During a trip to the South of France, I knew I had to visit Monaco. I had heard so much about the glitz, the yachts, the casino. After stays in Antibes and Cannes, we ended up in Nice for the tail end of our trip. With Monaco a mere 20 kilometers away, I had to check it out for myself.
My husband and I set aside a day to make the short trip east. We would head out in the morning, spend the afternoon and early evening in Monaco, and head back to Nice before dark. With only an afternoon to spare, we tried not too pile too much on the agenda. There were a few items on the must-see list – the Prince’s Palace and the Monte Carlo Casino (of course!).
After a little research, I found that the most recommended way to get to Monaco is by public transportation. At less than 2 euros, the cheapest options are buses that run frequently throughout the day. Other than a private helicopter, it’s also the easiest way to get there! We caught the bus from the Port of Nice, which is beautiful in its own right. The journey included winding cliffside roads that, while frightening at times, were some of the most picturesque views I’ve ever seen. We passed the seaside towns of Villefranche and Eze (also worth seeing) and 30 minutes later, we were in Monaco.
We departed at the 1st stop in Monaco, named Place d’Armes. This seemed to be the best starting location, since it’s right near Monaco-Ville. We started by climbing up Le Rocher, or “The Rock.” From here you not only get amazing views, but also can venture to the Palace and the Oceanographic Museum. We were able to catch the changing of the guard, and select rooms are even also open to the public. A few photo ops at Port Hercule at the base and we were off to explore on foot.
Along with cafes and shopping, I promised my husband we would fit in a few of his destinations. So from the Port we ventured to a museum housing the Prince’s private car collection. While I’m not a car fan, it was pretty cool to see the personal collection of Prince Rainier’s. There were notable vehicles dating back over the last 100 years or so, and at only $10 to enter, it was a economic way to spend an hour. Next on his list was the famous hairpin turn of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix. It’s nestled in front of the Fairmont Hotel, and the course even meanders underneath the property. After checking this out, we accidentally discovered a nice garden, with beautiful greenery and a few Botero statues.
The next stop was the famous casino. Monaco actually has quite a few casinos, if that’s your thing, but the Monte Carlo Casino is by far the most well known. It’s situated right in the heart of Monte Carlo and you’ll know you’re in the right place by the mobs of tourists taking photos and the Lamborghinis parked out front. There was surprisingly no dress code in the afternoon, and although not as large as I thought it would be, it was definitely grandiose. Splurge on a few glasses of €20 champagne and take in the old school glamour.
Dinner in Monte Carlo and lots of people watching later, we were ready to make the short trip back to Nice. I would have loved to have seen the Jardin Exotique and the cathedral atop Le Rocher, but there was just not enough time. Monaco warrants an overnight stay, and the Hotel Hermitage and Metropole are calling my name for a return visit!
How to get from Nice to Monaco: Catch bus #100 (labeled Monaco/Menton) from Place Messina, the Port or other stations in Nice. Regional TGV trains also will get you there, although you’ll miss the amazing scenery along the way!