Take a Sporting Break in Monaco

As the second smallest independent state on earth, the opulent principality of Monaco doesn’t require much exploring to discover the array of sports that take place in and around its winding streets and sparkling waterfront.  At only 1.95 square kilometres, it is barely bigger than London’s Hyde Park and trails only Vatican City, as the smallest nation in the world.  This is good for those who paradoxically, enjoy both sport and don’t want to hassle of having to travel for miles for it.

With its fabulous natural setting on the sun-kissed Mediterranean coast of the French Riviera, the city of Monaco, geographically indistinguishable from the principality itself, has become home to the rich and famous, royalty, artists, actors, sports stars and rich businessmen and women.

The famously ostentatious Monte Carlo Casino and a harbour packed with giant luxury yachts only add to the glitz and glamour of a Mediterranean playground that has attracted numerous Formula 1 drivers, including Jenson Button and David Coulthard as residents.

It is undoubtedly motorsport that most people associate with the city. With the French Riviera as a stunning backdrop, the Monaco Grand Prix is the embodiment of the sport: exciting, fast-paced and unashamedly luxurious. No other event in the Formula 1 calendar, is anywhere near as iconic as the Monaco Grand Prix.  The meeting in this small principality has what the other racers crave: star quality.

The Monaco Grand Prix which dates back to 1929, is the last remaining race of the battled out on the narrow, twisting streets of a city, creating a unique challenge for drivers.  The course which takes six weeks to assemble, makes the most of the sharp bends and varying gradients of the city’s streets and rewards precision driving and technical excellence. Drivers must adjust to the narrow track and the close proximity of the safety barriers, making the race a tough but prestigious race to win, as the winner of the Grand Prix gets to dine with the Prince.

The unusual setting also makes Monaco a unique experience for fans.  Hearing the engines growling through the city streets, smelling the smoke from tyres grinding around the  narrow hairpin bends and watching the cars emerge from the cool darkness of the tunnel and tear past the yachts in the harbour are all parts of the race’s sensuous assault on fans.

Tickets, like everything in Monaco, are expensive, but cheaper tickets are available for the Secteur Rocher, a lively paddock on a grassy hill away from the track but with a non-stop party atmosphere.

With the backing of the principality’s sport-enthusiast sovereign, Prince Albert II, who has himself competed in the bobsled at the Winter Olympic and today is involve in all sorts of sport, has allow Monaco to play host to a range of international events.

January see the country host the Monte Carlo Rally, the first event of the FIA World Rally Championship, and in April it host the Monte Carlo Masters, part of the ATP Masters Series and a popular warm-up for the French Open.  French Ligue 1 side and seven-time league champions AS Monaco play their home games on alternate weekends at the 18,500-capacity Stade Louis II, a striking terracotta-roofed arena that sits dramatically on cliffs above the Mediterranean coast.

For those who like to get active on holiday, there is the chance you could drive the a sports car around the Grand Prix circuit or on a tour of the city.  For more traditional sports, the stunning Monte Carlo Country Club offers the opportunity to play clay-court tennis on dusty achre courts perched 810 metres above sea level and with a panoramic view of the turquoise Cote dAzur. The Monte Carlo Golf Club, an 18-hole, par 71 course on the slopes of Mont Agel, provides some equally dramatic views.

And, when the sun goes down and your sporting energy has run dry; head for dinner at the SAS cafe and then to the Amber Lounge to dance to whatever you like. In the morning, the Cafe de Paris does the best Bloody Mary’s around to cure that bad hangover, you can then head over to Casino Royale to take your chances