The first time I heard about Monaco it was referring to the iconic Monte Carlo casino. Which of course, must also be most people’s main reference about this place. As a football fanatic, Monaco was also on my radar, later on, as the place of many UEFA events, with my own club defeating the local team in the 2004’s Champions League final (it’s never too late to mention it). But enough about me. Monaco is without a doubt the most different state out of the European small countries. Being topped in size only by the Vatican, it’s essentially a city that alone represents a state. For those that never noticed its small dot on the map, Monaco sits at the southeast corner of France. Welcoming the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea in all its splendor, this is the first indication of the lifestyle you can find here.
I would say that Monaco is exactly what I thought it was: a heaven of luxury in many different forms. That can span from yachts (really above everything else) to sports cars, expensive hotels, and fancy restaurants. Because it’s so small, the construction style was made very vertical, with tall apartment buildings wherever they may fit. Indeed, apart from some pre-designated green areas, you cannot see an unpaved road in this country. It’s either a residential area or a commercial area: just like playing SimCity (minus the factories). Unsurprisingly, it’s the most populated country in terms of density.
Despite its size, the royal family made sure you can find the amusements / attractions you’d expect anywhere else. Apart from the obvious casino, I’m talking about a zoo, an ocean museum, an automotive museum, a Japanese garden, deep underground caves and a cathedral, to name a few. Fighting for the top spot with Monte Carlo is also the Prince’s Palace, whose front courtyard you can freely explore (outside the walls of course). Not only the palace but the whole peninsula where it sits features a high concentration of landmarks and natural beauty. It’s also from here that you can take amazing shots of the city and the imponent Port Hercules.
I was a little disappointed by the entrance of the Monte Carlo casino, but the interiors are magnificent. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see more of it because they wouldn’t let my camera in with me. But hey, I got to use their toilets, and that’ll stay with me forever!
You do have a lot of options to make your visit worthwhile in this tiny microstate. But if you’re tired of the city and want to get wet, Monaco is part of the famous and most exclusive Côte d’Azur / French Riviera area. This, of course, relates to the blue waters of the coast of southern France. While renting a yacht for even a couple of hours may not be for everyone’s pockets, you can at least take a tour of the seaside and its towns and villas, or even find a public beach.
I also very much recommend the city for automobile enthusiasts. Not only because of the random power cars that throttle the streets every other minute, but also due to the great Formula 1 history of the state. If you can get there while the iconic city-dodging race is taking place, that’s in itself an experience. But if not, you can nevertheless marvel at some statues throughout the city, as well as the prince’s collection of antique cars.
Special traveler trip
If you’re arriving in Monaco from Nice (and there’s a high probability you’re doing so), I leave you with a great tip. Don’t take the exclusive shuttle that connects the airport to Monaco. While it may take you longer, you can ride the public bus number 100 from Nice to Monaco incredibly cheaper. Rather than watching concrete along the way, you’ll watch marvelous sights of the Mediterranean Sea and the picturesque coast! It’s deemed as one of the most beautiful bus trips in the world and it only costs 1,5€!