“What else to see besides the casino?” This question frequently comes up when you start planning your Monaco trip, which is for some reason limited to Monte Carlo with its luxury sports cars and cozy tables at the Cafe de Paris. However, within the small area of the Principality there are so many attractions, that it is quite difficult to get around in one day. But if you plan your visit correctly, you will discover the true Principality of Monaco with its rich history.
So, how to see it all in one day and enjoy your visit? We’ll tell you in our travel guide.
Prince’s Palace and Palace Square
Palace Square located on the Rock is the real heart of Monaco. Here both the history of the Principality and your visit begin. The square boasts a stunning view onto Monaco: you can see Port Hercule from one side and Fontvieille, the most recent quarter of the Principality, from the other.
Here you will see the statue of Francesco Grimaldi, the key figure in the history of the ruling family. According to the legend, in 1297 he captured a fortress on the rock, disguised as a monk. He is considered the founder of the dynasty of Monaco, and for his ingenuity he is called Francesco “the Cunning”. His statue stands in front of the palace, where it all began.
The Prince’s Palace has been the residence of the rulers of Monaco for seven centuries. Every day at 11.55 am. the changing of the guard takes place near its walls. After this ceremony conducted by the Prince’s carabinieri, you can go for a walk through the narrow streets of Monaco-Ville, the old town of the Principality.
Monaco-Ville itself can be considered an open-air museum. Not only the oldest buildings dated from the Renaissance are here, most of the important state institutions are located in the old town. Walking through the picturesque streets, you will see the building of the City Hall, the Palace of Justice, as well as the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, where the most important religious processions and Princely weddings take place. Here, in 1956, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III. The ceremony was broadcast live in nine European countries. Princess Grace and her husband are buried here, as the Cathedral has been the tomb of the rulers of Monaco for centuries.
Strolling along the sea and the gardens of Saint-Martin, you will see the magnificent building of the Oceanographic Museum. It was created by Prince Albert I, the great-grandfather of the current ruler of Monaco, more than a century ago. The museum has become a real temple of the underwater world; its collections contain about 6,000 pieces. During your visit you realize, how important was Prince Albert’s contribution to the development of oceanography. In winter, the Oceanographic Museum is open from 10.00 to 18.00.
Ticket prices vary depending on the season: 11-14 euros for adults, 5-7 euros for children.
Port Hercule and the Formula 1 circuit
The route from the Oceanographic Museum to the main port of Monaco is not without historical attractions. Going down to the port on avenue de la Quarantaine, you will pass by Fort Antoine. The fort was built at the beginning of the 18th century, and then, on the initiative of Prince Rainier III, was transformed into an open-air theater.
When the construction work started in Port Hercule, in the beginning of the 20th century, no one could have imagined that the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious races in Formula 1, would take place here. Every year in May, the road that runs along the quay turns into a race track. Hundreds of Formula 1 fans come to Monaco for that one weekend and the roar of powerful engines is heard everywhere.
In addition, from December 7th, the Christmas Village will open in the port with attractions for children and delicious mulled wine for adults.
From the port, lovers of picturesque places, beautiful gardens and green vegetation all around can head to the Exotic Garden of Monaco. At the Princesse Antoinette stop located in the port, you need to take bus # 2, which will transport you to the garden. During the trip, you can also see Villa Paloma, one of the buildings of the New National Museum of Monaco.
On an area of 15,000 m2 you will find more than a thousand plants originating from different parts of the world. Winter is the time for the flowering of South African succulents. In addition to vegetation, the garden, opened in 1933 on the mountainside, is known for its grotto which goes to a depth of 60 metres.
In winter, the garden is open from 9.00 to 17.00, and in the grotto guided visits are held every hour, starting at 10.00 am.
Cost: 7.20 euros for adults, 3.80 euros for children under 18 years.
Monte Carlo is itself an attraction, because for several centuries eminent personalities went through its main square: from Winston Churchill, who loved to stay at the Hotel de Paris, to Liza Minelli and Grace Kelly, who became the Princess of Monaco.
In order to get to Casino Square from the Exotic Garden, you need to get off at Monte-Carlo (Tourisme) and go through the boutiques of the Monte-Carlo pavilions, located opposite the famous casino.
Finish your visit of the square with a cup of coffee on the terrace of Cafe de Paris, overlooking the square, the Monte Carlo casino and Hotel de Paris. The Opéra de Monte-Carlo, also called Salle Garnier in honour of the architect, who designed it, is located in the same building that incorporates the Casino.
After the walk around Monte Carlo, head to another attraction, which will take you to the land of the rising sun. This is the Japanese garden, located in Larvotto and created at the initiative of Prince Rainier III. Here you can see all the attributes of a real Japanese garden: a tea house, bridges, a waterfall, streams of water flowing into ponds and much more. The garden is designed according to the principles of Zen teachings by the architect Yasuo Beppu.
Fontvieille and the Princess Grace Rose Garden
If after this trip you still have the strength, then you should visit the most recent part of the Principality – Fonvieille. It was created artificially in the mid-60s to solve the problem of the lack of territory that still exists in the Principality.
Here you’ll find Stade Louis II, where all the home games of AS Monaco are held, as well as the Princess Grace rose garden, opened on the initiative of her husband Prince Rainier III, two years after her tragic death. The official opening of the garden took place in 1984, and today the collection of roses has expanded considerably. The rose garden has more than 300 varieties and 6,000 rose bushes. Here stands a bronze statue of a princess, created by Kees Verkade.
A great end to your visit will be a dinner in one of the restaurants located on the quay of the port of Fontvieille.