I took a day trip during my 3-day tour from Nice to Monaco. I couldn’t possibly have missed out on this tiny independent city-state, perhaps one most closely associated with luxury, gambling and the annual Formula One Grand Prix Race.Monaco might be a magnet for the super-rich and hedonists from all over the world with its glitzy nightlife and glamorous casinos, but it is entirely possible to look past the bling of this moneyed microstate and experience Monaco on a budget.
- Where is Monaco located
- What is the capital of Monaco?
- Getting from Nice to Monaco
- What to do in Monaco (without breaking the bank)
- Best hotels in Monaco
Where is Monaco located
Monaco can be easily overlooked if you’re consulting a map of France. Located along the Mediterranean coast in southern France, Monaco is a few kilometres east of Nice, which is great for day-tripping.
What is the capital of Monaco?
Fun fact: Monaco is amongst the few city states in the world, meaning that it is its own capital. With everything squeezed into a miniscule 200 hectares, this might be the second smallest country in the world (after the Vatican!), but Monaco punches well above its weight.
Getting from Nice to Monaco
Monaco is just shy of 20 kilometres east of Nice. If you go by car, it’s only a 30-minute drive.
By bus, it takes about an hour to get to the centre of Monaco, only setting you back 1.50€ for a one-way ride. How nice!
At the Promenade des Arts, outside Musée de Art/ Garibaldi Square, you can take Bus 100 and alight at the Monte Carlo bus stop. For the entrance leading uphill, alight at Places D’Armes instead.Be mesmerized by picturesque views of iconic bays of the French Riviera as you ride along the winding coastal roads to Monaco.
One greatly appreciated side effect of Monaco’s petite stature would be how everything is literally within walking distance.
Paired with its mild climate (temperatures usually don’t dip below 5℃ or go above 25℃ year-round) and comfortable humidity, you’ll want to ditch the bus and simply stroll on foot everywhere.
What to do in Monaco (without breaking the bank)
1. Try your luck at the Casino de Monte Carlo
What’s a trip to Monaco without playing a hand or two at the world-famous casino? The Casino de Monte Carlo is open to visitors every morning, so take a peek at the legendary gold-and-marble finishings.Wonder at the salons privés, which remains to this day one of Europe’s most most magnificent examples of belle époque architecture.
If you would like to try your luck at the baccarat, roulette or poker tables, or simply take a shot with the slot machines, you may do so from 2pm in the afternoon.Note that sneakers (trainers) are not allowed, and gentlemen are recommended to opt for a jacket and tie combination, especially in the evenings.
2. Live like a Royal at the Palais Princier de Monaco
Built in the 13th century, the Palais Princier de Monaco is the home of the Grimaldi dynasty. This regal and imposing fortress is protected around-the-clock by the Carabiniers du Prince, decked out in white socks and blue helmets.
Catch them in action at the daily changing of guards, held at 11:55am. A sizable crowd usually forms, so you might want to be there slightly earlier to ensure a good view!
Even though the palace itself is largely off-limits, you can still catch a glimpse at the lavish and extravagant lifestyles of the royals with a tour of the magnificent state apartments, where priceless artworks and furniture collected over the years are on display.
Skip the queues and save the hassle by buying your tickets online!
3. Wander through the regal Old Town
The Palais Princier de Monaco is perched atop a rocky crest that dominates the entire city. After catching the changing of guards, you can opt for a stroll down the narrow, cobbled streets of Le Rocher, the Old Town of Monaco that surrounds the palace.
Le Rocher is the last vestige of Monaco that retains the original medieval lanes and rustic charm of a bygone era. Although there are multiple stairways leading to Le Rocher, I recommend the Rampe Major, which you can access from place d’Armes.
I loved the pastel colors of the houses, and the contrasting color windows and doors. Little flowers decorating the front porches of these houses made for a really cute street.
Make sure to snap a picture with the statue of the late Prince Rainier as you explore the old town, or at the Romanesque-Byzantine Cathédrale de Monaco, where the flower adorned graves of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace are located.
