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The French Riviera has a special place in my heart because I’ve been going there since I was a child and it really is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s a stunning stretch of coastline with lots of pretty towns and villages to explore.
If you decide to visit I’d recommend basing yourself in Nice and doing multiple day trips from there since it’s the most affordable place to stay. A day trip you should definitely include on your French Riviera itinerary is a visit to the tiny principality of Monaco, which lies about 22km east of Nice, not far from the Italian border.
Monaco is known for being one of the ritziest, most glamorous destinations in the world and even if you’re not a billionaire with a megayacht, it’s still a very interesting place to visit.
Covering an area of just 200 hectares, Monaco is the world’s smallest country after Vatican City and is known for being a tax haven for the ultra wealthy. While it may be tiny, the principality is filled with attractions, including exotic gardens, museums, aquariums, casinos, and high-end restaurants.
This Nice to Monaco day trip itinerary covers all these things and more.
How to Get to Monaco from Nice
Monaco is accessible by train, bus, taxi, rideshare or helicopter. If you catch an UberX, expect to pay around €45.
The quickest public transportation option for your Monaco day trip from Nice is the train. There are 24 trains per day departing from Nice Train Station to Monaco, with the journey time taking around 25 minutes. The first train is at 6:04am and the last is around 21:05 in the evening. Tickets can be purchased on the SNCF website.
The cheapest and most scenic option is the #100 bus to Monaco/Menton. A ticket only costs €1.50 and the scenery is stunning. Try to sit on the right hand side of the bus so you can look out the window and enjoy the views of the coastline.
The bus departs from the top of the Port and usually leaves every 15 or 20 minutes. It usually takes around 45 minutes to get there and you can buy a ticket onboard. Bus stops in Monaco include Place d’Armes, Condamine Open Market, The Port, Monte Carlo Tourist Office and Place de Moulins.
My suggestion is to take the bus there and the train back. The bus is a nice experience because of the scenery but on your way back you’ll be tired and just want the quickest option home. Plus, the bus stops running before the train.
Don’t make the mistake of missing the last train. If you do, taxis are around €100, so take an Uber instead.
Getting Around in Monaco
Once you’re in Monaco you can get around on foot or by hopping on the bus. You can buy individual tickets or a day pass for €5.50 so you can go wherever you like.
One Day in Monaco Itinerary
Since Monaco is very compact in size, it’s easy to explore in a day. This Monaco day trip itinerary covers some of the best things to do in Monaco, including the Prince’s Palace and the Monte Carlo Casino.
If you take the bus to Monaco from Nice then you can get off at the Tourism Office of Monaco, which is full of information if you need some maps and ideas for things to do. They used to stamp your passport here but apparently they no longer do this anymore, which is a shame. It’s always nice to collect new passport stamps!
Jardins de la Petite Afrique
From the Tourism Office make your way through the Jardins de la Petite Afrique towards Place du Casino. These beautiful gardens are very green and tropical, with palm trees and well-kept lawns.
Coffee at Cafe de Paris
On the left hand side of Place du Casino you’ll see Cafe de Paris, which is Monaco’s most famous cafe. This brasserie has been around since 1868 and has a large outdoor patio with lots of tables and views of the casino.
Although it’s pricey here, it’s worth sitting outside and having coffee just for the experience.
Casino de Monte-Carlo
Without a doubt the highlight of any visit to Monaco is Casino de Monte-Carlo, the most famous casino in the world. Built in 1865, the casino is synonymous with James Bond and is incredibly glamorous, with its Belle Époque architecture and flashy cars parked outside.
There’s no set dress code for the public areas such as the Atrium, the Café de la Rotonde and the Renaissance rooms for the slot machines, but it’s still advisable to dress smart-casual.
If you want to enter the gaming rooms, the dress code is smart, which means no shorts, sportswear, ripped jeans, sleeveless shirts, running shoes, flip flops or sandals. You have to be 18 years or older and you must bring a national identity card or passport.
