This post will show you what to do in one day in Monaco. Once in Nice, our family in three generations made a day trip to Monaco, to see the wealthiest state of the world.
As it was now allowed take our rental car across the border, we were wondering how to get to Monaco. After studying French Riviera public transport options we took a bus to Monaco and came back by train.
I will show you how we did that and what the Principality of Monaco is like.
Monaco seen from the French side
Here you can see almost all of Monaco, seen from the road above on the French side. Monaco is not a big country: it is the world’s second smallest state. Only the Vatican in Rome is smaller.
Monaco on the French Riviera has a long history. It has been a Greek and a Roman colony and has been an independent state since 1309 when the Grimaldis bought it. As the Grimaldis have been ruling Monaco since that time, they are the world’s oldest ruling monarchy.
One Day in Monaco: Our Walking Itinerary
Our Monaco walking ititnerary: one day in Monaco
Here you can see a map of Monaco where our walking route is marked in blue.
The bus we came with took us through the city from where we walked back. We went to see the Casino of Monte Carlo, the port, the castle of the Grimaldis and the old town.
At the end we found our way to Monaco’s train station, from where we took the train back.
Before we will start walking through Monaco, I have to show what the mini country looks like from the mountains.
Monaco from the Mountains
The Principality of Monaco in South Europe
The seaside country of Monaco is backed by the French Riviera mountains. Even when it’s not allowed to take a rental car to Monaco (without a considerable extra cost) you can drive all the way around it, staying on the French side of the border.
Either take the coastal road to Beaulieu, or the upper road from La Turbie to Roquebrune. These photos show views of Monaco seen from these two roads on the French side.
A Monaco driver
Monaco Yacht Show
This is not our car. Our three generations need a minibus. This is somebody from Monaco driving towards Italy.
And these are not our rental boats, they are yachts participating in the annual Monaco Yacht Show. It’s a huge exhibition of super yachts where the world’s leading yachting companies show what they can offer their upmarket audience.
Monaco yachts on the sea
Where else could that take place, if not in Monaco? For a closer look at these yachts, check out the Monaco Yacht Show website.
Better photos from the tree
To get the best photo shots for you, we even climbed into a tree.
Here’s a photo taken from the tree. It’s the Casino, the Monte Carlo Casino and the old quarters around it. We will go and look at the Casino later.
The growing city of Monaco
This photo is from the tree as well, but to the other direction, east. The blue skyscraper is Odeon Tower, the highest building in Monaco.
At the time of writing there is a five-floor apartment for sale in Odeon Tower. The apartment has a ceiling terrace, dancing-floor and swimming-pool with a slide.
A skyscraper and Mediterranean coastline
The price is 320 Million Euros which makes it the world’s most expensive apartment on sale. Should we just buy it and move to Monaco? Maybe not. The pool would be ok, but we don’t need a dancing-floor.
Living in Monaco
To buy an apartment in Monaco you either have to be a native Monaco citizen or have been living in the country for a certain period of time. So to move to Monaco, you will have to rent first.
More Monaco homes
Another, maybe minor, problem are Monaco’s house prices. Square meter prices are incredibly high in Monaco. For a million Euros you would only get a 20 Sq. meter studio in Monaco.
So now it’s decided, our big family is not planning to move to Monaco. Better to take the Bus 100 from Nice (15 Euros for seven people).
But what can we do in Monaco, and what should we see? We hopped off the bus on the last Monaco bus stop and started walking back towards the city center.
Boulevard des Moulins
Fashion shops on Boulevard des Moulins, Monaco
Boulevard des Moulins is the main thoroughfare and the main shopping street. Coming from Nice, it leads through Monaco and Monte Carlo on to Italy, that’s why the name, too, changes to Boulevard d’Italie in the east.
Boulevard des Moulins, Monte Carlo
Boulevard des Moulins is a busy street with a lot of luxury shops, so there’s not a lack of choice if you’r out after an expensive handbag, quality shoes, a Rolex watch or any stylish clothing.
