The Principality of Monaco beckons visitors to come and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Monaco boasts several impressive gardens, a few interesting museums and some excellent up-market shopping. You will have the chance to admire an unusual concentration of expensive sports cars and you can even hire your own Ferrari and drive it around the route of the famous Monte Carlo Grand Prix.
1.Casino Cafe de Paris
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Even if you are not a gambler, the beautiful Casino Café de Paris is worth a visit simply to enjoy some people-watching, soak up the atmosphere and see some very extravagant cars in the parking lot. The casino is housed in a stately art deco building surrounded by beautiful gardens. You are welcome to enter the complex and visit the bar and restaurant without having to pay the entrance fee which applies to the gaming area. If you do enjoy gambling you will love the huge variety of slot machines which are available inside the main casino or on two large terraces where smoking is allowed. Players may order free drinks.
Casino Café de Paris, Place du Casino, MC 98000, Monaco, Phone: +377-98-06-77
2.Fort Antoine Theater
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Fort Antoine Theater is a small open-air amphitheater housed in Fort Antoine, which was originally constructed as a defensive fortress in the early 18th century. Unfortunately, the original fort was almost completely destroyed in 1944 and the structure you can visit today is the result of extensive re-building project carried out in 1953. The theater hosts open-air plays during the summer months, generally from July to August – you can book seats at the Tourist Office. The fort may be visited at any time and offers exceptional views of the city and the many opulent yachts moored in the harbor below.
Fort Antoine Theater, Avenue of the Quarantine, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-98-98-83-03
3.Gate 4 Tours
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There is no denying that Monaco is a wonderful city to explore at your own pace but you will get a much better understanding of the city, her history and her people if you join at least one guided tour with Gate 4 Tours. The company offers a selection of full-day and half-day tours (departing from Nice) conducted by knowledgeable guides and using luxury 8-seater air-conditioned vehicles. Gate Four Tours know the French Riviera like the back of their hands and can take you to see all the off-the-beaten-track gems as well as all the famous highlights of Monaco including the Royal Palace, the Monaco Grand Prix route and the famous Monte Carlo Casino.
Gate 4 Tours, 06790 Nice, France, Phone: +33-6-16-33-72-53
4.The Japanese Garden
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When you need a brief break from the glitz and glamour of Monaco, the beautiful Monaco Japanese Garden, which is dedicated to the memory of Princess Grace, offers a haven of beauty and tranquility. The garden carefully conforms to strict Zen design principals and is the work of Japanese landscape designer Yasuo Beppo, who personally pruned and placed all the locally-sourced Mediterranean plants so that they would look at home in a Japanese garden. You can admire the beautiful traditional Japanese garden elements which include stone lanterns, ponds, bridges, walkways and topiaries as you make your way to the lovely traditional tea-house. (Sorry – no tea served here – this is a place for quiet meditation surrounded by the beauty of the garden).
Monaco Japanese Garden, Avenue Princesse-Grace, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-98-98-83-36
5.Jardin Exotique de Monaco (The Exotic Garden)
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Monaco’s delightful Exotic Garden has been drawing visitors to admire its rare collection of succulent plants and cacti since 1933. The unusual garden thrives along the side of a cliff face and showcases wonderful examples of succulent plants from all over the world including the arid regions of North and South America, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. When you reach the base of the cliff side you arrive at a huge underground cavern know as the Observation Cave. Entry and a guided tour of the cave are included in your ticket to the Exotic Garden. You can conclude your visit by having a look at the impressive collections of the Prehistoric Anthropologic Museum.
Jardin Exotique de Monaco, 62 Boulevard du Jardin Exotique, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-93-15-29-80
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When in Monaco, be like a local and spend some time relaxing on the edge of the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean on one of the city’s most popular beaches. Larvotto Beach is entirely man-made and you will be walking on fine pebble-sand which has all been imported for your comfort. Larvotto beach contains both free and private areas – if you are happy to pay to enter one of the private beach clubs you can enjoy facilities such as umbrellas, sun loungers, towels, drinks and snacks. There are many restaurants and cafés dotted along the road behind the beach and at the eastern end of the beach there is a well-equipped shady play ground for children.
