Monte-Carlo, Monaco – glamorous apartments and hotels, designer shopping, elite cars sparkling before the entrance to Monaco’s casinos – this tiny municipality packs quite the punch!
Monaco makes the perfect day trip from Nice or towns further along French Riviera. Whether you can afford to dine at the exquisite restaurants or platinum card only shops, you can always people and car watch for free!
Spend one to two days in Monaco. This principality is only 2.02km² and packed with 32,000 citizens, known as Monégasque.
You can use Monte Carlo as your base when visiting in the French Riviera but it will be an expensive option!
WHERE TO STAY?
Monaco is teeny-tiny and everyone wants to live there which means there are only so many hotels with prices that aren’t friendly to your bank balances.
If you do want to stay in Monaco, I would book as far in advance as possible and avoid annual events like the Formula 1 Grand Prix, Tennis Masters, and International Boat Show (dates are listed further down the page).
Being so small in area, you can walk everywhere but it can become a trek up and down the cliffs. There are hidden elevators and tunnel cutting through the mountain side which certainly save you some time but are hard to find – follow the glamorous locals when in doubt.
If you aren’t happy to spend your trip’s budget on accommodation, Monaco is a perfect day trip from Nice, Antibes, Eze, Menton, and even Cannes when you’re in Southern France.
You could stay in Ventimiglia, San Remo, or Imperia if travelling from Italy but you will need to change trains when arriving from the last two Italian towns.
MY TOP FIVE SIGHTS IN MONACO
This working palace sits precariously on the hill between the New Port (La Condamine) and the Old Port (Fontvieille). The original fortress and ramparts were built in 1215 and has been converted into one of the most luxurious European residencies, currently the official home of the Prince of Monaco.
Enjoy the sweeping views over Port Fontvieille as you meander the path to the hill top. A benches on this hill overlooking the ocean is a great place to have free picnic lunch.
The dress code is strict (more so at night), men must wear dinner jackets and ties or bow-ties and, casual tennis or boat shoes are not allowed.
If you want a photo of the intricate facade keeping your wallet closed, chat to the security guards, sometimes they are in a good mood and allow tourists into the main hall to take some snaps.
The serious gamblers pay to enter the salon privés (private gaming rooms), I have been inside once, I am not even sure how it happened but it is pretty fabulous!
The casino across the Place du Casino next to the Café de Paris is more relaxed on dress code and does not charge an admission fee.
This is my favourite building in Monaco, as you enter the port by boat you can catch a glimpse of the incredible architecture that houses this world famous museum.
Founded by Prince Albert I in 1910, this aquarium has more than 6000 specimens, mostly tropical and deep sea fish, as well as exhibitions of fossils, skeletons, historical literature, maritime artefacts and oceanology.
This is the new port built to allow the bigger yachts that don’t fit in Port Fontvielle, it is always full of luxurious private Superyachts lovingly cleaned and polished by crew (like me) and home to the worlds rich and fabulous. I have been working on Superyachts for over seven years and have docked in Monaco countless times.
Spend the morning checking out how the other half live, unless the Boat Show or Grandprix are on the docks are open to the public.
MY BEST ADVICE…
Monaco is built across the ocean cliffs, to walk from the main port to the famous Casino it is steep winding road.
The tiny roads are always blocked to the dismay of the horse-powered cars the locals drive and can take almost as long to drive than if you walked.
This city hosts many glamorous annual events like the Formula 1 Grand Prix (May), the International Super-yacht Show (September), and the Rolex Tennis Masters (April) to name a few. Monaco is descended upon by hordes of industry people and spectators which hikes the price of accommodation dramatically!
I have been lucky enough to have been in Monaco on a yacht during the Boat Show and the Grand Prix and can guarantee you don’t get anywhere fast.
Most tourists have trouble finding the train station as it is cut into one of the granite mountains and on the very edge of the Principalities French border.
The station is beautifully modern and clean but just be aware it is not in the very centre of town, it is a 10-15 minute walk away. The Riveira bus’ stop through the centre of town so if you do not have an easy time walking up and down hills the train may not be for you.
Paris is 5.5 hour train ride on a TGV train with overnight trains from major Italian Cities, Toulouse and Strasbourg.
The local French Riviera Line is called TER Provence-Alpes-Côtes-d’Azur (operated by SNCF) which takes you from Monaco to Nice in 30 mins, Antibes in 1 hour and Cannes in 1.25 hrs.
Eze, the perfect cliff top cobbled town, is a seven minute train ride and a bus up the hill, the number 112 bus from Monaco (30 mins), or you can take a 10-15 min taxi from Monaco.
As far as I am aware there are two Heli companies; Héli Air Monaco and Monacair.
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So who am I…? Hi! My name is India.
I am a nomadic Australian who has wandered the world full time exploring over 60 countries and 5/7 continents.
After ten years on the road, I have launched my own website – Travelling Notebook – to share the knowledge I have gained on the road and the images I have collected over the years with fellow adventurers. Keep reading…
I am a freelance travel writer, photography and videographer, based in London. If you need specific travel advice or would like to collaborate please send an email my way!
Always say yes to adventure!