Enjoy our inside guide on how to spend one day in Monaco…
Spending one day in Monaco
Welcome to the playground of the rich and famous! The Principality of Monaco may be the second smallest state in the world after Vatican City, but this place outshines the other in terms of glamour and extravagance.
Set on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and enjoying a mild climate, this European gem is bustling with life all year round, although the summers are, without a doubt, the stars on the Côte d’Azur.
And it works as a destination for so many at different stages of life. It’s the perfect place for solo travellers seeking adventure but also for honeymooners or families who want to discover a luxurious destination.
So, pack your bag and get ready for your Monaco day trip with our comprehensive Monaco itinerary. We cover what to do, see and how you can stay in a Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer resort.
We’ll show you all the best places in the home of Grace Kelly so you can make the most of your time.
Fun Facts about Monaco
Yes, Monaco has some of the best French Riviera beaches and it is the second smallest country in the world, but there’s more about this tiny principality than meets the eye. Here are some interesting facts about Monaco that will make your visit more exciting:
- Monaco is only 2 square kilometres in size, so you can walk across it in less than an hour.
- Another fun fact about Monaco is that this small country has the highest density of millionaires in the world. One in three of the population have millionaire status.
- Every year, Monaco hosts the world-famous Monaco Grand Prix, one of the most challenging and prestigious car races in the world. The tradition dates back to 1929, and the event attracts up to 100,000 spectators.
- The Grimaldi family has ruled Monaco for over 700 years, which makes it one of the oldest royal families in the world. The current ruler is Prince Albert II, the son of Hollywood icon Grace Kelly.
- Finally, Monaco has no income tax, so there’s no wonder it attracts so many millionaires.
Is One Day Enough to See Monaco?
One of the best things about Monaco is that you can see a big part of it in one day. You will have enough time to hit the major attractions and even enjoy a nice dinner in the Old Town, surrounded by glamorous locals.
However, you will also miss a few things if you are in a rush. For example, one day may be too short for you to visit the local market, which is a great place to discover the local way of life. Or you may not be able to enjoy the beaches, especially if you are set on seeing as many cultural landmarks as possible.
For a successful trip, it’s best to decide from the beginning what activities would fit you best and go for them.
How to Get to Monaco
Since it is such a popular destination, Monaco has made it easy for its visitors to get there. Here are some options you have depending on where you’re coming from:
- By plane: Flying to Monaco from different countries in Europe or beyond is the easy way of getting there. The nearest airport to Monaco is the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, located about 30 minutes away by car or train.
- By train: Monaco has its own train station, which is served by the French train company SNCF. This is the best way to travel if you are coming from Nice or other cities along the French Riviera.
- By car: If you’re driving, you can take the A8 motorway from Nice to Monaco, which offers gorgeous views of the Mediterranean coastline. However, be aware that parking in Monaco can be difficult and expensive, and the roads are often crowded, so this may not be the best option if you are looking for peace of mind.
- By boat: Finally, if you’re coming from other destinations along the French Riviera, you can take a boat to Monaco. Several ferry services operate along the coast, as well as private yacht charters. See also the best places to sail in France.
Is Monaco Walkable? How Do You Get Around?
You’ve probably figured out by now that you don’t need a car to explore the streets of Monaco.
Indeed, the best way to see the main tourist attractions while also soaking in the city’s vibe is to walk, even if you have only one day at your disposal.
But if you arrive in Monaco after a long trip, and you feel a bit tired, there are lots of other ways to get around. The most trustworthy is public transport, with buses that travel around the small state and trains that can get you to other cities on the French Riviera.
You can also rent a car, a scooter, or a bike to have more flexibility and explore the surroundings. Or simply call a taxi and tour the state in style. The fares can be pricy, though, so keep that in mind, especially if you visit during peak season.
What to Do in Monaco if You Only Have One Day
Get up early, have breakfast at your hotel, and get ready. It’s time to see the sights of Monaco.
The Old Town
Start your itinerary in the heart of Monaco. The Old Town, also known as Monaco-Ville is perched on the Rock of Monaco, a rocky promontory overlooking the glittering Mediterranean Sea.
It is the oldest place in the state, dating back to ancient times when the area was settled by the Ligurians. Palm trees, colourful houses, quaint cafes, and small boutiques populate the narrow streets, inviting you to take photos or savour a cup of coffee in the city centre before you visit the neihbourhood palace and cathedral.
The Prince’s Palace
The first objective on your list, the Prince’s Palace, was built in 1191 and is the official residence of the sovereign prince of Monaco. A true masterpiece of architectural design, with a spectacular façade completed by towers and turrets that overlook the sea, the Palais du Prince hides even more beauty between its walls.
Take a walking tour to discover the opulent furnishing, sparkling chandeliers, and intricate frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings. As you explore the throne room and the state apartments, take a moment to admire the paintings of Rubens and Van Dyck.
These are the rooms where the royal family lived for over 7 centuries, and they tell stories of romance, intrigue, and political manoeuvring. You will learn about the fairy-tale wedding of Prince Rainier III and Hollywood star Grace Kelly and the family’s fierce resistance when invading forces tried to take over the palace during World War II.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the changing of the guards.
The Princess Grace Rose Garden
The Princess Grace Rose Garden will surprise you with over 8,000 roses that spread their distinctive perfumes to create a genuine slice of paradise. The statue of Princess Grace overlooks her fragrant garden, which offers plenty of towering trees to shade you from the sun in the heat of summer.
Pink, red, yellow, and white roses surround the benches and fountains within, creating a dream-like atmosphere. But beware! Once you step in, you may never want to leave this place, which reminds so well of H.G. Wells’ garden in The Door in the Wall.
Before stopping for lunch, pay a visit to the magnificent Saint Nicholas Cathedral, also known as the Monaco Cathedral, to see the final resting place of Monaco’s beloved Prince Rainier III and his wife, Princess Grace. The cathedral welcomes you with a cool and peaceful air that fills the vast space, leading to the Carrara marble altar dating back to the 16th century.
Although there is no strict dress code for visiting the cathedral, you should cover your arms and avoid wearing shorts to show respect for those who come here to pray.
The Oceanographic Museum
A visit to the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco is like diving into the depths of the ocean itself. Almost. It dates back to 1910, when Prince Albert I of Monaco, a renowned oceanographer and explorer, founded it. Step inside the grand hall to admire the giant whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling and continue your exploration among a multitude of exhibits showcasing the diversity of marine life.
Several rooms display tanks with colourful fish, which are a delight to see, but the museum hides even greater things. For an exhilarating sensation, head to the Shark Lagoon, where you will have the chance to observe the most fearsome predators of the sea up close.
The Casino of Monte-Carlo
One of the main attractions in Monaco is the Casino of Monte Carlo, an iconic place that saved the Grimaldi family from financial ruin in the 19th century. You will get the chance to see the rooms where the big games were held back in the old times, plus those iconic James Bond scenes.
The good news for gamblers is that the casino is still active. So you can take your seat at the poker tables, hit the slot machines, or play roulette surrounded by fascinating décor dominated by huge crystal chandeliers and intricate details. The stakes are high, and the excitement is palpable, as this is a place where fortunes can be made or lost in the blink of an eye.
But even if you are not a big fan of gambling, you shouldn’t miss this gem on the shore of the Mediterranean. Visit one of the casino’s world-class restaurants for a gourmet meal or simply sit at the bar and sip champagne while admiring the interior.
The Monte Carlo Opera House
Just a few steps from the casino, the Monte Carlo Opera House dazzles with opulence and elegance. Designed in the 19th century by Charles Garnier, who also designed the Paris Opera House, it is a genuine architectural masterpiece.
The foyer welcomes visitors with a golden stucco-adorned ceiling and crystal chandeliers which lead the way to the magnificent auditorium. Here, the ceiling is painted with scenes from Greek mythology and the red and gold combine to create quite the sensory experience.
But it’s not just the beauty of the building that makes the Monte Carlo Opera House so special. This is a venue that has hosted some of the greatest performers of all time, from Maria Callas to Plácido Domingo, and continues to attract the world’s top talents to this day.
The Japanese Garden
How about a taste of Asia in the middle of Europe? The Japanese Garden forms an unsusual part of the history of Monaco, a place of joy and tranquillity that was commissioned by Prince Rainier III in 1994 to honour his wife, Princess Grace. It was designed by landscape architect Yasuo Beppu who integrated cherry trees, streams, ponds, and cascading waterfalls by following the principles of Japanese garden design, such as harmony and simplicity.
The cherry trees are phenomenal in the spring when they are all in bloom while autumns in the garden are nostalgic and romantic. If you’d like a moment of peace, make sure to stop by the traditional Japanese tea house for a delicious cup of matcha tea.
The Jardin Exotique of Monaco
You may think that visiting a third garden in one day is too much. And you are right! But keep this beautiful place in mind for a second visit to Monaco. Or skip one of the previous gardens to see this one if you want to discover some of the most exotic plants on earth.
