by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | December 1, 2021
Monaco may be the world's second smallest country (it's actually smaller than New York's Central Park), but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. Home to colorful high-rise hotels, super yachts, the principality's royal palace, and the annual Formula One Grand Prix, Monaco is one of the French Riviera's most unique and beautiful places.
I only had a few days to explore this tiny country, but I found that to be the perfect amount of time. There isn't too much to see and do here, but the handful of sights it does have make the trip totally worth it.
Les Jardins Saint-Martin
I found these gardens to be the prettiest place in all of Monaco. A series of paths connect each garden and lead visitors to exquisite views of the Mediterranean Sea and Port de Fontvieille below. This is the perfect place to read a book, take a leisurely stroll, or enjoy a nice picnic lunch. The only way to get to the gardens is by foot, as they are located next to the principality's royal palace and cars are not allowed to enter. Admission is free and the gardens are open from 9:00 until 18:00 every day.
The Prince's Palace
Located right next to the gardens is the royal palace of Monaco. Built in 1191 as a fortress, it today serves as the home of Prince Albert of Monaco and his family. Tours are available from April to October for $11 USD (Note: The palace is closed during the Grand Prix weekend, which is usually at the end of May). Filming and photography are prohibited, and no food or drinks are allowed inside the palace. Each guest must go through a security check before entering the palace.
Another gorgeous sight next to the royal palace is Port Hercule. To the east of the palace, this picture-perfect marina is the only deep-water port in the entire French Riviera. It was once a major shipping port for the Greeks and Romans, and it now welcomes mega-yachts and cruise ships from around the world. Lots of great shops and restaurants can be found around the port, as well as charter companies if you're looking to take a boat tour along one of the nicest coasts in the world.
Monte Carlo Casino
Probably the most luxurious building in the South of France, the Monte Carlo Casino is where high-rollers, celebrities, and society's elite came to mingle, gamble, and be seen in the mid-to-late 1900's. Today, it is still a popular casino, but it also houses The Monte Carlo Ballet and the Opera de Monte-Carlo. Whether you visit to try your luck at roulette, enjoy a show, or gaze at the intricate interior, this stunning building should not be missed.
Fun fact: Monaco residents are banned from gambling at the casino. They aren't even allowed to enter the grounds.
Larvotto may be the only beach in Monaco, but it sure is a pretty one. This man-made stretch of sand consists of finely-ground pebbles and shallow, calm turquoise waters. It gets jam packed during the summer months, so be sure to arrive early if you want a chair rental and a good spot. Entrance is free, and families should remember that this also tends to be a topless beach.
When to Go: I think April, May, September, and October are the best months to visit. The weather is warm and the crowds aren't too heavy. If you do visit in May, remember that the Grand Prix is toward the end of the month and hotel prices will be higher than normal and the crowds will be heavy.
Where to Stay: There are so many great, and gorgeous, hotels to choose from in Monaco. Some fan favorites are the Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo, Fairmont Monte Carlo, Monte-Carlo Bay & Resort, Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo, and Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo. You can't go wrong at any of these hotels.
You could also stay in a nearby city, such as Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Eze, or Menton. These cities are special in their own way, and only a quick train ride away from Monaco.
French is the main language of Monaco, but most people speak English as well.
The local currency is the euro, and 1 EUR is equal to $1.13 USD.
Monaco is very walkable, and driving around is not advised. The roads are very winding, and it is easy to get lost. It is best to park your car in a lot and walk around, use the convenient and easy bus system, or take the train in and out.
Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. It has an area of 0.81 square miles and a population of 38,400 people.