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MONACO

When I hear  the word Monaco a few things come to mind; the iconic Monte Carlo casino, yachts, James Bond, the Grand Prix and pretty much anything else that screams bucket loads of money. The type of money I will never, even in my wildest dreams, come close to owning. But just because I could never afford to live in Monaco didn’t stop me from wanting to see it.

Looking over the port from The Rock

Looking over the port from The Rock

Despite the flash and luxury of this tiny country, Monaco is an affordable place to visit for a day and an easy trip from most places in the French Riviera. As long as you are content with window shopping rather than the real thing, you can embrace your inner James Bond or Bond Girl and spend a day in the land of the elite.

Getting There

The ultimate way to arrive in Monaco is via private helicopter, but chances are if you are reading this that’s not exactly an affordable option. Not to worry- there are much cheaper ways. If you are staying in Nice, the easiest method is to take bus #100 from place Garibaldi to Monte Carlo city centre by the Casino. The ride is about 35-45 minutes depending on traffic, and offers stunning coastal views. Be aware that the busses are almost always packed so you may have to stand. Busses depart about every 20 minutes or so but it’s not uncommon for them to be late, or maybe not show at all, so be ready to wait a little. Cost at the time of my visit (April 2014) was 1.50 euro each way- an absolute steal compared to a private helicopter!

On the way to Monaco: The view up to the mountain village Eze.

On the way to Monaco: The view up to the mountain village Eze.

Getting Around

The majority of the city is pretty walkable, although it is quite hilly. There is a hop-on-hop off bus that will take you to the main sights priced at 21 euro per person for a day, as well as local city busses which cost 2 euro per ride. Tickets can be bought on board, and local busses run every 20-30min. For more information and a city map to best pick your route, visit the tourism office outside the Casino bus stop in the city centre (they also frequently have discount coupons for city attractions).

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Walking is the perfect way to check out the luxury yachts!

Dress Code

When planning my day trip I was in a bit of a panic deciding what to wear. I knew I would be walking a lot so I needed something sensible, but I wanted to look nice- didn’t I have to? Turns out no- you don’t need to pull out the LBD. I saw more local women in tracksuits than stylish dresses, and if it weren’t for the flashy watches and jewelry, they wouldn’t have stood out at all. So don’t worry about having the perfect outfit, but if you do want to channel your inner bond girl- by all means go ahead!

The Sights

As small as it is, there’s something to look at nearly everywhere you go in Monaco. My favourites are:

The Rock’

This is the oldest section of Monaco where the old town and palace are located. Every day at 11:55am changing of the guard ceremony takes place in front of the Prince’s Palace. It’s not the biggest show but fun to see if you are there at the time. If interested, try to come a little early to get a better view.  The state apartments of the palace are also available for viewing at a cost of 8 euro per person, but be sure to check the schedule ahead of time.

The Changing of the Guard at the Prince's Palace

The Changing of the Guard at the Prince’s Palace

The Rock is also a great place to take photographs of Monte Carlo and the port, and to souvenir shop or grab a bite to eat in one of the many cafes in the old town.

The Oceanographic Museum

I’m not a museum person but even I couldn’t resist checking out this famous attraction. Located on the cliff of The Rock overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, The Oceanographic Museum, nicknamed the Temple of the Sea, is worth going to for the views alone. Tickets aren’t cheap, running at 14 euro per person (April 2014), however at the time I visited the visitor centre had discount coupons for 3 euro off, which I gladly took advantage of.

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One of the many aquariums full of different species of fish

The museum is home to over 6000 species, which can be found in the multitude of aquariums located on the lower level. Take a look at schools of tiny clownfish, seahorses, tropical fish, and even sharks. On the higher levels you can also find the skeletons and preserved bodies of different species of sharks, as well as ‘Oceanomania the biggest collection of ocean curiosities’.  This enormous book-case style exhibit is full of skeletons, diving gear, books, and even a stuffed white bear from Greenland.

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The ‘Curiosities’

The Oceaographic museum has a couple other displays, along with a rooftop terrace with incredible views and is home to a family of African spurred turtles. The museum restaurant is also located on the roof, with both indoor and outdoor seating offering stunning views over the city and the sea.

My favourite experience at the museum though, was the shark tank near the exit. A knowledgeable guide invites you to stick your hand into a tank of friendly sharks which will curiously approach you and allow you to run your hand along their sides. Just be sure to wash your hands first, and please don’t touch their heads or back fins!

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These little guys are just as curious about you as you are of them

The Exotic Gardens

Located at the top of the city, it’s probably easiest to take a bus to the Exotic Gardens. Tickets cost about 7euro/adult for entry but once inside you are privy to the best views in the country. The Exotic Gardens are home to a bunch of flora and fauna but it’s the scenery that makes it worth the money. I happily spent nearly an hour sitting on a bench over-looking The Rock and the ports where I got to see the private helicopters land.

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The view from the Exotic Gardens

The Casino

Probably the most iconic sight of Monaco, the Casino is top of my list of things to visit. It’s also a great place to look for fancy and expensive cars; taking photos with them is fine, but don’t try to touch any unless you want an army of security after you!

