Monte Carlo – the very name conjures images of princesses and playboys. From Grace Kelly’s fairytale rise to royalty to the world’s most famous casino with its James Bond connections to the superyachts in the marina, this is a place of excess and glamour that is like nowhere else on earth.

Yet for all of its reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, Monte Carlo remains within the reach of mere mortals. Sure, as European cities go, it is expensive, but no more so than Rome, Geneva or even London. Play it smart and you can see how the other half live for a weekend, without needing a millionaire budget.

When to Go

The smartest time to visit Monaco is in either spring or Autumn. The weather is pleasant and the hotels will typically be charging reduced rates compared with the summer months. For the casual visitor, avoid the last week of May, as the city will be thrown into chaos for the annual spectacle that is the Monaco Grand Prix, and hotel room rates will go through the roof.

What to Do

No visit to Monte Carlo is complete without a visit to its famous casino. Even if your idea of gambling doesn’t usually go beyond the 20p roulette games online, you need to check out this iconic venue at least once. The building stands guard over casino square, which, with its choice of coffee shops and cafes, is the perfect place for a little bit of people-watching over a coffee and a pastry. If you have a car enthusiast in the family, you might struggle to drag him or her away, as there is a constant parade of spectacular vehicles pulling up outside the casino.

One way to get them moving will be with a visit to the royal palace. As well as providing an intriguing insight into the lives of Monaco’s royal family, it also houses Prince Rainer’s remarkable car collection. It is a pleasant 15-20 minute walk from Casino Square.

How to Get There

Some choose to arrive in Monte on a yacht the size of a football pitch, but if you would prefer something a little less ostentatious, the most convenient airport is Nice. It is regularly serviced from London, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and several other UK airports. Budget airlines offer return flights for less than £50, while even travelling with British Airways will only set you back £80-£85.

Nice to Monte Carlo is a 20 mile transfer. Expect to pay around €80 for a taxi, or alternatively take the shuttle bus to Nice-Ville station and enjoy a 20 minute train ride. This option works out at about €10 per person.

Where to Stay

Of course, Monte Carlo’s famous Hotel de Paris and Metropole are expensive. If you want to splurge and stay in one of these, don’t expect any change from £300 per night. A more cost effective option is to check out Monte Carlo’s many family-run boutique hotels. These offer relaxed luxury, value for money and a chance to experience a taste of the real Monegasque life that lies behind the