Europe / Monaco

The Best of Monaco in One Day: The World’s Second Smallest Country

Monaco Harbour

Monaco is a unique destination bordering France on three sides and the ocean on its fourth and is the second smallest country in the world, the first being Vatican City. Prince Albert II of the Royal Family Grimaldi is Monaco’s head, and the country is a principality, a state ruled over by a prince. If you love glitz and glamour and are curious to see the wealth that is on display courtesy of the yachts, supercars and fashion, then you will enjoy one incredible day in Monaco.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Monaco

Where is Monaco? 

Monaco is in Europe, bordered by France.

How do you get to Monaco?

We arrived in Monaco via train from Nice where we were staying. The ride was about 30 minutes long.

Flights from the UK are to either Nice or direct to Monte Carlo Airport in Monaco and take approx 2 hours.

If you really want to arrive in style, how about a helicopter transfer from Nice – after all, this is in the ultimate playground for the rich!

Is it worth going to Monaco?

I would definitely say yes! Monaco is a compact country with so many things to experience from the Royal Palace to the Monte Carlo Casino. It’s completely different from other locations along the French Riviera.

What is Monaco famous for?

Monaco is most well known for its wealth. Home to the super-rich and an annual location for the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monaco Yacht Show.

Is Monaco expensive?

If you intend to shop in the many boutiques in the city, then be prepared to spend a considerable amount. Dining can be expensive, depending on where you choose. If you are only visiting for one day, then take my advice and buy lunch from the supermarket and have a picnic in a spot with a view.

How many days do you need in Monaco?

Monaco is tiny – in fact, it is the second smallest country in the world – therefore a day would allow you to experience the best of Monaco. If you want to stay longer, then please check out my recommendations.

Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo – 5-star

Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo – 5-star

Port Palace – 4-star

Hotel Columbus – 3-star

Decorative SeparatorCastle View Point

Every day at 11.55 a.m you can make your way up to the Prince’s Palace and watch the changing of the guard, something that we wanted to see. We had witnessed this happen outside Buckingham Palace in the UK and thought it a good idea to see it in Monaco, after all, who doesn’t love a bit of pomp and ceremony.

Our ascent up to the Palace was on foot, but you can also take the hop-on-hop-off bus or the cute tourist train that takes you around Monaco. Panoramic views of Monaco during the walk were sensational with plenty of places to stop and take photographs.

The view from Monaco castle looking out over the harbour in the French Riviera

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Changing of the Guards at the Prince’s Palace

We arrived just before the ceremony began in the Palace square, a ritual that has remained the same for several centuries. The Palace has been the home to Monaco’s rulers for 700 years, and on each side, you can see cannons dating back to the 17th century.

Tours of the palace’s interior are available, though if on a day trip it will eat into your time. Nearby, narrow alleyways and pastel-coloured buildings invite you to explore them as you wander through the town.

Sitting on cannonballs outside the Palace of Monaco in the French Riviera

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Lunch like a Local 

If the prices at the restaurants in Monaco make your eyes water then take my tip: buy a flan or baguette from one of the stalls by the palace and head to the Jardin St. Martin. Laid out in a series of pathways on the south-west face of the Rock of Monaco, we found a bench overlooking the harbour and ate our lunch there. Our view epitomised everything Monaco has to offer.

The views across Monaco Harbour from the palace gardens in the French Riviera

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Monaco Cathedral

Monaco Cathedral also known as St Nicholas Cathedral is right by the gardens and is beautiful both inside and out. It is the final resting place of the Grimaldi Royal family, most recently Grace Kelly and Rainier III, and was built in 1875 on the first parish church site in Monaco, which dated back to 1252. It is free to enter; however, donations will help to maintain the cathedral.

Monaco Cathedral in the French Riviera. Resting place of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace

Monaco Cathedral

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We wandered through the gardens and admired the flowers, views of the sea, and the sited artworks within the greenery. A peaceful place to take a moment for yourself, read a book, and escape from the city’s hustle and bustle below.

A statue in the gardens of Monaco Cathedral depicting a woman form. The French Riviera

an aerial view of Monaco and the harbour

monaco palace gardens

We carried on along the coastline as it took us back down to the town. It’s a long walk down so if you can’t face it then can jump on a bus or choose one of the previously mentioned options.

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Visiting the Grand Prix Circuit

A statue dedicated to the five-time Grand Prix champion, Juan Manuel Fangio is watched over by the Prince’s Palace. It sits on an intersection used during the Grand Prix when Monaco’s streets become one massive racecourse.

Watching it on the television will be even more exciting now that I’ve been here. The main promenade winds itself around the harbour with all the luxury yachts, but then Monaco has the most millionaires per head in Europe, so you can understand why there are so many on display.

A Grand Prix racing car monument located on the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco, French Riviera

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The Glitz and Glamour of Monte Carlo Casino

Constructed in 1863, the Monte Carlo casino architecture is in the Art-Nouveau style with stained glass, sculptures, and a gold and marble atrium.  Gamble either in the slot machine area, minimum bet a euro, or the more private ‘tables” area which demand a higher stake.

We bet on the slots just for fun and came out only a few euro out of pocket. With supercars parked outside the casino, the luxury brands of Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Lamborghini all caught our eye and we half expected to come face-to-face with James Bond!

If you fancy a spin behind a Ferrari wheel, book a driving experience and fulfil your dreams while in Monaco.

The art deco interior of the Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco on the French Riviera

Monaco had been a fantastic country to visit and had shown us its wealth as well as its charm.

It is small enough to get around in one day without feeling rushed, and we saw everything we needed to.

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a statue of a formula 1 racing car

Read Next: What to do in Nice France in 24 hours.

About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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1 year ago

That cathedral looks gorgeous!

Reply to  Kennedy
1 year ago

It certainly is, inside and out and is the resting place of Grace Kelly and the Monaco Royal Family.

1 year ago

I’m going to be honest, while I’ve heard of Monaco, I’ve never seriously considered it as a vacation destination. However, after seeing the incredible views in your pictures, I think I need to see this for myself first hand!

Reply to  Britt
1 year ago

Hi Britt. Glad you like my photos. It is so compact you can see it in a day and you could then extend your holiday to also visit Nice on the French Riviera. It’s only 15 minutes on the train from Monaco so very easy. Check out my blog on Nice if you are interested.

1 year ago

Very informative. Will take some of your tips and places to visit when I go 👍

Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Glad you enjoyed the piece. It’s a lovely place to visit.

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