Monte Carlo. It is possibly the most exclusive location on the planet. In the 1950s, it was the stuff of fairytales, as Grace Kelly turned her back on Hollywood to become a real life princess. Today, it is the home of Dame Shirley Bassey, Bono, Ringo Starr – and many, many guys who have earned their millions by driving very fast for a living. Former F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg lives there, another former winner and present day commentator David Coulthard owns a hotel there. Jenson Button is a long-term resident.
Monte Carlo is famous for all the best things taken to extreme. The harbor is full of super-yachts, the casino is the most exclusive in the world and has featured in several James Bond films. And every year, the Formula One circus moves to town, racing at impossible speeds through the tiny streets of the city.
Monte, Casino Square and its cars
Like the motorcycle, if somebody invented the Monaco Grand Prix around the streets of Monte Carlo today, they would be laughed out of town, and nobody would ever agree to such a crazy, dangerous idea. But it is there, and it is part of the fabric of the sport. It cuts both ways and cars are also part of the fabric of Monte Carlo – and nowhere more so than around Casino Square.
In an age when for most of us, our experience of a casino is playing what the Germans call a slot spiele online, the sheer majesty of Casino Square is enough to take your breath away. The idea of donning your DJ and sitting down to a game of baccarat inside is about as different from playing Book of Dead on your smartphone as it gets. However, for car fanatics, it is what stands outside the casino that really grabs the attention.
Even if you spend an afternoon on the Las Vegas Strip, you will not see as many supercars per minute as you will here. Seriously, where else can you see a Bugatti Veyron, a Lamborghini Huracan and then a Ferrari LaFerrari drive by? If seeing is not enough, you don’t need to step inside the casino and put it all on Black 22 for a chance to get behind the wheel. This is the 21st century where anything is possible, and hypercar companies will let you have your very own Huracan for the day. The daily rental is around €1,100.
Check out the Crown Prince’s garage
It is easy to lose yourself for a day on casino square, sitting at a café, watching the people, and of course the cars. But if you manage to drag yourself away, the other place you simply have to check out is the Royal Palace. Back in the 1950s, Prince Rainer was what you might call a man’s man. He loved beautiful girls and fast cars. Being a prince, that meant he was able to marry a Hollywood film actress. And as for his cars – he started a collection in the early 1950s that gradually grew over the years and is still lovingly maintained today.
There are about 100 cars, and the collection covers an incredible 110 years of automotive history, from a 1903 De Dion to the 2013 Lotus F1 car driven by Kimi Raikkonen, as well as several other Formula One cars that have graced the streets of Monte Carlo across the years.
Monte Carlo is a city where the very best of everything is on display. Yet it somehow manages to do it in such an understated fashion that nothing feels tasteless of gaudy. For a taste of the jet set lifestyle of yesteryear, it is impossible to beat.