Larvotto Beach, Avenue Princesse-Grace, 98000 Monaco
© Metropole Shopping
When you need some retail therapy the Metropole Shopping Center in Monte Carlo is the perfect place to head to. As befits a top-end shopping complex in Monaco’s most expensive area, the Metropole has extravagant décor which includes lots of marble, crystal chandeliers and intricate wrought-iron balconies. The complex covers three levels and you will find retail stores selling everything from fashion to antiques and collectables. There is a large food court on the lower level where you can enjoy a drink or meal. You can expect to find all your favorite European brands represented and there is tax-free shopping for non EU residents.
Metropole Shopping, 17 Avenue des Spelugues, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-92-16-77-01
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Monaco’s lovely white-stone cathedral was built in 1875 on the site of a former 13th century church, overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Ocean. The stones used in the construction of the church were brought to the site from the little village of La Turbie and are believed to have been recovered from the ruins of a prominent Roman monument. When you enter the cathedral you can admire a fine Episcopal throne made from white Carrara marble and a wonderful grand organ which accompanies a sung mass every Sunday. The Roman-Byzantine Monaco Cathedral is the place where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were married and is also home to the graves of former Monaco princes.
Monaco Cathedral, 4 Rue Colonel Bellando de Castro, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-93-30-87-70
9.The Monaco Grand Prix
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The famous Monaco Grand Prix is one of the foremost Formula One racing events in the world, largely due to the fact that the race takes place in the center of Monte Carlo. The 3.337km Circuit de Monaco is set up along regular everyday roads with sharp corners and very little chance of overtaking, which makes it one of the most difficult Formula One circuits. Drivers require extreme skill and concentration and there is no room for error. Formula One fans who would like to experience the route taken by the Grand Prix can sign up for a 30 or 60 minute Ferrari Driving Experience tour or hop aboard the City Tour Le Grand Monaco Tour bus which follows the route.
10.Monaco Le Grand Tour
© Monaco Le Grand Tour
If you have limited time to explore Monaco (or are visiting the city as part of a cruise) the Hop-on Hop-off Monaco Le Grand Tour bus is a great option. You can buy either a one or two day pass which allows you to hop on and off the bus as often as you like within the 24 or 48hour duration. Le Grand Tour includes stops at 12 of the most popular city tourist attractions including the Japanese Garden, Villa Sauber National Museum, Monte Carlo Casino, the Oceanographic Institute, the Royal Palace and the cruise terminal. A full circuit takes around 60 to 90 minutes and you can listen to a commentary of the sights in your preferred language. During high season you can expect a bus every 15 minutes.
Monaco Le Grand Tour, 25 Boulevard Princess Charlotte, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-97-70-26-36
11.Monaco Top Cars Collection
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You don’t have to be a petrol head to enjoy a visit to the outstanding Monaco Top Cars Collection, which features over 100 gleaming vintage cars belonging to H.S.H. the Prince of Monaco. When Prince Rainier’s wonderful collection of cars outgrew the palace garage the prince decided to open his collection to the public. Today you can marvel at the wonderful collection of sporty cars from yesteryear as well as admire more recent examples of Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and the Lexus used for the 2011 royal wedding. In addition, the collection includes several Formula One cars. The collection is open to the public every day from 10am to 6pm.
Monaco Top Cars Collection, Les Terrasses de Fontvieille MC, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-92-05-28-56
12.Monte Carlo Casino
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The beautiful Beaux-Arts architecture of the elegant Monte Carlo Casino welcomes visitors to a Monaco landmark. The Casino de Monte Carlo first opened in 1863 and is still a favorite meeting place for Monaco locals who come to enjoy a cocktail, a meal or an elegant evening of gambling. The enormous gilded and pillared gaming room features multiple crystal chandeliers suspended above the usual roulette, Black Jack and Poker gaming tables. You can tempt lady luck at the slot machines in the refined atmosphere of the Salle Renaissance, the colorful Salle des Ameriques or on the lovely outdoor terrace. There is a brasserie and a fine-dining restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious dinner.
