Shopping in Monte Carlo
Monaco might not charge its citizens income tax, but the idea that this makes it some sort of tax haven for shoppers is a popular misconception; in fact consumers pay nearly 20% VAT on goods here. Add this to the luxury brands crammed into Monaco’s designer boutiques and that makes for an expensive shopping experience; some of the price tags dangling on the clothes are jaw dropping, while the malls themselves look like palaces. In contrast to the posh boutiques and designer labels, Monaco still hosts vibrant markets, and there are plenty of places to pick up souvenirs.
The most chic clothes shops in Monaco are in Monte Carlo’s so-called Golden Circle next to the casino. Designer brands such as Hermès, Christian Dior, Gucci and Prada jostle for shop space in the small streets of avenue Monte Carlo, avenue des Beaux-Arts and the allées Lumières. You’ll also find high-end jewellers such as Bulgari, Cartier and Chopard here.
Less exclusive are the 200 odd outlets that make up La Condamine. This retail zone is situated near the port and is home to high-street brands and independent shops, which are scattered around a market square at the junction of rue Grimaldi and rue Princesse Caroline.
It might come as a surprise, but despite Monaco’s air of exclusivity, the good old-fashioned market is still alive and well in the principality. Traditional Mediterranean markets are held daily at La Condamine and avenue Saint-Charles. Vibrant stalls sell regional produce and crafts each morning.
Le Metropole is probably the most exclusive shopping centre in Monaco. Step inside and you’ll be greeted by air conditioning, acres of marble and porters, which immediately suggest you’re not going to find a TK Maxx inside. And you’d be right because this shopping centre, which is situated underground near the casino, is home to over 80 boutiques specialising in luxury items.
The more affordable Fontvielle shopping mall is located near the quay and houses over 30 shops selling clothes, electronic goods, CDs and furniture.
As a rule, shops open daily 1000-1900. With the exception of Monte Carlo’s designer boutiques, most retailers stay open on Sundays. Souvenir shops ply their trade from dusk until dawn throughout the week, while daily markets trade between 0600 and 1400 (although it’s best to arrive early if you want to take advantage of the fresh produce).
If you’re looking for souvenirs, head over to the winding old streets of Monaco-Ville. Here you’ll find a host of touristy shops selling anything from tasteful keepsakes to tacky knick-knacks. Grand Prix paraphernalia such as F1 caps and model cars are ten-a-penny, although there are some more tasteful souvenirs lurking behind the Ferrari T-shirts.
Consumers can expect to pay nearly 20% VAT on goods purchased in the city.