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Nice to Monaco Day Trip
Looking to spend one day in Monaco? If you’re planning to visit this glitzy Riviera watering hole on a day trip from Nice or another nearby South France destination, here’s the Monaco itinerary I followed.
This one-day guide includes the top sights, how to get there, and tips on what you should – and shouldn’t – do.
Facts About Monaco
Before we jump into our Nice to Monaco day trip, let’s clear up some facts. Monaco is many things. It’s a principality. It’s a city state. It’s a country. It is not, however, Monte Carlo.
Monaco vs Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo is in Monaco. It’s one of four quarters that makes up the principality. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between Monaco and Monte Carlo because Monte Carlo springs to mind whenever Monaco is mentioned.
Monte Carlo is the quarter with the glam: the luxury hotels, swank shops and world famous Monte Carlo Casino. Other quartiers that make up Monaco are:
- Monaco-Ville (also known as the Old Town, the Rock or Le Rocher)
- La Condamine, which includes Port Hercules, the main port
- Fontvieille, a newer district which is down by the water south of Monaco-Ville
Where is Monaco?
Is Monaco in France? No. It’s on the Mediterranean Sea in the southeast area of France. It’s not part of France but is surrounded by France on three sides. And it’s still considered part of the French Riviera.
Dripping in wealth, this jet-setting principality is a key stop on the Côte d’Azur along with other haute South of France destinations like Cannes and St Tropez. And the luxury hotels in Monaco? Ooh, la la.
Nice to Monaco Distance
Conveniently, Monaco is only 13 km (8 miles) from Nice, which makes it an easy and simple to get to by train.
Getting from Nice, France, to Monaco
By far the easiest method of travelling from Nice to Monaco is by train. The regional TER train from Nice Ville Station takes 25 minutes and leave every half hour.
You can take the bus but it’s longer (45 minutes), though very cheap. Personally, the buses from Nice to surrounding places like Monaco, Grasse and Antibes, seem excruciating slow to me.
Fun Fact: Monaco is the second smallest country on earth. Only the Vatican City trumps it for petite-ness.
Travel Tip for Monaco in One Day
Here’s an important tip if you’re doing a day trip to Monaco: Take advantage of every elevator or escalator you stumble upon. Your feet will thank you.
Monaco is an up-and-down destination. There are yacht-filled ports at the bottom. The Old Town of Monaco, Monaco-Ville, is at the top. Monte Carlo, also an ‘up’ destination is on the other side of Port Hercules from Monaco-Ville.
Confused? I was, too. Let me straighten it out for you and explain the best way to go about seeing Monaco in one day.
Check out these other great day trips from Nice.
Exploring Monaco From the Train Station
First, don’t do what I did and start hiking up behind the Monaco Train Station because you think that’s where Monte Carlo is. It will take you out of Monaco altogether and into Beausoleil, France, and you’ll wear out your shoes for no reason.
The train station in Monaco is a long cavernous beast. To start off, leave the train station from the highest exit – the Sortie Monte Carlo.
Once you’re outside head northeast and eventually down – look for signs or ask for directions. It’s no more than a 10-minute walk to the Place du Casino.
Transportation Tip for a Day Trip to Monaco: If you’re spending a day in Monaco in a day and have mobility issues, make Bus #1 and #2 your friend. They will get you where you want to go.
Check out the Monaco bus routes here.
First Stop Monte Carlo
The Place du Casino
The Place du Casino is the epicentre of Monte Carlo. It’s possibly the most concentrated spot of glamour in Europe. If you are interested in luxury travel at all, trust me, you have found your spiritual home.
The Place du Casino has recently been redeveloped into a modern esplanade of beige stone. Designed to showcase the surrounding Belle Epoque buildings, this contemporary plaza has fountains, palm trees and a renowned Sky Mirror sculpture by mega-star artist Anish Kapoor.
The Monte Carlo Casino
Right on the plaza is the Casino de Monte Carlo. Famously featured in the James Bond movies Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye, the Monte Carlo Casino opened in 1863 as a bid to bring tourists and income to Monaco.
It worked. Now Monaco is filthy rich, and as one of the grandest – though certainly not the largest – casinos in the world, its marble atrium, onyx columns, nymphs, stained glass and private gambling salons add a feeling of old world elegance to the dripping-in-money allure.
Travel Tips for Visiting the Casino in Monaco
- Entrance to the Monte Carlo Casino is 17 Euros. The cost includes a 10 Euro voucher, so you can at least place a bet.
- Gambling is for over 18s only, though under 18s can visit the Atrium.
- Make sure to bring your passport.
- Jackets are recommended for the men after 7 p.m. – unless you’re Prince Albert or Brad Pitt then you can probably wear what you want.
See the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo
The stunning Belle Epoque Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo has one of the most beautiful facades of any luxury hotel I’ve seen – and, I humbly add, I’ve seen plenty. The location? A prime spot smack on the Place du Casino, steps away from the Monte Carlo Casino itself.
