27 January 2016
The Expert’s Guide to the Monaco Grand Prix
You’ll doubtless have heard – not least from the likes of us! – that the Monaco Grand Prix is one of life’s must-see events. While this is absolutely true, it doesn’t quite say it all, as there are just so many different ways to experience Grand Prix weekend in the famous Principality. To get the very best out of Monaco Grand Prix weekend, you’ll need to understand the options and opportunities and where they fit with your personal tastes.
There is something for everyone, but it takes a little research and some expert help to get it right.
Viewing the Race
It’s the reason you’re there! Best to start with the actual race viewing and then build your weekend around it.
Step 1 is to look at the schedule and see how much of the race weekend you’d like to see. With practice sessions on Thursday, further practice and qualifying on Saturday, the race on Sunday and a full programme of support races, there’s a lot to watch! The majority of our guests come to enjoy Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s practice, allowing them to plan a 3-night Friday-to-Monday trip and have some time to explore Monaco.
Step 2 is to figure out where you’ll watch the race. There’s a huge range of options, which are summarised below:
The cheapest option by far, but with good reason. There are some Grands Prix on the calendar where General Admission is a good option which allows you a certain freedom, but Monaco is not one of them! The main general admission area, Secteur Rocher, is a section of closed road and steep hillside high above Monaco Harbour where Formula 1 fans fight for comfort, space and a distant glimpse of the cars. We’d always recommend spending a little more to secure your seat in a grandstand.
A grandstand ticket means a guaranteed seat, better access to food and beverage outlets and conveniences and, best of all, an excellent track-side view of the race. Which are the best?
Best all-round: Grandstand K. Monaco’s largest grandstand holds well over 10,000 people and provides an incredible atmosphere. It also boasts an excellent view of the harbour, the cars negotiating the Tabac and Piscine corners, and the giant screen. If possible get in early to reserve K1 so you can see the cars come towards you before they turn into Tabac.
Best for people-watching: Grandstand B. Located in Casino Square, the grandstand provides a close-up view, but of a more limited section of track. Here, you are in glamorous Monte Carlo, where the iconic Casino, Café de Paris and Hotel de Paris conjure images of James Bond and Princess Grace. You can steal a selfie next to one of the parked up Ferraris and watch in wonder as Europe’s rich, famous and impossibly glamorous stroll the track as the sun goes down.
Best value: Grandstand T Lower. A track-level view of the cars as they exit Piscine and head into Rascasse. The grandstand is opposite the pits, but you’ll need to get in early for the higher rows so you can catch a glimpse of the pit crews in action. A fantastic location for the post-race action, where the bars open along the track in front of your eyes as soon as the race presentation is done.
Terraces: Watching on TV you’ll notice the countless apartment blocks and towers surrounding the Monaco track, with canopies offering shade to groups of F1 fans watching from the balconies. These are the terraces, where apartments become hospitality boxes for the weekend offering a superb view of the action from the balcony outside. Prices and inclusions vary hugely but there are two which we specifically recommend:
Best View: Shangri-La. This building is located adjacent to the starting grid and the upper floors offer a bird’s-eye view over around two-thirds of the track. The upscale apartments provide an excellent base for the day’s racing and there is a complimentary bar, gourmet catering throughout the day, and live Race TV for guests to keep on top of the action.
Best Value: Club F1 at the Dance Academy. Located above the exciting first corner at Ste Devote, with a view back down the starting straight. This historic venue boasts many vantage points from its ornate rooms and manicured gardens, and guests have the freedom to roam around and enjoy other activities such as the nail spa and F1 simulator. There’s a complimentary bar and gourmet bowl food served all day.
Yachts: It is the luxury superyachts that really make Monaco stand out from the other Grands Prix, and for some, watching from the upper deck with a glass of champagne in hand is the quintessential Monaco experience. It is also one of the most expensive! Champagne and gourmet food are on hand throughout, and the yachts are at track level and only metres from the action. Most yachts will enjoy a visit from a former driver or two to share their thoughts on the race, and you’ll find the decks a great place to spot celebrities.
Paddock Club: The F1 Paddock Club is the top-end option at Grands Prix across the globe, and offers 5-star service among A-List celebrities. Restricted space in Monaco means viewing is from a grandstand nearby, but it does look over the pits, and a Paddock Club pass gives guests a pit-lane walkabout pre-race. Some guests are lucky enough to be entertained by the teams in their own section of the paddock club, where they’ll receive a host of team-branded goodies and get the chance to meet the team’s drivers and engineers prior to the race.
Where to Stay
Once you’ve decided where and when to watch the race it’s time to pick your hotel.
Most of the hotels in Monaco demand a minimum 4 or 5-night stay, so if you’re planning a 3-night trip your best bet is to stay in Nice. There’s an excellent range of 3, 4 and 5-star luxury properties that are many times cheaper than their equivalents in Monaco. Most are within a 20-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride of Nice Ville train station, where you can take a 20-minute train ride into Monaco. We’d happily recommend the 4-star Beau Rivage for comfort and value and the 5-star Hyatt Palais de la Mediterranee for top-end luxury and incredible views.
If you’d prefer to stay in Monaco one of the biggest things to consider is how you plan to get to your hospitality facility. Guests watching the race from a luxury yacht should look at the Meridien Beach Plaza or Monte Carlo Bay: hotels that have a private jetty for the tender transfers to the yachts in the harbour. Guests viewing from Shangri La would be better booking the Columbus Hotel, which hosts many of the F1 teams and was once owned by David Coulthard. The Columbus is an easy 20-minute stroll to Shangri La whereas most other properties would be 40-minutes to an hour up and down some very steep hills. For old-school classic luxury you can’t beat the famous Monte Carlo properties such as the Hermitage and the Metropole, which also offer race-viewing positions of their own.
Enhancing the Experience
Watching the race is one thing, but many of our guests ask us to look at something extra to make the weekend that extra bit special. Here are my suggestions:
Track Drive – the chance to be driven round the Monaco track in a sports car by a professional driver during one of the breaks in the racing programme.
Pit Tour – the chance to view the team garages at first hand as the engineers frantically prepare the cars for the race.
Helicopter Transfer – travel from Nice to Monaco in 7 minutes, enjoying stunning views of the Cote d’Azur, or just take a sightseeing flight. An exceptional experience.
If you’re staying in Nice the train is the easiest way to get to Monaco during the Grand Prix, avoiding traffic and costing under 10 Euros. Taxis and private hire vehicles are available but should be booked in advance and will cost up to 200 Euros each way. You can hire a car on arrival but be aware that hotel parking can be limited.
In Monaco, many of the hotels will offer shuttles and taxi services, but do plan in advance as ordering taxis can be incredibly difficult during Race Weekend.
If you are staying a little longer and get the chance, it is worth taking the time to explore the Cote d’Azur between Nice and Monaco, where you’ll find stunning seaside towns such as Villefranche, Beaulieu and St Jean Cap Ferrat, or take a quick hop East and head across the border into Italy.
When the Race is Done
For many, the highlight of Monaco happens when the racing stops and the sun goes down. The choices are endless and everyone is catered for.
The first thing to enjoy is a stroll of the track, which opens to pedestrians (and some areas to cars) after a quick post-race clean-up. In the harbour section, the party starts right away, with blaring dance music, performers, foam parties and live bands all spilling out onto the racing circuit. Get involved by heading into Rascasse, or just walk on by and take in the sights. Up in Casino Square, it is a much more relaxed and chic affair as high rollers escort their beautiful companions on a casual stroll to take in the sights and sounds. It’s well worth taking a few minutes to enjoy a glass of wine at the famous Café de Paris, or trying your luck at the Monte Carlo Casino (don’t forget your passport).
And as evening turns to night, there is no better place to eat, drink, celebrate and dance the night away with the drivers and celebrities. Choose from Amber Lounge, Jimmy’z, the Billionaire’s Club or one of yacht parties in the harbour. The sights and sounds you experience on a night out in Monaco are jaw-dropping and unforgettable: just make the most of it and where possible, plan ahead and get tickets in advance.
Since 2002, we’ve taken thousands of guests to Monaco for the Grand Prix and are among the most experience Monaco specialists in the business. Our team of experts and representatives is available throughout the race weekend to ensure guests experience the very best that Monaco has to offer, without a hitch.
Please get in touch with our team below to arrange your Monaco weekend or view our hospitality packages by clicking here.