The best way of saving money in Monaco is not to go anywhere where you have to spend it. And, despite the principality’s budget-savaging reputation, this can be done with considerable pleasure. You can also save face with some etiquette tips below.
Read on for my advice on:
There are bakeries and take-away stands dotted across Monaco. But, for cheapness, I’d head to the Fontvieille commercial centre, to the west of the principality. On the terraces outside are gathered snack bars (with tables) not noticeably more expensive than those in France.
Inside, there’s a McDonalds (don’t be sniffy: your kids will be thrilled) and a proper Carrefour hypermarket. This will furnish you with the makings of your own sandwich or picnic or (if you’re like me) with a bottle or two to smuggle back to the hotel to avoid the mini-bar rip-off.
You could, though, consider lunch under another angle – as the time to go for broke with a gourmet meal in a top-flight restaurant. And you would be right. A gastronomic lunch is invariable cheaper than a gastronomic dinner. At Joël Robuchon’s two-star Michelin place within the Métropole Hotel, for instance, the dinner menu is 180 euros, whereas a quick lunch can be had for 29 euros. Slower lunches start at 39 euros.
It has always been cheaper to drink early rather than late in Monaco. It’s even more the case now that the Happy Hour habit has caught on in many Monégasque bars. Look out for half-priced drinks from around 5pm to around 7.30 or 8pm. For instance, the new Brasserie de Monaco on the Old Port (36 Route de la Piscine, www.brasseriedemonaco.com) has beers from two euros between 5pm and 8pm. In the principality, that rates as charity.
Should you wish to continue the evening with recognisable prices, consider a flip to the Monte-Carlo Bar on Avenue Prince Pierre. There’s absolutely nothing swish about the place. It’s a regular brasserie like you find on street corners all over next-door France – but it does a dish of the day (plat-du-jour) for 9.50 euros. And it serves right through the night.
If your legs are wearing out, do make use of Monaco’s excellent bus service (see How to get around Monaco) rather than taxis, which are rare, expensive and not terribly interested in you unless you’re an emir.
Up on the rock in Monaco-Ville, the exterior of the Prince’s palace and daily changing of the guards at 11.55am cost nothing (though you must pay to enter the palace). The astounding views over the Med may be enjoyed for free, as can the wriggling old town (just keep out of the shops), the rock-side nearby gardens, and cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace are buried.
Down below, in the newly-reclaimed Fontvieille district, there’s a lovely stroll in the parkland, past modern sculpture and, especially, through the Princess Grace Rose Garden. All gratis.
Across in the Monte Carlo district, the Casino Square might boast the thick texture of enormous wealth, but it costs zero euros to look. The same is true of the great hotels, the sea-side and the tangle of little streets behind. Pace yourselves properly and – give or take the price of a sandwich at lunchtime – you’ve spent a day spending nothing.
Firstly, away from the beach, don’t walk around bare-foot, bare-chested or in your swimming costume. Monaco can get quite racy in private. In public, it has its standards, and imposes them.
Secondly, please never show anything but the utmost respect for the Monégasque Royal Family. Wiseacre irony, especially from an outsider, will not be appreciated in a principality where many shops post pictures of the Prince in their windows – and the title Most Serene is not thought in any way exaggerated. There is no tradition of mockery. Deference to their royals from locals is absolute, and should not be challenged.