You can peek inside the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo’s lobby. Put on your best I-do-too-belong-in-this-world expression and walk up the steps past the doormen.
Gawk around as discreetly as you can then rub the (very worn out) knee of the equestrian statue of Louis XIV for good luck in gambling – you won’t be the first. (Or the ten thousandth.)
Take a Break at the Café de Paris Monte-Carlo
With beginnings that date back to 1868, the pretty-as-a-picture Café de Paris Monte-Carlo on the Place du Casino has long been a Monaco sightseeing staple.
An atmospheric place to stop for lunch, rest your weary feet and/or sob into the cheapest beer on the menu because you lost all your holiday money playing Roulette. You won’t be the first. (Or the ten thousandth.)
Important note for 2022/2023: The Café de Paris Monte-Carlo will temporarily relocate to the Salle Empire in the Hôtel de Paris, but the outdoor terrace is still on the Place du Casino. This is while the original building gets a facelift. Now you have even more of a reason to visit the Hôtel de Paris.
Lunch at Nobu
Another lunch option near the Place du Casino is Nobu in the 4-star Fairmont Monte Carlo Hotel, the trendiest fusion of Japanese cuisine and South American spices you ever did eat.
Read more about things to do in Monte Carlo.
Unless you want to do a little shopping at Chanel (or Zara – shhh- I won’t tell), it’s goodbye Monte Carlo and time to explore the rest of this intriguing country, where 30% of the inhabitants are millionaires.
Exploring La Condamine District
While not as ancient as Monaco-Ville, La Condamine is still an old part of Monaco. It’s one of the Principality’s main business districts, and home to Monaco’s sparkling port, Port Hercules.
Port Hercules dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times, and is another key stop if you’re spending one day in Monaco. This deep water port has room for up to 700 vessels, and is an eyeful of gleaming yachts and shimmering water, with a ring of pricy residential buildings crawling up the hills behind.
Bringing it down to earth, you’ll also find carousels, ice cream stands, and an outdoor swimming pool, which turns into a skating rink in the winter.
Did you know? The famous Formula One Monaco Grand Prix begins and ends in La Condamine, and part of the route goes around the harbour on Boulevard Albert Premier.
If you’re looking for nightlife, La Rascasse is a legendary Monaco nightclub on Port Hercules, especially during the F1. It’s located at Quai Antoine 1er, 98000 Monaco.
Getting to Port Hercules
If you’re walking from the Place du Casino in Monte Carlo (because you don’t have a race car at your beck and call), basically you need to head west and down into the Condamine quarter. I took an elevator down (by stumbling onto one in a park) to end up on the Quai des Etats Unis, which runs along one side of the port.
Things to do in La Condamine
There is a lot to cram into a Nice to Monaco day trip, but you still need a break, and the district of La Condamine has plenty of tranquil stops for an espresso or light lunch.
You can linger at the Place d’Armes, where a morning Farmers Market is awash with local produce, and market stalls sell everything from fresh flowers to souvenirs, or head to rue Princess Caroline, a pedestrian street with smart shops and restaurants.
Exploring Le Rock
From Port Hercules I decided to visit the Monaco Museum of Oceanography in Le Rocher (Le Rock) area.
A Neoclassical building dramatically set into a cliff, as if it just rose up out of the Mediterranean of its own accord, scooping up fish as it went, this historic Monaco aquarium was established by Prince Albert I, the current Prince Albert II’s great great grandfather, more than a century ago.
Day trip Nice to Monaco tip: If you want to cross Port Hercules instead of walking around it to get to the Museum of Oceanography, you can take the Bateau Bus for a couple of euros.
The Museum of Oceanography is truly a stunning sight from the coast, an impressive example of monumental architecture built with 100,000 tons of local stone.
As soon as I stepped inside the museum I came to the Shark Petting Pool.
Who knew baby sharks were like puppies? Gambolling over as soon as you put your hand in the water, all roly poly shark softness, seeking affection (or more likely food, but luckily they don’t seem interested in finger snacks), and acting as little shark ambassadors so that you don’t hate these notorious predators of the sea.
It worked. I feel quite kindly towards baby sharks now.
What to See at the Museum of Oceanography
You can see 6,000 species of fish. Dedicated to “raising awareness, love and protection of the oceans,” it’s one of the top oceanography museums in the world and Jacques Cousteau used to be the director.
I beelined for the Poisonous Animals of the Sea tank, but that’s because I’m macabre.
Exploring the Old Town – Monaco-Ville
After the Museum of Oceanography it’s smooth sailing for sightseeing because you’re already in the Old Town, also part of The Rock or Le Rocher, the illustrious origins of Monaco itself.
Note: Right outside the museum is the departure point for Monaco Little Train Tours, where you can zip around Monaco on a 30-minute tour.
