Okay you caught me, Monaco isn’t actually the world’s smallest country (it’s the second smallest). But it is the richest! And for that reason, it draws people in, people curious about its luxurious tradition of flaunting its wealth, whether it be old money or new money. Thoughts of Monaco and Monte-Carlo conjure up images of mansions and villas, of superyachts topped with helicopters, of Bentleys parked beside Maserati’s and Lamborghinis, of the world-famous Monte-Carlo Casino filled with the world’s billionaires having a gamble, of the world’s fastest cars racing around the streets in the F1 race, and of ladies going shopping in stores that wouldn’t even let peasants like us in the door. It’s all of this and more. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be filthy rich to visit the world’s richest country. I’ll show you how to make the most of your trip here with the Monaco Visitor Guide!
Monaco is actually one of my favorite places to visit on the Riviera because it is so much more than a port and a beach. It’s got a culture and history all it’s own, and it’s incredibly vibrant because it’s not just a town it’s a whole country packed into the size of a city! Thanks to my residence in Antibes this summer for working in the yacht industry, I’ve been able to cross the border over to Monaco about a dozen times in the course of a couple months. And it never gets old either! Okay enough about how great it is, here’s your Monaco Visitor Guide so you can experience it for yourself and make the most of your visit!
Monaco Visitor Guide
When To Go
Like the rest of the Riviera, Monaco gets really hot and crowded in July and August, so I would recommend coming during April/May/June or September. But be sure you don’t end up here during the Monaco Grand Prix F1 Race (in May) or the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters Tennis Tournament (in April) or the Monaco Yacht Show (in September). These events pull in major major crowds and unless you can afford the ticket price, you won’t be able to enjoy the festivities. Best to come when the country is operating at normal capacity!
How to Get There
Monaco has a stop on the SNCF train line that covers the whole of the French Riviera. For those wondering, Monaco is surrounded on land by France only, though it is near the Italian border. There isn’t any border control though, so you can just hop off the train and start exploring without issue. (The only time you need a passport to get into Monaco is if you’re arriving by boat, the thought being that you could be coming from anywhere. But if you come by land then you’ve already been check by French border control.) In fact throughout the day exploring you’re likely to walk across the border to France and back again into Monaco many times without realizing it! You can also drive to Monaco or take the bus from Nice, as you like. Once you’re here, you’ll be able to walk everywhere you need to go (yes, you can walk across an entire country in less than a day!).
Where to Stay
The best place to stay (with a ticket price to match!) is The Hermitage Hotel, a drop-dead gorgeous 5-star luxury hotel. It’s a beautiful building with grand architecture and stunning design that’s located right near the casino. It’s on my ultimate hotel wishlist, for sure. But it’s not in my budget (and probably not yours?) to stay there at the moment, but fear not, there are places to stay in Monaco for a reasonable price too! I enjoyed staying at Hotel Capitole, which wasn’t too expensive and not too far from all the attractions. And if you go with Airbnb, don’t be afraid to stay just over the border, as the border is really a non-issue here!
What to See
As I said, there’s a lot to see in Monaco. It’s rich with history and culture because it’s a whole country in the size of a city! On either side of the port extend two elevated peninsulas, each with a distinct vibe (and each with an elevator, don’t worry!). On the one side is the Monte Carlo Casino, which is totally luxurious and posh, drawing a crowd of unbelievably expensive cars parked out front. Near the casino is the Hermitage Hotel, Opera Gallery, and a lot of high-end shopping. Behind it is a lovely walkway on top of the Fairmont Hotel where you can enjoy the views. Passing along the harbor and oogling over the megayachts docked here, make your way over to the other side, which houses the Prince’s Palace. The Palace, the Oceanography Museum, the Jardins de Saint-Martin, and the old town of Monaco are all on this side of the port. From both peninsulas you can see an impressive view down over the harbor, so get your camera ready!
What to Do
-Definitely go to the Monte-Carlo Casino while you’re here. To get in, come after 2pm, dressed nicely (more on that here), and then pay your €10 to enter the gambling salon. You can’t take photos, so commit this experience to memory! I also definitely recommend getting yourself a martini (shaken not stirred!) while you’re here to channel the James Bond energy. If you have kids, you can still come to the casino, just come for the morning tour, which costs€10 and is available 9a-12p.
-Visit the Oceanography Museum to learn about the history of oceanographic discovery here and see some underwater animals!
-Visit the Prince’s Palace and watch the changing of the guard ceremony at 11:55a.
-Walk around the port to admire the insane megayachts. (And if you want to know how to work on a yacht, check out my post here.)
-Visit the concrete beach. In lieu of a proper beach, Monaco has installed a series of large concrete steps on Quai Rainier III where people can sunbathe and jump into the crisp blue waters of the Côte d’Azur!
-Take the Bateau Bus which crosses the port every 20 minutes, takes about 5 minute to cross, and costs €2. It’s the cheapest way to take a cruise on a boat in Monaco! And the views from a boat in port are actually really great, worth the ride!
-Watch a movie at the open air theatre that pops up outside the Palace each summer. Movies start at around 9:30/10 and you can check out the full listing of movies being screened here!
-Walk around to enjoy the beautiful architecture! I love the grand Beaux Arts architecture of The Hermitage and Casino, as well as the pristine and colorful homes on Rue de Milles and in old town. I get major house envy walking around here!
Where to Eat
There are a lot of great options for where to grab a bite to eat in Monaco, and surely you could spend a fortune on the finest dining options but you have a lot of affordable options too.
-I recommend the alfresco cafés along Rue Princesse Caroline, especially the pastries at La Boule de Neige au Gateau de Rois and the burgers at Grubers Burgers!
-When you’re through checking out the palace, walk down the side streets of old town and find Chateau des Desmoiselles, the perfect spot for a sip of rosé and a bite to eat.
-The restaurants with the best views are Pattaya Bar, right next to the harbor on the casino, and La Marée, which is higher up above it and overlooks the harbor.
-Directly next to the casino is actually a nice ice cream café where you relax in the shade with a massive ice cream sundae and enjoy the views of the beautiful casino and watching people walk by.
-And Cooks is a really good café to get a variety of home cooked foods!
Where to Drink
The nightlife in Monaco is a lot of fun! Check out Pattaya Bar for an evening drink by the port, Stars N Bars to drink with the yachties, and Monaco Bar for drinks and live music in Place d’Armes. For some late night fun, check out La Rascasse and the other bars and clubs lining the port, where you can actually drink and dance right on the Monaco Grand Prix F1 race track!
Need to Know
Monaco is it’s own country, but for your logistical considerations, it might as well be part of France. There’s no border control between France and Monaco, they use Euros for their currency, and French is widely spoken (though English is too). Monaco is a very fun and safe place that I would recommend you visit when you’re here on the Riviera!
Hopefully this Monaco Visitor Guide not only inspires you to pay a visit to this tiny rich country but also helps you better plan your trip when you do come. Monaco is super fun, I love it every time I get to visit, and I hope you get to visit sometime too! And if you’re still wondering, the only country smaller is the Vatican City. If you’ve been to Monaco, what did you love most about it? If you’re dreaming of coming, what’s the most enticing part for you?
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