I spent 5 days in Monaco for the Monaco Yacht Show, and my favorite part of the city was the unassuming historical quarter, far from the glitz and glam of Monte Carlo
- I recently spent five days in Monaco, an outrageously wealthy city-state on the French Riviera.
- It's been called a playground for millionaires - and indeed, an estimated one-third of the population are millionaires.
- I attended the Monaco Yacht Show, toured luxury hotels, got on board a 365-foot superyacht, and spent hours traipsing around the city.
- While I found much of the city to be surprisingly ugly and the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo a bit overwhelming, my favorite part of Monaco was the unassuming historical quarter.
- Monaco's old town, perched on a hill overlooking the port, was laid-back, charming, and seemed to be full of regular people instead of just millionaires.
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At the end of September, I spent five days in Monaco, a tiny yet lavishly wealthy city-state on the French Riviera, for Business Insider.New York City's Central Park, yet an estimated one-third of its roughly 38,000 residents are millionaires. In most of the city-state, particularly the glitzy Monte Carlo district, the wealth was evident. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Range Rovers, BMWs, and other high-end cars were everywhere I looked. Seemingly every woman I saw was carrying a designer handbag, whether it was Chanel, Louis Vuitton, or the elusive but even more esteemed Goyard.
During my time in Monaco, I felt out of place, keenly aware that I was neither a millionaire nor a VIP guest of the yacht show. I found much of the city to be ugly and unappealing. But there was one neighborhood I found to be laid-back, charming, and beautiful: Monaco's unassuming historical quarter.
Monaco's old town was quiet, charming, and laid-back
Perched on a hill overlooking a port full of superyachts, Monaco's old town is home to the 18th-century Prince's Palace of Monaco, the official residence of the royal family.
The glossy towers and drab, densely packed high-rises that I found to be so ugly elsewhere in the city were nowhere in sight. Instead, the French and Italian architecture and medieval elements in old town made me feel like I was stepping back in time. The colorful, narrow streets, ice cream shops, museums, and casual restaurants had a charming and relaxed vibe.
There were tourists, of course -mainly clustered around the Prince's Palace -but most of the locals seemed to be regular people rather than millionaires decked out in designer duds.
All in all, I found Monaco's old town to be much more down to earth and charming than the rest of the city. It reminded me of nearby Nice, France, a city that's a 20-minute train ride away and much prettier than Monaco, in my opinion.
While I wouldn't necessarily be the first person to recommend a visit to Monaco, for those who make the trip, the old town is a must-see.