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How to have a sustainable yet stylish stay in Monaco

One of the world’s wealthiest destinations, Monaco is upping its investment in the environment. Natasha Dragun looks at how to make the most of the principality’s green offerings in 48 hours.

Surrounded on all sides by France and the Mediterranean, Monaco is home to mega-yachts, the Formula 1 Grand Prix and more supercars (Bentleys and Lamborghinis galore) than, possibly, Monégasque citizens. But this adult playground is also at the forefront of an inspiring environmental revolution, establishing itself as a world leader in sustainable tourism. From electric cars to forward-thinking hotels, here’s how you can minimise your footprint when you touch down and stay a while.

Day 1

Drop your bags off at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, fresh out of a four-year renovation that saw the elegant 1864 Belle Époque palace awarded Green Globe certification for its commitment to the environment. While rooms are lavish – velvet armchairs, silk throws, gilded mirrors, sea views – the hotel’s style does not come at the expense of sustainability.

There’s a comprehensive recycling program in place, transportation is either electric or hybrid, and initiatives have been implemented to reduce CO2 emissions throughout. There’s also a focus on boosting neighbourhood biodiversity, partly achieved through the lush, leafy boulevard now linking the hotel to the new One Monte-Carlo precinct.

Hotel de Paris - Rainier III Diamond Suite exterior
Diamond Suite at Hotel de Paris © Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

Cross Monaco’s yacht-studded Port Hercules by Bus Boat, the electric-powered boat shuttle that forms part of Monaco’s bus network and connects iconic Monte-Carlo with Le Rocher, Monaco’s atmospheric old town.

Travellers visiting the Rock of Monaco who wish to go to Monte-Carlo can also cross the Saint-Martin gardens, descend via Fort Antoine, enjoy a pleasant crossing on the Bus Boat, then take a bus back to the Casino.

The Bus Boat is another form of sustainable transport in line with Monaco’s goal to reduce the reliance on personal cars.

Once off the shuttle, make the most of facilities at the city’s smart bus shelters. These freshly minted depots offer interactive location displays, real-time transport information and free Wi-Fi.

Le Rocher thrusts skywards on a pistol-shaped rock, its strategic location overlooking the sea. Explore the neighbourhood’s windy medieval lanes on foot, starting at La Condamine Market to pick up provisions for a picnic lunch. More than 120 years old, the covered space is a riot of colours and aromas, with delis and cheesemongers beside stalls where you can order grilled seafood and fresh pasta.

La Condamine Market
La Condamine Market © Visit Monaco

Still in Le Rocher, enjoy a short walk to the principality’s first public park, St Martin Gardens, opened in 1816. Wander along paths hemmed by pine and oak trees, then find a grassy perch to spread your picnic rug overlooking the ocean. This leafy haven adds to Monaco’s staggering amount of green space, which now represents more than 20 per cent of the principality and some 23,000 plants.

Dust off the crumbs and stroll to the Oceanographic Museum, founded by reigning monarch Prince Albert II’s great-great-grandfather Prince Albert I, who created the space to watch over the oceans more than a century ago. Today, its 6,000 artefacts provide an important message about the preservation of global marine environments.

Leaving the museum, make the most of two smartphone apps. The first is for Mobee, which is Monaco’s electric car-sharing fleet of tiny tandem-seat Renaults. Locate your nearest vehicle using the app, which also indicates where you can find free Mobee parking and recharging stations. Or, download Citymapper to determine your nearest car, plus the fastest route to your destination.

The new Citymapper initiative delivers detailed options for getting you around the principality, with routes favouring environmentally friendly car- and bike-sharing schemes as well as walking trails and public transport. When you’re done exploring, head back to your hotel to check in and dress up for dinner.

Leaving Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, tap “Monte-Carlo Beach” into your Citymapper app. This waterside hotel is home to one of the principality’s most awarded dining rooms, with seasonal eatery Elsa entering the record books as the world’s only 100-percent organic, eco-certified Michelin-starred restaurant. Mod-Mediterranean cuisine is masterfully crafted, with all produce sourced from organic farms located within a 150-kilometre radius.

The Bio Sama (plate of assorted vegetables) is an Elsa signature for good reason. Ingredients come from seven surrounding gardens, and are arranged like a colourful bouquet with herbs, flowers, Taggiasca olive oil and fleur de sel. It’s almost too pretty to eat – almost.

Port de Fontvieille
Port de Fontvieille © Visit Monaco

Day 2

While Monaco has enjoyed an extensive e-bike-sharing network for years, the fleet was completely upgraded in July: 300 state-of-the-art bikes are now available to commuters. These fresh chariots come with pedal-assist technology – a must, given Monaco’s hilly terrain – and can be given a zap at 35 charging stations around town.

Use Citymapper to find your nearest ride and plot your route to the upmarket southern suburb of Fontvieille, a pretty hood partly built on reclaimed land.

