How to spend a day in Monaco
No trip to the French Riviera is complete without visiting the glamorous microstate of Monaco. In this blog post, we share our experience taking a day trip from Nice to Monaco. It’s an easy 30 minute train ride from Nice, so you don’t need to stay overnight to enjoy this famous city-state.
Before making the decision to visit Monaco, we read a few blog posts from people who had done day trips to Monaco from Nice. We weren’t sure if it made sense to stay overnight in Monaco or if a day trip would be sufficient. We chose to rent an apartment in Nice and use it as a home base to explore the region.
After spending one day in Monaco, we can confirm that a day trip to Monaco is enough time to see the sites and get a feel for the city. It’s not very big, geographically, so you can see a lot in a short period of time.
However, if you plan to visit for a specific reason, like attending the Monaco Yacht Show or Monaco Grand Prix, then you’ll have time to go beyond these top Monaco tourist attractions.
Things to do in Monaco in one day
Although small in size, there are actually a lot of things to do in Monaco. Because of this, we recommend you get an early start your day trip from Nice early.
If you’re taking the train, which is the fastest and most convenient option, you will arrive at Monaco-Monte-Carlo station.
From here, you have options for how you want to explore the city. You can take a local bus (get a day pass if you choose this option), take a double-decker tourist bus tour (Hop On Hop Off Monaco), a walking tour, or simply start walking.
The Hop On Hop Off bus is a convenient way to see the top Monaco attractions. However, the buses fill up quickly during peak times, especially if a cruise ship is in port.
We prefer to walk, so that’s what we did.
The main harbour in Monaco is Port Hercules. It has been in use since ancient times, dating back to the 6th century. It’s the centerpiece of Monaco, acting as an easy compass for first time visitors.
You will find outstanding views from either side of the port. The above photo was taken on the way to the Monte Carlo Casino and Opera House. While the below photo was taken as we walked up the path to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco.
If you’re exploring Monaco on a budget, it’s free to admire (or loathe) the luxury yachts in Port Hercules.
Casino de Monte-Carlo
Monte Carlo Casino is arguably the most famous attraction in Monaco. The exterior architecture alone is worth a visit. As are the expansive gardens located in front of the famed building.
Monte Carlo Casino is famous for being the location of James Bond films Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye.
Tourists are allowed to enter the Monte-Carlo Casino to have a look at the atrium. However, there is a fee and dress code to enter the casino.
See the prices and conditions for the Monte Carlo Casino here.
Above is the famous mirror in front of Monte Carlo Casino. It’s called the Sky Mirror.
Take a moment to walk around the Monte Carlo Casino and admire it’s architecture of the Monte Carlo Opera house (pictured above and below).
“Designed by Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris Opéra, the building is lavishly and ornately decorated in the opulent Belle Époque style and stands in formal gardens with a sweeping view over the tiny principality of Monaco”. [source]
The Champions Promenade
Located behind the Monte Carlo is The Champions Promenade. Similar to the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, the Champions Promenade features the footprints of the greatest footballers (soccer players, for you North Americans) who have been awarded the Golden Foot and/or award legends.
If you like soccer / football, this is a fun place to visit and snap a photo of the feet of your favourite players.
Prince’s Palace of Monaco
The Prince’s Palace is located on Monaco’s famous Rocher, or the Rock of Monaco. It’s the current home of Prince Albert and his family.
It was built in 1191 as a Genoese fortress and has been bombarded and besieged by many foreign powers over the centuries.
Visit the official website here to learn about the palace’s history, ticket prices and hours of operation.
Changing of the Guard at Prince’s Palace Monaco
The royal entrance on Palace Square, picture above, is where you can watch the changing of ‘The Prince’s Palace Guard‘ ceremony in Monaco. This age old ceremony takes place daily at 11:55 am.
Arrive early to find a good view. It’s typically very crowded during the ceremony.
Gateway to Rock
Walk the paved path through 15th-century gateways and old fortress towers on the way to (or from) the Prince’s Palace. This is where you will find excellent panoramic views of Monaco and its famous harbour.
You can walk up these steps to reach Place du Palais from Fontaine Avenue du Port Monaco.
Above and below is Palace Square, located directly across from the Prince’s Palace. It is a very touristy spot, but for good reason. The architecture is remarkable and the views from here are outstanding.
Palace Square is a top tourist attraction in Monaco.
The red and white flags you see are to celebrate the birthday of the late Prince Rainier III, which is May 31, 1923. The famous square, and several buildings on the Rock of Monaco, are decorated for the year-long celebration of the former Prince of Monaco.
The above photo is where tourists can capture panoramic views from Palace Square. This photo was taken mid-day and when a cruise ship was in port. It’s a very crowded time of day.