The Exotic Garden in Monaco was built in the early 20th century by Augustin Gastaud, a passionate collector of rare plants and succulents who decided to share his love for the green world with the inhabitants of Monaco. From exotic flowers to rare birds and even a cave, the garden is a natural wonder that deserves its place on any Monaco itinerary.
The Larvotto Beach
Just before sunset, you’ll still have some time left to take a short walk on Larvotto Beach and see what it’s like to sunbathe with the millionaires. This public beach is the best of the best, with powdery sands and crystal-clear waters, offering many opportunities for water sports like paddleboarding or jet skiing. Look for the luxury yachts bobbing in the shimmering waters. You may catch a glimpse of a royal or celebrity enjoying the breeze and the sun.
The Port of Monaco
When the evening settles, take a walk along the most glamorous of Monaco’s two deep-water ports.
Port Hercules is part of La Condamine ward in the centre of the state and the starting point for many cruises on the Mediterranean. As you step onto the dock, you’ll be greeted by the sight of sleek and elegant yachts mooring gently in the harbour. The air is filled with the aroma of fresh seafood, and the sound of waves lapping against the hulls of the boats creates a soothing symphony that beckons you to explore.
The port is also home to some of the most exclusive restaurants in Monaco, so you can dine in style while admiring the moon as it reflects in the dark waters.
Where to Eat in Monaco – Restaurants You’ll Love
Monaco is a culinary heaven, with so many luxury restaurants per square meter that it may seem overwhelming at first. The hottest areas are in the Old Town and its vicinity, including districts like the Place des Armes or Hercules Harbour. Here are some suggestions:
- Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse: This three-Michelin-starred restaurant is located in the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and is all about opulence. From the palace-like décor to the exquisite dishes cooked only with high-quality seasonal produce, it is the perfect place to savour the famous soufflé au chocolate d’Alain Ducasse.
- Blue Bay: Offering a marvellous view of the sea, this restaurant, found in the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort, serves creative Mediterranean dishes by Marcel Ravin. Stop for dinner after strolling on Hercules Port for a truly magical atmosphere.
Where to Stay in Monaco
From ultra-luxurious hotels to more affordable places to stay, Monaco has a cosy room for every traveller. But book in advance if you are going there in the summer, as this is a very popular destination. Here are some accommodation suggestions that are guaranteed to offer you a good night’s sleep:
- Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo: For the utmost luxury experience, check in at Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, located in the centre of Monaco. This beautiful accommodation offers a rooftop pool with sensational views, a Michelin-starred restaurant serving only fresh produce, and sumptuous rooms with wide openings to the sea.
- Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo: Another opulent option is Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, situated in the heart of the state. Here you will be treated to spacious rooms with balconies overlooking the sea, a gorgeous garden with palm trees and sun loungers, and a refined restaurant.
Where to from Monaco?
Monaco is just one of the many gems on the Côte d’Azur, so if you have more days to spend in this area, consider a day trip to one of the following destinations:
Nice: Just a short drive or train ride from Monaco, Nice is a charming coastal city known for its beautiful beaches, colourful markets, and great cuisine. Take a walk on the Promenade des Anglais, watching the seagulls as they soar in the sky, or visit the Matisse Museum for an engaging lesson on modernist art.
Menton: A lovely town close to the Italian border, Menton is famous for its luxuriant gardens, picturesque streets and the Jean Cocteau Museum. Spend a day at the beach if you are visiting during the summer or attend the Lemon Festival in February if your visit takes place at this time of the year.
Cannes: Home of the famous Cannes Film Festival, this coastal town is just an hour’s drive from Monaco. A luxurious destination with opulent boutiques and restaurants, it is also worth exploring for its powdery beaches and blue waters.
Saint-Tropez: This glitzy seaside town is about a two-hour drive from Monaco. Known for its glamorous beaches, upscale shopping, and celebrity sightings, Saint-Tropez is a great place to see and be seen.
Grasse: This picturesque town in the hills above Cannes is known for its perfume industry. Take a tour of one of the perfume factories, stroll through the narrow streets, and enjoy the stunning views.
Antibes: And finally, this coastal town is just a short drive from Monaco and is known for its charming old town, sandy beaches, and Picasso Museum, which houses an impressive collection of works by the famous artist. Visit the Provençal market or take a boat trip to the Îles de Lérins while you dive deeper in the beauty of the Côte d’Azur.