We visited Monte Carlo as a shortstop during our long drive in Europe. We already spent time in Nice so we knew what to expect from the French Riviera. This time, though, we wanted to indulge in even more glamour, and finally get to enjoy the equivalent of a weekend in Monte Carlo. Note that we didn’t actually visit during the weekend. Our so-called weekends are mainly during the week, so we can enjoy a quieter (and cheaper) time away.
Nice to Monte Carlo
Although we drove from Hungary, through Slovenia and Italy before reaching Monaco, many tend to take the Nice to Monte Carlo route. By car, you can reach Monte Carlo in about 40 minutes. Buses take approximately 30 minutes from Nice to Monte Carlo and leave from Gare de Nice. Note that there are buses every 20-30 minutes. The last bus back to Nice is at 11:01 PM and the first bus leave just after 5 AM. So you don’t actually need a rental for your trip to Monte Carlo.
Many will fly into Nice, then take a bus from the airport to the Gare de Nice, then another bus all the way to Monte Carlo. It is very easy and the transportation is actually very good. Note, that sometimes buses can be late, so make sure you leave plenty of time for this when coming back to the airport. In previous years, we almost missed our plane because the bus from Nice to the airport was delayed by 40 minutes!
Things to do in Monaco
Monaco is a Principality and it is a sovereign city-state located in the French Riviera. The total area is just over 2 square kilometres, so you can see why taking the public transportation might be a better option than renting a car. You can literally explore the whole of Monaco by foot.
There are a few things to do in Monaco, even though the place is small and snug.
The Monte Carlo Casino
The Monte Carlo Casino is perhaps the obvious first choice. Featured in so many movies, the Casino de Monte Carlo, as it is officially called, is an entertainment complex. You do need to dress up, especially if you visit at night. The decor is quite grand on the inside and you will immediately think of James Bond. Quite cool, right? I will tell you that the Casino is much smaller than expected but it’s still glamourous and worth a visit. There is an entry fee, so make sure you prepare €10 per adult from October to May and €12 per adult from May till October.
Did you know: the citizens of Monte Carlo are forbidden to enter the gaming rooms of the casino?
Prince's Palace of Monaco
The Prince’s Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. It was built in the 12th century as a fortress and it has a long and dramatic history. The best part? You can enjoy some fantastic views over the whole city. It’s a great place for photographer lovers.
To visit the Palace you need to pay €8 per adult and €4 per child. To visit the Palace and the collection of vintage cars it costs €11.50 and €5 per child.
The Oceanographic Museum is a museum of marine sciences. The museum offers great rooftop views and the park next to the museum is really lovely as well. The admission fee is between €11 to €16 depending on the season, but the views alone are totally worth the money. You will get to see a nice amount of sea creatures and plenty of different type of species.
Jardin Exotique De Monaco
Opened in 1933, the Exotic Garden of Monaco has a large variety of succulent plants. The Prehistoric Anthropology Museum was founded by Prince Albert I in 1902. The museum has information about the first inhabitants of the Principality.
The Observatory Cave plunges almost to sea level. Enjoy beautiful limestone sculptures right in the heart of Monaco.
The entry ticket includes visits to the Exotic Garden, the Observatory Cave and the Prehistoric Anthropology Museum.
Adults: €7. 20
Children (4-18 years’ old): €3.80
The Japanese Garden Monaco
Beautiful Japanese Garden in the heart of Monaco? I couldn’t miss this one. I very much enjoyed the surroundings and I never say never to a nice botanical travel. If there is a garden, we are going to check it out. The best part? The admission is entirely FREE.
Princess Antoinette Park
A nice relaxing stroll is a must in the Princess Antoinette Park. Note that the admission is entirely FREE. It is known mainly for its majestic entrance. An annual open-air meal in the Princess Antoinette Park is organised by the Municipality of Monaco at the end of June, continuing the Monegasque tradition of picnics
Fontvieille Park and Princess Grace Rose Garden
This is a less known garden in Monaco which has a combined 4 hectares in size and is open daily from dawn to dusk. Expect to see a tremendous amount of roses which look perfect for your next best photo.
