It’s considered part of the French Riviera, has its own principality and therefore, (besides Vatican City,) this seaside destination built into the base of the French Alps is one of the smallest “countries” in the world. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded in high class luxory.
Getting there and getting around:
The nearest airport is Nice which is about a half hour train ride away. The train (both regional and inter regional if you are coming over the boarder from Italy) lets you out right in front of the port and runs pretty consistently. The public bus system that runs through the principality is quite easy, efficient, runs for one euro, and highly recommended to get from one hilltop to the next if you are limited on time.
Tip: There are elevators and tunnels at various places throughout the city to move you up and down quickly. Keep an eye out for them, or you’ll be hiking quite up alot stairs! Also, the marina runs a water taxi (by local transportation) which will take you from one end of the marina across to the other side (and give you a short tour past some of the luxurious yachts.)
There are many things to see here without costing you a fortune (as long as you don’t spend all your money in the casinos.) Many of the activities are even free. English is commonly spoken because of the high amount of cruises and tourists that come through, and it can be quite glamorous to spend an afternoon amongst the rich and famous (not to mention, you’ll have buns of steel by the time you’re done after all that hiking.)
What to See: The Prince’s Palace and the surrounding gardens, as well as the Old town sit on top of the hill overlooking Port Hercules to the one side, with stunning views of the Mediterranean on the other. (The above picture was taken from there.)
You will also find the Musee Oceano-graphique in this area , with paths that lead down towards more secluded and private beaches (perfect for a picnic and a snorkel in the clear waters if you bring your own mask.) In the summer, English movies are played in the outdoor cinema under the stars. Beer and snacks can be purchased in the snack bar, then relax in a comfy love seat or lawn chair and enjoy the show. You can view movies and show times at http://monaco.angloinfo.com/information/movies.asp
Take a stroll around the marina past all of the yachts in Port Hercules and maybe spot a celebrity or two. In the summer if you want a break from the salt water, swim in the Olympic size swimming pool with a high dive and waterslide for the kids. Also, firework competitions run throughout the summer months hosted by various countries, and can be a spectacular display.
Walk through the famous tunnel where the “Grand Prix” is held each year which will lead you to Princess Grace Kelly Japanese Gardens and the “Promenade of Champions” (another nice path along the Mediterranean sea which end at a public beach with jet ski rentals as well as beach bars and lounge cars.)
Be sure to make your way up to Monte Carlo and Casino Square, sit down and have a cappuccino in the famous “Café de Paris” or try your luck in one of the casinos (just make sure you are dressed in proper attire.) You can find lots of luxury shopping here, just don’t count on finding many bargains.
In Fontvieille you will find a smaller port, as well as an automobile and stamp museum and a zoological garden great for small children. There is also a shopping center in this area, a Carrefore (a European chain similar to Walmart) and plenty of fast food restaurants.
You’ll find a large assortment of bars and nightclubs especially around the port. Again, be prepared for steep prices, unless you make it during Happy Hour. To make your drinking budget last, head to Rascasse bar along the port which offers a happy hour until 11pm (half price on all drinks!) There are plenty of restaurants along the port as well as up near the casino (My favorite is Budha Bar which is a great sushi bar and then turns into a night club in the evenings. )
If you are looking to eat on the cheap, the grocery store across from the port appropriately named ‘Casino’ has a small pizzaria offering pizza by the slice. You will also find fast food places up near the Zoo as well as a McDonalds just on the other side of the tunnel.
If you are wanting to splurge, stay in the one of the famous Fairmont Hotel or the Hotel de Paris. For the budget minded, there are some smaller hotels in Beau Soleil (just over the boarder on the french side.) There are no hostels in Monaco, but in neighboring Cap D’Ail (which is the next train stop over) there is a beautiful independent hostel nestled right in the cliffs (and the view is stunning!) Although a little far to walk, it is possible to get to Monaco from there (and not too expensive if you need to catch a cab back later that night.)