time to Die,” along with “GoldenEye” and “Never Say Never Again,” and has every casino game imaginable, including poker and crabs.
To go inside, I had to pay a 10 euro entrance fee even though I went with a tour guide. My guide told me that there are private gaming rooms for those who are VIPs in the casino, but I didn’t get to personally see or experience them. I also had to leave my camera at home as guests are not allowed to take photos inside of the casino due to the amount of wealth that is spent inside.
Tourists who are 18 years or older are allowed to gamble here for a fee of 17 euros plus the cost of any games, but I opted to just view the famed space.
I was surprised, however, to learn that residents of the city aren’t allowed to gamble at the casino or any other spot in the country.
In front of the casino and around the city, I saw tons of expensive luxury cars.
I thought of the most in-my-face signs of wealth I saw in Monaco were its cars.
This was especially true in front of the casino where many flashy cars were parked. I saw customized Lamborghinis, Bugattis, and Ferraris, and I was hardly alone in photographing them as I saw many tourists snapping photos of the cars as I walked by.
I saw these types of cars all over the city, too, on most streets, in parking lots, and driving around.
As I explored Monaco, I noticed that most stores appeared to be luxury designers. They served as another reminder to me of how wealthy Monaco’s residents — and visitors — are.
In Monte Carlo, I saw fancy designer stores from Rolex to Hermes.
In the luxury shopping center, Le Metropole Shopping Center alone, there are 80 luxe shops. I saw several luxury boutiques and all of the stores appeared to be super busy, some even had lines outside the store.
When I went inside, I noticed many items I had my eye on were sold out, like the signature Celine sunglasses and a pair of Prada boots.
My tour guide told me that other popular spots to shop include the Golden Circle area next to the casino, along with avenue des Beaux-Arts.
The restaurants were also upscale and expensive.
I personally thought the food all over Monaco was delicious. However, each spot I went had a high price tag to match.
At lunch at Hotel de Paris, my risotto came with gold flakes over it, which brought the price to a whopping 50 euros.
Other luxe dishes I spotted on menus in Monte Carlo included expensive steak cuts like Wagyu, and a specialty dish of a runny egg stuffed with caviar at Pavyllon Monte Carlo that I tried for 56 euros.
I found that there were hardly, if any, affordable restaurants. My cheapest meal cost around $75 for one person.
The Prince’s Palace of Monaco is a main tourist attraction in the country. It showed me how lavish the country truly is.
When I arrived at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, I thought it was one of the grandest structures in the entire country.
Originally, the Palace of Monaco was the western border fortress of the Republic of Genoa, built from 1215. Then it became the residence of the Grimaldi family (the royal family) when they established the sovereignty at the end of 13th and beginning of 14th century.
The palace is located on the top of the Rock, which is the oldest district in Monaco. The palace had a large, oversized courtyard and ceilings that were painted by unknown artists, which are over 500 years old. I thought also had breathtaking views of the entire city and marina.
The royal family of Monaco still resides in the palace, but chances are low that you’ll spot them, especially since tourists like me are only privy to certain areas.
The palace charges an admission fee of 8 euros, plus the option of guided audio tour, which I chose, or you may hire a private guide. I enjoyed the audio tour as I felt immersed learning about my lavish surroundings.
After three days in Monaco, I had a taste of how the world’s richest country lives. I thought it was an indulgent escape that I’m glad I got to experience.
After seeing the mega yachts, luxury cars, casino, and five-star hotels of one of the most expensive countries in the world, I had a newfound understanding of what luxury really means. I saw signs of wealth and opulence that I previously never even dreamed existed and I was blown away.
Trips to New York, Paris, London, and other metropolitan cities have shown me extravagances as well, but in Monaco, I was enveloped in it from the moment I arrived as I passed private jets and helicopters at the airport, and dined on gold-flake-topped meals and browsed designer wares.
Now, back home in the US, I’m still dreaming about Monaco. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position to live there as the wealthy do, but I definitely see myself visiting again to escape everyday life and live extravagantly.