Getting to know Monaco: Fontvieille, a neighbourhood reclaimed from the sea

fontvieille monaco

Not too long ago, Fontvieille barely existed. Here’s everything you need to know about the neighbourhood that Monaco reclaimed from the sea.  

The next district to be featured in the Monaco Life series “Getting to know Monaco”, after tours of The Rock, Monte-Carlo and La Condamine, is the relatively recent addition of Fontvieille.

Built from the sea 

Fontvieille is a marvel in that it really wouldn’t even exist but for the sheer will of Monaco’s late Prince Rainier III.  

Work on the quartier was started in 1966 from a design by Italian engineer Gianfranco Gilardini. As the workers clawed land back from the sea, the neighbourhood, which borders on Cap d’Ail, began to take shape. For years, it was considered the “industrial zone” of the Principality, and many overlooked this vibrant area until recent times. Now, however, it is home to 4,420 residents, making up 12% of the population.   

The port, attractive due to its position and protection from strong winds, is perhaps the most well-known feature of Fontvieille. As interest began building amongst new residents, bars and restaurants began to move into the area. Today these addresses count the excellent Beefbar, Le Rouge et Le Blanc wine bar and Les Perles de Monte-Carlo, which serves locally grown oysters and other amazing fresh seafood for reasonable prices, amongst their biggest draws.

The Port of Fontvieille is found at the foot of the cliffs below the Palais Princier de Monaco. Photo source: Mony Misheal, Unsplash

Sports, nature, events and more 

But it is not all about the port. Fontvieille is also where the annual International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo and New Generation Circus Festival take place. The purpose-built big top, called Le Chapiteau, invites talent from all over to perform their amazing feats in front of live audiences each January. 2024 is the 50th anniversary of the event, so this year’s plans will no doubt be extra-special.

The Big Top also plays host to numerous other events and conferences throughout the year. You can almost always be guaranteed to find something on.  

The district is home to the Stade Louis II, the 16,000-person stadium that is home to local football club AS Monaco and a popular venue for several athletic events each year, such as the Herculis track and field event, which attracts top runners and athletes from around the world.   

The neighbourhood, Stade Louis II and Chapiteau as seen from above. Photo source: Mony Misheal, Unsplash

Fontvieille is also a place for nature. Amongst its attractions is the Princess Grace Rose Garden, which was opened in 1984 as a tribute to the late princess by her husband, Prince Rainier, and boasts 4,000 roses from over 150 species, as well as the Zoological Gardens, a lovely sanctuary for abandoned animals, those taken by customs or just exchanged with other parks.   

Thanks to its setting against the cliffs of The Rock, the neighbourhood is surprisingly rich in biodiversity, despite its largely urban context. The Captain’Game orienteering course around the port is a great way to get to know the area better and discover the work going on in Monaco to protect its natural world.  

For stamp and coin lovers, the Museum of Stamps and Coins, opened in 1996, has a vast selection of rare and beautiful pieces gleaned from Prince Rainier III’s private collection. It is found on the Terrasses de Fontvieille.  

For the business-minded, Fontvieille is where you will find the forward-thinking MonacoTech “incubator” for innovative young companies and start-ups.

Fly away

Finally, this area is where Monaco’s heliport is. Use of the terminal turns a long slog by car from Nice Airport to the Principality into a super-fast seven-minute journey along some of the most stunning coastline on the planet. It is from here that passengers can also access further flung destinations, such as Saint Tropez, Geneva and Milan.  

People can also take pleasure rides in a chopper. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours, especially with the family.   

Next time, we head north to the Jardin Exotique neighbourhood of Monaco! 


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Photo source: Gabriel Tovar, Unsplash