The Principality of Monaco. Home of the famed Casino de Monte Carlo and Hotel de Paris. What else? Fast cars, celebrities, yachts, and billionaires. Known for the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, James Bond, and its lenient tax regulations, Monaco has it all.
Contrary to popular belief, Monaco is for everybody. You do not need to be rich and famous to enjoy everything this tiny country has to offer. Yes, prices are generally higher than in Nice or Cannes, but not outrageously so. Even the famous Casino de Monte Carlo is affordable. So don’t be afraid of coming for a visit – however, your bank account will probably not like you for taking a weeklong vacation here. The good news is you won’t have to.
You can absolutely explore Monaco in a single day – and we are here to tell you how. It’s a great day trip from Nice or Cannes, but if your base is further out, you may need more time. Most people reading this post will be based in Nice and will be looking to spend a single day in Monaco. This is a good idea, and throughout this post, we will presume that’s what you are doing. Cannes is only 30 minutes from Nice though so you can definitely go from there as well.
We made a short video about Monaco to give you a feel of what you can expect.
There is no need to book a hotel in Monaco. You’ll be perfectly fine staying in your accommodation in Nice, travelling back and forth and seeing all the sights in just one day. Hotels in Monaco are unnecessarily pricey, and transport from Nice is cheap and straightforward. The only exception here is if you want to have a late night out in the city, maybe hit the casino or a night club. In that case, you will either need accommodation in Monaco or stay up long enough till you can catch the early train back to Nice.
How to get to Monaco
From Nice Airport
The fastest way to get from Nice Airport to Monaco is by helicopter. It’ll take just 7 minutes and cost you approx. 160 EUR. If you don’t find that too economical though, perhaps consider a taxi (approx. 90 EUR) or an Uber (approx. 70 EUR) instead.
The taxi and the Uber will take about 45 minutes. If you catch the Airport Express Bus, you can do it in the same time for less than half the price. The 110 Airport Express Bus drives every day from 8am to 10pm, stops right at the casino and costs 33 Euro.
A cheaper, but less convenient option, is to take bus 99 from the Airport to Nice-Ville train station (approx. 6 EUR). Here you can catch a train directly to Monaco (from around 2.5 to 4 EUR). All in all, this option will cost you less than 10 EUR. It will be even cheaper if you catch a public bus from Nice to Monaco instead, but that one can take a very long time to arrive.
The final, and perhaps best, option is to walk 15 minutes to Nice St Augustin train station from the airport. Here you can catch a train directly to Monaco for around 3.5 to 5 EUR. As an added bonus, the train route is short and quite scenic as well. Tickets can be booked on the national railway company’s website.
It’s worth noting that if you arrive late on a weekday, you may have no option but to catch an Uber or a Taxi. Public transportation doesn’t seem to drive too late on weekdays, and the final airport bus is at 10pm.
From Downtown Nice
From Downtown Nice, it makes perfect sense to catch a train from the central train station called Gare du Nice-Ville. It will only cost you between 2.5 and 4 EUR depending on departure time. Tickets can be booked on the national railway company’s website.
You can also catch a public bus, but it can take several hours to arrive. It will be even cheaper, though. Taxi and Uber prices from downtown Nice will be comparable to those listed above.
What to see and do
You have arrived in Monaco – great! No matter your chosen mode of transport, you will be close to all the sights. Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world (only the Vatican is smaller), so you won’t have to worry about distances. The country is 1km wide and 2km wide. It may sound ridiculously tiny, but there are significant elevation changes, so do be prepared for uphill walking and A LOT of stairs. If you don’t feel like walking, Monaco has an excellent public bus system in place where you can just hop on any bus and pay 2 EUR to the driver.
Below we have outlined the best things to see and do in Monaco. You can pick and choose as you see fit and create your own itinerary. It should be possible to see most of them in a single day. See the map above for locations.
Formula 1 Track
Monaco is most famous for being a legendary Formula 1 venue. Each year at the end of May, the city comes alive with roaring engines, celebrities, more yachts than ever and hundreds of thousands of visitors. This is the single most expensive time of year to visit. There is absolutely no reason to come at this time unless you are going to be a spectator in the race. Prices skyrocket everywhere, and the streets will be crowded with people, barriers and unbelievable traffic. However, if you are flushed with cash and have tickets for the race, this is the most epic party-weekend imaginable. If you are not, but still have watched the competition on the TV, it can be quite fun to see the actual roads the racecars drive around. You will be impressed that they manage to propel themselves around the entire track in 1 minute and 10 seconds. In fact, their average speed is more than 100 mph (160 km/h). When we went around the track this summer, it took us 10 times longer.
Casino de Monte Carlo
The most famous attraction in all of Monaco. The casino can be visited by everyone – as long as you are above 18 years of age. You don’t need to be wearing your finest suit, but shorts are frowned upon. We had to try a little roulette in there and learned that the whole experience actually doesn’t have to cost you much. We should have stopped while still in the green, though!