Casino de Monte Carlo, Place du Casino, MC 98000, Monaco, Phone: +377-98-06-21-21
13.Musée de Vieux Monaco - The Museum of Old Monaco
© Musée de Vieux Monaco – The Museum of Old Monaco
If you would like to learn more about the history and culture of the people of Monaco (known as Monegasques) you should try to visit the small but interesting Museum Vieux Monaco. The museum was established in 1929 to protect the unique Monegasque culture, heritage and identity. Today the museum is spread over three floors and showcases all aspects of daily life in the old days of Monaco, alongside a large and eclectic collection of artworks, ceramics, traditional clothes, musical instruments and even military uniforms. You can visit the museum on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (11am to 4pm) from June to September.
Musée de Vieux Monaco, 2 Rue Emile de Loth, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-93-50-57-28
14.The Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology
© The Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology
The interesting Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology was established as a direct consequence of the wealth of anthropological relics which were unearthed during the establishment of much of Monaco. The museum forms part of the Exotic Garden complex and can be visited as part of your tour of the garden and the Observatory Cave complex. Here you will be able to admire collections of artifacts which trace major evolutionary changes in the human race throughout the glacial and interglacial periods. One of the highlights of the museum’s permanent collection is a reconstruction of the skeleton of an adult woolly mammoth, which was unearthed in Siberia. Children will enjoy the chance to be archaeologist for the day as they follow a themed treasure hunt.
The Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology, 56 Boulevard du Jardin Exotique, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-98-98-80-06
15.New National Museum of Monaco - Nouveau Musee National de Monaco
© New National Museum of Monaco – Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
Art lovers can explore a wealth of contemporary art in not just one, but two superb venues in Monaco. The New National Museum of Monaco divides its considerable collection of art between two venues, namely Villa Paloma and Villa Sauber. Villa Sauber is one of Monaco’s last remaining Belle Epoque villas, built during the early 1900’s and generally showcases performance and art. Villa Paloma was also built in the early 1900’s and specializes in art and territory. Each of the two venues holds two temporary exhibitions every year. If you would like to visit both venues you can buy a combined ticket.
Villa Paloma, 56 Boulevard du Jardin Exotique, 98000, Phone: +377-98-98-57-60
Villa Sauber, 17 Avenue Princesse Grace, 98000, Phone: +377-98-98-91-26
16.The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
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Monaco is justifiably proud of its Oceanographic Museum, one of the oldest Aquariums in the world, which started its collection of marine creatures as far back as 1903. Today you can come and admire the remarkable underwater world in all its color and splendor as you make your way around over a hundred tanks of various sizes. You may be surprised to hear that the Aquarium is home to over 6,000 sea creatures, all of which inhabit expertly reconstructed natural habitats. A few of the highlights of the museum include the enormous Shark Lagoon and the colorful Tropical Reef tank. Young visitors will love the Touch Tank and can feed the animals in the Tactile Pool.
The Oceanographic Museum, Avenue St-Martin, MC 98000, Monaco, Phone: +377-93-15-36-00
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17.The Prince's Palace of Monaco
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If you would like a closer look at how Monaco’s royalty live, a visit to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco should be added to your Monaco itinerary. Although most of the royal palace is a private residence and not open to the public you will be able to take a tour of the State Apartments between March and October each year. The original 13th century fortress has seen a remarkable transformation into a stately and impressive royal home in the style of Louis XIV. You can tour the Palace Chapel, the Throne Room and several other beautiful halls and galleries including the Yellow Room (Louis XV Bedroom).
