Long regarded as a playground for the rich and famous, the tiny yet popular Principality of Monaco is welcoming to all types of travelers. Set along the breathtaking Côte d’Azur nearly enveloped by France, the Principality of Monaco has been a symbol of luxury and glamour for well over a century.
While it may be small in size, it packs quite a punch with its iconic annual events such as the Monaco Yacht Show and Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix that attract people from all over the world.
It’s important to understand that Monaco isn’t a destination exclusive to the wealthy. There is a wide range of sights and attractions on offer whether you’re traveling as a romantic couple or a family.
With abundant sunshine and an ever-present ideal warm weather, Monaco is home to many treasures both natural and man-made and plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants to fuel your adventures. So whether you’re thinking of a day trip from France or an entire holiday in Monaco, I’ve gathered some of the top reasons why you should visit this French Riviera gem.
Please note that current COVID restrictions require travelers to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within the last 72 hours for anyone crossing the border from France.
10 Reasons to Visit Monaco
Casino de Monte-Carlo
It’s one of the most famous casinos in the world and arguably the one with the grandest décor. Dating back to 1863, the Casino de Monte-Carlo is synonymous with James Bond but has also featured in a number of other Hollywood blockbusters like Ocean’s Twelve.
It’s said that over 7 million tourists take selfies in front of the casino every year, but the real magic can be found inside. While the casino does offer a handsome selection of table games including French Roulette, Baccarat, and Black Jack as well as slots, you don’t have to make a wager to head inside.
The casino offers audio-guided tours of the casino in the morning before the gaming kicks off in the afternoon. Adults as well as children between the ages of 6 and 18 can partake in a tour of the casino or you can simply gain free limited access to certain areas of the casino like the atrium.
While there isn’t a strict dress code for the tours, you are expected to dress up if you plan to place a bet in the afternoon. You are also required to be at least 18 years of age to enter the casino during gaming hours.
As many of Monaco’s casinos are ultra-exclusive, it’s nice knowing that its most famous one is so accessible. That said, Monaco’s citizens are actually forbidden to enter the casino’s gaming rooms.
Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate
It’s a church known by many names including Cathédrale de Notre-Dame-Immaculée, Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Cathédrale de Monaco, or Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate.
The House of Grimaldi has reigned over Monaco for centuries and many of Grimaldis have been laid to rest within the church, including Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace.
Free daily tours are offered outside Mass service times. You’ll be standing in the very spot where Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace not only got married but were both laid to rest.
Inside the church’s impressive white stone exterior, you’ll find one of the world’s most powerful organs. The Grand Organ contains more than 7,000 pipes and 4 keyboards.
The Prince’s Palace is the official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco and has been the home of the Grimaldi family since the late 13th century.
While it continues to be a private residence, certain sections of the palace have been made available to the public for tours from roughly April to October each year. You can tour the state rooms, Throne Room, Palace Chapel, and various galleries.
You’ll take a journey through the centuries from the Renaissance to the era of Napoleon. You can also catch the Changing of the Guard daily just before noon. During the summer months, concerts are often held in the royal courtyard.
Metropole Shopping Monte-Carlo
You may be restricted to window shopping if you’re on a tight budget, but a walk through the Metropole Shopping Monte-Carlo is a treat regardless of whether you can actually make a purchase.
You’ll be welcomed by gorgeous marble and Faustig Bohemian crystal chandeliers as you make your way past roughly 80 high-end luxury stores; brands like Gucci Kids, Billionaire men’s apparel, Isabel Marant, Rémy Martin, Moschino, and Davidoff.
The shopping center is open Monday to Saturday and is home to a half dozen restaurants to fuel up while you’re shopping.
If you’re looking to ditch your suit or cocktail dress for some board shorts or a bikini, head to Monaco’s only free-to-use public beach. This man-made beach consists of pebbles as opposed to sand but is still a popular spot to take a dip in the sea and catch a tan.
Larvatto Beach is regarded as one of the French Riviera’s most family-friendly beaches, offering calm shallow waters as well as bathrooms and showers. For a bit of action, try a bit of windsurfing, parasailing, or jet skiing.
There is also section where rollerblading and skateboarding is allowed and plenty of nearby restaurants to grab some lunch or early dinner before catching the sunset.
Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
Perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium of Monaco was founded by Prince Albert I over 100 years ago. It displays artifacts relating to both his personal historic marine explorations as well as those of former museum director, underwater researcher, and legendary filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
The aquarium is packed with nearly a hundred different tanks filled with hundreds of sea creatures ranging from menacing sharks, piranhas, and lethal stonefish to the more friendly octopuses, seahorses, and clownfish.
There’s a touch tank where kids can handle sea urchins and sea stars, while giant whale skeletons greet you in the main hall of the museum. The Mediterranean Aquarium will allow you to see the marine life that lives just of Monaco’s coastline.
Opéra de Monte-Carlo
Be dazzled by red velvet and plenty of gold leaf, while being blown away by exceptional acoustics at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, found within the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Designed by French architect Charles Garnier back in the late 1870s, the opera house also goes by the name Salle Garnier in honor of its creator. It usually presents around a half dozen operas each season along with the Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival each autumn.
It also hosts performances by the Les Ballets de Monte Carlo and Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, while sometimes being transformed into a venue to host notable gala-dinners.
If relaxing is more your idea of a vacation, head to Thermes Marins or Monte Carlo’s famous thermal marine baths. The spa is situated next to the Hôtel de Paris and offers a range of treatments and wellness activities.
The spa offers both day-packages and longer programs in addition to simple single treatments. You can choose from various body wraps, massages, cryotherapy, and exfoliation treatments.
And I mean, who doesn’t need a remineralising sea mud treatment, caviar instant lifting treatment, or cellfacial revitalising anti-ageing fix!
They also offer a beauty and hair salon as well as jacuzzi, sauna, hammam, and sensorial showers. Add in therapists, nutritionists, personal trainers, and an onsite healthy restaurant and you have the complete wellness package all in one location.
For its size, Monaco is home to an impressive array of botanic gardens. One of its most stunning is Jardin Exotique where Mexican cacti alongside exotic plants from Africa and South America hug steep cliffsides.
Some of the plants here date back over a hundred years. The gardens are also home to a grotto filled with stalagmites and stalactites which can be accessed by guided tour. Prehistoric human artifacts have been recovered from the grotto, some of which can be viewed at the anthropology museum.
Meanwhile, Les Jardins Saint Martin et Sainte Barbe was the first public garden to open in Monaco back in the first half of the 19th century.
It offers a mix of native Mediterranean plants such as holm oaks, pistachio trees, and myrtles. You’ll find the gardens on the southwest face of the Rock of Monaco near the Old Town.
The Princess Grace Botanical Garden was built by Grace Kelly’s husband Prince Rainier III to memorialize her after her tragic death by car accident. More or less dedicated to roses, the gardens’ 5,000 square meters are dominated by roses of all shades.
The gardens which are located in Fontvieille Park are also home to olive trees and a bronze statue of Princess Grace Kelly.
The Monaco Harbour is always buzzing with activity, especially during the annual Monaco Yacht Show. Stroll along the harbour and Port Hercule to view superyachts worth millions and rub shoulders with the wealthy elites that own them.
Seek out the Prince’s main yacht as well as the famous vessels of other notables as you sip a latte from an outdoor café along the water. You may also wish to hop aboard an Aquavision catamaran that will tour the coastal waters and allow you to view the seabed via the floor’s glass windows.
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