The Casino used to play a vital role in the Monegasque economy. It was actually their primary source of income. Today, of course, the money comes from corporations and foreign investments as a direct result of the country having no personal income tax. And then there’s tourism on top of that. It doesn’t take much to keep a small 2 square km country running smoothly. Another fun fact: Many people use Monaco and Monte Carlo interchangeably when describing the country, but actually Monte Carlo is simply the name of the specific area (ward) in which the casino is located.
Café de Paris
Just outside of the casino, you will find a large group of tourists taking pictures. They are standing there to take photos of the beautiful old casino building, but more importantly, the supercars that pass by. If you want to enjoy this spectacle comfortably, find a table at Café de Paris just next door. From the outdoor terrace, you will have a perfect view of the casino square. May we suggest a glass of Monaco-Juice in the sun? That would be rosé wine if you hadn’t already guessed. We only had a drink here, so cannot comment on the quality of the food. It is pretty pricey, but hey, when in Monte Carlo… If you want it even fancier, there is the famous Hotel de Paris, just opposite the casino square. In there you will, amongst other fine things, find Restaurant Louis XV which holds 3 Michelin stars.
The harbour in Monaco is a prominent part of the Formula 1 track, especially the area with the twisty turns near the big swimming pool. In terms of city wards, this area is referred to as La Condamine. The harbour itself is called Port Hercule. It also happens to be the place where the majority of the yachts are displayed, and the nightlife, in particular, is excellent here. There is, for example, the Brasserie de Monaco, which is the only microbrewery in the country. They run happy hour from 6-8pm daily (you are welcome), and the place turns into a bit of a trendy nightclub later in the evening. If you are not looking for a party, there are also plenty of restaurants and ice cream shops in the neighbourhood. The ice cream in Monaco deserves a special mention actually – it is of the Italian (gelato) variety and is of exceptional quality. Half the country is Italian, due to the proximity to the Italian border and so Italian food, in general, is great here.
Fontvieille is, like Monte Carlo, a specific area of Monaco. It is the newest part of the country, having been constructed in the 1970s to 1990s on artificial land. It’s quite impressive actually. The ward is home to Stade Louis, the national stadium of football team AS Monaco, a zoological garden as well as plenty of restaurants and the largest supermarket in Monaco. Of interest to you is primarily the Automobile Museum, which we will cover below. It’s also worthwhile to walk around and see the harbour here. Similar to Port Hercule, Port de Fontvieille holds plenty of yachts, restaurants and bars. When we were there during the summer of 2019, we had dinner at Ristorante La Saliere. Serving Italian food, Kia had the best Beef Tagliata of her life here. Nick was excited too, because on the table right next to ours sat Charles Leclerc, the Monegasque F1 driver for Ferrari.
This is a good place to mention the prices in Monaco a bit as well. The Tagliata Kia had would set you back more than 30 EUR. Expect the same sort of prices for other meat dishes in the country. The best food you’ll find is Italian. A typical pasta dish can be found for around 15-20 EUR while pizzas can go as low as 10-12 EUR. Beer and wine will cost you about 6-8 EUR per glass, although at happy hour prices can creep a bit lower. At Brasserie mentioned earlier, it is 3.5 EUR for a pint! A cappuccino will cost you 3-4 EUR and ice cream about the same. All in all a bit more expensive than Nice, but not by too much if you are only staying for a single day.
The automobile museum is located in Fontvieille right by the Carrefour Hypermarket. It consists of the personal car collection of His Highness, The Prince of Monaco, and costs 8 EUR to enter. The variety is excellent, so if you are even remotely interested in automobiles, this is a cool stop.
The Prince’s Palace and the Rock of Monaco
The residence of His Highness, The Prince of Monaco, is located on top of a giant rock, splitting Monaco in two. On one side you have Port Hercule, on the other side the artificial area of Fontvieille. The whole area is called Monaco-Ville. Together with the palace, 62 meters above the sea, you will also find the old town. Up here you can witness the changing of the royal guards, enjoy panoramic views over Monaco or just go for a pleasant stroll through the cosy old streets. It can be a tough walk up the many stairs if the sun is scorching, but it is definitely worth it. The old town is beautiful, and there are some lovely short walks to be had on the edge of the rock where small parks have been planted.
On the opposite side of the rock, you will find the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. This massive old building lies right on the cliff and looks quite spectacular from the outside. You will be able to head to the roof as well for some great sea views. Inside you will find a variety of aquariums, as well as of course a museum and changing exhibitions. All in all, worth a visit. Entry ticket is 16 EUR, but if you buy a combined ticket with the Automobile Museum included as well, you can get both for 19 EUR. That saves a bit of your hard-earned wonga. You can thank us later.
