Monaco Day Trip
A day trip to Monaco is a fantastic idea for anyone who is paying a visit to the French Riviera for a holiday. Where else can you pay less than 2 Euros, hop on a bus and be in another country in an hour?
Monaco is a tiny little principality on the French Riviera with its own monarchy and governing system. It is actually the second smallest country in the world but punches well above its weight when it comes to wealth – one in three inhabitants of Monaco are millionaires!
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Where to stay in Monaco?
Getting to Monaco from the French Riviera
Since Nice is the largest city on the Riviera, this is where most people base themselves for their stay and hence this is where my directions stem from. However, if you’re further up the coast in Cannes, Antibes or St Tropez, then all you have to do is head toward Nice and then join up with these directions for your Monaco day trip.
Public Bus 100
The bus from Nice to Monaco is spectacular. A long stretch of windy coastal road can be a little hair raising at times, but it’s truly the best way to travel to Monaco because of the stunning views.
It’s also ridiculously cheap. It cost me 1.5 Euros for a one-way trip to another country. The driver will accept cash or you can use a pre-bought Ligne d’Azur day/week pass to Monaco.
If you look on Google Maps, they’ll recommend the train, but honestly, the bus is the region’s best kept secret. And I’m not talking about the Monaco Express bus, either. I’m talking the good old number 100 public bus to Monaco. Any other form of transport means you’ll miss all the scenery.
Catch the number 100 bus from the Port of Nice. Buses run every 15 minutes on weekdays (Lundi au Vendredi is Monday to Friday in French) and Saturdays (Samedi) and every 20 minutes on Sundays (Dimanche). A full timetable is located here.
The Port of Nice stop to catch the bus is located right at the top of the port next to the church. You’ll be able to spot it usually because there will be a line of tourists waiting. If you can, try to sit on the right side to catch the seaside views. Find a map to the stop here.
On the way back at the end of your Monaco day trip, you’ll catch the bus from Place des Moulins just off the main waterfront street. I had a little bit of trouble finding this stop, so click through for a map in case!
On the way back, sit on the left side of the bus and if you’re headed back around sunset, enjoy the spectacular colours streaking through the sky over the Mediterranean Sea for your 45 minute ride back to Nice.
There is a train from Gare de Nice Ville through to Gare de Monaco that will take a mere 25 minutes, however the scenery is best viewed from the bus, so I’d only recommend this if you are on a super tight timeframe for your Monaco day trip.
This will cost a little more, too, at just under 4 Euros one way.
If you’re brave enough to tackle the windy, coastal drive to Monaco, then you could always hire a car in town and hit up Monaco in style. For an Aussie girl, though, this was way to0 scary – we drive on the opposite side of the road in Australia and also I didn’t want to shell out the money for a hire car when I could pay 1.50 Euros and get the bus.
What to do in Monaco for the day?
Visit the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo
Opulence doesn’t get much grander than the incredible Casino de Monte-Carlo. This beautiful casino has been open since 1863 and is also home to the Monaco Ballet and Grand Theatre de Monaco.
Before entering the casino, make sure you get the money shot out the front where the full view of the elegant exterior of the building. Apparently, each year more than seven million people take a selfie right here!
Even if gambling isn’t your thing, tourists are able to enter the casino and wander the displays in the entrance hall without dropping any chips on the tables. Photos are OK in this entrance section and there are a couple of mock tables set up where you can pose as if you’re gambling – no photos are permitted inside the gaming area.
A trip further into the gaming area requires you to surrender your cameras and fork out around 17 Euros. I had no intention of gambling and on a budget, 17 Euros is a fair bit of money (about $27 AUD/ $19 USD), so I just stood at the entrance and took a peek in to see the tables in action. The building, itself, and the grounds were enough to captivate me on my Monaco day trip.
Walk along the waterfront
Starting from the casino, walk along the Monte Carlo waterfront towards the old town for spectacular views of the harbour. Keep an eye out for the enormous, luxury yachts belonging to the country’s rich and famous docked there – you might even see the Prince’s Royal Yacht whilst you walk.
As you walk towards the old town, you’ll be walking along the snaking circuit for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. There are houses built into cliff faces with views of the harbour to die for, so be sure to stop and take in the scenery on both sides. There are also plenty of stops along the walk for a leisurely lunch or a drink as you follow the signs to Palais Princier.
When you reach the top, you might be lucky enough to see the Changing of the Guards which happens just before midday each day. Even if you don’t make it for the spectacle, you’ll still see the guards standing in front of the palace in their uniforms.
I particularly enjoyed the story attached to the statue outside the Palais Princier detailing the story of François Grimaldi, who captured Monaco in 1927 by concealing his identity dressed as a Friar. Unfortunately for him, he only ruled for four years before being chased out!
Since it is still the residence of the Royal Family of Monaco, access inside the Palais Princier is varied, so definitely check the official site of the palace to determine opening hours and prices here. If you’re not able to get inside, there are also some beautiful images on the website showing you the grandeur of the royal apartments.
Wander the Old Town
The Palais Princier is just the beginning of a beautiful afternoon wandering Monaco’s old town. From the square where the palace stands, there are amazing views back down to the port and all around the coast to where the Casino de Monte-Carlo stands, still impressive from a distance.
Wander in and out of the narrow, European laneways in the old town, keeping your eyes peeled for beautifully restored old cars hearkening back to days gone by. There are also lovely gardens to explore once you’ve navigated the cobble stoned streets, offering perfect photo opportunities with exceptional views as the backdrop.
Another spectacular building to take in on the Rock of Monaco sits up here against the cliff edge – the enormous Musée Océanographique de Monaco which houses an aquarium and a deep history of marine biology founded by none other than Prince Albert I in 1910. I didn’t have time to go inside, but even from the outer, the building is breathtakingly beautiful.
Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate
This famous Roman-Byzantine style church, also known as St Nicholas Cathedral, is located in the old town and is home to the buried members of the Royal Family. The church was built in the early 1900s and features a great organ and striking white stones from the hilltop village, La Turbie, inland from the Riviera.
One of the most poignant areas of the inner cathedral is the tombs of American actor-turned-Princess, Grace Kelly and her husband Prince Rainer III. Princess Grace was tragically killed in a car accident in the 1980s and her funeral service was held in this very church. Her husband, Prince Rainier, joined her in burial at the church when he passed in 2005.
The cathedral is free to enter and explore, but like any place of worship, please respect the significance of the site as you wander the inside.
Watch the sunset over the Riviera
If you’ve taken my word for it and took the public bus, then aim to head back as the sun starts to go down to take in fantastic views of the sun setting over the Mediterranean Sea as the bus winds its way around the cliff edges.
For 1.5 Euros, this is the best value sunset view in town and you can relax as your bus driver takes you back to Nice.
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