If you are looking for the ultimate Christmas vacation…well, it’s gotta be Monaco baby!
Monaco is a city-state on the French Riviera. It is also known as a ‘Billionaires Playground’. It is famous for its lavish wealth, its grand casinos and glamourous events like the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monaco Yacht Show.
As you can imagine, Monaco offers the ultimate in holiday festivities. Here are some you can enjoy when you visit.
Monaco Christmas Market
The Monaco Christmas Market takes place in Port Hercule in Quai Albert 1er from last November to January first. The area transforms into a Christmas village featuring wooden chalets and offering terrific gift and food items. In addition to great shopping, the market also hosts children’s workshops and games, a Ferris wheel and an ice-skating rink.
Christmas Tree Festival
The Christmas season in Monaco is celebrated by an annual festival that takes place in the Prince’s Palace. It is attended by the Prince and Princess. It was originally established by Princess Grace in the 1950’s.
Invited children may attend to enjoy afternoon tea, magic shows and a meet and greet with Santa. They will leave with a gift from one of Santa’s elves.
Walk Around the City
Considering Monaco’s wealth, it may come as no surprise that the city is lavishly decorated around Christmas time. The best sites will be found around the Carre d’Or and the Prince’s Palace.
Monaco has an enjoyably warm climate with temperatures that dip into the mid 50’s during the winter months. While this is pleasant for most people, it isn’t exactly beach weather. Yet some holiday revelers would beg to differ.
During the Christmas season, swimmers dressed as Santa gather together on Christmas Eve to enjoy a festive dip in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s not unusual for 100 or more people to show up for the event and the Prince and Princess are usually in attendance.
After the dip, a raffle takes place raising money for people with disabilities.
Enjoy a Christmas Feast
As you can imagine, a traditional Monaco Christmas meal is full of delicious delicacies. Pan De Natale is a round sweet bread that is often found at holiday tables. The pastries are typically stacked in the shape of a cross and placed in the center of the table. They are blessed by the head of the household before they are eaten.
It is also customary for locals to eat 13 desserts during the holiday meal. These are meant to represent Jesus and his 12 apostles. The treats include dried figs, almonds, raisins, hazelnuts, walnuts and La Pompe, a sweet orange flavored bread.
While the desserts are quite amazing, the main feast is also something to behold. It includes items like roast goose, turkey, foie gras, oysters, cheeses and wild game. The champagne flows freely!
Visit the Palais du Prince
The Prince’s Palace is a beautiful building that was built in the 13th century and originally served as a fortress. It is an awe-inspiring landmark, and you will be able to visit the interior when the prince is not in residence. If there is a flag in the main tower, it means he’s home.
If you are lucky enough to get a tour, you will see sights that include an Italianate style gallery, the Blue Room with exquisite blue and gold decorations, the Throne Room and the Palatine Chapel.
The Monte Carlo Casino
The Monte Carlo Casino is worth a visit, even if you don’t gamble. It is one of the most famous casinos in the world. It was built in a Beaux Arts style in 1893.
Upon entering, you will view the marble atrium which features 28 onyx columns. Then venture into the various gaming rooms each of which is decorated in its own theme. There are also several impressive pieces of art and chandeliers spread throughout the building.
If you are a James Bond fan, you will especially enjoy the scenery as it served as the setting of Casino Royale.
This museum opened in 1910 and is therefore, one of the oldest aquariums in the world. It features marine and oceanography artifacts. It stands 90 meters above sea level and took 11 years to construct in a fashion that would keep it from toppling.
A highlight of the museum is a collection taken from an exploration spearheaded by Prince Albert I and Jacques Cousteau. The facility also houses three aquariums that contain over 6000 sea creatures that live in 100 different pools designed to mimic their natural environment.
Youngsters can enjoy a touch tank that’s filled with sea urchins, starfish and baby sharks.
The Jardin Exotique is a botanic garden first opened in 1933. It features a mix of exotic plants including African and Latin American species. There are 7000 species of plants in all.
The garden sits on a towering bluff and offers exquisite views of the surrounding city. You can also find an Observatory Cave on the ground that’s covered in stalagmites and stalactites.
The Monaco Cathedral is a fine example of Roman Byzantine architecture that stands out for its white stone façade. It is the final resting place of various former princes of Monaco including Prince Rainier. It was built in 1875 and features artifacts including and altar piece that dates back to 1500. Other items to check out include a grand organ and a white marble throne.
If you are thinking of getting away this Christmas season, Monaco is the ideal location. It offers an upscale experience and there is plenty to see and do. What will you be indulging in when you visit?