Mont Agel is a mountain located right on the border between France and Monaco. Starting from Monaco, the Mont Agel ascent is 16.35 km long. Over this distance, you climb 959 meters.
Chill on the Monaco Beach
There are three beaches available in Monaco. None of them is pristine, but for those interested in dipping their feet in the water, these beaches will just do the trick.
The Plage des Pêcheurs - a natural beach which is not very crowded. Swimming is unsupervised and the water becomes deep very quickly. There are several rocks nearby so swimming is not recommended when the waters are rough.
The Solarium on the New Sea Wall is an artificial beach. This beach is also unsupervised and swimming is not allowed when the sea is rough. Water is deep in this area and it is nowhere for swimmers to find a foothold.
The Larvotto Nature Reserve is a supervised beach. Snorkelling gear is recommended here so you can discover the diverse underwater ecosystem.
Located in the French Riviera, Monaco benefits from pretty good weather all year round. The temperatures rarely fall below 10 degrees during winter, with January being the coldest month. July is the hottest month with around 26 degrees C. Nice dresses, glam shoes and fashionable accessories are essential in Monaco.
Monaco Weather doesn’t come without rain, so make sure you plan your visit accordingly. November is the rainiest month with around 120mm of rain. And if you wish to swim, know that the August is the best time for it with sea temperatures of around 24 C.
What to eat in Monaco
So, I am going to be perfectly honest and tell you that actually, we love French food and products so much, that we simply bought everything from a local supermarket and made our food. I appreciate this might not be for everyone, but this worked for us. Monaco is incredibly expensive so even supermarket prices are over the top.
For those of you interested in this sort of visit to Monaco, we bought dried food, seafood and a variety of cheeses. We also bought fruits and tomatoes, a baguette and a bottle of wine. We bought some pastry from the supermarket, as well as blueberry jam, butter and some nice crispy bread for the morning. We couldn’t resist buying a little caviar though, that is my favourite.
We had some facilities in our apartment but were relatively limited. So having this type of food enabled us to have a fun lunch and dinner but also limit the amount of cooking we had to do.
If you want coffee, bagels and some cakes, we recommend Emilie’s Cookies. That is a great place for a nice snack. For the morning, this is perfect, especially because it opens at 8 AM. The address is Les Jardins d'Apolline, Prom. Honoré II, 98000 Monaco.
Where to sleep in Monaco
This is another cheat on our end. We didn’t actually sleep in Monaco. We slept right at the border. As in, 2 minutes away from the border. It made no difference from our perspective, but it made a huge difference for our wallet. We are talking about over 50% savings just because we were 2 minutes outside of the Principality. It would silly not to take that offer.
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We stayed in Appart'Hotel Odalys Les Jardins d'Elisa. Still quite expensive for what they offered, but considering the location we can’t really complain. There is a car park available but you will have to pay extra for it. We had no choice as we came by car and spaces in Monte Carlo are rarer than pink diamonds.
What else should you know about Monaco
Motto: "With God's Help"
Official language: French
Common Languages: Monégasque, Italian, Occitan
Safety Travel Advice: Mont visits to Monaco are trouble fee. Police have issued warnings that counterfeit Euro notes are in circulation. Check that notes you receive are genuine.
Street crime is rare, but you should take sensible precautions to safeguard your passport and valuables.
Road travel: You need a valid driving licence to drive in Monaco. The minimum age for driving is 18. Note that Monaco is very traffic heavy and has many narrow roads. IT can be difficult to navigate and even more difficult to find a parking space.
Health: Monaco is not a Member of the European Union and therefore EU reciprocal medical arrangements do not apply. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not provide health cover in Monaco. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Currency: EURO (a bit weird considering Monaco is not part of the EU)
Did I miss something? Do you have something to add? Please let me know about your experience in Monaco by leaving a comment below.
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