One Day in Monaco: the Traffic
One day in Monaco: watching traffic
The photo gallery below will show you typical Monaco cars (and a police scooter). You can see many black and grey luxury cars, but also handy mini cars that that easily park even between parking lots.
Click on the photos to see them all in a slide-show.
It’s not a surprise that parkingspace is very limited in the densely populated city were all roads are narrow and winding. As Monaco is in a steep slope, walking is the best way to get around. For that reason they have built stairs and lifts for pedestrians to get between streets on upper and lower levels on the hill.
Walking in Monaco definitely takes less time than driving. So we were happy not having arrived by car.
One Day in Monaco: Place du Casino
Monte Carlo Casino
Place du Casino is the place for the famous Monte Carlo Casino, and you can see the facade of Monte Carlo Casino in the photo above.
There are many cafés on the Place, the most famous of them being the legendary Le Café de Paris , see this photo:
Le Cafe de Paris, Monte Carlo
The historic Le Café de Paris has a popular outdoor terrace and an atmospheric Belle Epoque style brasserie. A perfect stop for a coffee, or a meal, for people-watching or to be seen.
This is the website of Le Cafe de Paris Monte Carlo.
A Monte Carlo Casino reflection
On the Place du Casino you can see the Casino in two locations, either directly or as a reflection in a mirror.
Then there is one more building you shouldn’t miss: the 5-star luxury hotel Hotel de Paris. A perfect place to stay when examining what the Casino has to offer. We didn’t stay at this hotel, neither did we go in, but you can read about it on the website of Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo.
Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo
Then, the maybe the best known of all Monaco sighs, the Casino:
Monte Carlo Casino
Cars parked in front of Monte Carlo Casino
The Casino was built in the 19th century on a still unbuilt section of land. The architect was Charles Garnier who also planned the Paris Opera house in a similar style.
The new Monte Carlo Casino soon gained great success and atrracted so many visitors that in a few years it brought the Principality of Monaco so much income that no taxes were needed from the citizens since that. Quite clever!
Properly dressed for the Casino?
The interior of Monte Carlo Casino is well decorated and there are many salons in a row for different games.
It all begins with the European and American salons with table games, but to get further in the real Casino you have to pay an entrance fee and be properly dressed.
A side door to the casino
We were happy to explore the entrance and the kids especially liked the doors. This is the side door and below you will see the Casino from the sea side. The big terrace below the Casino offers great views to all Monaco and to the Mediterranean.
On more look at the casino
If the Casino interests you, this is the Monte Carlo Casino website. As we, instead, only were one day in Monaco, we decided to walk towards the Port of Monaco.
The Port of Monaco (Port de Monaco)
Aerial view of the Port of Monaco
The Port of Monaco is in a natural, sheltered bay between Monte Carlo and the rock of the princes of Monaco that you can in distance (the many buildings).
The harbor is also called Hercule Harbor. In addition Monaco has another harbor, the Fontevieille Harbor behind the rock of the princes.
The yachts are many and most of them are huge. Think about touring the Mediterranean with one of these. That would be something for our big family. Which one would we prefer?
Yachts in the Port of Monaco
While trying to choose we also found a cruise harbor. Maybe we should choose a public cruiser, or just take a water taxi and enjoy Monaco views from the bay?
Here is what the city looks like from the harbor. You can guess stairs and lifts are needed in Monaco.
Monaco, a city built on steep Mediterraean cliffs
Monaco Grand Prix
Hercules Port is the place where the Formula 1 Grand Prix race starts and ends. The Monaco Grand Prix is held every year in May and June. They are driving on the winding streets right in the town center.
Read here about Monaco Grand Prix.
The Old Quarters of Monaco
One day in Monaco, an old downtown quarter
Behind the harbor hide some pretty quarters with old French-style buildings. These old houses make a striking contrast to all others in the central part of Monaco where most buildings are built in the 1960s or 1970s concrete block style. I prefer these old ones.