The Prince’s Palace of Monaco, Place du Palais, 98015, Monaco, Phone: +377-93-25-18-31
18.Princess Grace Irish Library
© Princess Grace Irish Library
As a fitting tribute to Princess Grace of Monaco’s Irish ancestry, the Princess Grace Irish Library was established in 1984 by Prince Rainer III. The library is located just a short stroll from the royal palace and houses the Princess’ personal collection of Irish Books and sheet music as well as a wealth of priceless Irish manuscripts and books which were more recently sourced. The library adds hundreds of books of all genres to its collection each year including a substantial number of English children’s books in the Young Readers section. Today the library also functions as a cultural center, offering regular informative talks and lectures on all things Irish.
Princess Grace Irish Library, 9 Rue Princesse Marie-de-Lorraine, MC98000, Monaco, Phone: +377-93-50-12-25
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19.Princess Grace Rose Garden
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Probably one of the most popular of Monaco’s many beautiful gardens, the Princess Grace Rose Garden was established to celebrate the memory of his late wife by Prince Rainier in 1984. You will find this tranquil garden located inside Fontvieille Park, where it has been carefully laid out according to the traditional style principals of an English garden. Set against a backdrop of hundred-year old olive trees, you can enjoy admiring over 350 varieties of roses showcased by 6,000 individual rose bushes arranged around an impressive central fountain. Watching over this delightful garden you will find a fine bronze statue of H.S.H. Princess Grace. An innovative interactive terminal is available which enables visitors to identify each of the rose varieties.
Princess Grace Rose Garden, Avenue des Guelfes, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-92-16-61-16
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20.The Rock of Monaco
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You can explore all the intimate nooks and crannies of Monaco on a walking tour of “the Rock” which is essentially the Old Town of Monaco situated on a prominent headland which extends out into the Mediterranean Sea. A walking tour through the narrow alleys which date back to the Middle Ages will lead you past many of the most prominent landmarks in the Old Town including the St. Nicolas Cathedral, the Chapel of Mercy, the Palace of Justice and the Place du Palais (Royal Palace) where you can watch the Changing of the Guard each day at 11.55am. Continue your walk to the wonderful Oceanographic Museum where you can enjoy beautiful gardens and a great ocean view.
The Rock of Monaco, 98000, Monaco
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21.The Museum of Philately and Coinage
© The Museum of Philately and Coinage
Visitors who are interested in stamps and coins can pay a visit to the Monaco Museum of Philately and Coinage, which is housed in a contemporary style building overlooking part of the Monaco yacht harbor. Inside, you can follow the postal history of Monaco as displayed by a collection of rare postage stamps and documents related to stamp-printing in the Principality. The first Charles III stamp was produced back in 1885 and although you will not be able to purchase this particular rare gem, you can buy stamps which are currently in circulation. Monegasque coins were first produced in 1640 and you can even purchase a limited-edition Monegasque Euro (which is legal tender).
The Museum of Philately and Coinage, Terrasses de Fontvieille, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-98-98-41-50
22.Swim the Riviera
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If you happen to be an open-water swimming devotee, Swim the Riviera could be an excellent add-on to your holiday in Monaco. When you sign up for a Swim the Riviera package you can take your open-water swimming ambitions to the next level. The packages are compiled and run by Loic Branda, a French international open water swimmer and include sight-seeing and accommodation. To ensure that you get the most out of your open-water swimming adventure the package includes one open-water training session each day, under the watchful eye of your coach. You will always be accompanied by a boat and your swims will take place in some of the most beautiful part of the wonderful Cote de Azur.
Swim the Riviera, 455 Promenade des Anglais, Porte de l’Arenas, 06206 Nice, Phone: +33-6-15-72-47-74
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23.Top Car Monaco
© Top Car Monaco
Car enthusiasts who would like to experience Monaco like a local and blend in with all the city’s rich and famous inhabitants can make their way to Top Car Monaco to rent a luxury dream car for a day or two. Just imagine driving along the actual route of the famous Monaco Grand Prix at the wheel of your very own rental Ferrari. Not a Ferrari man? No problem – you can choose from new model Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Porches, and much more. If you prefer a top British car there is a wonderful Rolls Royce or Bentley waiting to thrill you. Be sure to bring along your driver’s license (and a padded wallet).
