A small-city state sitting on the famous French Riviera, Monaco is best known for the Monte Carlo Casino, hosting the Formula One Grand Prix, and its ties to the famous American actress, Grace Kelly. A playground for the wealthy and elite, the country is bordered by France and the Mediterranean Sea.
Considered one of the most expensive places in the world, Monaco exudes luxury through its architecture, accommodations, and high-end restaurants. The backdrop to famous films, a trip here will leave you with unforgettable memories.
Bienvenu – Welcome to Monaco!
Beyond the glitz and shine of the “Billionaire’s Playground”, Monaco does have a hidden charm. The old town architecture and quiet side streets are vastly different from the hustle and bustle of the main port.
While the twisted streets throughout Monaco are typically less packed than those centered around the waterfront, they do come alive during the Formula One race as the driver’s wind and turn throughout the hillside. But even in the off-season, Monaco is still an impressive destination with its displays of pure wealth.
Due to Monaco being smaller than Central Park in New York City, this city-state is its own capital. The capital of Monaco is Monaco. There is no one specific area within Monaco that is defined as a true capital. But Monaco is divided up into four quarters, which are then further divided into a total of 10 wards between them.
Monte Carlo is the most famous quarter, but the oldest quarter is Monaco-Ville. La Condamine is another ward and the newest ward that Monaco made is named Fontvieille.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
The geography of Monaco has actually played a very important part in the city-state’s history. The Rock of Monaco is a large geological landmark, which was once used by early humans as a place of shelter. Throughout history, the Rock of Monaco has developed, and it was turned into a fortress in more modern times.
By the year 1297, the Rock of Monaco was seized by Francesco Grimaldi. This began the reign of the Grimaldi Royal Family, who ruled over Monaco for hundreds of years. Monaco was briefly under French Occupation, but even after France relinquished its power over the city-state the Grimaldi family regained power.
Even now, the House of Grimaldi rules over Monaco with the current head being Albert II. Monaco is also rather diverse and it is estimated that up to 75% of the residents are foreign-born.
However, most of Monaco’s diversity comes from France, Italy, Germany, England, Switzerland, and America. But the local culture is most strongly influenced by the nearby countries of France, Spain, and Italy.
The most notable influence of France is the language. French is the official language in Monaco. About 58% of the country’s 39,520 citizens (as of 2021) uses French in their daily life. However, other languages spoken in Monaco include Monégasque, Italian, and English.
With such a large international community, it’s estimated that up to 8.5% of residents in Monaco speak English. Most of the English speakers reside in their own community within Monaco, but with tourism being so important for the city, English is a popular common language.
While Monaco has a very, very high status and association with wealth, the country can be visited on a budget. While it isn’t the most affordable destination in Europe, it also isn’t the most expensive. Tourists can find ways to save money in Monaco or spend lavishly.
Outlining a spending budget and travel plan can help you estimate the costs of your trip, which includes airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation. It’s important that you book and plan ahead to save money as well as ensure you find a place to stay, as they tend to fill quickly.
One of the first challenges and a big portion of your budget will go towards the airline ticket to get you to Europe. Most people who visit Monaco will fly into Côte d’Azur Airport in Nice, France because it’s only about 18 miles away from the border.
The average cost of a flight from the US to Nice is close to one thousand dollars, but due to the popularity of the French Riviera, you may be able to find special deals that lower the cost. Flight costs will also be higher if you travel during the peak tourist season. Summer is the high season in Monaco with most tourists visiting the city in June and August.
This is the time when the city is at its busiest and advanced booking or reservations are a must, even for dinner. However, there are also big peaks in tourism in May and September, which is when the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monaco Yacht Show are held annually.
It’s during these times that it’s very important to book your accommodation arrangements well in advance of your arrival in Monaco. There are not many hostels in Monaco, but there are a few scattered throughout the city, however, they are expensive. Dorm rooms are cheaper, and you should be able to find a bed for a decent price.
Most travelers are more comfortable with non-shared accommodations and there are plenty of hotels in Monaco that offer services to tourists. Budget hotels will be the most affordable and have nightly rates over one hundred dollars. Midrange hotels will be more expensive, and you should expect to pay a few hundred per night for a room.
With plenty of luxurious offerings throughout Monaco, you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars per night for your accommodation. Airbnb is also an option in Monaco, but the rentals tend to be quite pricey. If you’re traveling in a group, splitting the cost of an Airbnb can help you save some money on your trip.
While staying in Monaco is only one part of a luxury experience, visitors are also eager to head out to the local restaurants. With influence from nearby countries like France and Italy, as well as being seafront, the cuisine in Monaco is quite diverse.
Barbajuan is the national dish of Monaco and it comes from France and Italy. The dish is most well-known for being an appetizer of fried ricotta cheese and Swiss chard. For the love of the sea, bouillabaisse is a fish stew, which has become very popular in Monaco. Freshly caught, the fish are cooked into a rouille sauce and served alongside bread.
Another favorite dish is gnocchi, which is a soft dumpling that originated in Italy. Italy’s famous Porchetta is another dish that has transferred well into Monaco’s cuisine and the meat is flavored with strong spices.
Monaco also has their own type of crepe, which they call socca. Socca has become very popular as a street food in Monaco and the small pancakes are often served hot and garnished with vegetables.
Lastly, for dessert, you may want to try galapian. This sweet dish is a small tart that features cantaloupe, cherry, and almond as the main flavors.
