Monaco, Provence: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Monaco in Alpes-Maritimes

Visit Monaco (Provence, France)


Monaco is not legally part of France but an independent principality, with its own royal family who have ruled Monaco since the 13th century. However we have included a guide to the highlights of since visitors to the Riviera, especially in the Nice area, will often spend a day visiting Monaco.

Despite its independence from France, most laws, and the defence of Monaco, are linked closely with those of France. There is no income tax for the inhabitants, and there are more police per square metre than any other country in the world to help control an extremely minimal crime problem. Monaco largely makes its money by being a tax exile for the rich, and from tourism.

Exploring Monaco

Main attractions

There are several principal sites of interest in Monaco:

Monte Carlo CasinoMonte Carlo: this is the central area of Monaco around Monte Carlo Casino and Opera. Built in the 19th century by Charles Garnier (also responsible for the Paris Opera), the inside of the building really is worth seeing for its opulence and grandeur (there is an admission charge of about 10 euros for the visit). The gardens around the casino are also very lovely (and free to enter).

Port Hercule: just to the west of Monte Carlo the large port and La Condamine area is the place to see the impressive yachts and enjoy a promenade around the harbour

Monaco Ville and Prince's Palace: the western side of the harbour is the peninsula that includes the cathedral (built in the 19th century in Byzantine style), the Palais de Justice and the Oceanography Museum and Aquarium. The views back across the harbour towards Monte Carlo are also very impressive.

The Prince's Palace here is one of the highlights of a visit to Monaco, with much to enjoy from 15th century frescoes to opulent 18th century state rooms.

Fontvieille and exotic gardens: this most western part of Monaco includes the Automobile Museum and one of the most attractive highlights - the Exotic Gardens. On the hill above south-west Monaco these gardens are exceptional, both for the cacti and plants and for the very impressive views out across the rooftops and the sea. There is also a cave of stalactites and stalagmites in the gardens.

Grimaldi Forum: to the north-east of Monte Carlo, the Grimaldi Forum is used for exhibitions that are often very interesting

Other places of interest

Other notable historical sites include the small Church of Saint-Devote, with a history dating back to the 11th century, and the 19th century Church of Saint-Charles. There are also several other gardens and parks of interest such as those around the casino; the Japanese Gardens; the zoo; and the gardens of Fontveille park.

Panorama across to monte Carlo

Monaco Shopping

Not surprisingly many of the luxury brands have set up shop in Monaco, but you will also find shops that are slightly less out of reach for mere mortals.

Fashion enthusiasts will want to head for the Carré d'Or, the area around the casino, to see the boutiques by famous names such as Gucci, Prada, Chanel and Christian Dior while the nearby Metropole center is worth visiting to see the luxurious shopping center itself even if you have no intention to buy anything.

A larger shopping centre can be found at Fontveille, and there are also numerous shops and boutiques in the streets behind Port Hercule.

Arriving in Monaco and visitor information

Exotic gardens in MonacoMost visitors to Monaco stay elsewhere on the Riviera and visit Monaco as a day trip. If this is your intention we recommend you arrive by train rather than car - the train station is conveniently placed in the center of Monaco just behind the main port, train fares are not expensive, and it is much easier than trying to navigate the roads and find a parking space (although we found parking less of a challenge than expected when we visited by car).

The downside of arriving by train is that you might miss the views across Monaco from the corniche road that passes above the city - on a clear day these views are exceptional. From here Monaco is a remarkable sight, with high-rise buildings and apartments seemingly covering every square inch, like an undersized Manhattan squeezed into a natural bay of the Riviera.

Although Monaco is not very large it can become tiring to explore after a while. You might consider buying a one day ticket for the tourists buses that carry visitors around the town. They offer a frequent service and pass close to all the major places of interest in Monaco - but they aren't cheap (17 euros per adult and 7 euros for children up to 11 years old.

Although Monaco is an expensive destination and there are many ways to spend large amounts of money (especially hotels, luxury shops and restaurants) the attractions are good value compared wiith other places along the Riviera (e.g. 7 euros to visit the exotic gardens and 7 euros to visit the Prince's Palace).

Monaco Grand Prix

The internationally renowned Monaco Grand Prix is held in the second week of May. The perfect time to visit if you are an enthusiast of the sport, less so otherwise!

Accommodation is even more expensive than normal during the Grand Prix, but as mentioned you can easily stay in Nice or elsewhere on the coast and arrive by train.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Alpes-Maritimes guide and the Provence guide.

See also:

Map of Monaco and places to visit

Visit near Monaco with France This Way reviews

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Alpes-Maritimes

Address: Monaco, Alpes-Maritimes, Provence, 0, France || GPS: latitude 43.75, longitude 7.4128

Plan your visit to Monaco, Provence

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Trophy of Augustus: national monument
  • Tete de Chien: site of natural beauty (2km)
  • Sainte-Agnes: most beautiful village (7km)
  • La citronneraie: remarkable garden (8km)
  • Palais Carnolès: remarkable garden (8km)
  • Serre de la Madone: remarkable garden (8km)
  • Menton: secteur sauvegarde (8km)
  • Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild: remarkable garden (9km)
  • Parc zoologique du Cap Ferrat: zoo or wildlife park (10km)
  • Cascade de Gairaut: site of natural beauty (12km)

The French version of this page is at Monaco (Francais)