Monaco Open Air Cinema
Right next to the Oceanographic Museum, there is a pretty cool cinema. It’s unique because you are seated outside, and that makes all the difference. It is a much better experience than your regular cinema for sure. It’s hard to explain, but the sky above you adds a different atmosphere, one that is much cosier and warm compared to the typical cold interiors of most cinemas. You are sitting on the edge of the cliff, so not far from you, there is a 60m drop down to the Mediterranean Sea. And right behind the screen, you’ll see the only prison in Monaco. What a view the inmates must have, but they must also be envying you and your bucket-full of popcorn!
Movies are not outrageously priced for some reason, so you can get in for just 12 EUR. All movies are played in their original language (unlike other cinemas in France which are typically in French) and play at 10pm. They have to wait for the sun to set, so there’s only one feature per day. You should be there between 9 and 9:30pm because the cinema does not take reservations.
Further, to experience the Monaco Open Air Cinema, you need to visit during summer. Due to the weather, it’s only open from mid-June to mid-September each year. Fun fact: It has the largest open-air cinema screen in Europe and can seat 500 people.
Larvotto is the main beach area in Monaco. It has restaurants, bars and beautiful azure blue water. Unfortunately, for the next many years, there is heavy construction in the area. Monaco is building more artificial land into the sea, which will impact your experience here. The beach is still open as of now but may close during winter. We still think it deserves a mention in this post, just don’t expect too much. We spotted this huge, fully automatic, sailboat on the picture above though which was quite cool!
The Japanese Garden
If you are near Larvotto but don’t feel like going to the beach, here is an alternative. Right next to the beach, there is a beautiful Japanese Garden with all that entails. There’s not a whole lot to write about this, just that it is a lovely, serene garden where you can enjoy half an hour or so of peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings.
Jardin Exotique de Monaco
Right when you cross the border between France and Monaco, you will find this wonderful gem of a garden. You can drop by as you cross from France into Monaco or vice versa. By the way, even though Monaco is not in the EU, there is no real border between the two countries. Just a few policemen standing guard, stopping a car now and then to check what they are up to. You are highly unlikely to be having any interaction whatsoever with Monegasque police. Unless you walk around visibly intoxicated in the street, in which case they will be helpful and drive you home. Yup, true story. You can also get to the Jardin Exotique using the public bus system. It is, in fact, the end-station for Bus 2 so the name of the garden will be written on the front of the bus.
This Exotic Garden is located right on the upper-edge of Monaco, meaning it has beautiful views of the rest of the country. Inside, you will mainly find hundreds of different varieties of cacti. It’s actually a cactus garden, which will be very obvious to you if you visit. It truly is beautiful, and the panoramic views of Fontvieille are great. Their most impressive feature, however, might be a huge limestone cave. Every half an hour there is a guided tour which you have to take if you want to see the cave. Access is not allowed without a guide. The cave is great, especially if you haven’t been in many other limestone caves before. Otherwise, there is probably nothing new in there for you to see.
Entry to the garden is 7 EUR and includes a guided tour of the cave.
Day hike to Menton
Just 10km from Monaco lies a small French town called Menton. It is a cosy seaside town, but otherwise nothing special. However, the short day hike you can take to there is quite exceptional. You walk along the jagged coastline of Cap Martin the entire way, and the ocean views are just amazing. They include views of Monaco from the seaside as well. When you get to Menton after about 2 hours, you don’t have to walk back. You can save your feet and grab bus 18, which will cost you less than 2 EUR. It will be so kind as to drop you off right next to the casino.
When we visited, the Monaco section of the hike was closed. We didn’t want to give up though, so we found an alternative way (alongside a busy road) to the train station called Cap-Martin-Roquebrune. If ’you’re going to do this little day hike, we suggest you take a train or a bus from Monaco to Cap-Martin-Roquebrune. From there, get to the side of the train station that is closest to the sea, and just walk in the opposite direction of Monaco. You will quickly find the trail which will have signposts as well.
Final words and a warning
That’s it! Those are our favourite sights in Monaco. Although we haven’t tried, we are pretty confident they can all be experienced in a single day. We are sure you will have a great time! However, we want to end this post with a word of caution. Be careful with your data roaming in Monaco. The country is not part of the EU, and they don’t really have agreements with any telephone companies from other countries (except France). We Europeans now have free roaming in all of the EU, but Monaco is excluded from that. This means your phone will work in Monaco, but you will be charged hefty roaming fees. Don’t fall into this trap. It can get VERY expensive, VERY quickly. We found that the best way to avoid this is to just turn off your roaming well before arriving in Monaco. Or, if you are a little more technical, before arriving, make sure to hardcode your operator to Orange. This is a French operator which, because Monaco is so tiny, should be able to deliver some sort of signal in most of the country. We regularly had 4G with them during our visit, but just as often did it cut out.
Thank you for reading! We hope you find our tips and tricks helpful and we wish you good luck and safe travels.