Port of Fontvieille viewpoint
While you’re visiting the Prince’s Palace, make sure to check out the incredible views from Port of Fontvieille. The viewpoint is literally steps away from the palace.
This is the spot to capture the postcard photos of the colorful buildings and super-yachts in the harbour.
If you look closely, on the top-right corner of the above photo, you will see Louis II Stadium, home of the AS Monaco and the national football team. It’s hard to see, because it blends with the other architecture; here’s a better photo.
There is a pathway along The Rock that connects the Prince’s Palace and Port of Fontvieille viewpoint with Jardins Saint-Martin and Musée Océanographique de Monaco (pictured below).
Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
Also located on The Rock is the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, which is a museum of marine sciences and aquarium.
The above photo is the backside of the museum. It towers over the sea below. You can capture this view from Jardins Saint-Martin, which is a series of gardens and paths on the south west face of the Rock of Monaco.
Above and below is the front entrance to Monaco Oceanographic Museum. This is one of the most famous places in Monaco.
The Yellow Submarine in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.
Saint Nicholas Cathedral (Monaco Cathedral)
We actually stumbled upon this impressive Romanesque Catholic cathedral while walking back from the Oceanographic Museum. I vividly remember my jaw drop as we turned the corner and first witnessed this beauty. It’s unlike any other cathedral I’ve seen before.
The cathedral was built from 1875 to 1903. Many of the Monaco royals are buried here, including Grace Kelly (Princess of Monaco) and Prince Rainier III.
Definitely add Cathédrale de Monaco to your Monaco day trip itinerary. It’s very impressive. And, it’s free to enter, so it fits the budget.
Another historical landmark on The Rock of Monaco is the Monaco Courthouse (Tribunal de Monaco à Monaco ville). It’s located directly beside Saint Nicholas Cathedral.
Eat, Shop and Explore the Old Town
The Old Town is located within steps of Palace Square, Monaco Cathedral and Saint Martin Gardens. It’s a popular tourist trap, so expect to pay more here.
This is a nice area to explore. However, it does not compare to Old Town of Nice, which is much bigger. Given that this post is about taking a day trip from Nice to Monaco, we’re making the assumption that you’ve already experienced Nice’s famous Old Town. If this is the case, you don’t need to spend too much time here.
Grab a coffee or ice cream, purchase a few unique souvenirs, admire the old architecture, and then move on to the next attraction.
A row of colorful buildings in Old Town Monaco overlooking Monaco-Ville.
Notice the Palace and fortress to the left in the above photo. This angle provides a different perspective of the views from the palace.
Monaco Yacht Show at Port Hercules
The white tents along the Esplanade Du Port Hercule is for the annual Monaco Yacht Show. This world-renowned event is all about luxury, which is fitting for the glitz and glamour of Monaco.
We visited a few days before the show, so the waterfront area was mostly closed in preparation for the event.
Monaco Grand Prix
The Monaco Grand Prix is an annual Formula One racing event held on the Circuit de Monaco. It’s arguably the most famous grand prix event.
The Circuit de Monaco consists of the city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine, which includes the famous Port Hercules.
The above photo is the Antony Noghes corner. It’s located beside the waterfront strip. You can see the red and white strips of the race track.
If you’re a fan of Formula 1, you might want to check out the famous Fairmont Hairpin Curve, located near the Monte Carlo Casino. Or, join a walking tour where you’ll walk the entire track with a tour guide.
La Collection Automobiles de S.A.S. le Prince de Monaco
The Prince of Monaco’s Car Collection is an automobile museum in the La Condamine district. The cars were the personal collection of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and assembled over a thirty-year period.
Learn more about how to visit this museum here.
Above is the front of The Car Collection of HSH the Prince of Monaco. The road you see is part of the race track for the Monaco Grand Prix.
I’m not a big F1 fan, but it’s still pretty cool to walk on this street, knowing that it transforms into the race track.
The iconic Rainier III Nautical Stadium, a sports complex on the Route de la Piscine in Port Hercules.
Can you visit Monaco on a budget?
The best way to see Monaco on a budget is to avoid staying overnight in Monaco. Instead, stay in nearby cities, such as Nice, Eze or Ventimiglia in Italy.
There are several things to do for free in Monaco. Many of the attractions mentioned above are free, including the Monaco Cathedral, Palace Square, Jardins Saint-Martin, Port de Fontvieille viewpoint and Port Hercules.
Other free attractions in Monaco include the Princess Grace Japanese Garden, Monte Carlo Casino (atrium), Larvotto Beach (the only public beach in Monaco), Metropole Shopping Monte-Carlo, and more.
