When one thinks about Monaco it usually means the playground for the rich and famous on the Côte D’Azur (French Riviera). The Casino, yachts or the Grand Prix are all well-known features of this tiny Mediterranean state.
Despite its reputation, Monaco is also for the non-rich and in fact quite popular with tourists that visit the French Riviera. The rich and famous are definitely an attraction for tourists, but Monaco is more than that and offers a few modern and historical attractions to keep you busy for a day or two.
Monaco is a Principality with Prince Albert II as the head of state. The Prince is part of the House of Grimaldi, which has been ruling since the 13th century! French is the official language but Monégasque is also spoken.
The old town of Monaco is known as “The Rock” and formally as Monaco-Ville. This is where the Palais Princier (Prince’s Palace) and other historical attractions are located. This area is mostly pedestrian and well worth walking around to discover a bit more about the history of the Principality, but also for the best views towards the famous Port Hercule and Monte Carlo.
We spent a good part of a day visiting it.
It’s best to start with the Prince’s Palace, of which you can visit the State Apartments on a self-guided tour. Although the Palace doesn’t look that impressive from the outside, the inside is another story. Simply stunning. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed.
There is a daily change of the guard at 11:55. In the picture, you can see one of the guards in the white uniform.
The 19th century Monaco Cathedral is not far from the Palace and can be visited as well. It is well-known for being the burial place of the former Princes of Monaco.
On the west side of “The Rock” is Fontvieille, which was built mostly on artificial land and can be seen from the Palace square or the Saint-Martin gardens in front of the Cathedral.
Probably our favourite part of our visit to Monaco was the Musée Océanographique (Oceanographic Museum). For starters, it has a stunning location and houses different ocean-related collections. Jacques-Cousteau was a director of the Museum for 30 years.
The basement is an aquarium with many tanks representing different ecosystems and with around 4000 species. The main collection of the Museum has a number of artifacts on display including skeletons, laboratory and research tools, and other interesting things.
The top floor has a restaurant and offers amazing panoramic views over Monaco and the Mediterranean. It also has a conservation area with a few African spurred tortoises.
After the Oceanographic Museum, we suggest heading down to the Port through Fort Antoine, which is now an open-air theatre.
Port Hercule is likely to be Monaco’s most photographed place. It is the symbol of the rich, with countless yachts docked here, the majority bigger than our flat. Ok, maybe 10+ times bigger! Like we just said, it’s cool to check out the yachts and photograph them, but unless you know someone that knows someone that owns one, they’re off limits.
Besides yacht-watching, this area, known as La Condamine, has lots of restaurants, shops, entertainment and even a local market!
This is also where the Grand Prix starts and finishes.
There’s a small ferry that takes people over to the other end of the Port, which is cheap and a great idea to get a better sense of what it’s like to navigate the waters of Monaco, even if only for a few minutes. This service runs a few times an hour.
Monte Carlo is where the lavish and world-renowned Casino is located. It’s easy to tell you’re getting closer to it as soon as you start seeing ridiculously expensive cars. In fact, the most exclusive ones will be parked right at the casino’s doorstep.
It’s possible to go inside the casino even for those who do not gamble, but there are 3 requirements. First, you need a passport. Second, pay the entrance fee of 10€. Third, adhere to the dress code. Although not extremely strict, the dress code is checked by the staff. No need for a tie and a suit but forget about sandals and shorts.
The casino building itself is worth visiting due to its beautiful decorations. And why not spend a few minutes watching people throw away hundreds of euros? We surely enjoyed that.
Other places worth mentioning in Monte Carlo include the Ópera or the Grimaldi Forum.
After committing multiple sins at the Casino, you can head to the nearby Église Saint-Charles for redemption. Not that it’s going to help your wallet, so it might be safer just to steer away from gambling.
The streets of Monaco
Monaco is the cleanest place we’ve ever seen and virtually everything looks in perfect shape. Having tons of money surely helps, but this Principality is actually quite nice to visit and perfect for walking.
Despite being a bit hilly, it’s very pedestrian-friendly, including many streets that are off-limits for cars.
Getting to Monaco
The nearest airport is in Nice, some 40 km away. Buses run directly to and from the airport and stop at different and convenient places in Monaco.
Getting in by train is a good option. Monaco has a modern train station and frequent connections with France and Italy. For example, a train ride from Nice is quite fast and cheap. You can also get a TGV from Nice.
It’s quite easy to get in by car since there are no borders with France. The hardest part is parking.
For those with a bigger budget (read wealthy) you can get to Monaco by helicopter or by yacht!
One final, and funny, picture. Tourists should pay attention!
