On our 3 day trip to Nice, we decided to take a quick day trip into Monaco. I'm on a mission to visit as many countries as the number of years old that I am, so this was an easy one to add, and we had heard it had a different vibe than Nice did. Some interesting facts about Monaco:
Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, with a population of ~30,000 people. It's the most densely populated country in the world.
~30% of the population in Monaco are millionaires; this explains the overwhelming amount of fancy cars. I've never seen so many Lamborghinis, BMWs, and Mercedes in one place.
Natives of Monaco cannot gamble; if you want to gamble at the Monte Carlo, you need to bring a passport to prove you're not a citizen.
The Casino de Monte Carlo was built is 1863, and 3 James Bond films have been filmed here.
Getting from Nice to Monaco
We took the train in from Nice Ville station and it was easy - it was 24 minutes, and the train came every 30 minutes. The price of a one-way ticket is 3.90€. Once we arrived in Monaco, we walked about 15-20 minutes to the Prince's Palace of Monaco. The walk was downhill, so it wasn't too bad.
The buildings in Monaco are beautiful and range are soft pastel or soft terracotta colors. The streets are impeccably clean, and the city almost has an Italian costal city feel to it, with colors similar to Cinque Terre. Obviously, it has a lot of influence from Italy since it's super close to there.
Palais Princier de Monaco / Prince's Palace of Monaco
We came here for the changing of the guards, which starts at 11:55 am; if you want to get a spot closer to the front, get there closer to 11:20-11:30 am. We got there around 11:40 am and we were behind 2-3 rows of people, and it was low-season and rainy, so I imagine this gets even more crowded in peak season. And if you're short (like me), you won't be able to see much once the guards start the procession/ceremony, because everyone in front of me wanted to videotape the whole 5-10 min thing (as if they were really going to watch all of it over and over again). It's not a concert, there's no need to film everything. It was interesting to watch, but I wouldn't go out of my way to come here just for this; if you happen to be in the area at the time and are planning to come to the Palace anyways, then you can watch it. Otherwise, you can leisurely make your way to the Palace, see the guards outside. The best part of coming to the Palace is to catch the beautiful views of the sea and the buildings.
The cathedral was pretty, and flanked by palm trees and just a few minutes away (by foot) from the Palace. We did a quick 5-10 minute lap inside; many of the Grimaldis are buried here, as is Grace Kelly. The wedding of Grace Kelly also took place here, and you can see an old photo across from the cathedral of the wedding.
Monaco Top Cars Collection
After having lunch, we spent about an hour or hour and a half at the Monaco Top Cars Collection museum. At the end of the 1950s, Prince Rainier III began collecting old cars, and in 1993 he decided to open his collection to the public. He was also running out of space in his garage to house all the cars.
- Open 7 days a week, from 10 am - 6 pm
- Admission is 6.50€ for adults, 3€ for children (6-16 years old)
This is worth a stop if you're interested in cars, or if your husband/significant other/someone in your group is interested in cars. They show the very early buggies from the early 1900s, all the way to the Formula 1 cars, and Lamborghinis, Bugattis, and lots of other expensive cars. I've never seen so many expensive cars in one place, nor have I ever seen so many guys taking pictures inside a museum with awe-struck looks on their faces.
Monte Carlo Casino
We then walked from the car museum to the casino, which was only about a 15 minute walk. The casino is enormous, but you have to pay 12€ to actually be able to go and gamble on the tables and see the rest of the casino. The lobby area has a ton of plants, a wooden swing and birdcages with iPads inside, showing pictures of the birds, which was a little odd. I was too cheap to pay to gamble -- also there's a dress code, so come prepared (no shorts, flip flops, etc). I played on the slot machines and won a whopping 4€, which was better than nothing! If you win big, you can check out the luxury stores across the street from the casino (Louis Vuitton, Celine, Prada) -- most of them are handbag and/or jewelry stores. For those who are Grand Prix fanatics, you can walk 5-10 min and see the infamous hairpin turn.
Also, the number of luxury cars in the parking lot of the casino is quite impressive - I've never seen so many expensive cars in one place!
Scenic Bus Ride from Monaco to Nice
If you're not pressed for time and/or you want to save money, you can take the Bus #100. Also, it was an uphill trek to get back to the train station, and I was tired from walking, so this seemed like the best option. For just 1.50€ per person, you can take the bus back to the old part of Nice, and there's a pick-up location just a few minutes walking from the Monte Carlo Casino. If you take the bus from Nice to Monaco, sit on the right hand side of the bus to get a good view of the water. If you're taking the bus from Monaco back to Nice, sit on the left hand side. The bus takes about 40 minutes and it's a much nicer view of the water than the view you get from the train. We wanted to end up in downtown Nice anyways (instead of the Nice-Ville station, so this was a good option for us)
Food in Monaco
The food in Monaco tends to be pretty touristy and more expensive than what you'll find in Nice. There's a lot of Italian food, sandwiches, and crepes to be had. We had Italian food was just fine, and we had lunch close to the Prince's Palace, but I'd recommend having just one meal in Monaco and then having dinner back in Nice.