For a lot of people, seeing a Monaco GP in person is a bucket list trip. It certainly was for me! Before doing any research, I thought the trip would be out of reach affordability-wise, but it didn't end up being so bad. You'll spend a lot of money on race-related activities, but I was pleased to learn that everything else is quite reasonable.
The Monaco GP usually takes place in late May. Tickets go on sale about 8 months in advance, sometime in October. This is the best time to start planning your trip. The best seating areas and experiences will sell out pretty fast, so the sooner you make a decision the better.
The Monaco GP has a variety of seating options outside of the official tickets, available at Formula1.com. You can spend a few hundred bucks and see the race, but you can also spend tens of thousands of dollars. It's all about what kind of experience you'd like to have.
If you are early enough, section Z1 is a steal. It's the best view for your money, with tickets for the whole weekend being less than $400 per person (as of 2016 and 2017). I didn't get in early enough to grab those seats, so we decided on Section K. The image on the top of this post is Section K, and it's one of the few sections where you can buy a ticket for the whole weekend. You get the track, the marina and some great action around the swimming pool complex. It will set you back a bit more, as the 2016 tickets cost us around $900 per person.
Another section worth considering is Grandstand T. We sat there for a practice session and GP2 race and loved it. Importantly, it's covered in case of rain or super hot weather. It also has a perfect view of pit lane. There's always activity going on there, so it's worth a look.
There is some chatter in online forums about buying not-so-official tickets at the last minute, to view the race from someone's terrace or something like that. I was skeptical, and ended up being thankful that we bought official tickets. First, the terrace opportunities weren't nearly as prevelant as I expected. The sellers hang out near one of the train station exits, and that's it. To me the deals seemed a bit shady, there's no way to know what you are getting. You could pay money for a view in a photo and it never ends up working out. I don't recommend taking the risk.
Why you should consider an experience
Formula 1 sells Yacht and terrace VIP packages, but a bit of Googling will reveal a number of other options put on by independent companies. They are totally worth your consideration and I'll explain why.
See, Monaco is an extremely exclusive place. For every high roller, there's always someone rolling a little higher, always a party you aren't cool enough to get into. Having a place to go before, after and between races is a really nice benefit. If you arrive in Monaco without a plan or a VIP pass, in terms of the places you can go and parties you can visit, you won't be getting in.
With our grandstand seats, we had a phenomenal race experience. But during the downtime, aside from being able to walk the track on Saturday (which is awesome), the whole city turns into a private party. We aren't big party people, but even we would have loved to enjoy a little of the nightlife around the event. It seems awesome. This is why investing in an experience, which includes access to events as well as the race, could be worth it.
Most experiences can cost between $2,000-10,000 per person, which is a little nuts. But if you are going to cross this excursion off your bucket list, I think it's worth researching the available options and considering the splurge. If we ever went back, I'd probably go for a Yacht or terrace pass.
Okay, so remember at the beginning of this post when I said Monaco can be affordable? Hang with me! The tickets and/or experience you choose is far and away the majority of the cost. The rest of your trip can be very affordable. Let's get into it ...
Staying in Nice
Long story short, don't stay in Monaco. Prices for the race weekend are outrageous, and you are almost guaranteed to be disappointed by the accommodations. Instead, stay in Nice!
Nice is a lovely little city on the Cote d'Azur that's a scenic 30-minute train ride from the hustle and bustle of Monaco. In Nice, you'll find peace and quiet, a beautiful boardwalk and beach area, and affordable food/drink options. You can get around by walking or hailing an Uber. We found the locals to be friendly, despite the fact that we didn't speak French.
We think the best part of Nice is the beach and boardwalk area, so ideally you can find a hotel within a 15-minute walk. Whether you want to spend $150 or $550, there are good options available. These are race week prices if you book early:
- $500-ish/night - without hesitation, in this price range you should stay at the Hyatt Regency or the world-famous Hotel Negresco, which opened back in 1913. Both hotels have world-class service, accommodations and amenities you'd expect on the French Riviera.
- $200-ish/night - You can be on Ajoupa Apart'hotel Nice or Ibis Styles Nice Centre Gare. Ajoupa is closer to the beach and has more of a furnished apartment vibe, so you are paying more for the great location. Ibis Styles is beautiful, with modern accommodation and amenities, but it's closer to the city center, meaning the beach is more of a walk.
- $150-ish/night - It would be hard to go wrong with Hotel Monsigny, which has an incredible roof deck for taking in expansive views of the city. Closer to the beach, you can bank on Hotel de la Fontaine. Rooms are slightly more sparse, but you stay there for proximity to the beach anyway.
The beach is full of places where you can rent a chair for the day and sip cocktails with a million dollar view. I'd recommend doing that with at least one of the days you aren't heading to Monaco.
- As you can imagine, folks in the French Riviera don't move so fast. You'll find long lines at the train station during race week. If possible, arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday and go by the train station first thing. You can purchase all your tickets for the weekend at once and avoid lines later in the week.
- Be sure to arrive at the train station a couple hours before any of your events in Monaco begin. It's a tiny city-state, which isn't really equipped for that many people and that many race cars, but that sure does make the race special.
- When you exit the train in Monaco, pay close attention to the signs! Depending on where you are sitting, you'll go one of 4 or 5 directions. If you take the wrong route, you'll be walking for a while (like we did the first time).
- It's worth walking the track after qualifying on Saturday. The areas around the start/finish, La Rascasse and the marina are all hopping. This is the one party that's not private, so enjoy the walk!
- Lastly, be sure you have a plan for what you will do in Monaco before you arrive. Good restaurants are booked, parties are private, everything has an "exclusive" vibe. If you don't have any social plans made, plan on coming back to Nice when the race activities conclude.
We had an absolute blast, and hope that you do too!