Ha! It’s funny that they have rules for tourists, but I’m not surprised either. I love your pictures and your article shows that, even for those of us who don’t own helicopters, there’s still a reason to go to Monaco 🙂
Not sure if they enforce it all the time but it certainly serves as a warning!
Thanks for reading!
We did this same thing last April 2015! Definitely the non-rich experience of Monaco and Monte Carlo!
Glad you agree, Carol!
I have never been to Monaco! Would love to go there soon! Thanks for having such an informative guide.
It’s worth paying a quick visit. You’re welcome, Bernard!
Explore Monaco for a day or two is totally worth! The principality is beautiful and as you said, super clean. The amount of expensive cars, jewelry, yachts and clothes there are overwhelming. My tip is: choose your best outfit and go for walk round the city! Nice photos guaranteed, especially at Monte Carlo Casino!
We really lack fancy outfits! But it was good enough to go inside the Casino – stunning place 🙂
Well dang, I had my speedo packed and ready to go for my trip to Monaco! It’s a city I’d love to walk around but I don’t think I could afford to do much more.
Ah. That would have been amazing. Most people don’t and it’s still a nice place to visit.
Yup, the first thing I think of when I hear Monaco is definitely luxury and the rich and the famous. Great to know that there’s things I can afford to do here to. Such a gorgeous place!
Yes, the regular human beings also have the right to enjoy the Principality!
A dear friend visited, a few years ago, Monaco and loved it! I promised myself then that I would visit it myself sometime! Your article just gave more reasons to do that sooner rather than later. Great tips – and wonderful photos!
Thanks, Violeta! You need to fulfil that promise!
I went to Monaco last fall and had a blast. I did a little gambling at the Casino (lost my €100 too quickly), and had a few nice meals. Certainly not an easy place for budget travel, though gawking at the exotic sports cars and massive yachts is totally free!
Ah! 100€ don’t last long there. I read your article, it was really funny! So far it’s still free to look around 🙂
The Oceanographic Museum looks awesome but I’m not sure I’d pay 10 euros just to get inside the casino. Can you take pictures in there?
It’s a really cool place if you like nature and oceanographic stuff. No, unfortunately pictures are not allowed. It’s worth because of the decorations and architecture. Just like a museum or palace…but with gamblers 🙂
Let me bookmark this post, save for the day i’ll get to visit Monaco.
Definitely a useful guide the non rich like me 🙂
Cheers, Rachael! Glad you found it useful.
I love Monaco! I’ve been twice, both times were for the F1 Grand Prix! The atmosphere is incredible! you’re absolutely right though, you don’t have to be rich to enjoy Monaco and her beauty!
Amazing! That must be a really interesting (and busy!) time to visit Monaco. When we visited it was actually quite calm.
Wow! Never seen a post about Monaco like this 🙂
It’s really interesting and original. Thanks for showing us these travel tips!!
Thanks! It’s the way we experienced this tiny Principality and we wanted to showcase how others can do it as well.
Thank you for reading 🙂
Hi Hugo and Cristina,
What a fantastic post! I have never visited Monaco because of that idea that it is only for those who are wealthy. After reading your experience, I can safely say that I will have second thoughts visiting. Thank you!
It’s definitely possible to visit for those that are not wealthy 🙂
Thank you for this article! I have been in Monaco and it was an amazing experience! I visited a lot of places and did a website about it with some articles 🙂
I’m planning to go to Monaco in a few months! It looks beautiful. Thanks for the tips – especially about parking, and the rules of the casino.
You’re welcome, Krista!
A great article for anyone not in the rich, jet set crowd wanting to visit Monaco. Very informative. I gave it a shout out on my Facebook page and Twitter.
Thank you 🙂
I’m going to Monaco this September for 2 night well a day and a half by the time I get there but so looking forward to following your ideas! Already have a fancy dress that I wear to the theater picked out for the casino 🙂 Thanks for all the advice!
I live now three years in Monaco and can say, also non-rich can easily live in Principality. For income from 300 K euros per year you can have nice small appartement and enjoy the life, wine and good food !
Monaco is such an interesting place. Great to read your story of visiting as we did, not from a mega yacht, but from an everyday perspective. The crazyist thing was driving parts of the Monaco F1 circuit, as these are just the local streets; Lots of fun even at 20 mph.
Great photos, just wandering around the city and taking photos is an experience in and of itself.
We went into the Casino, but from my recollection it was rich man’s money just to buy a seat at a table. Though seeing the exotic sports / supercars cars out front of the Casino were fun. We saw what looked like a MacLaren in
a gold color.
Thanks for posting the pictures. A must for anyone who is going to be in the south of France or close by.