Sustainable travel: Five reasons to visit Monaco

Travelling Well | Justine Costigan | Posted on 13 February 2020

From electric racing cars to sustainable seafood, this tiny sovereign state’s green revolution comes with a royal stamp of approval.

The world’s top drivers race electric vehicles, the only sound from the track is the squeal of tyres. Meanwhile, in the stands, the roar of the crowd is deafening.

While the Formula 1 Grand Prix may be synonymous with Monaco, the e-Rallye has its own share of devoted fans. Pitting some of the most technologically advanced electric vehicles against each other, it’s a race that’s part serious competition, part sustainability showcase. 

For French-born champion driver Alexandre Stricher, it’s simply exhilarating. “It’s motorsport, but e-Rallye is another form, more futuristic, more open,” he says.


Five ways Monaco is going green

A Formula E future

The Automobile Club de Monaco was an early champion of electric vehicles, organising the first electric vehicle rally in 1995. Formula E rallies were mooted in 2011 and the first championship was held in Beijing in 2014. 

Formula E races are now held in 12 cities around the world, with 11 teams and 22 drivers, including the original e-Rallye Monte-Carlo. BMW, Jaguar and Audi use the races to test vehicles, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche set to join next year.  

In 2019 series founder Alejandro Agag ruled out the possibility of an Australian e-Prix, despite approaches from three Australian cities. The cost, in both carbon emissions and dollars, adds to the challenge of bringing the race Down Under.

Chasing carbon neutrality 

The Monte Carlo e-Rallye is one of many initiatives driving a greener future for the principality. The Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge, now in its seventh year, challenges billionaires with yachts in the harbour to adopt environmentally friendly technologies and, on a daily basis, locals are making use of electric buses, taxis, cars, bikes and boats. A ban on single-use plastic, extensive use of solar and hydro-energy, and green development in building codes show that it’s not just transport that has been targeted for improvement.

With a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2050, Monaco has made sustainability a core part of planning since the mid-2000s. Much of the push for action has come from the top. In 2006, after visiting shrinking glaciers in the Arctic, Monaco’s Prince Albert launched an environmental foundation for projects at home and abroad. 

“In the last 15 years we have implemented so many changes to encourage people to think green ... We make it easy for people to have the right reflex,” the Prince told British magazine Tempus last year. “I’m particularly happy to see that the Monegasque population is pursuing my commitment to a greener future.”  

For the owners of the Monte Carlo Casino, the greenery goes well beyond their famed gaming tables. “Monaco is small enough to be agile,” says Dimitri de Andolenko, head of sustainable development at Societe des Bains de Mer, whose landmark properties also include the Hotel de Paris and Hotel Hermitage.

“We need to be more efficient than the past and do the maximum now, not later,” Dimitri says.

Formula E rallies

The Monte Carlo e-Rallye is one of many initiatives driving a greener future

Monaco harbour

Billionaires with yachts in the harbour are challenged to adopt environmentally friendly technologies

Reducing food miles

Eating local is another way for visitors to experience the sovereign state’s sustainability push. Despite Monaco’s size (it’s smaller than New York’s Central Park), local food entrepreneurs are making the most of its natural assets. Boasting the world’s first Michelin-starred 100 per cent organic restaurant, Elsa, and a range of eateries investing in local food production, little Monaco has become a homegrown giant.

Jessica Sbaraglia’s Terre de Monaco is transforming unused private land into working gardens to produce food for Monaco hotels, restaurants and local communities, reducing waste and food miles. Last year, the Monaco resident and former model grew 2.5 tonnes of food and her 30 chickens ate three tonnes of scraps provided by three local hotels and bakeries. 

“At first they thought I was crazy,” says Jessica, “but the Prince was very supportive, and eventually others came around.” 

Now she runs a kitchen garden for the Hermitage hotel, makes honey, and runs tours of her gardens for businesses and schools. Developers are taking her lead, adding green roofs and gardens to shopping centres and apartment developments.

Sustainable fishing 

Marine biologist Frederic Rouxeville is another local eco-warrior. With his business partner and fellow biologist Brice Cachia, the pair have revived the local oyster industry.

“They are a little taste of Monaco,” Frederic declares, holding a pair of handsome brown and green-flecked oysters in his palms. 

Grown in deep clear water, these Les Perles de Monte Carlo oysters have a d’affinage (finishing) that gives them a distinct Monegasque taste. 

Not surprisingly, the oysters are popular with local chefs, and hordes of summer customers, many of whom queue at the rustic bar at the end of the Jean-Charles Rey pier to feast on local seafood. 

Reducing food waste 

When it comes to capturing terroir, Philip Culazzo of L’Orangerie may well have bottled the essence of Monaco.

Using fruit destined for the green-waste tip from the principality’s famous bitter orange trees, L’Orangerie liquor and spirit is made in the city’s only distillery, and Philip sees the 25-euro bottles as a genuine Monaco souvenir. 

“Real luxury is when things are hand-made and as good as they can be,” he says.

Even Prince Albert would have to agree with that.

Rocky Mountaineer

Terre de Monaco is transforming private land into working gardens

Brown and green-flecked oysters

Brown and green-flecked oysters

L’Orangerie liquor and spirit distillery

L’Orangerie liquor and spirit is made in the city’s only distillery


Five more reasons to visit Monaco

Walk with grace

When US actress Grace Kelly married Monaco’s Prince Rainier in 1956, it was the perfect role for the glamorous star. The Princess Grace self-guided walk includes 25 significant places, such as the royal palace, Princess Grace Theatre and Sainte-Devote chapel.

Go under the sea

Perched precariously on a cliff, Monaco’s imposing Musee Oceanographique is home to two aquariums devoted to the Mediterranean and tropical marine life. It also houses curiosities including diving equipment, fossils and model ships.

Bond with Bond

Two Bond movies made Monaco a part of the action. For a self-guided 007 tour, drive the mountain roads above the city, Goldeneye-style, then head to Monte Carlo Casino, featured in Never Say Never Again, for a martini (shaken, not stirred) and a roll of the dice.

Try Barbajuan

Monaco may be associated with millionaires, but its most famous food is a humble savoury snack available to anyone. Barbajuan is a deep-fried pastry stuffed with Swiss chard, ricotta, leek and herbs, and is sold in cafes, bakeries and La Condamine market.

Wander Les Jardins

With winding paths that hug the cliffs, each turn in Les Jardins Saint Martin et Sainte Barbe reveals a jaw-dropping view of the Mediterranean. While locals pay a fortune for homes with such views, anyone fit enough can sample the panorama this park offers.