Visit the Cathedral of Monaco
When strolling through the narrow streets of Monaco-Ville do not miss the neoclassical Monaco Cathedral, also named St Nicholas Cathedral, also named Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate. (There are probably more names, but that should be sufficient.)
This is where Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly were married, and where the much-loved Princess Grace lies at rest after her tragic death in a car accident in 1982.
Built of white stone from the village of La Turbie, the 19th-century cathedral is a peaceful stop with an ornate 16th century altarpiece by Louis Bréa, a well-known painter from Nice.
It’s a good place to rest your feet and contemplate the fairytale romance of Prince Rainier and actress Grace Kelly, who were wed in 1956.
Check Out the Museum of Old Monaco
Another thing to do in Monaco-Ville is to visit the Musée du Vieux Monaco, the Museum of Old Monaco, to learn more about the Principality’s heritage and culture.
You’ve got to time it right however. It’s open free of charge on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11-4 between June and September. You’ll find it at 2, rue Emile de Loth.
See the Prince’s Palace
One of the highlights on a day trip from to Nice is the Prince’s Palace, a Renaissance building constructed on the site of a 13th-century fortress. This is where the royal family still resides – at least when they’re not at one of their gazillion other palatial homes.
The Grimaldi Family
The Grimaldi family has ruled Monaco since 1297. If the family dies out, technically Monaco could revert to France.
So isn’t it a good thing Prince Albert and his wife Princess Charlene had twins? Princess Gabriella is two minutes older than Prince Jacques, but because of succession rules in Monaco, Prince Jacques is the heir.
(Prince Albert also has two other children from previous relationships, but they’re not in the line of succession.)
Watch the Changing of the Guard at the Palace
Every day at 11:55 a.m. you can watch the palace’s Changing of the Guard (in which case you’re probably better off doing Monaco-Ville first and Monte Carlo later, unless you’re an efficient sightseeing early bird and can fit it all into the morning).
Touring the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
Touring the palace is one of the most popular things to do in Monaco. You can do a 40-minute tour of the lavish State Apartments from April to October.
Fun fact: Prince Albert married Princess Charlene in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace.
Look out for gorgeous frescoes, the 13th-century ‘double revolution’ (ie twirly) Carrera marble staircase, the Mirror Room a la Versailles, the yellow-hued Louis XV bedroom and the gorgeous Blue Room … and everything else. Why can’t we all live like this?
Note to self: Create a magnificent Blue Room in home in future.
More Monaco Attractions
If you’re doing a Nice to Monte Carlo day trip, or are in Monaco for a day on a cruise, at this point you might want to wind down your tour.
If you’re catching the train back from Monaco to Nice, Cannes or Antibes, good news: from the Prince’s Palace of Monaco it’s all downhill to the train station.
To get to the station take the winding outdoor path – the Rampe de la Major – at the edge of the Place du Palais where the palace is located, first stopping to enjoy the view of Monaco. Then follow the signs for the train station.
If you’re looking for more things to do in Monaco, however, carry on. They’re your feet not mine. There is plenty more to see in this posh South of France (even though it’s not France) destination.
If you’re spending more than a day in Monaco, or just have leftover energy, you could check out the district of Fontvieille.
What to Do in Fontvieille
A good part of Fontvieille has been created from reclaimed land, and it’s the youngest, though not the most exclusive, district in Monaco. Lying south of Monaco-Ville, it’s a newer area with a port, parks, and museums.
Smell the Roses at the Princess Grace Rose Garden
The most fragrant thing to do in Fontvieille is to wander through the 4,000 rose bushes in the Princess Grace Rose Garden established by Prince Rainier in 1984.
Lust After the Car Collection of H.S.H. the Prince of Monaco
You can check out the extravagant vintage car collection of Prince Rainier III at the Terrasses de Fontvieille.
Visit the Naval Museum
Another museum at the Terrasses de Fontvieille is the Naval Museum. Founded in 1993, it houses exhibits and artifacts from around the world, from a funerary boat discovered in an Egyptian tomb to warships and unique maritime objects.
How to Relax in Monaco
Not many day trips to Monaco include beach time, but what a fun way to relax. Larvotto Beach is the place to head if you want some downtime. Located on Avenue Princess Grace, just north of Monte Carlo, it’s a 400-metre beach with two coves. You’ll find restaurants, a Handiplage area for those with limited mobility, and pricy beach clubs for designer beach lounging.
There is free beach access but it can get crowded. Like many beaches in the South of France, it’s a pebble beach.
Wind Down at the Thermes de Marin Spa
Finally, if you can fit it into a one day in Monaco excursion, the Thermes de Marin, connected to the Hermitage Hotel in Monte Carlo is world famous.
That wraps up your Nice to Monaco day trip. You’ve seen the highlights of Monte Carlo, La Condamine, Fontvieille, and the Old Town of Monaco, and if, you’re like me, you’ll immediately head back for more.
Day tripping around the South of France? Read High Heels at the Cannes Film Festival or one day in Menton.