Dining at restaurants can easily break the budget. Instead, visit a grocery store (there’s a Casino Supermarket on the waterfront of Monaco Hercules harbour) and grab snacks, sandwiches and drinks to go.
If you want to enjoy time on a patio, consider a cafe and get coffee and gelato instead of an expensive meal.
Can you walk around Monaco in a day?
Yes! Absolutely. In fact, I would say this is the number on thing to do in Monaco. Put on your walking shoes and let your curiosity guide you.
We did about 22,000 steps before our boys started complaining that their feet hurt. We started at the train station and walked up to the Monte Carlo Casino. Then we walked back down to Port Hercules waterfront and up to the Rock of Monaco.
We spent about 6 hours walking around Monaco. However, if you plan to visit a few museums, this may limit the amount of time you have to wander around the Old Town and city center.
Unusual Things to do in Monaco
Looking for unusual or unique things to do in Monaco? Consider these:
- Princess Grace Japanese Garden (Free)
- Get behind the wheel of a luxury or vintage car
- View the Formula 1 Fairmont Hairpin Curve
- Go for a swim off the tiered steps of Solarium Beach
- See the extensive car collection of HSH the Prince of Monaco
- Attend the luxurious Monaco Yacht Show (late September)
- Find the feet for your favourite soccer player at The Champions Promenade
- Catch an AS Monaco soccer/football match at Stade Louis II
- Witness the Changing of the Guard at the Prince’s Palace
- Fly over the French Riviera in a private helicopter tour
- Window shop or max the credit card at the swanky Metropole Shopping Monte-Carlo
- Rent a private boat and explore the French Riviera
The Monte-Carlo Opera house entrance. It’s part of the Monte Carlo Casino.
I love the architecture in Monaco. Above is a photo of the exterior of Centre Cardio-Thoracique De Monaco.
When you look at the opulent details of this historical building, would you guess that it’s is a small hospital? It looks more like a palace!
Fun facts about Monaco
- Gambling is illegal for Monaco residents. Only tourists and foreign residents are allowed to gamble.
- Monaco is smaller than Central Park in New York City. It’s one of the densest countries in the world
- Monaco is home to 12,261 millionaires in less than one square mile. Almost one in three people who live in Monaco is a millionaire. Not surprising, Monaco has a poverty rate of zero.
- Monaco has one police officer for every 100 residents.
- Monaco has the highest average life expectancy in the world at 85.8 years.
What Is Monaco Most Famous For?
Monaco is famous being the playground of the rich and famous, even though it’s the 2nd-smallest country in the world.
It’s famous for the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix on the Circuit de Monaco, the glamorous Monte Carlo Casino (location of James Bond films), the exclusive Monaco Yacht Show, and its luxurious real estate and superyachts for the wealthy.
How to Get from Nice to Monaco
There are a few different ways to travel from Nice to Monaco, including bus, train, ferry and car.
Train from Nice to Monaco
The most popular option is the train. Nice to Monaco trains depart as early as 5:40 am and the Nice to Monaco distance is only 21.5KM.
You can buy your Nice to Monaco train tickets online or at central Nice-Ville train station. The Nice to Monaco train cost starts at 4.20 Euros.
There is another train station in Nice, named Nice-Riquier, which slightly further out of the city. During peak travel times, the train might be full by the time it departs from Nice-Ville station. If you plan to board at Nice-Riquier, expect to stand, as seats will likely be full.
The train will arrive at Monaco Monte-Carlo train station, picture above. This is the same station where you will catch the return train from Monaco to Nice.
Ferry from Nice to Monaco
From mid-May through September there are departures three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
How long is the ferry ride from Nice to Monaco?
It’s a 45 minute ride. The ferry departs at 9:30 AM in Nice and arrives in Monaco at 10:15 AM. It departs from Monaco back to Nice at 5:00 PM. You can purchase tickets ahead of time here.
Can you take a taxi from Nice to Monaco?
A taxi from Nice to Monaco costs approx. 60 to 80 Euros one way. You can also take an Uber from Nice to Monaco, which might be slightly cheaper.
However, it’s important to note that Uber is banned in Monaco. Drivers are only allowed to drop-off passengers in Monaco. Uber is not available to pick up passengers in Monaco.
Monaco-Monte-Carlo station is a short walk to Beausoleil, France, where you can catch an Uber.
Another option is to hire a private transport from Nice to Monaco. The cost varies depending on the vehicle. Search for options here.
Is a Day Trip from Nice to Monaco Worth It?
It’s an interesting place and we would recommend adding a day in Monaco to any trip to the French Riviera. You don’t need to stay overnight. One day is enough time to see the main attractions and get a feel for this unique city-state.
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Are you planning a day trip from Nice to Monaco?
If you have questions, leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to answer.