I did something which most people don’t. Visiting the beautiful French Riviera in December. Well yes, I know sounds stupid and I did feel the same when I got wet and dull days during my short 3 day trip. But then I was there and I had to make most of my time. As part of my 3 day trip to Nice, I thought to also explore Monaco. Other than adding another country to the list, it was more to see in person all the hype around the glam, luxury and insane high end places we see on social media. So, there I was, embarking on a thrilling day trip from Nice to the glamorous city-state of Monaco, where opulence meets breathtaking views along the French Riviera. Just a short journey away, Monaco offers a taste of luxury and a chance to explore its rich history, iconic landmarks, and stunning landscapes.
Is Monaco a country?
Monaco is indeed a country, but it is one of the smallest independent states in the world; covering an area of just about 2.02 square kilometers (approximately 0.78 square miles). It is known for its compact size, making it the second smallest country in the world, after Vatican City. It is a constitutional monarchy located on the French Riviera in Western Europe.
Monaco is situated on the French Mediterranean coast, bordered by France on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea on the fourth. The capital city is Monaco, and the country is divided into several neighborhoods, including Monte-Carlo, Fontvieille, and La Condamine.
Despite its small size, Monaco has a relatively high population density. It is home to a wealthy population and is known for its luxurious lifestyle, upscale casinos, and as a tax haven.
So if you are ticking off countries, then this one is a great win, easy addition in just one day you get 1 country in your kitty.
Getting to Monaco from Nice:
To kick off your adventure, hop on a scenic train ride from Nice to Monaco. The journey takes approximately 20 minutes, allowing you to soak in the picturesque Mediterranean coastline. Trains run regularly throughout the day, making it a convenient and efficient way to travel.
Alternately you can also do a group day tour. I did one via Viator, check it out here
In hindsight I met 2 interesting women and made really good friends with them. After our trip we had dinner and we even went out the next day. So I would say this option turned out pretty fun for 3 solo women to come together.
History of Monaco
On our tour trip we first visited the village of Eze which is stunning and made for Instagram. It was raining so much that I got real bad pictures and I want to really go back to click better ones.
We then proceeded to Monaco. On the way our tour guide in the small van gave us a brief download on the history. Monaco’s history is rich and fascinating, marked by the reign of the Grimaldi family. Notably, in the 20th century, Hollywood actress Grace Kelly played a significant role in Monaco’s history. She married Prince Rainier III in 1956, becoming Princess Grace of Monaco. Their fairy-tale wedding captured the world’s attention, bringing a touch of Hollywood glamour to the principality. Princess Grace played a pivotal role in charitable and cultural endeavors, leaving a lasting legacy before her tragic death in 1982. Today, Monaco continues to blend its regal past with modern sophistication, making it a must-visit destination on the French Riviera
Top Things to See and Do in Monaco
Now this is not in the order of my visit. We started with Grand Prix just a sneak peak into it and ended at the Casino, in between we walked thru some of the sights. I have listed all which I think you can make time in few hours.
Begin your day with a visit to the world-famous Monte-Carlo Casino. Marvel at its grand architecture and try your luck in the opulent gaming rooms. Even if you’re not a gambler, the exterior alone is a sight to behold.
Prince’s Palace of Monaco:
Explore the historic Prince’s Palace, perched atop the Rock of Monaco. Witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11:55 am, and enjoy panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
Immerse yourself in the serenity of Monaco Cathedral, also known as Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Marvel at its stunning architecture, including the famous Carrara marble altarpiece. The cathedral is the final resting place of many members of the Grimaldi family, adding a layer of historical significance.
Dive into the world of marine life at the Oceanographic Museum, founded by Prince Albert I. The museum houses an impressive collection of marine artifacts and offers captivating exhibitions.
Discover a botanical paradise at Jardin Exotique, featuring a diverse array of succulent plants and panoramic views of Monaco. The cliffside garden is a peaceful escape from the bustling city.
Monaco Grand Prix Circuit
If your visit aligns with the season, experience the thrill of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. Even outside the race period, take a walk along the streets of the circuit to see the iconic turns and experience the energy of this world-renowned racing venue.
Where to Eat and Drink
After all the sight seeing you need some place to refill your belly for the much needed energy. Now Monaco is definitely quite expensive. There are places small and medium size in the area of the Cathedral and you can get something which won’t break the bank. And if you are game to indulge, sky’s the limit. We had a coffee at the famous Cafe de Paris, great location just next to the Casino. So here are my two luxury recommendations :
- Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris: Indulge in a gourmet experience at this Michelin-starred restaurant, located in the iconic Hôtel de Paris. Enjoy exquisite Mediterranean cuisine crafted by renowned chef Alain Ducasse.
- Café de Paris: For a more casual dining experience, savor delicious French and Mediterranean dishes on the outdoor terrace of Café de Paris. This spot is perfect for people-watching in the heart of Monte-Carlo.
What to Buy as Souvenirs
- Perfume: Monaco is known for its exclusive perfumeries. Treat yourself to a luxurious fragrance from one of the boutique perfume shops.
- Local Artwork: Explore the charming narrow streets and pick up unique artworks created by local artists, capturing the essence of Monaco.
What I got? Just a fridge magnet….hahahaha….
Final thoughts on Monaco
Monaco, with its glittering casinos, captivating history, and stunning scenery, offers a taste of the high life on the French Riviera. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a fan of thrilling racing events, Monaco has something to offer everyone.
Keeping aside the luxury, I loved discovering and getting onboard with the idea of luxury and all what Monaco had to offer. And some great views and clicks. I will highly recommend to visit Monaco depending on your budget and itinerary. If you are touring French Riviera, you cannot miss Monaco.