Games available inside the casino include French Roulette, Trente et Quarante, Baccarat, Black Jack and Poker Texas Hold’em Ultimate.
Opening hours: Gaming rooms and bars are open 2pm-4am. The Salon Rose Restaurant and the Atrium’s artistic attractions are open from noon onwards.
Fairmont Hairpin Bend
The Fairmont Hairpin bend is one of the most famous parts of the Grand Prix racing track and is named after the nearby hotel. The F1 drivers have to focus very intensely as they navigate their way around this very tight bend.
You can visit this bend on foot and watch people drive their Porsches, Ferraris and luxury cars around the corner and down the hill towards the Japanese Garden.
Princess Grace Japanese Garden
After checking out the hairpin bend, walk along Avenue Princess Grace to Princess Grace Japanese Garden, which was designed by landscape architect Yasuo Beppu and commissioned by Prince Rainier III.
This lush garden was designed in accordance with the strictest principles of zen and features elements such as ponds, lanterns, waterfalls, bridges and a tea house.
The hedges, tiles, stone lanterns and woods were imported from Japan, while the plants are all Mediterranean and have been pruned to give them a Japanese appearance.
Next up you’ll either need to hop in a taxi or walk for 30 minutes to the Prince’s Palace. Located on a hill overlooking Monaco, the palace is the official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. Built from 1215, it was originally the western border fortress of the Republic of Genoa but became the residence of the Grimaldi family when, between the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century.
It’s a steep climb up to the palace along the Rampe de la Major, but you’ll be rewarded with some incredible views of the principality from up high.
A ticket to see the State Apartments inside the palace costs €10 euros and includes an audio guide. I really enjoyed this tour and it’s definitely worth the entrance fee to tour the opulent rooms. As you walk around the palace you’ll see the Palace Chapel, the Hercule Gallery, the Mirror Gallery, the Red Room, the York Room, the Yellow Room or Louis XV Bedroom, and the Throne Room.
Outside the palace there’s also lots to explore. Next to the palace lies the Old Town of Monaco, which is filled with more affordable cafes and restaurants.
There are also a number of attractions nearby, including Jardins Saint-Martin and St. Nicholas Cathedral, where Princess Grace was buried along with Prince Rainier III.
Further along from the Jardins Saint-Martin you’ll find the Oceanographic Museum, which has more than 6,000 specimens on display. The museum was founded by Prince Albert I, who was a pioneer in the world of oceanography and spent much of his life studying the oceans.
Inside the museum visitors can see aquariums filled with all sorts of sea life including sharks, piranhas, clownfish, stonefish, seahorses, jellyfish, moray eels and octopuses. On display you can also see a large selection of specimens including photographs, documents, model ships, skeletons, fossils and diving gear.
On your way back down the hill towards Port Hercule you’ll stumble across a sculpture of a picture frame that frames the view of the port. It’s a good spot for photos, so have your camera ready.
Happy Hour Drinks at Brasserie de Monaco
To cap off your Monaco day trip, head down to Brasserie de Monaco for Happy Hour. Open daily from 12pm to 2am, this bar overlooks Monaco harbor and brews its own beer in large vats on-site. There’s always a fun atmosphere here and considering how expensive Monaco is, the drinks deals are pretty good. Happy Hour runs from 6pm-8pm and includes 50% off drinks.
If you fancy bar hopping, nearby you’ll also find other popular haunts, including La Rascasse and Stars ‘N’ Bars.
If You Have More Time…
If you wake up super early and arrive in the morning, you may have time for other activities such as:
Plage du Larvotto
Need a break from sightseeing? Park your towel on Plage du Larvotto Beach, which is Monaco’s main beach with free public access. Since it’s a man made beach the sand is a bit gravelly but the water is nice and clear and there are a number of eateries on the promenade that surrounds it.
You can bring your own towel and sit on the sand, or you can hire a beach chair and umbrella from one of the beach cubs and order cocktails and food. It takes about 15 minutes to walk here from Casino de Monte-Carlo.
If you arrive in Monaco early in the morning you’ll have time to check out the beach, otherwise skip this part and stick around Place du Casino, Port Hercule and the Prince’s Palace.
Stade Nautique Rainier III
If you don’t want to trek all the way to Larvotto beach, take a dip in Monaco’s olympic-size swimming pool, Stade Nautique Rainier III. Filled with filtered and treated seawater, the pool is the perfect place to cool off from the summer heat.
Sun loungers and umbrellas are available for hire around the pool and there’s a restaurant called Le Nautic should you start feeling hungry.
Nikki Beach at Fairmont Monte Carlo
Want to relax and unwind at a trendy beach club? Nikki Beach has beach clubs around the world, including one in Monaco.
Overlooking the Mediterranean on the roof of the Fairmont Monte Carlo, Nikki Beach is a popular celebrity hangout boasting a glamorous pool, daybeds, cabanas and a gourmet restaurant. The club is open from April to September and always has a lively atmosphere, with entertainment from some of the world’s top DJs.
Built on a cliffside overlooking the sea and the Principality of Monaco, Jardin Exotique is filled with exotic cacti and succulents. The garden’s plants come from desert destinations around the world, including the U.S., Mexico, Central and South America, Africa and the Middle East.
At the bottom of the cliff there’s also a cave system filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Tickets to the garden cost €7.20 for adults/ €3.80 for kids and include entrance to the cave.
FAQs About Monaco, Answered
Yes, Monaco is a country. The Principality of Monaco is a sovereign city state, microstate and country. It’s the second smallest country in the world after Vatican City. Monaco lies on the French Riviera between Nice and Menton, about 15km from the Italian border.
Monaco is compact so one day is enough to see many of the major attractions. Since accommodation can be very expensive in Monaco, the cheapest way to visit is by doing a day trip. However, there are lots of attractions here so if you’re able to splash out, two days would mean your trip will be less rushed.
You can definitely see a lot in one day but if you want to see it all, I’d suggest spending two days in Monaco and staying overnight. With two days you have time to relax on Larvotto Beach, try a few restaurants and visit more attractions. However, Monaco is expensive, so most people just do a day trip to Monaco from Nice.
Yes Monaco is very safe, although watch out for thieves and keep an eye on your belongings. The first time I went thereI had my DSLR camera stolen there while at a bar. The police told me that since the people that visit Monaco are often wealthy, the principality is a prime target for thieves.
Monaco is famous for its Belle Epoque casino, prestige cars and F1 Grand Prix Track, Circuit de Monaco. The principality is also known for its opulent palace, which is home to the Grimaldi Famil
Absolutely! Monaco is definitely worth visiting. There’s no place in the world quite like it. Built on a steep hill, Monaco has elevators to take you up and down. It’s a unique place with lots of attractions, including gardens, museums, aquariums, casinos, beaches and some of the world’s ritziest restaurants.
The official language of Monaco is French although many residents also speak Italian and English.
While accommodation and hotels in Monaco are expensive, you can actually visit Monaco without spending much at all. In fact, I put together a whole guide on how to visit Monaco on a budget. Instead of staying overnight in Monaco, many people do a Nice to Monaco day trip and base themselves in Nice. The train and bus to Monaco are both affordable and you could save money by eating at fast food spots (yes there’s a McDonalds and a Starbucks) or buying groceries from the supermarket and having a picnic. Aside from spending money on entry to attractions, you can actually get away with spending very little.
A Final Word…
A day trip to Monaco is definitely something you consider if you’re visiting Nice or anywhere on the French Riviera. It’s easy to get to Monaco by train or bus, and affordable too. Dress up a little bit, explore the main attractions and perhaps even reserve a little bit of cash to have a flutter in the casino!