Street views of Monaco
Monaco has the world’s highest per capita income. Yet people in Monaco have the same favorite thing to make themselves busy as all others: the phone.
Monaco locals with their phones
The Old Town of Monaco
Walkway to the old town of Monaco
Yet Monaco has a still older part. The oldest part is up on the rock where the Palais Princier is. The rock is flat at the top and called Le Rocher. Once you get up along the long easy walkway from Place d’Armes , you don’t have to worry about any stairs up in the old town.
The first place you come to is Place du Palais.
One Day in Monaco: Place du Palais
The Palace of Monaco
Place du Palais is a vast square that takes its share of the old town. On one side is the Palace of Monaco and on the other the old town with its old townhouses in different shades of pink. Some views of Place du Palais:
The Palace of Monaco
The castle-like palace of the Grimaldis
The Palace of Monaco is a massive castle, or maybe palace, with canons and guards outside. The first part of the palace was built in the 13th century by the Grimaldis. Some hundreds of years later they added to it the real palace with elegant salons that you can see now.
Tourists visiting the Grimaldi Palace
We bought tickets in the kiosk and went on a palace tour, those who wanted and were awake. As the youngest family member was sleeping in his stroller, it was more worth staying outside with him. The palace and its salons are open for visitors at least in the summer season.
A guided tour of the palace takes about an hour and you will see many beautiful halls in different colors, containing a lot of precious furniture and artwork. Photographing was not allowed which I always respect. Therefore, for photos of the palace interior turn to their own website:
The Old Town of Monaco
Rose-colored houses of Monaco
The old town at the hilltop consists of a number of narrow parallel streets with pretty rose-colored houses. Everything is clean and tidy, well planned and nice for the locals. It looks like the number of tourist shops has been strictly limited.
A tunnel linking two narrow lanes
The parallel streets are linked by narrow alleys and tunnels. Some more photos of Monaco-Ville, Monaco’s old town:
One day in Monaco, an isolate cafe
At the end of the Le Rocher rock (where the old town is) is the clifftop Oceanographic Museum.
Musée Océanographique, Monaco
The museum has a good aquarium to learn about marine plants, fish, shells and even corals. That must be an interesting place for both young and old.
Walk back from the Museum along the Fontvieille side where you will find a pretty garden that takes you to the castle along the edge of the rock. At the same time, the park is a large exhibition of Mediterranean and exotic plants, lush and quiet. And the views! It’s a pity we had a cloudy day.
A Mediterranean corner in a park
One Day in Monaco: Views to Fontvieille
Then, Fontvieille is the modern part of Monaco, built between the 1970s and 1990s on artificial land. Fontvieille has a helicopter field Monaco Heliport. from where you can get to Nice Cote d’Azur Airport in only 7 minutes.
Looking at yachts and helicopters
Our youngest couldn’t stop looking at all those yachts and helicopters.
One day in Monaco, Fontvieille
Views to Monte Carlo
Before our one day trip to Monaco comes to an end, I will still show you a couple of panoramas of the Monte Carlo side of Monaco, seen from the lookout on the rock:
Now, to get back, we have to walk down again along the long easy stairs, and through the old defense wall:
Walking in Monaco
Monaco train station is locataed inside the mountain and accessible through long walking tunnels.
We found a ticket machine to get our train tickets back to Nice. Train tickets are slightly more expensive than bus tickets, but, as a whole, transport fares in the French Riviera are very customer-friendly. Our fare for seven people was only 25 euros.
Escalator to Monaco train station
As in France and Italy you are supposed to stamp your ticket before boarding, we were trying to do it here as well. The text on the only machine said compost which made us wonder if this was a waste basket for used tickets.
It was, however, not a waste basket. The locals just inserted the ticketand it came back! After doing the same and caught our train back to Nice.
Monaco train station
More on the French Riviera
You might also be interested in these posts about the French Riviera: