Located along the Mediterranean shores, Monaco’s principality is more than just a hub for the rich and famous. Beyond its luxurious yachts, grand casinos, and renowned Formula 1 race, Monaco is the perfect vacation spot for those wanting to experience a unique vacation spot.
Compared to other parts of the French Riviera, Monaco presents a unique fusion of luxury, culture, and cosmopolitan energy in a compact space. Whether you’re an adventurer, a romantic, a gambler, or simply looking to relax in luxury, there are things to do in Monaco for everyone.
Facts About Monaco
- Where is Monaco? Monaco is a sovereign city-state on the French Riviera in Western Europe.
- How Big is Monaco? Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, with an area of just about 2.02 square kilometers (0.78 square miles).
- Monaco Population: Monaco has a population of approximately 38,000 people.
- Monaco Safety: Monaco has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. It has more police officers per capita than any other country.
- Official Language of Monaco: The official language is French, although English, Italian, and Monégasque are also spoken.
- Monaco Currency: The official currency is the Euro (€).
- Head of State: Monaco is a constitutional monarchy with Prince Albert II as its reigning monarch as of 2021.
Best Time to Visit Monaco
Monaco is great to visit any time of year and offers unique things to see, no matter when you come. The best time to visit will depend on your personal preferences.
- Spring (April to June): Spring begins the warm season when temperatures rise and flowers bloom. It’s also the time when the legendary Formula 1 race, the Monaco Grand Prix, is held. While the atmosphere is electrifying, it’s also one of the busiest times, so advance bookings are essential.
- Summer (July to August): This is the peak of the tourist season, and Monaco will be alive with beachgoers and vacationers. Nightlife will be in full swing, and yachts will line the harbor. Outdoor events are happening every week. While the ambiance is lively, it’s also when Monaco is most crowded, and accommodation rates are at their highest.
- Fall (September to November): Monaco becomes a quieter destination as the summer crowds disappear. The sea stays warm enough for a quick dip, and cultural events like the Monaco Yacht Show in September attract a sophisticated crowd. The cooler temperatures make it ideal for walks around the city-state.
- Winter (December to March): Winter in Monaco is a great time to enjoy Monaco’s indoor attractions, from its casinos to its world-class museums. They will be far less crowded than during the high season. While the temperatures are cooler and not ideal for beach activities, its proximity to the Southern Alps makes it a convenient base for those looking to hit the ski slopes.
Monte Carlo Casino
The marquee attraction in Monaco is the Monte Carlo Casino. This jaw-dropping Belle Epoque building was built in the 19th century and is the brainchild of the brilliant Charles Garnier. But it’s not just about rolling the dice and hoping for a lucky streak here. Stepping inside feels like a different world with its stunning decor and detailed sculptures. If you’re thinking of swinging by after sunset, the casino’s dress code is pretty strict after 8 p.m. It’s all part of the vibe, making you feel like you’ve entered a glitzy, old-world movie scene.
Set high on the Rocheror (or big rock), the Prince’s palace is not just a grand building but the actual home of the royal Grimaldi family. Walking up the steps to the palace feels like flipping through the pages of a history book. If you’re around at 11:55 AM, attend the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony. During the summer, you can book a tour through parts of the palace, like the Regal State Apartments. Before you leave, do yourself a favor and take a moment (or several) in the Palace Square. The views over the city and harbor are gorgeous and are a perfect place to snap pictures.
Dreamed up by Prince Albert I in 1910, the Oceanographic Museum is a tribute to the magnificence of the Mediterranean Sea. Inside, you will see various marine habitats and creatures from all over the ocean. As you explore, check out the aquarium, get up close (but not too personal) with the residents of the Shark Lagoon, and take a stroll to the “Turtle Bubble” on the terrace. This enclosed area is a perfect habitat for sea turtles. The deck also offers breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Jardin Exotique
Perched on the cliffs of Monaco’s rugged terrain, the Jardin Exotique offers a botanical escape from the city below. This stunning garden is focused on plants from the world’s arid regions and is packed with cool cacti and unique succulents. As you meander through its terraced paths, you are treated to one of the best views of the principality below. The garden’s elevation and unique microclimate allow for rare species to grow. If you’re into nature, you’ve got to check it out.
St. Nicholas Cathedral
Saint Nicholas Cathedral is a stunning 19th-century Romanesque Byzantine masterpiece in the center of Monaco. While it is beautiful architecturally, the cathedral is also the final resting place for the Grimaldi family, including the beloved Princess Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier. People come from all over to pay respects to the former Hollywood star and her husband. When you step inside, you will see the Great Altar and the impressive Episcopal throne, crafted from pristine white marble. You can even attend a service at the cathedral in Monaco on Sundays.
Monaco Grand Prix
When you think of Monaco, you probably picture that epic F1 Grand Prix race, right? During race weekend, the typically quiet streets are replaced with the mighty roars of engines of the world’s most elite motor race. The event blends luxury with sheer adrenaline. Tickets are hard to come by, but if you are lucky to score a seat trackside, you will be treated to an energetic crowd and the extreme driving precision of the drivers as they whip around the narrow curves. Remember to book early, as accommodations fill up fast.
Charter a Yacht
Chartering a yacht from Monaco’s harbor lets you create your own adventure. Rental agencies offer everything from quiet, relaxing getaways to party yachts geared towards celebrations and controlled mayhem. The journey is yours to decide. Sail to the picturesque Villefranche-sur-Mer or venture further into the open sea. And if you need clarification on the best spots, a handy tip is to lean on the expertise of your crew. Often, they’ll know secret coves and perfect anchorages that aren’t on any map.
Enjoy Beautiful Beaches
Monaco is famous for its beaches. The coastlines and bright blue water are perfect for sunbathing and relaxation. Larvotto Beach is a public beach loved by everyone, locals and tourists alike, because it’s clean and right next to some tasty cafes and beachside eats. If you want a fancier experience, Monaco’s private beach clubs are the answer. They might come with a fee, but the trade-off is enjoying a cool cocktail on your private beach lounger in the Riveria sun.
Monaco is also a playground for watersport enthusiasts. Dive into the blue waters for a day of paddleboarding or feel the adrenaline rush as you jet ski across the water with the iconic Monte Carlo skyline as your backdrop. For those seeking an aerial perspective, parasailing offers a bird’s-eye view of the principality. Consider snorkeling to enjoy a view beneath the surface, teeming with marine life unique to the Riviera. Local water sports rental merchants ensure safety and top-notch equipment to ensure you have the best experience.
Monaco doesn’t sleep when the sun goes down. When it gets dark, The nightlife is just ramping up. Whether you’re into fancy clubs, rooftop bars with killer views, or cozy lounges, there’s something for everyone. However, remember that Monaco’s glamour often comes with high price tags. Many venues uphold strict dress codes, so double-check the dress code before heading out. Let’s make it a night to remember!
HSH Prince of Monaco Car Collection
Located in Monaco’s Fontvieille district, the HSH Prince of Monaco Car Collection was created and curated over decades by Prince Rainier III and is now overseen by his son, Prince Albert II. This museum is an ode to the evolution of the automobile. Housing more than 100 vehicles, the collection showcases the elegance of vintage models to the cutting-edge technology of modern supercars.
As you walk through the expansive space, check out the classic Rolls-Royces, the Bugattis, and Formula 1 race cars. This isn’t just a showcase of luxury but a testament to Monaco’s enduring love affair with the motoring world. The models are meticulously preserved, making it a must-visit for car enthusiasts and casual visitors looking to glimpse Monaco’s passion for automobiles.
Cruise the French Riviera
Embark on a self-driving tour of the French Riviera with NiceCar Tour Company. Imagine cruising down the sun-drenched roads in an open-top, three-wheeled vehicle. The wind in your hair and the panoramic views of the Mediterranean to your periphery are exhilarating. When driving your own motor vehicle, you will follow a tour guide who will guide you up and down the Cote d’Azur, stopping at different locations along the way. You will explore small fishing villages, stop at a perfume factory, and take in the breathtaking sights. This is one of the best experiences in the French Riviera.
Rent a Luxury Car
Renting a luxury car in a place as wealthy as Monaco can make you feel right at home. From sleek Ferraris to elegant Rolls-Royces, the choices available in Monaco cater to every taste, allowing visitors to slide into the driver’s seat of their dream car.
However, with this elite mode of travel comes the practicality of parking. Monaco’s compact nature, coupled with its popularity, means that parking can be a little tricky. Opt for secured underground parking facilities or hotel valets to ensure your prized rental remains safe. And while driving through the winding streets, remember to soak in the envious glances your luxury ride attracts, but also stay aware of the principality’s strict parking protocols.
Shopping in Monaco
While Monaco is a haven for the affluent, that doesn’t mean that it only offers a luxury shopping experience. Take a little detour, and you’ll find Condamine Market. This bustling market is perfect if you want to experience local culture. You can savor traditional Monegasque food and buy local goodies.
But if you’ve got a thing for designer labels, Monte-Carlo’s Metropole Shopping complex is your playground. This is where high-end brands flaunt their finest collections, making it a must-visit for fashionistas. You will also find unique boutiques with handcrafted goods and one-of-a-kind treasures that capture the vibe of Monaco.
Eat at a Michelin Star Restaurant
Monaco offers gastronomic experiences that are nothing short of exceptional. At the iconic Hôtel de Paris, you’ll find Le Louis XV, a three-star Michelin restaurant featuring Riviera-inspired flavors. For those preferring organic delights, Elsa sits by the Mediterranean and serves seafood masterpieces and unique desserts. Don’t forget that no meal in Monaco is complete without indulging yourself with one of its local wines from a local vineyard.
How to Get to and Around Monaco
- Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport (NCE): Located just 22 kilometers from Monaco, this airport is the primary gateway for international travelers. It connects major cities worldwide to the French Riviera.
- From the airport, Monaco is a quick helicopter ride away (crazy, right?) with the Monacair company for a reasonable price.
Arriving by Rail
- Monaco-Monte Carlo Railway Station: The Principality is well connected by the French rail system. High-speed trains like the TGV frequently stop here, linking Monaco to French cities and other European destinations.
- On Foot: Given its compact size, many of Monaco’s landmarks are best explored on foot.
- Public Transportation: Monaco has an efficient and modern public transportation system. The Compagnie des Autobus Monaco (CAM) operates several bus lines that crisscross the principality, making it easy for tourists to hop from one attraction to another. It is recommended to download the Monapass app for tickets.
Renting a Car
- Advantages: Renting a car gives you the flexibility to venture out and explore the neighboring French or Italian Riviera. Multiple car rental agencies are available in Monaco.
- Parking Considerations: Monaco is renowned for its limited parking spaces, and its streets can get busy. It’s essential to be aware of how to park in Monaco.
Things to Do in Monaco on Vacation
Monaco is a small spot on the map in the heart of the French Riviera, but it packs a big punch that can rival countries twice its size.
You might expect flashy cars and luxurious casinos (and trust me, there is plenty of that), but you will discover that there is so much more.
While it’s easy to be swayed by its “over the top” reputation, the real Monaco lies in its tiny alleys, panoramic views, historic sites, and the warmth of its people.
The next time you plan a European vacation, consider Monaco one of your destinations, as the best things come in small packages.
Haley Gleason is the founder of the Gleason Family Travels blog. Her passion is helping ordinary families have extraordinary travel experiences.