Monaco is the second smallest country in the world (only 2.02 km2), so it doesn’t take long to explore. We only needed half a day to go sightseeing at a comfortable pace. BUT, of course, if you plan to do any activities, you will need to plan ahead and allocate more time.
From Nice, it was an easy 20 minutes train ride each way. Train tickets can be bought from ticket machines at the train station, if you look lost enough, the staff would be more than happy to help. It should cost you 3.90€ single, 7.20€ return from Nice Ville station to Monaco Monte-Carlo station. For a cheaper option, you can also catch the bus #100 for 1.50€ but it will take 30-45 minutes each way.
WHO WE STAYED WITH
As we visited Monaco on a half day trip, we did not stay the night there. Instead we based ourselves in Nice. You can find details of where we stayed here.
We highly recommend staying in Nice as opposed to Monaco, as after all, it is the playground for the rich and it can get really expensive. Unless, of course, you are one of the aforementioned rich. Famous hotels include Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo and Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. I cannot afford to give you a review, so stay at your own discretion.
WHAT WE DID
Admired the view at Port Hercule (AKA Monte Carlo Harbour)
Instagrammers take note! Crystal clear blue waters, blue skies, white buildings and luxurious yachts make for an amazing photo. Refer to above and below.
Covering 160,000m2 the port provides enough anchorage for up to 700 vessels! Walk around and find different vantage points. We found this spot around the corner from the Monte Carlo casino and loved how it looked like we were peering off the balcony of a luxurious hotel. In fact, it was just a view point open to the public.
If you’re a James Bond fan, they filmed GoldenEye in Monte Carlo and this harbour was one of the filming spots.
Gawked at the expensive cars outside the Monte Carlo Casino
FREE (if you dont go inside)
This is probably the most iconic building in Monte Carlo. It sums up the type of rich and famous lifestyle that exists in Monaco. From the luxurious cars parked outside to the expensive hotels that surround it; you can smell money in the air. Talking about money, it costs 10€ per person to enter and an additional 10€ to enter a private room, deeming you already at a loss before you’ve even put money on the table. We chose not to go inside since we had 4 people and there were many other things we could imagine spending 40€ on, but we enjoyed checking out the expensive cars and grand architecture from outside.
The walk from Monte Carlo to Monaco-Ville, where the palace is located, takes roughly 20 minutes. The steps that lead up to the palace offer an amazing panoramic view over Monaco. Once you get to the top you will be greeted by the palace, where the prince still lives. If you want to go inside it costs 8€ per adult and 4€ per child/student (closed November to April). We weren’t fascinated enough to go inside, but we did enjoy the view from outside and looking out over Monaco from the top of the hill. Here is a view over the port of Fontvieille:
If you can time your visit for 11:55am, you can see the changing of the guards in the courtyard of the palace. We missed it, but we heard many people visit to see it.
WHERE WE ATE
Much like everything else, dining is quite expensive in Monaco as well. So we ate lunch before we left Nice and returned to Nice in time for dinner. We did visit Starbucks, however, for some Wi-Fi and a coffee. If you need recommendations, TripAdvisor has detailed reviews for places to eat.
WHEN WE VISITED
We visited in Summer and it was so hot in Monaco. We definitely recommend a visit in the cooler weather as much of Monaco is hilly with some unshaded steep uphill walks, which are especially difficult in the hot weather. Another reason why we had to have a rest in Starbucks; the airconditioning!
WHY A FULL OR HALF DAY TRIP IS ENOUGH
In all honesty, this is one of those places that we thought ‘been there, done that’ after going there. Monaco does have some beautiful gardens and an impressive oceanographic museum (so I’ve heard), which we didn’t have enough time to see, but I don’t think it’s enough to make me go back specifically for those. I think a full or half day trip to Monaco is enough. Unless, of course, someday I become super rich, then I wouldn’t mind going back to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous.