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Mary Rose McLean on how to spend one day in Monaco

Day out in Monaco - Mary-Rose McLean

One day is all it takes to fall in love. And one day in Monaco will mean you never want to leave!

Before I moved to Monaco, just hearing its name would conjure up visions of superyachts moored in sparkling blue water, 007 himself, the Grand Prix and everything glamorous and expensive. I’m happy to say Monaco is all of this, but it’s so much more.

For such a tiny place, we have plenty to see and do and it’s not all super-expensive and outrageously over the top. The best thing about Monaco is that you can have it all, champagne at the famous casino followed by exploring its history and beauty on foot. If you spend just one day in Monaco, here’s how to take in everything this gorgeous little principality has to offer.

How to spend one day in Monaco

While Monaco is flashy and we have plenty of luxury around, it’s also very affordable to visit. For anyone staying in the French Riviera, Monaco is easily accessible and more than suitable for a day trip, whether you want to splurge and spend or window shop and people watch.

Arriving in style is important to the celebrities and wealthy people who frequent Monaco, and many do just that in private helicopters. But there are much cheaper ways to get here too. For this one-day itinerary, let’s assume you’re staying in Nice and are looking for the best way to get to Monaco for a fun day out.

Hop on bus #100 from Place Garibaldi in Nice and 45 minutes later you’ll arrive just next to the Casino in Monte Carlo. Not only is it a simple journey, it also gives you beautiful sea views along the way. It will only cost a couple of euros, and there are plenty of buses along this route, so you won’t wait long.

How to get around Monaco

Most of Monte Carlo is easy to navigate on foot, but it is quite hilly so bear that in mind. There are various bus ticket options to get yourself around the main sights. Grab a city map from the tourist centre just outside the Casino bus stop in the centre of Monte Carlo to work out your best route.

If you’re worried about what to wear, don’t be. While you’re most welcome to drift around Monaco dressed in luxury brands and dripping with gold jewellery, most people don’t! Anything goes, so dress up or down as you fancy.

Check out the main sights

If you thought Monaco was only yachts and Grand Prix racing, you might be surprised to find out that there are loads of things to see and do. One of my favourites is The Rock, which is the oldest part of Monaco. You’ll find the Old Town and the Prince’s Palace in this part of the island, and it gives you a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day world in Monaco.

Get to the Palace before noon, and you can see the daily changing of the guard outside. You can also visit the State Rooms in the palace, depending on the time of year. Take lots of pictures here because it gives a flavour of the quintessential Monte Carlo. There are lots of cafes and restaurants to try out in the Old Town too. I love U Cavagnetu, which you’ll find at 14 Rue Comte Felix Gastaldi. It’s loved by locals and visitors alike, which is the age-old sign of a great eating place! Try specialities such as pissaladiere, which is a cross between a pizza and tart loaded with onions, olives and anchovies.

After lunch, head to the Oceanographic Museum. This is a famous attraction in Monaco, and for good reason. It’s on the cliff top of The Rock looking over the Med and is nicknamed the Temple of the Sea. Tickets are around 16Euro per person in high season, and you’ll see more than 6,000 underwater species in its many aquarium, including seahorses, sharks and tropical fish.

The museum also has a rooftop terrace with astonishing views and a family of Africa spurred turtles. The restaurant is found up on the roof too, so you can enjoy a bite to eat along with the beautiful views. Don’t miss the chance to stick your hand in a tank of friendly sharks!

Relax in the Exotic Gardens

Grab the bus up to the top of the city where you’ll find the Exotic Gardens, which offer the best views in the country. They’re home to lots of flora and fauna and the perfect place to snatch a breather during your busy day. Relax on the benches overlooking the ports and the Rock and take in the view. You’ll have a great seat to watch the private helicopters entering and leaving Monaco too.

Once you’re well-rested you’re ready for the iconic Monte Carlo Casino. Although it’s open from 2pm to the public, I’d recommend making it your last main stop for the day. You don’t have to pay to get in and there’s no rigid dress code, but if you want to enter the private rooms you will need to hand over your passport.

The Casino is a stunning sight, with its Belle Epoque décor adding to the drama of the place. You can’t take photos inside, but you are free to wander around the areas with slot machines. There is also a public room with tables where you can have a go at roulette and Black Jack.

The bus back to Nice is near the entrance to the Casino, making it the ideal place to finish your day trip to Monaco. Don’t forget to shop for souvenirs while you’re here. You can splash out on luxury designer goods or take something cheaper but no less cheerful back from the souvenir shops near the Casino and in the Old Town on The Rock. For something a bit more authentic than the usual, look for some Grand Prix merchandise. It is a bit more expensive but will give you something to remember Monaco by.

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