Monaco on a budget? Yes, it is possible! Here are my tips for ways to enjoy this beautiful principality without breaking the bank.
If you are thinking that Monaco is only home to the rich and famous, you’d be (half) wrong. There’s no doubt that we live among some of the richest people in the world, and lots more visit our shores. But, of course, people on a less lofty budget also live and visit here, and it’s a fabulous destination for a budget break too.
How to do Monaco on a budget
Look beyond the blingy exterior, and you will find plenty to enjoy. At its heart, Monaco is a sea-side resort, and thanks to its spectacular surroundings and beautiful countryside, it has a lot to offer the budget holidaymaker.
Start by wandering down to the beachfront and soaking up the atmosphere. The Med glitters in front of you, and Monaco is open for exploration. Let’s go.
1. Take a royally enjoyable walk through a royal neighbourhood
Right on top of the Rock, the hilly peak that dominates Monte Carlo, you’ll find the old-world streets of Monaco’s Old Town, Le Rocher. Here lies the glorious Palais Princier de Monaco, which is still home to the royal family. The Palace was built in 1215 and, as it’s still in use today, gives a unique insight into life in Monaco.
When the Prince isn’t in residence, the State Rooms are open to the public at a cost of €8. And to get a real feel for the importance of royals in the Principality, make sure you’re outside the palace gates at 11.55am to catch the daily spectacle of the Changing of the Guards. The Cathédrale de Monaco is nearby, where you can find the garland covered graves of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III
2. Enjoy authentic local food at the Condamine Market
If you want a flavour of authentic local cuisine, you can’t wrong with the recently-refurbished Marche de la Condamine. It is packed with chefs and stalls specialising in Monegasques cuisine and specialist regional food.
Don’t miss Chez Roger’s famous takeaway socca, which is a kind of thin, crispy chickpea pancake baked in the oven. They’re just a couple of euros each, and absolutely delicious. For a bigger meal but still at decent prices, try the Italian restaurant Truffle Bistrot, which is known for its sophisticated truffle dishes.
3. Immerse yourself in Monaco’s Temple of the Sea
Monaco is known for its interest and financial commitment to all things oceanic, started by Albert I and fervently pursued by our current Prince Albert II. Today, the amazing Musee Oceanographique de Monaco is a must-visit. It’s a beautiful baroque building built along a cliff and boasting magnificent aquatic exhibits.
The museum has been researching marine life since 1910, and now has thousands of species of fish and other creatures in the basement aquarium. You’ll also see model ships, maps, research and whale skeletons. For the best prices go off-season, when it will cost €11, compared with €16 in the height of the summer.
4. Enjoy swimming under the bluest skies
Just next to the starting line for the Grand Prix, you’ll find Stade Nautique Rainier III, an Olympic sized swimming pool complete with diving boards and several lanes. The pool is filled with sea water and gives spectacular views of the horizon over the shimmering beauty of the yacht-filled harbour. It’s less than €6 for the day, so it’s an ideal way to enjoy Monaco on a budget.
If you prefer to swim in the sea, then head to the only beach in Monaco. Because it’s the only one, and it’s free to visit, Le Larvotto is very crowded during high season. But, in the off-season months, it’s the perfect place to spend time soaking up the mild Monaco weather.
5. Visit the famous Casino Monte-Carlo without spending a fortune
An opulent casino that is famous around the world thanks to its appearance in two James Bond films isn’t the obvious place to go for a budget day out. The stunning Belle Epoque architecture and the supercars parked up outside might put you off, but you don’t have to gamble when you visit. It’s open for gamblers from 2pm every day, but it’s €10 to get in, and casino chips start at €25, so best to stick to the cheaper morning tour.
This starts at €12 and gives you access to the private gaming rooms via an audio tour before the casino opens its doors for the day. If you want to have a flutter, head to the Sun Casino instead, which is free to enter and gives complimentary drinks to customers playing at the tables.
6. Bar hop at budget-friendly prices by the harbour
Many of the bars packed into the harbour area boast spectacular views of million-dollar yachts and drinks prices to match. But if you pick the right time, you can enjoy the atmosphere without breaking the bank. Hit happy hour and you’ll be in the company of local professionals enjoying an after-work drink.
There’s just one brewery in Monaco, the Brasserie de Monaco, where you can enjoy pints between 5 and 7pm for €3.50. If you prefer cocktails and wine, then head to Le Before, which has a big, outdoor lounge that doubles as a dancefloor at the weekends. Or try the famous Stars’n’Bars American diner for its version of happy hour – ‘healthy hour’, which offers veggie meals, massage and yoga as well as reasonably priced drinks.
7. Take a whistle-stop tour for €2
The best value way of seeing Monaco is on the Line 1 bus route, which travels past the sports cars in front of the Hotel de Paris. It costs just €2 and rumbles along the opulent Avenue d’Ostende, towards the harbour area. Keep your eyes open for the Yacht Club, which is designed to look like a cruise liner. You’ll then be able to take in the breath-taking superyachts moored along the waterfront.
Experienced lawyer and international corporate consultant, Mary-Rose McLean is Head of Corporate, Legal and Yachting Services at Moores Rowland, Monaco. Mary-Rose has been based in Monaco since 2007, and she specialises in leadership, consultancy and managing international transactions for high net worth clients.