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Delightfully Elegant – Port de Fontvieille in Monaco

It’s not only the Avenue Princesse Grace and Monte Carlo that boast great restaurants in Monaco, not to be forgotten is the delightful Port of Fontvieille. Smaller than Monaco’s main Port Hercule, this port has an intimacy all of its own and those that head here usually grow very fond of the place, always returning to their favourite lunch spot when they’re in town. The yachts are smaller too, and without the mega yachts this port just seems more accessible and relaxed, a real pleasure to visit and stroll around.

The port is very sheltered and private. The Palais du Prince is perched on top of the cliff that makes up part of the port wall, both of which are beautifully illuminated at night. The hue from the spotlights nestled into the foliage of the wall creates a wonderfully romantic setting for a dinner by the still, glistening water and the open sea beyond the harbour wall. During the day, Fontvieille has a friendly village feel, with plenty of locals sipping coffee or enjoying an alfresco lunch with friends and colleagues. This is a welcoming place where visitors feel right at home by the end of their first afternoon.

Fontvieille is often referred to as “Little England”, due to the many Brits who chose to make this place home, drawn by the village vibe, green parks and children’s play areas. Think of Fulham or Barnes by the Mediterranean and you see the attraction for young professional families. The Ship & Castle English Pub serves British classics and locals are often to be found here enjoying a few home comforts. The late John Button, father of F1 driver Jenson, made this his local and is sadly missed, but his laughter and great sense of fun lives on in this lively pub. Gerhard’s Cafe just next door is also a great place to relax and enjoy a cold beer on the terrace.

With Monaco’s heliport located at the end of the harbour wall, it’s an easy 10 minute commute to Nice airport and back to London when necessary for residents of Fontvieille. Heli Air Monaco runs a fabulous service throughout Monaco with shuttle buses happy to collect passengers directly from their front door, and deliver them safely home again, all included in the ticket price which is about the same price as a taxi to Nice airport so unbelievable value and very popular with regular travellers!

For the visitor, the village lifestyle of Fontvieille is an attractive and welcome change from the fast pace of Monte-Carlo. In the port, there are still plenty of supercars to be seen, but with the harbour having no through road, everything takes place at a much slower pace, making it a perfect people watching spot to while away an afternoon! There are many chic cafés to enjoy an elegant aperitif and of course some wonderful restaurants.

The restaurants specialise mostly in Italian specialities and seafood but there is something for everyone in Fontvieille. Try the fresh pasta and seafood at the Amici Miei, where the chef specialises in locally produced ingredients served in a friendly family environment. Graziella, serving simple and honest Italian food in pleasant surroundings, or Constantine for an elegant evening, and great for those who prefer to eat a little later. And finally one of the most outstanding non Italian establishments is The Beef Bar. Serving the most divine beef, this restaurant is a must for meat lovers as well as those not so keen as the steaks are sensational – many a vegetarian could be “turned”! All of these restaurants have great value fixed lunch menus too and are super popular with locals stepping out to catch some rays and good conversation during their lunch break.

Slightly off the beaten tourist trail, Fontvieille is very much the working hub of Monaco. With many larger businesses based here, the area has the constant buzz of a working day, giving the place a real sense of vibrancy and life. On the port, visitors experience a calmer more relaxed environment but one of reality. Built for and existing primarily for local residents and businesses and not necessarily to attract huge numbers of tourists, this area is therefore a great place to visit and soak up the vibrant rays emulating from both the sun and the wonderful people that make Fontvieille tick.

This article was written by Rachel Blundy, charter broker at Bespoke Yacht Charter.

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