Monaco may be the second smallest independent state in the world, but this idyllic country is packed to the brim with inspiring history, beautiful architecture and gastronomic delights.
Positioned on the glittering French Riviera, Monaco is the experience of a lifetime. Renowned for its safety, the glamorous destination is working towards reinventing itself while preserving its heritage and environment. What the country lacks in size, it makes up for in history, culture, entertainment and character. World-class hotels, luxury shopping, museums, spas and Michelin-star restaurants are peppered throughout the two-square-kilometre Principality. Whether a romantic getaway or family holiday, a city break or a revitalising experience, Monaco is a city for all travellers.
Where is Monaco?
The Principality of Monaco is an independent and sovereign country just a 30-minute train ride away from Nice, France, landing at Monaco Monte-Carlo station. Perched on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco is bordered by France and serves as an excellent starting point for exploring the French Riviera. Monaco can also be reached by plane via Nice-Côte d’Azur International Airport, private boat and helicopter.
When is the best time to visit Monaco?
While spring and summer are two seasons during which Monaco shines, this destination is beautiful at all times throughout the year with temperatures fluctuating from around nine degrees Celsius to 30 throughout the seasons. Monaco experiences around 300 sunny days a year, so rainy days are few and far between.
What is Monaco famous for?
Monaco has a few claims to fame. American actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956 and went on to retire from acting to take up the mantle of Princess Grace of Monaco. Monaco and its famous Monte Carlo Casino were film locations for James Bond films Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye. Monaco also hosts the Formula One Grand Prix. The royal Grimaldi family dates back centuries and presides over Monaco today.
How many days do you need in Monaco?
Monaco is quite a small country measuring only 2.1 square kilometres with more than 39,000 residents. As such, visitors can see all of it in two or three days. However, should you wish to laze by a pool, sunbathe or spend time living the high life, a week or two is perfect for a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway.
Practical information for visiting Monaco
- Most tourists don’t require a specific visa for leisure stays of less than 90 days, just a valid passport and approval for entry into the Schengen Area.
- The currency is Euro
- Visitors can walk from the east to the west of Monaco on foot in just 45 minutes
- Public buses operate from 7am to 9:30pm and the network covers all the main attractions
- Bateau Bus, Monaco’s solar-powered shuttle boat, connects the foot of Monaco-Ville and the casino area between 8am and 8pm
- Taxis, private cars and electric bikes are all available for hire
- The official language is French
Get to know the neighbourhood: Monaco-Ville
The narrow cobblestone streets and historic buildings of Monaco-Ville are found atop Le Rocher (The Rock). The old town of Monaco overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, and here visitors will find shops, galleries, key tourist attractions, casual restaurants and ice cream shops in an atmospheric medieval neighbourhood. This is the area where visitors can find the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the Oceanographic Museum and Cathedral of Monaco.
The best things to do in Monaco
Casino de Monte-Carlo & Opera de Monte-Carlo
Casino de Monte-Carlo is a fine example of belle-epoque architecture and showcases some of the most opulent interior design in the country. Open to tourists from 10am to 1pm with gaming from 2pm, it’s worth visiting for the architecture alone. Casino de Monte-Carlo also boasts a variety of restaurants, lounge bars, an outdoor garden, and the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.
Prince’s Palace of Monaco
Standing proud atop Le Rocher, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco is one of the top things to do in Monaco. It serves as the residence of the royal family of Monaco and is closed to the general public. However, the property is open to tours seasonally, including viewings of the Hercule Gallery, Throne Room, Yellow Room, Mirror Gallery, Red Room and the York Room. The changing of the guard ceremony takes place every day at 11:55am on the Palace Square.
Set within a beautiful baroque revival building, the Oceanographic Museum was created by Prince Albert I – great-great-grandfather of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco – and has a fantastic collection of more than 6000 preserved and living specimens of marine life. If you’re looking for things to do in Monaco, this museum has aquariums, educational spaces and immersive activities that will please both young and young at heart.
For such a small destination, Monaco certainly has a range of museums to suit every type of traveller. Try the Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology, the Museum of Stamps and Coins, or learn about the region and contemporary art at Nouveau Musee National de Monaco.
Visitors looking for a green escape from the glitz and glamour of Monaco should explore one of the many public gardens. Located in Fontvieille Park, the Princess Grace Rose Garden has recently been extended to accommodate a whopping 8000 rose bushes of 300 different varieties. The Zoological Garden of Monaco has 250 animals including turtles, hippos, reptiles and birds. What makes the Zoological Garden special is that all the animals are here due to having been previously abandoned, seized by customs or given to the garden for care.
Developed in 1994 at the request of Prince Rainier III, and following principles of Zen design by landscape architect Yasuo Beppu, the Princess Grace Japanese Garden has a pond, waterfall, lanterns, a tea house and Zen garden, and is free for all to enter.
Although Jardin Exotique de Monaco is closed for renovations in 2023, guided tours are available by online reservation on Saturdays at 10am and 2pm. Unfortunately, access to the cave remains closed until the works are complete.
Jardins Saint-Martin first opened in 1816 and is tucked between The Oceanographic Museum and the cathedral. It’s one of the more affordable things to do in Monaco and offers a meandering stroll through coastal surroundings with ocean views.
La Condamine Market
Influenced by French, Italian and Mediterranean flavours, Monaco serves up a smorgasbord of Michelin-starred restaurants, foodie experiences and eateries. La Condamine Market is an indoor-outdoor venue established in 1880 that showcases local produce, dishes and pastries, bread and flowers.
Given its reputation as being one of the most expensive cities in the world, it may be surprising to learn that finding free or affordable things to do in Monaco isn’t all that difficult. Stretching across Avenue Princesse Grace, Larvotto Beach is a twin-cove pebble shore with a buzzing promenade filled with store fronts and delicious eateries serving Mediterranean food. Here, you’ll find ice cream parlours, cocktail bars, a spa, and a swimwear retailer – everything you need for a day at the beach.
Cathedral of Monaco
The Cathedral of Monaco is a Roman-Byzantine structure built in 1875 from white La Turbie stone. The cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, while Saint Nicholas and Saint Benedict are secondary patrons. Members of the Grimaldi family are buried here, and while not ancient, the cathedral is one of the more notable historic things to do in Monaco and is where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly were married.
With a luxury retail scene rivalling that of Paris and Milan, Monaco has a variety of high-end boutiques, perfumeries and jewellery stores. Start at the Metropole Shopping Centre, One Monte-Carlo or the YCM Gallery. If you prefer to stroll the streets, prioritise Boulevard des Moulins, Boulevard d’Italie and Avenue Princesse Grace.
Top spots to try
- Eat a pizza at seaside trattoria Giacomo.
- Experience ultimate luxury at Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo
- Taste the culinary masterpieces of a Michelin-starred chef at Pavyllon Monte-Carlo by Yannick Alléno
- Catch some Z’s in a boutique stay at Columbus Hotel Monaco
- Sample fresh oysters and delicious seafood at Les Perles Monte-Carlo
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