While you may be eager to dive into the local cuisine, you do need to be mindful of your budget. Restaurants are expensive in Monaco and if you want the best dishes, you should be ready to pay higher prices.
The best restaurants in Monaco will cater to the wealthy, which means that a meal could cost an exorbitant amount. There are also world-class and Michelin-star awarded locations throughout Monaco, such as the famous Le Louis XV Alain Ducasse. If you choose to go to these kinds of establishments, you should expect to pay hundreds.
While most meal prices do not include drinks, you should also be careful about how much you spend on alcohol, if you’re trying to be mindful of your budget. But similar to restaurants, there is a big range in prices for drinks.
How to Get Around
While Monaco is small, that doesn’t mean that you always want to have to walk everywhere. In a city that’s smaller than the size of Central Park in NYC, you can walk, but there are plenty of options for public and private transportation too.
Walking is the best way to get around Monaco because it is free and allows you to explore more of the city. But with there being four different areas within Monaco, you may also be interested in taking a public bus or hiring a taxi.
There are a few different buses that service Monaco and its different areas. Most buses are very affordable and a single ride costs a few dollars. There’s a daily tourist pass available that has no ride limit. If you’re staying in Monaco for more than a day and plan on hopping around, this is the best deal for visitors.
Taxis are another option, however, they can be quite expensive. With regular traffic in Monaco, most taxi rides will cost a fair amount, but if you’re traveling out of Monaco to Nice, you should expect to pay a much larger sum.
Another affordable way to get around Monaco is on the water with a water taxi. These types of taxis are popular with many tourists because they let you see great views of the coast, while also transporting you to your next destination. Water taxis also have similar rates to public buses and some companies do offer a single-day or multi-day pass.
Best Places to Visit
Monaco is a small place but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be stuck in one area. There are four different quarters in Monaco, and each has a small section of wards. Here is an overview of each quarter in Monaco and what makes it a tourist attraction.
What is known as the quarter of Monaco or Monaco-Ville is located close to the Rock of Monaco. This area is also the place where the Royal Palace is built, and it houses the Oceanographic Museum.
As the oldest part of Monaco, this quarter is a popular tourist spot due to the various restaurants and boutiques that line the streets. Monaco-Ville also tends to be the most historic area in Monaco, which is where you can visit the colorful European houses and walk the narrow streets.
Monte Carlo is the most famous area in Monaco because it houses the most popular residential and resort areas. Most tourism is focused on Monte Carlo due to famous landmarks like the Hotel de Paris and the Monte Carlo Casino.
This is also the place where people go shopping for luxury goods. The area is consistently kept in a pristine state and many visitors will often comment that it takes perfection to the next level.
La Condamine is another historic part of Monaco, which is known for being the oldest commercial area in the city-state. This quarter is located in the northwest of Monaco and it encompasses the famous Port Hercule.
This neighborhood is also famous for its market, which is open every day of the year. The market is quite beautiful because of its indoor and outdoor settings.
Fontvieille is the newest part of Monaco that was once a part of the sea. The area has been reclaimed and built to house a few of Monaco’s industries. Some of the most popular industries include a brewery, chocolate plants, and a flour mill.
However, with the popularity of Fontvieille expanding throughout the years, there are now residential and commercial business areas too.
Points of Interest
With plenty of attractions to visit, you’ll find that your itinerary in Monaco will be packed full of adventure. Whether you enjoy gorgeous architecture, a bit of gambling, or spending time at the beach, there are plenty of places to explore. Here are some of the top tourist attractions in Monaco.
Palais du Prince
The Royal Palace of the Grimaldi family is open to the public for tours when the Prince is not currently home. A flag outside the Palais du Prince tells you the Prince’s status and if it is raised, it means he is currently in the castle and it is closed to visitors.
On the contrary, when the palace is open, you’re free to book a tour and explore the palace grounds and gardens.
Monte Carlo Casino
Built in 1893, the Monte Carlo Casino is perhaps the most famous place in all of Monaco. The casino is known for its extravagant style and beauty.
With plenty of game rooms, the interior of the casino has also been garnished with fancy chandeliers and stunning works of art. Monte Carlo Casino has also been immortalized in film and was most recently used as a location in the James Bond movie, Casino Royale.
Sitting right on the cliffside above the sea, the Musée Oceanographique is one of the oldest aquariums in the entire world. The museum is home to plenty of artifacts that have been used in oceanography and it features collections of previous explorers like Prince Albert I and Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
The Monaco Cathedral is a famous landmark in Monaco because it houses the remains of Monaco’s past royal family members. Some of the famous royals who have been buried in the church include Prince Rainier III and his wife, the American actress, Grace Kelly who became the Princess of Monaco.
The cathedral is open to the public and is well-known for its all-white stone exterior.
Larvotto Beach is one of the few public beaches in Monaco, which has made it a popular tourist destination. The beach’s close proximity to the Avenue Princess Grace also places it near the center of Monaco’s most popular shops, hotels, and restaurants.
The beach is kept clean and the water is netted off to protect swimmers from jellyfish. There are also local companies that rent out kayaks and jet skis.
“Deo Juvante” (“With God’s Help”)
With so much to see and plenty of iconic places, it is easy to understand why Monaco has become such a hotspot for vacations. The extreme wealth of the area has made Monaco a unique country that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Whether you just want to explore the area or visit some of Monaco’s icons, the city will welcome you with open arms. You can plan your trip for the high season or enjoy some fancy events in the off-season to make your experience in Monaco complete.
Visit Monaco’s official tourism website.