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If I won at the casino….

The Casino opens its doors at 2pm to the public, so I would recommend making it your last stop for the day (the bus stop to return to Nice is conveniently close by). There is no dress code or fee to go inside the main area, but there is for the private rooms where you will also need to hand over your passport. Inside the casino is absolutely stunning, but sadly no cameras are allowed in the building so you will be kindly asked to stow your bags behind the counter (at no charge). Once inside you are free to wander the areas with the slot machines, and a public room with card tables where you, along with the other tourists, are more than welcome to try your luck at Black Jack or roulette. I risked a whopping 5 euro at one of the slot machines but sadly watched it disappear way too quickly. At least I tried!

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The Monte Carlo Casino is probably the country’s most famous attraction

Shopping

Unless you won big at the casino chances are you can’t afford to do much other than window shop. But if you are willing to forgo the fancy designer brands and are looking for some souvenirs, you can find some good buys near the Casino and in the Old Town on The Rock. Like all other places, shot glasses, post cards, and souvenir t-shirts are easy finds. For something a little more authentic to remember your Monaco experience, look for some Grand Prix merchandise- sure it comes with a price tag but it’s a pretty neat buy.

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Setting up for the Grand Prix

 

Monaco is the perfect spot for a day trip. Even if you will never be able to afford living there yourself, it’s incredible to see the wealth of this luxury destination.

 

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28 Comments

  1. Jen Seligmann on May 29, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I really enjoyed Monaco. Our tour guide through France was talking the place down so much that when we got there we were all very surprised at how great it was. My favourite part was at night sitting in one of the cafes outside the casino, sipping an overpriced (but worth it) cocktail and watching all the beautiful people get out of their incredible cars.

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 29, 2014 at 9:32 pm

      I bet the people watching would be great at night! I’ll have to stay later next visit!

  2. Amy @ Unsettled Meliorist on May 29, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve never been to Monaco, but I’ve always heard a lot of people put it down or say to avoid it. Despite the negativity, I still want to visit, so I’m glad to see a positive post! Seems like such a cool little country. Thanks for the tips!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 29, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      I had a lot of people tell me to avoid it as well- that it wasn’t “all that” but I wanted to see it for myself and am glad I did- I had an amazing day!

  3. lorrie on May 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    thanks for sharing those great views look like a beautiful city

  4. Muriel on May 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I’m really looking forward to visiting Monaco during our France trip. It looks like the perfect place to people watch. I’m surprised about the women in track suits! That’s kinda cool.
    The bus around the city is a great tip! I’ll definitely make a note of it.

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 29, 2014 at 9:27 pm

      I was surprised too- but it was more the tourists that dressed up than the locals. Although it may be different by night.

  5. Paul on May 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Great article Hannah! You experienced a totally different Monaco to me – I didn’t even realise there is so much to do! I literally spent all my time there photographing and drooling over the Supercars outside Monte-Carlo Casino haha! The Oceanographic museum looks fascinating – thanks for the share!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      I can see getting caught up on that 😉 I’d recommend going back to see more though!

  6. Matilda (The Travel Sisters) on May 29, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    This is a great one day guide to Monaco! Have never been to Monaco but would love to do a day trip if I am ever in the area. I think it would be fun people watch, window shop at the designer stores and see the casino in person.

  7. zof on May 30, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I don’t care about the casinos, yachts and Bond but I wouldn’t say no to the aquariums, haha.

  8. Alexandra C. on May 30, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    This looks so gorgeous! I won’t lie this is certainly on my list as well. The movies alone make this somewhere that I would just love to see. 🙂 It looks like you had a fantastic time on a budget! So great to have these tips for someday! Sorry you didn’t win at the casino… but yes I do think ‘trying’ is essential. Not everyone can say they gambled in Monaco! 🙂 -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 30, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      Agreed- I had to give it a shot! And to be honest, I’d do it again if I ever go back!

  9. Samantha on May 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    I’d love to visit the museum! Anything underwater or aquarium I’m there. Looks like a great place to visit and really beautiful!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on May 30, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      The museum was pretty awesome- I’m a sucker from all the ‘under the sea’ stuff 🙂

  10. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary on May 31, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Wow! I would love to visit Monaco!! Seems like a place which has a lot to see and offer!

  11. Gabor Kovacs on May 31, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Monaco always seemed a little bit too glamorous to me, but as I see you can have a great time there! The aquarium seems really cool!

  12. Tam @ Travelling Book Junkie on June 9, 2014 at 8:33 am

    I have always wanted to visit Monaco and I have to admit that I am a bit of a petrol head and have always wanted to be there for the Grand Prix but budget doesn’t allow at the moment. It’s great to read a review that doesn’t break the bank so maybe we will forego the racing for the moment and consider a trip next time we head down towards the South of France on one of our camping trips! 🙂

  13. The Best of Nice | Eat Sleep Breathe Travel on July 29, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    […] Monaco: about a 45 minute bus ride (check out my 1 day guide here) […]

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