Five cool castles and fortresses to visit near Monaco

castle monaco

Castles are everywhere in France, as many as 45,000 across the country by some counts. Down in the south, they’re less in number than in other regions, but there are still some real beauties to be discovered. 

The Palais Princier de Monaco is more of a palace than a castle. That said, the ancestral home of the Grimaldi family and the Principality’s reigning sovereign of Prince Albert II should still be on your list of “castles” to visit, particularly to admire the stunning frescos and rooms that have been brought back to life by a professional restoration team over the last 10 years.  

But if you venture beyond the boundaries of the Principality, there are plenty of ancient regal seats and stately homes that are classed as châteaux. Here are five of our favourites. 

The 10th century Château de Roquebrune, perched at 300 metres above sea level, is a short drive from Monaco. Though small in size, it has a great story of soldier life in the medieval period as well as a long connection with the Grimaldi family to share with visitors.  

The views across the Mediterranean and over Monaco itself from this site are really hard to beat. Coupled with a visit to the town’s truly ancient olive tree – it is estimated to be between 1,800 and 2,200 in age – and the quaint, cobbled village below the castle, a trip to the Château de Roquebrune makes for a great afternoon out.  

Small in size, but packed with stories: the Château de Roquebrune. Photo credit: Drone de Regard / Ville de Roquebrune Cap Martin

Over in Nice, the Colline du Château or Castle Hill as it’s known in English is an often-overlooked attraction in the city. Found at the crest of the hill between the old town and the port neighbourhood, this place has a very long history, with signs of inhabitation dating back as far at 3,000BCE.  

Various structures have been erected here over those long years, but the castle likely reached its heights in the 16th century. Today, not much remains in terms of buildings to visit as King Louis XIV ordered the near complete destruction of the site in the early 18th century, but there are traces of foundations to be discovered. The park is the main draw, with nearly 20 hectares of green spaces, woodland and, of course, the “must-visit” spot of the foundation to enjoy, as well as picturesque views of the city from every aspect. Walk up or take the lift most of the way on a hot day!

Hike to the top of Castle Hill in Nice for epic views of the city. Photo source: Mathieu de Blieux, Unsplash

Next up is the Château Grimaldi in Haut de Cagnes, with its clear connections to Monaco’s ruling family. It was built in 1309 by Rainier I and renovated extensively in the 17th century in an Italian style; expect lots of marble, sculptural details and gold. It is home to numerous temporary and permanent exhibitions throughout the year, and houses several stunning painted ceilings and frescos.  

Parking is tricky in Haut de Cagnes, so park in Cagnes sur Mer below and hitch a lift up on the free shuttle, Number 44, from the bus station.  

The Château Grimaldi in Haut de Cagnes. Photo source: Ville de Cagnes sur Mer

The Château de la Napoule is a real gem. Like many of the other castles in the south of France, the site on which it is built has a long history and dates back until at least the Roman occupation of the Riviera. But the castle as we see it today is much more modern.  

A fortress was erected in 1387 by the Counts of Villeneuve, but was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over the following centuries, having been witness to a succession of attacks, wars and revolutions in the region. In the early 20th century, an American couple, the Clews, discovered the property and snapped it up with dreams of renovating the ruins. 

Billionaires Henry and Marie Clews tried to be somewhat faithful to the origins of the place, but also added their own artistic touches, such as the engraving of maxim saying “Once upon a time” at the entrance. As such, the château flits between folly, fantasy and tradition, but don’t let that put you off. It is still a very beautiful site to visit.  

Built right on the shoreline, the Château de la Napoule is a mix of fantasy and history. Photo source: Ville de Mandelieu la Napoule

Our final stop on this coastal castle tour is the Citadelle de Saint Tropez, which is today a maritime history museum. It towers over the town below, a jewel in the crown of a place best known for its more glamourous attractions, luxury shopping and yachting haven of a harbour.  

Works began in 1602 by the then King Henry IV’s chief engineer, Raymond de Bonnefons, who had been charged with improving the fortifications of Provence against the threat of attacks from the Spanish. Despite its prominent position on the crest of a hill, the fortress slowly lost its prominence from a defensive standpoint and was largely out of action by the 19th century.  

After a vast restoration campaign in the 2000s, which saw the donjon tower and dungeons revamped, the site reopened in 2013 as a fascinating maritime museum on the history of “tropezian” sailors and their adventures around the world, and the “precious heritage of generations of fisherman and merchant seamen” from Saint Tropez.  

The Citadelle de Saint Tropez stands atop a hill above the popular harbour town. Photo source: Citadelle de Saint Tropez

And if there is still more château chasing that you want to do, why not go for dinner or spend a night at one of the many luxury establishments that bear this title, such as the newly Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel Château Ezra in Eze or the Château Saint-Martin & Spa resort in the hills above Vence.  



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Featured photo source: Citadelle de Saint Tropez



Football: Monaco sign Denis Zakaria from Juventus on five-year deal

Denis Zakaria unveiled in a Monaco shirt

Denis Zakaria has joined AS Monaco on a five-year deal in a reported €20m move from Juventus. The Swiss international will join up with manager Adi Hütter for a third time.

The Principality club have secured their third recruit of the summer. After the arrival of Philippe Köhn and Mohammed Salisu, Zakaria is the latest to arrive, putting pen to paper on a five-year deal.

According to Fabrizio Romano, the deal is worth a reported €20m, and he comes in as a complement to, not necessarily as a replacement for, Youssouf Fofana. The France international continues to be linked with a move away, but given Jean Lucas’ departure earlier in the summer, the midfield area was in need of reinforcements.

Zakaria, who has nearly 50 caps for the Swiss national team, spent last season on loan at Premier League side Chelsea, where he made 11 appearances. However, this summer he returned to parent club Juventus. He has now secured a permanent move away from the Serie A club after making the move to Italy in the summer of 2020.

A warm welcome from Hütter

For the third time, Zakaria will link up with Hütter. The Austrian manager, who arrived at the Principality club earlier this summer, worked with Zakaria at Young Boys in Switzerland, as well as at former club Borussia Mönchenglabach. In a video posted on Monaco’s media channels, the pair were seen sharing a warm embrace as the pair prepare to work together again. Hütter revealed on Friday that he had called Zakaria ahead of the move.

“I’ll give everything for us to be at the best level and to chase after the highest position possible,” said Zakaria upon his arrival.

The midfielder may feature at the weekend against Strasbourg in what will be the first game of the season at the Stade Louis II.


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Photo source: AS Monaco

Princess Charlene’s Water Bike Challenge is heading to South Africa

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene will be heading to South Africa next month for the inaugural Sun City Water Bike Challenge of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.

“PCMFSA is thrilled to bring the Water Bike Challenge to South Africa and create an exciting platform for raising awareness about water safety,” said Chantell Wittstock, CEO of the Foundation’s arm in South Africa, in a statement. “The event showcases our commitment to saving lives and instilling a water safety culture in our communities. We are also deeply honoured that His and Her Serene Highnesses, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco, will attend the event, supporting the Foundation’s cause.”

The Water Bike Challenge, previously held in Monaco and the island of Corsica, will take place on Saturday 16th September and aims to raise funds for PCMFSA. Princess Charlene is not expected to compete this year.

A gruelling course completed by celebrities and athletes

The event will feature mixed teams of professional athletes and amateurs competing on Schiller S1-C water bikes in a relay race. Participants will cover a 1.2km-loop, completing it 21 times. Each loop will feature a different participant, adding to the excitement and unpredictability of the event.

“Spectators and participants will have the opportunity to mingle with international sports stars, celebrities and corporate teams as they come together to secure a brighter future for our children,” states the PCMFSA.

Previously, the Water Bike Challenge in Monaco saw Formula 1 stars such as David Coulthard and Felipe Massa, alongside legendary South African sporting icons John Smit and Percy Montgomery, take part in the gripping race covering a 21km stretch between Nice and Monaco on the Riviera. Princess Charlene herself competed in 2020’s gruelling The Crossing: Calvi – Monaco Water Bike Challenge, while celebrity Victoria Silvstedt was among the celebrities competing in the 2022 edition.

“The South African edition of the Water Bike Challenge promises to be an equally thrilling and memorable experience. We are so excited and can’t wait to see you there!” said Chantell Wittstock.

The Foundation is expected to announce celebrity attendees soon.

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Photo source: PCMFSA



Man in custody after deadly Grasse fire kills three

grasse fire

A 47-year-old man with no prior record has reportedly been detained on suspicion of starting a fire in a central Grasse apartment building that killed three and injured many more.  

In the early hours of Sunday 13th August, a fire swept through a five-storey apartment building in the Place aux Aires of old town Grasse, killing three and causing injury to more than a dozen other residents.  


