With the world’s shortest coastline spanning less than 4 kilometers, Monaco is one of the smallest countries on the planet. Small but mighty, Monaco also goes by as the richest country. An estimated one in three people living there is a millionaire.
Visiting Monaco is the easiest way to experience the high life. World-class casinos line up along the boulevards, and top-tier yachts blanket the entire harbor all day long.
Even the streets turn into high-class runways themselves. It’s a big, obvious, and distinctive feeling of money and high rollers that get associated with this principality.
But rest your worries, you don’t have to gamble to soak in the authentic feel of Monaco. Even a leisure stroll around the country’s core is enough to unveil its vivid history and culture.
With that in mind, I’m here to curate a travel guide so you don’t have to look it up yourself. Here’s a heads-up: there’s no fancy restaurant, F1 Grand Prix tickets, or crazy shopping involved. This is a “tamed” travel guide to Monaco that you can even tag your kids along.
How to Get to Monaco from Nice?
30 minutes at its best, getting to Monaco from Nice by train is straightforward, easy, and scenic. From Nice Ville Station, the scenic train passes through five stops along the way including Nice Riquier, Villefranche Sur Mer, Beaulieu Sur Mer, Eze, and Cap D’Ail. At the end of the ride, you’ll get off at Monaco Monte Carlo train station.
The ticket rate hovers around EUR 3.90 for a one-way trip and EUR 7.20 for a return. But please check the latest rate before you go. The locals buy these from the ticket machines at Nice Ville station. But as I mashed it up with other parts of France as part of my vacation, I went ahead buying the Eurail France train pass to save some bucks. And you can do the same. Even though Monaco and France are two separate countries, there wasn’t any passport control on my way to entering Monaco.
How Long Does It Take To Walk Around Monaco? A Walking Itinerary
Given the fact that Monaco has such a compact footprint, you will cover most attractions in less than an hour without a stop. In my case, it took me only half a day to visit most places as I spent a lot of time exploring all corners of every place I went to. After getting off at the Monte Carlo Train Station, you can head straight to the Monte Carlo casino for a glimpse before walking down the Circuit de Monaco (F1 Grand Prix lanes). At the end of the trip, stop by the marvelous Prince’s Palace and the ancient Cathedral to round up your self-guided city tour.
That being said, walking around Monaco is easy. If you don’t like covering everything by yourself, why not sign up for a sightseeing bus or a city tour with a guide? I highly recommend this option if you truly want to learn as much as you can about this interesting country. And yeah, there would be so many cool untold stories about the richest country in the world you can’t get enough!
Monte Carlo Casino
This is literally the limelight of the whole country. I can’t stress enough how many times I’ve seen videos on Tiktok and Youtube showing supercar nightlife and billionaires getting on and off in their designer gowns.
This is the real playground of the rich. The dazzling centerpiece of Monaco has been around since 1865 when Monaco was struggling financially back then. When the grand casino was opened, it became the biggest hook for tourists, sending the once-struggling area into the list of the world’s richest countries.
I was not there to gamble as I was keener on the stunning Beaux-Arts façade of Monte Carlo. The building faces a circular driveway where supercars park. Within a short stroll from the casino, lush gardens start popping up, swathing around the well-maintained lanes with impressive cacti landscape. This is also where you find the largest cactus garden in the world.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the race track to the palace. The tiny population of Monaco of under 40,000 people includes the most important resident of all – Prince Albert II.
The royal family resides in a grandeur, majestic palace that goes all the way back to 1191 as a fortress. François Grimaldi, the founder of the current Monaco royal family, disguised himself as a monk and attacked the fortress in 1297 to occupy Monaco. And that’s why today, they set up two monk statues with swords at the gate of the palace to describe the story.
Other than reigning the country, Prince Albert’s family also accounts for a majority of Monaco’s restaurants, hotels, and casinos under SBM Group, with Grimaldi’s family sharing the largest proportion of the shareholders.
Going beyond history, Prince’s Palace boasts a gorgeous view from the top of the elevated headland, overlooking the breezy and sunny harbor. Sunset is the best time to soak in the view, especially right before the sun beams down and the whole city is lit up.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
A few minutes walk from Prince Albert II’s Palace, I ended up at the 1875 Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception nestled behind a small alley. Constructed using the unique white rocks collected from Southern France, the cathedral is steeped in rustic yet marvelous beauty, delivering a holy feel inside the majestic Byzantine exterior.
The ground of the cathedral is also where many of the Grimaldis are buried, including Grace Kelly who married into the royal family. Her memorial tombstone can be seen in the church. On the way back to Rue Grimaldi, I saw a small souvenir shop of Formule 1 along the way.
And that is the end of our short exploration for half a day in Monaco. Despite the compact, Monaco is totally worth visiting. The streets are clean and well-maintained, especially the winding lanes of Grand Prix that are being used by the locals and bus drivers. If you stop and stand by for a while, you’ll be stunned to see how skillful the drivers are when they have to make constant turns at tricky U-turns.
For more ideas on where to visit next after Monaco, take a train ride for three hours west to Avignon, a city in southeastern France’s Provence region by the Rhône River. And don’t forget to check out my travel guide to Avignon for a heads-up!