Top Car Monaco, 17 Rue des Roses, 98000 Monaco-Ville, Phone: +33-6-52-63-73-83
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The Via Alpina is a famous Alpine hiking trail which can lead you all the way from Monaco to Trieste in Italy, if you have the time and the energy to complete the entire 5000km trail.
Although the Via Alpina stretches across the Alps through eight countries, most recreational hikers will be content with a multi-day hike or a day hike out-and-back from Monaco to Peillon (2.5 hours one way). As you can imagine, the hike offers wonderful views of Monaco and the beautiful Riviera and you will pass the beautiful village of La Turbie. On your return you can sign the Via Alpina book at the Exotic Garden and receive an official stamp as a reminder of your hike.
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25.The Zoological Gardens of Monaco
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Inspired by a trip to Africa, Prince Rainier returned to Monaco and established the Zoological Gardens of Monaco in 1954. The zoo is located on the southern wall of “the rock”, not very far from the royal palace and all the animals you will see have either been donated to the zoo or have been rescued. When animals outgrow the rather small confines of the zoo they are transferred to other suitable locations. The mini-zoo is home to a wide variety of animals and birds and as you walk from one level to the next you also have superb views out over the marina, filled with luxurious yachts. Children can enjoy feeding the goats.
The Zoological Gardens of Monaco, Place du Canton, 98000 Monaco, Phone: +377-93-50-40-30
25 Best Things to Do in Monaco
- Casino Cafe de Paris, Photo: Courtesy of ARC Photography - Fotolia.com
- Fort Antoine Theater, Photo: Courtesy of vouvraysan - Fotolia.com
- Gate 4 Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Artur - Fotolia.com
- The Japanese Garden, Photo: Courtesy of enrico scarsi - Fotolia.com
- Jardin Exotique de Monaco (The Exotic Garden), Photo: Courtesy of CarPhotography - Fotolia.com
- Larvotto Beach, Photo: Courtesy of agaitsgori - Fotolia.com
- Metropole Shopping, Photo: Metropole Shopping
- Monaco Cathedral, Photo: Courtesy of dudlajzov - Fotolia.com
- The Monaco Grand Prix, Photo: Courtesy of Wolszczak - Fotolia.com
- Monaco Le Grand Tour, Photo: Monaco Le Grand Tour
- Monaco Top Cars Collection, Photo: Courtesy of speed300 - Fotolia.com
- Monte Carlo Casino, Photo: Courtesy of santosha57 - Fotolia.com
- Musée de Vieux Monaco - The Museum of Old Monaco, Photo: Musée de Vieux Monaco – The Museum of Old Monaco
- The Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology, Photo: The Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology
- New National Museum of Monaco - Nouveau Musee National de Monaco, Photo: New National Museum of Monaco – Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
- The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, Photo: Courtesy of SEN - Fotolia.com
- The Prince's Palace of Monaco, Photo: Courtesy of Alex Tihonov - Fotolia.com
- Princess Grace Irish Library, Photo: Princess Grace Irish Library
- Princess Grace Rose Garden, Photo: Courtesy of dudlajzov - Fotolia.com
- The Rock of Monaco , Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- The Museum of Philately and Coinage, Photo: The Museum of Philately and Coinage
- Swim the Riviera, Photo: Courtesy of browneyefoto - Fotolia.com
- Top Car Monaco, Photo: Top Car Monaco
- Via Alpina, Photo: Courtesy of Philipimage - Fotolia.com
- The Zoological Gardens of Monaco, Photo: Courtesy of Vladimir Melnik - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of santosha57 - Fotolia.com