Surveillance footage shows a man fleeing the scene just minutes before the blaze took hold. 

According to local press, the man seen in the recordings has been arrested. The 47-year-old suspect, who is believed to be in custody in Nice, has no prior criminal record. 

“The city’s video surveillance revealed that an individual had left the building two minutes before the cameras detected the start of a fire,” Grasse’s Prosecutor Damien Savarzeix said in a statement. “At this stage of the investigation, the respondent denies any involvement in the occurrence of the facts.” 

The arrest was made at 8.35pm on the same day that the fire occurred for “deliberate damage by dangerous means resulting in death”, while a psychiatric expert was reportedly called for on Monday 14th August. 


The intense blaze, which broke out in the building’s stairwell at 2.49am on Sunday, killed two women and one man. The victims have not yet been formally identified due to the injuries sustained, according to Nice Matin.  

Three additional people were seriously injured – one remains in a life-threatening situation – and 13 more were treated for smoke inhalation. They have since been released from hospital. 

According to initial reports, it took the fire expert on the scene only a short time to rule out an accidental cause and confirm that the fire was an act of arson.  

Jérôme Viaud, the mayor of Grasse, told French newspaper Sud-Ouest that the somewhat dilapidated building had no “structural problem”, but that renovation on the façade and common areas was “planned for October”.  


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Photo source: Pixabay

Sailing: Yacht Club de Monaco’s Nico Poons crowned World Champion

Nico Poons at the 44Cup 2023 World Championship

14 races, three wins and five second place finishes equal one World Champion. Over the weekend, the Yacht Club de Monaco’s Nico Poons retained his 44Cup World Championship title in Cowes.

Poons won in the water of Portoroz, Slovenia in ultra-light conditions last year, and he repeated that feat off the coast of Cowes this time around.

Consistency was key for owner-helmsman Poons and tactician Hamish Pepper.

“In this class, because of the level, the trick is to be as consistent as possible. You win the regatta by reducing the damage of the back races,” said Poon.

Two YCM members on the podium

For four days, Poons and Pepper, determined to retain their title, raced in near-optimal conditions despite the complex tides in the Solent.

On board Charisma, the duo were dominant and entered into the final day of competition on Sunday with a five-point lead over Team Nika. The Vladimir Prosikhin-led boat are also from the Yacht Club de Monaco, and ensured two Monegasque teams finished on the podium as they secured third place. However, they never got close to Charisma, who won with a race to spare.

Another Yacht Club de Monaco team, Artemis Racing, led by Torbjorn Tornqvist, was amongst the nine-team-strong flotilla in Cowes, and they came eighth, rounding off a successful weekend for the Principality vessels, whose flag flew high in this category.


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Photo source: Yacht Club de Monaco

Boulanger and Auchan recall AC units due to potential fire hazards

French retailers Boulanger and Auchan are each recalling air conditioning units sold at their online and physical stores following reports that they may be fire hazards.  

In the hot summer months, portable air conditioning units become incredibly popular as a way to quickly cool a room in an otherwise stuffy house or flat. Most of the time, they are efficient and safe, but occasionally, models that pose risks make it through initial assessments.  

This is precisely the case of the ECM9 made by Essential B and sold at Boulanger and their partner store, Connexion, between 1st April 2020 and 26th June 2023.

Additionally, the Qilive brand Q.6771 model with the bar code 3245676776744 sold at Auchan, both in store and on the company’s website, as well as at their partner stores, is in the crosshairs.

Both models are being recalled for posing fire risks.

The two portable AC units being recalled by French retailers. Image source: screen captures


Consumers are being asked to follow certain protocols if they own one of these air conditioning units.  

For the Essential B product, Boulanger asks that the device first be unplugged and then use discontinued. The distributor can be contacted free of charge on 08 00 30 01 45 from Monday to Saturday between 9am and 7pm to arrange an appointment for a technician to come and verify whether the unit is safe or not.  

For the Qilive unit, Auchan too asks that owners unplug and refrain from using the device, then to return it to a store to receive a full refund.  


Boulanger stopped sales of these units after reports of several dangerous incidents, and has reached out to a “significant proportion” of customers who bought this product. For those not yet alerted, the company is stepping up its awareness campaign to get the word out.  

For its part, Auchan started an information campaign on 7th August.  

If consumers want to report any problems, they are encouraged to do so by contacting the French government via the Signal Conso website. 


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