Squeezed into just two square kilometres (200 hectares), Monaco is undoubtedly a destination like no other. The second smallest independent state in the world (after the Vatican) is one of the five European micro-states. This playground for the rich and famous, with many luxury boutiques, nightclubs and fancy restaurants, however, doesn`t have a separate capital. It is due to its small size. Moreover, this independent sovereign state on the French Riviera is a land of the money-draining glitzy casinos, imposing high-priced hotels and multi-million euro yachts, that line the famous marina. You’ll be spoilt for choice when looking for the best things to do in Monaco.
This luxury destination also has a unique character. The nation is almost entirely urban and therefore has a feel of a beautiful resort town. Every year this tiny city-state attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. They want to experience and enjoy a glamorous and luxurious lifestyle. Of course, only very few visitors could afford to live here. Property prices here are the most expensive in the world, though. Therefore, this tiny city-state is home to the highest concentration of millionaires and billionaires. Besides, the world`s notorious tax haven is home to the annual F1 Monaco Grand Prix.
But despite its enormous wealth, “Land of the filthy rich” is far from being the French Riviera`s prettiest cities. This small city-state is covering every square metre with towering apartment blocks and elegant residencies.
Monaco has the highest rate of police officers in the world. Not only this tiny constitutional monarchy has one policeman for every 100 residents but also has the reputation of being the safest square mile in Europe.
Nestled between the foot of the Southern Alps and the Mediterranean coast, Monaco is surrounded on three sides by France. With France just next door and Italian Riviera further east (around 13 km or 8 miles away), Monaco with 300 days of sunshine a year. Therefore, it is a popular destination for day trips.
HOW TO GET TO MONACO
You might be surprised, but Monaco has no airport. Millionaires and celebrities arrive from the Nice Côte d’Azur airport (the closest airport) by helicopter. But rest of us take a bus, a train or yacht (if you are lucky and have one).
The country is truly blessed when it comes to its location. La Grande Corniche with its scenic roads is a bucket-list, memorable drive. Even when looked at through the window of a bus, though. Reaching Monaco by bus could not be easier. The bus from Nice will take to you here for € 1.50 in around 1 hour.
The High Corniche (La Grande Corniche) is the highest of the three roads. Also, it has the most dramatic views of the Mediterranean. If you are coming from anywhere on the Cote d`Azur, you can take a train on the Marseilles to Nice line. However, the downside of arriving by train is that you miss the stunning views from the Corniche road.
GETTING AROUND MONACO
When you arrive, you immediately notice how small Monaco is. It is also worth remembering that this tiny constitutional monarchy is very walkable. Monaco has less than 2 square kilometres. Therefore, it takes just about 45 minutes to cross this city-state from east to west on foot. Although it is quite small, it is also very hilly which make it slow to explore. But do not worry; numerous public lifts and escalators take the strain out of traversing the mountainous terrain.
If you do not feel like walking, the city also has a bus network of 6 lines. They cover all the tourist attractions.
THINGS TO DO IN MONACO
The City of Monaco has four quartiers (neighbourhoods): Monte-Carlo, Monaco-Ville (also known as ‘The Rock’ or ‘Le Rocher’); Fontvieille and La Condamine.
Monte Carlo, the most well-known quarter of Monaco. You will find here the famous glittering Monte Carlo Casino, grand gardens, supercars permanently parking outside, as well as many luxury hotels. The district on the hill, overlooking the main harbour is a magnet, especially for multimillionaires and celebrities.
CASINO DE MONTE CARLO
The Casino Monte Carlo opened over 150 years ago as a bid to bring tourists and a source of income to the country. Today, gambling is one of the sources of income in Monaco. What`s more, it is one of the reasons why Monaco is a popular travel destination. The most famous casino in the world attracts millionaires thanks to its history and private salons with a full range of table games and slot machines.
Residents of Monaco are not allowed to gamble or even enter the casino. The government doesn`t want its citizens to gamble away their money.
James Bond`s Playground. Glamorous MCC and its elegant décor and gold ceilings had been a filming location of three James Bond`s films: “Casino Royal”, Golden Eye, and Never say never again.
There is no casino more grand and more famous than the Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco. This legendary building, with its stunning decor, is also an architectural gem.
TRAVEL TIP: You can see many from the lobby of the casino without having to pay the entrance fee. If you would like to gamble, make sure your wallet is fat, and you have your passport with you.
PLACE DU CASINO (Casino Square)
The palm tree-lined Place du Casino is undoubtedly one of the most concentrated spots of glamour in Europe. It is home to the famous Café de Paris, Hotel de Paris, the Opera House and gardens with fountains. With Lamborghinis zipping by every corner, this is also one of the must-visit places in Monaco, if you like to see the wealthy elite.
The Café de Paris is next door to the famous glittering casino.
The Hotel de Paris, based in the heart of Monte Carlo, is for its magnificent architecture.
MONACO-VILLE (Old Village)
Le Rocher (The Rock), also known as Monaco-Ville, is the oldest part of the city-state. This historical quarter is full of the narrow cobbled streets lined with colourful buildings and excellent restaurants.
Tip: Wander around the streets of the Old town
Monaco-Ville is a beautiful place to stroll around. No one`s in a rush here. Some parts of Monaco-Ville have been restored in grand style.
PRINCE`S PALACE OF MONACO
Le Rocher, perched on a rocky peninsula high above the Mediterranean is also home to the principality`s royal family. The square in front of the palace offers incredible views.
The official residence of the Prince of Monaco
TIP: Head to the square before 11:55 am and watch the changing of the guards in front of the Prince`s palace. If the flag is flying over the palace, you know the Prince is in residence.
There are many attractions worth visiting while exploring Monaco-Ville, including the cathedral of Monaco and the world-renowned Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium.
MUSEE OCEANOGRAPHIQUE DE MONACO
Discover the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, one of the largest oceanographic museums in the world. It has more than 4,000 species of fish. Built on the side of the legendary Rock of Monaco, the museum of marine sciences is located in one of Monaco`s most striking buildings.
For more information, visit their website.
CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY IMMACULATE
The Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate, sometimes called Saint Nicholas Cathedral, is one of Monaco`s famous landmarks. This Roman-byzantine cathedral houses the tombs of the royal Grimaldi family. The cathedral of Monaco, located on the Rock of Monaco, is also a place where Princess Grace and Prince Ranier got married. An impressive monument is worth a visit if you are in the old part of Monaco.
Port Hercule, Monaco`s main harbour, is, without doubt, one of the most iconic harbours in the world. Besides, it is one of the top sights in Monaco, and it is well worth a visit. The second oldest district is also a place where you can find the luxury yachts worth hundreds of millions of euros. Stroll along the promenade around the harbour, and spot the typical landmark of Monaco: the stunning yachts, stylish buildings and elegant boutiques, restaurants and bars lining the port. Besides, during the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the most anticipated races of the Formula 1, Port Hercule is the centre stage.
Next, the Princess Caroline district is a small pedestrianised area with lots of stylish boutiques and plenty of restaurants.
La Condamine (view from Monaco-Ville): Monte Carlo, Port Hercule and a Concrete jungle Port de Fontvieille.
The population of Monaco is made up mostly of wealthy foreigners. The native Monegasques people are actually in the minority in the country. A person born in a freight country but resident in Monaco is a Monacoian.
Monaco is a city of dreams for someone, but not so beloved by others. It is possible to visit this iconic tourist destination for a few hours and see just the most important highlights. Alternatively, you can spend a few days here and explore. Monaco, with its glitzy lifestyle, has plenty to offer, though. Sensational views, exciting attractions, luxury shopping, clean streets and the fast-paced lifestyle. Love it or hate it, this tax-free haven under the Mediterranean sun will leave a distinct mark on you, whether you want it or not.
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