Monaco: The Prince of the Holy Trinity of Côte d’Azur
Why “The Prince” you might wonder…well, I thought it fit as we’re talking about the Principality of Monaco, a micro-state, located on the Côte d’Azur, some 15 km away from the Italian border. So, Monaco is a sovereign city-state, a constitutional monarchy, led by Prince Albert II.
Now enough of the history/geography lesson, let’s get to the travel part. As you might recall from My Story of Côte d’Azur part 1, I was staying in Nice and went to Monaco for a one-day trip.
How I got there:
By train, of course. For those of you who’ve been reading my posts so far, you know I usually choose the train to travel between cities as at least in some European countries, it seems like the best option. In this case, a return ticket from Nice to Monaco was around 8 euros and took about 20 minutes. It was a Saturday morning and the train was packed, but with the trip being so short, it didn’t really matter.
TIP TIME: if you’re buying tickets from the machines, you only need to scan their barcodes at the entrance to the platform. If you’re buying them from the ticket office, you have to stamp them in the yellow boxes (also found at the entrance to the platform, or, in some cases, on the platform). Trains run every hour and you can also buy tickets from online platforms or apps such as http://www.thetrainline.com or http://www.omio.com.
Upon our arrival at Monaco train station, we headed up to the Palace. The state of Monaco has several wards or “neighbourhoods”, and one of them is Monaco-Ville or the “Old” Monaco, where you’ll find the Palace of Monaco, the Cathedral of Monaco, the Gardens of Saint Martin (Jardins de Saint-Martin), and the Oceanographic Museum. You’ll also get beautiful panoramic views of Monaco from the hill.
TIP TIME: make sure you closely check the signs on the route to the Palace and do not trust google maps. However, if you do get a bit lost and go around the hill instead, you’ll find a mini-zoo, the Museum of Stamps and Coins, the Prince’s private car collection, and the Naval Museum. So, not really a loss there, depending on how much time you have.
After taking enough pictures to last us a lifetime in the Palace Square, we started downwards to the Cathedral, which we entered briefly, and then to the Oceanographic Museum, which I was set on visiting.
A one-day ticket to the museum is 16 euro and can be bought online, at the ticket office located near the entrance and at ticket machines, where we bought them from (without having to wait in line). The museum holds an aquarium with many types of fish and other sea creatures including a turtle. You’ll also find an interesting exhibit with interactive props and games, that both adults and children will enjoy. They’ve also set up a space with video projections that will make you feel as if you’re in the ocean. Absolutely gorgeous.
After the museum, we made our way down to the port, in the neighbourhood La Condamine. We spent some time watching people having fun at a funfair and wondering how are they even able to walk after being launched into the air, spun around, turned upside-down, and dropped from oh, so many meters high…
From the water walkway, we turned to a more touristy area full of cafes and restaurants, where we stopped for a burger and fries at Cheesegrubers. Not your usual French menu, for sure, but the food was very good. After that, we headed to Monte-Carlo, another, very famous, Monégasque neighbourhood, where the casino is located. The whole area around the casino is filled with high-end shops like Dior, Gucci, Chanel, etc. In front of the casino is the Casino Garden and the Jardins de la Petite Afrique (Gardens of Small Africa). You can go around the casino to reach the seafront walkway, which we did and then made our way back to the train station and eventually, Nice.
So, here’s a list of things to do/see in Monaco:
1. The Palace of Monaco, The Cathedral of Monaco, and The Oceanographic Museum
These are must-see and can be visited in one go. But be ready to feel exhausted at the end as there’s plenty of walking involved.
2. The zoo, The Museum of Stamps, Prince Albert’s Private Car Collection, and the Naval Museum
If you’re staying in Monaco for more than a day, these can also be visited in one go. If I had more time, I would’ve definitely added them to my list.
3. Walk around the port and check out the streets with cafes and restaurants.
4. Go to the Casino.
5. Pick some of the beautiful gardens around to take a walk and relax: Jardins de Saint-Martin, Jardins de la Petite Afrique, Jardin Japonais – Princesse Grace, Jardin Exotique de Monaco (this one is temporarily closed)
All in all, Monaco is royalty among places to visit and not because of money and fame, but because despite it being a tiny state, there’s still plenty to visit and get fascinated by. It’s hard to explain the happy-peaceful feeling it gave me, but you might experience it too while visiting.
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