Ditch your wheels and take a leisurely amble along Fontvieille’s Heritage Trees Trail. Among a handful of self-guided green walks across the principality, the trail was established to combat deforestation through different leafy neighbourhoods (the other two being Monaco-Ville and Monte-Carlo). Download a map and tick off plants – there are more than 1,000 – protected by a ‘Tree Code’, classifying them according to age, height and species rarity.

It would be remiss to visit the principality and not enjoy a meal prepared by Monaco culinary stalwart Alain Ducasse, at the helm of two restaurants in Hôtel de Paris. After a quick freshen up, make a beeline for his newest eatery, Ômer, which takes diners on a giddy tour of the Mediterranean while showcasing the region’s finest and freshest produce.

Your reservation here will get you light and tasty plates like sweet calamari paired with a pesto made with marjoram; white tarama with melon and samphire; and ocean-fresh seared swordfish decorated with jewel-like olives, capers and raisins.

Monaco’s coastline may be small, but it’s certainly mighty, with ocean-loving Albert II ensuring the principality’s waters are well protected for future generations. Head to Larvotto Beach or the caves of Les Spélugues, both of which are protected marine reserves home to an astounding amount of colourful fish and coral. Time your visit right and you’ll also glimpse turtles, dolphins and migrating whales.

If you’re planning to swim, be sure to bring a change of clothes to slip into before your Michelin-starred dinner.

Reserve a table on the terrace at Blue Bay, an applauded restaurant where flavours of the Caribbean and Mediterranean mingle on your plate. Chef Marcel Ravin’s masterful dishes include green papaya ‘spaghetti’ carbonara, and his signature slow-cooked organic egg with cassava, truffle and passion fruit is bliss in a mouthful. Ravin also offers a vegan menu featuring produce from the kitchen’s gardens, planted in consultation with Terre de Monaco.

This local crowd is behind some of the most groundbreaking urban organic fruit and vegetable gardens in Europe; it also offers agriculture classes and workshops, like a tasting of edible flowers and herbs. Forward-thinking and sustainable – this is Monaco in a snapshot.

Ômer by Alain Ducasse
Ômer by Alain Ducasse

10 ways to be a greener traveller in Monaco

1. See the sights on an e-bike

Forget pedalling – the best way to explore Monaco is on an e-bike. The city has an extensive sharing network, with 10 stations to pick up and drop off your chariot. Or, book a 3.5-hour e-bike excursion with Monaco Bike Tours, taking you from Prince Albert’s Palace to the superyacht marina.

2. Go on a sustainability drive

In a bid to reduce pollution, Monaco’s car-sharing system includes tiny tandem-seat electric Renault Mobees. There are 25 across town, with availability and location shown on a nifty app. As an added bonus, Mobee parking and recharging is free.

3. Get back to nature

It’s easy to feel the grass between your toes; more than 20 per cent of the principality is parkland, including the Princess Grace Rose Gardens and the Exotic Garden of Monaco. In fact, the city’s green space has grown from 50,000 square metres to 270,000 square metres over the last 60 years.

4. Enjoy flower power

The city’s booming organic rooftop garden scene comes courtesy of Terre de Monaco, one of the largest private city farms in the world. Visitors can book the group’s edible flower and herb tastings to learn about sustainable agriculture.

Terre de Monaco is boosting rooftop gardens
Terre de Monaco is boosting rooftop gardens

5. Watch (fuel-free) motor racing

Held on a shortened version of Monaco’s Formula 1 Grand Prix track, the Formula E Grand Prix (11 May 2019) runs entirely on electricity, demonstrating the incredible potential of sustainable mobility to help create a cleaner, better planet.

6. Check in to a green hotel

Look into the environmental efforts of your accommodation; many of Monaco’s luxury lodgings unite sustainability and style. Among trendsetters are the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel and Monte-Carlo Beach Relais, both of which have Green Globe certification for initiatives to improve biodiversity and reduce CO2.

7. Dive into a marine reserve

Come flipper-to-fin with gorgonia, grouper and diadema sea urchins when you snorkel or scuba in the city-state’s protected marine reserves, Larvotto and Spelugues, covered by active biodiversity preservation laws.

8. Adopt a fish

Oceanographic Institute – headed up for 30 years by French conservationist Jacques Cousteau – the Oceanographic Museum’s adopt-a-fish initiative means you can contribute to the daily needs of the aquarium’s sea creatures while helping to preserve global marine environments.

Coastal views from Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel
Coastal views from Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel © Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

9. Take a hike

Protected by a “tree code” – classifying fauna according to age, height and species rarity – plants on the Heritage Trees Trail offer fascinating insights into the city-state’s green history. The trail currently covers more than 1,000 trees in the east of the principality, with expansion plans currently underway.

10. Indulge in an organic Michelin meal

There are plenty of stars floating around dining rooms in Monaco, but none quite as impressive as that awarded to Elsa: the world’s only 100 per cent organic, Ecocert-certified Michelin restaurant. Everything on your plate is sourced within a 150-kilometre radius of where you sit.

Read more:

Hotel review: Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo Monaco
15 reasons to visit Monaco
Why Monaco’s Michelin-starred restaurants are focusing on zero-waste cooking

This article originally appeared in Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the enewsletter.