Monte Carlo, the central quarter of the principality of Monaco, is still the playground of choice for the rich and famous. The yachts are as big as mansions, champagne is the national drink and even the railway station looks like a pharaoh’s tomb. But while a Premiership star’s salary would help you enjoy the finer luxuries of this haven on the Mediterranean coast, anyone can savour its fine gardens, clean streets, sensational views and the world’s grandest aquarium. So here’s our top 5 things to do in Monaco…
1. Visit the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
Founded in 1910 by Prince Albert I (also a sea captain), this museum/aquarium is one of the must-sees. The prince went on dozens of expeditions, and the exhibits are the fruits of his explorations: For example, the skeleton of a whale featured in the museum’s zoology room. And the aquarium — widely considered one of the best in Europe — contains more than 90 tanks, one of which is a shark lagoon.
Open daily year-round, with different hours based on the month you visit, tickets cost €14 EUR. For more information, visit the website.
2. Visit Monte-Carlo Casino in Casino Square
Perhaps the attraction that best exemplifies Monaco’s capital city is its casino. The building’s Beaux-Arts design was overseen by Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris Opera. And likewise, this grand casino also contains the city’s opera and ballet. If this complex looks familiar, it’s because you might’ve seen it before in the James Bond films, “Never Say Never Again” and “Goldeneye.” It was also the inspiration for the casino in Ian Fleming’s first Bond book, Casino “Royale”.
To get in, you must be 18 years old, properly attired (the more glamorous, the better) and you must pay the €10 EUR fee. After that, it’s up to you as to how much money you want to lose, ahem spend, at roulette, black jack, the slots, etc.
3. Visit Monte-Carlo Harbor
Monte-Carlo Harbor features some of the most luxurious scenery that Monaco has to offer. This is a great place for a leisurely stroll as it is filled with impressive yachts and surrounded by beautiful buildings. You can even catch the 2-euro Bateau Bus (water taxi) from this harbor which is a cheap way to take in all the sights while relaxing. A cruise ship pier was built in 2003, so the harbor is constantly buzzing with the rush of new and energized people every couple of days. The view here is enough to keep you plenty busy, and with a plethora of bars and restaurants you may never want to leave. Occasionally, you will even see local fishing crews mending their nets in the harbor.
4. Visit Larvotto Beach
One of Monaco’s most popular beaches, Larvotto is a free-to-the-public shore located just a few-minutes’ walk from Monte-Carlo. But like many French Riviera beaches, this one has pebbles rather than sand, so bring some sturdy shoes and be prepared to shell out some euros for a chair rental.
5. Visit Prince’s Palace
This lavish Monaco-Ville palace is home to the prince. The royal residence has sheltered the Grimaldi family (of the 13th century) and Prince Rainier III and his lovely wife, Princess Grace (of the 20th century). Today, Rainier’s son and heir, Prince Albert II, calls the Palais du Prince home. Many recommend at least stopping by the palace on your Monaco vacation, even if you’re not up for a tour of the state rooms. You can tour the state rooms in the summer for €8 EUR. Or even better, head there for noon to watch the changing of the guard outside for free!