4. Explore an underwater world at the Oceanographic Museum
The Musée Océanographique de Monaco is the top aquarium in Monaco, and arguably, the world. Founded by Prince Albert I who himself devoted much of his life to research on oceanography and marine biology, this massive aquarium sits atop a rocky cliff.You will be amazed at the 6-metre-deep lagoon which is the jewel of this aquarium. Sharks and marine predators are kept apart from dazzling schools of colorful tropical fish by a miniature coral reef inside the aquarium itself.
Above it, delve into the study of oceanography and marine biology through photographs, interactive displays, specimens and old equipment, some of them used and produced by the Prince himself over the many years spent studying the field.
The Oceanographic Museum is not just an educational experience – it houses over 450 unique species of Mediterranean and tropical marine life in 90 tanks. Kids will love the hands-on tactile basin (€6 for 40 minutes) where they can touch and feel the fish.
Stand in awe during the free hourly light shows held at the Whale Skeleton Room (Salle de la Baleine), held during the school holidays.
Grab a bite at the rooftop cafe at the Oceanographic Museum, and enjoy the unobstructed, expansive views of the city and surrounding bay.
Save even more money and kill two birds with one stone by buying a package that includes admissions to both the Oceanographic Museum and the Palace!
5. Admire the Royal Car Collection
Monaco is famous for the annual Formula One Grand Prix races held in the summer months, but you can still indulge your love for automobiles and racing even if you come in the non-racing period.
The car-obsessed Prince Rainier started his car collection in 1950, and has amassed an astounding collection of over 100 Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls-Royces, Maseratis and other luxury cars, as well as F1 and rally race cars.
You can admire all these and more at the Collection de Voitures Anciennes. Although it is practically an exhibition hall right now, it will be moving into a purpose-built home along the harbor in mid 2020, so keep posted on that!
6. Brace yourself for priceless views for only €2
If you’re really pressed for time and just want to see as much of Monaco as you can in the shortest period of time, you can opt for a bus ride that has some of the most stunning, expensive views in the world.If you follow the Bus 1 Line Route, not only will you pass by the Place du Casino with its multi-million dollar luxury cars, but also the harbour where you can gawk at the super yachts moored along the waterfront that only serious money can buy.
The bus also passes by some of the world’s most luxurious hotels like the Hotel de Paris, as well as the hedonistic and over-the-top Avenue d’Ostende. There are few alternatives that manage to squeeze in so much of Monaco for so little money, so don’t give this a miss if you’re on a shoestring budget.
Best hotels in Monaco
1. Living in the lap of luxury in Monaco
Given the almost mythical allure of Monaco and it’s reputation of one of the most monied places in the world, prices can go astronomical in this tiny city state. These hotels are one of the best and most luxurious in the world – so long as you can afford the eye-watering price tags.
Some of the very best hotels to stay in are:
- Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo (from USD930/night)
- Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo (from USD940/night)
- Le Méridien Beach Plaza (from USD730/night)
- Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo (from USD650/night)
2. Finding a good balance between value and comfort
Some of us might not be drowning in money, so we do try to search for places that are more reasonably priced. Do note that the prices here are still considered slightly pricey, but that’s normal for Monaco!
Some mid-tier hotels to stay in Monaco are:
- Novotel Monte Carlo Hotel (from USD410/night)
- Fairmont Monte Carlo (from USD380/night)
- Port Palace (from USD360/night)
3. Minimizing costs with ‘budget’ hostels
If you are aiming to really cut down on expenditure for spending at the casinos here, you honestly might be better off seeking accomodation within Nice or other nearby towns, then travelling into Monaco.
This is simply due to the fact that even the most austere hostels in this city still command a relatively high price. Don’t expect to be able to get away with backpacker style rooms going for less than USD$10 a night here!
Some ‘budget’ options in Monaco are:
- Hôtel Villa Boeri (from USD140/night)
- Hotel de France (from USD150/night)
- Apartments Monaco (from USD155/night)
- Ambassador Monaco (from USD190/night)
We really hope that our guide has informed you better about Monaco points of interest, as well as a few pointers on where to stay in Monaco. Now that you know these, let us know what your plans are for your next trip here!
Read other posts about France:
- Things to do in Nice, France; Is It Worth Visiting?
- Cannes, France
- Lyon, France
- Mont Saint Michel, France
- Dieppe; Day Trip from Rouen, France
- 11 Lessons I Learnt From My France Exchange
- The Extensive Guide to Paris, France for First Timers
28 March 2015, Saturday