How to spend (just) one day in Monaco
Monaco is a small country, but it certainly packs a lot in!
There is something about this glamorous hotspot that instantly makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from an old Hollywood classic movie.
Because Monaco is a small country, it is actually possible to see the entire country in one day – though your feet will hate you for it!
So if you can only spend a night, or planning a day trip – here are some ideas of how to spend 1 day in Monaco while still looking elegant and relaxed.
Start with a Coffee at Café de Paris
Café de Paris is an institution that sits right outside the famous Monte Carlo casino and is the perfect spot to start your day.
This is the perfect spot to start as it is close to the train station, bus stops, the harbour and every taxi driver will know exactly how to get there.
Every time I stop by Monaco I can’t help myself, just sitting in this café transports me to another time, where I feel like I am on a movie set back in the golden age of Hollywood!
So, take a seat, order a café and pastry and enjoy some people watching.
Location: Place du Casino, Monte-Carlo (see it on Google Maps here)
Open Hours: 8am to 1am
Take a Walk Along the Harbour
After your coffee, take a walk around the Casino de Monte-Carlo (which is conveniently right next door). It is a beautiful building that houses the casino, theatre, bars and restaurants.
Right behind you will find stairs and paths heading to the water, towards the first part of the harbour – the Jetée Lucciana. If you walk to the end of the jetty you can watch the ships and yachts come into the harbour.
Port Hercules is the only deep water harbour in Monaco so you will find yachts of all shapes and sizes here (it was also used originally as a trading port by ancient Greeks and Romans).
Walking along the harbour is a perfect opportunity to admire the luxury yachts parked there, make sure you look at the some of the names on the yachts – It is one of my favourite things to do, I love seeing the creative and sometimes funny names on yachts.
Since we only have a day, we are going to take a little short cut found not far past the Yacht Club de Monaco. At the same spot the Monaco Hop-On Hop-Off Bus stop is, there is also the stop for the Bateau Bus. The Bateau Bus is a very affordable ferry that crosses the harbour literally to the other side. A great option if you do not feel up to walking around the entire harbour.
A one way fare purchased on the bus is €2.
Explore Monaco Old Town
For some of the best views in the city, head up to the Old Town which sits on a plateau above the two harbours.
The old town itself is filled with narrow streets and quaint buildings, with some great little gift stores where you will be sure to find a memento to take home.
Right at the top is Le Palais des Princes de Monaco (the Princes Palace). It is the official residence of the Royal family, and at different times of the year (when the family are not in residence) parts of the palace are open for visitors. If you happen to be there when it is open, I recommend taking the tour. The State Apartments are as opulent and luxurious as you would expect!
Entry is €10, and unfortunately due to the number of stairs the Apartments are not wheel-chair friendly.
Have a picnic in the Jardins de Saint-Martin
Monaco is filled with beautiful, immaculately maintained gardens.
But since we are at the top of Old Town, walk past the Cathedrale de Monaco towards the peaceful gardens that hug the cliff top.
The Jardins de Saint-Martin was the first public gardens in Monaco and were officially opened in 1816.
It is filled with beautiful plants, a beehive, sculptures and of course, stunning views. There are plenty of benches where you can take a seat and relax for a short break.
Open everyday from 9am to 6pm.
Museums & Galleries
Depending on your preferences, there are plenty of options of what to do in the afternoon.
You could walk through some of the other gardens, do some shopping, visit art galleries and museums.
So here are some ideas to consider:
The Musée océanographique de Monaco (Oceanographic Museum)
This incredible museum was founded by Prince Albert I who was also a navigator and oceanographer. The architecture is incredible, from the outside you can see the museum has been built into the cliffs right on the waters’ edge. The ground level of the museum has an extensive range of fossils, and in underground is an impressive aquarium.
This is worth a visit and will take you about 2 hours to explore.
Even better, it is right near the Jardin de Saint-Martin
Open Hours: Vary slightly depending on the time of year, but are generally 10am-7pm
Ticket prices: Adults are €16
Visit their website to check open hours and to prepurchase tickets.
Jardin Animalier (The Animal Garden of Monaco)
Normally I am not one to recommend a zoo, mainly because I hate the idea of animals being caged up.
However, the Animal Garden of Monaco is different. It was set up (and still operates) as a home for abandoned animals.
There are over 250 animals ranging from exotic birds, reptiles, small primates, turtles and even a hippopotamus. These animals have been rescued from customs seizures or donated. And when their quality of life cannot be maintained in the zoo, they are transferred to more appropriate zoos.
Like most of Monaco, the park has been built over several levels into the cliff under the Palace.
Location: The Animal Garden, Esplanade Rainier III, Terrasse de Fontvieille, 98000 MONACO
Open Hours: The hours vary slightly over the year, but generally it is from 10am-6pm, and it closes for 2 hours every day from 12-2pm.
Entry Fee: €6 Euro for adults
HSH The Prince of Monaco’s Car Collection
For admirers of cars, The Prince of Monaco’s Car Collection is a must-see collection. The collection of vintage cars was started by Prince Rainier III in the late 1950s, and he quickly outgrew his own garage space!
There are nearly 100 cars ranging from wooden carriages, to the first automobiles manufactured, luxury brands such as Maserati, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Lotus F1 as well as racing cars from the Monte-Carlo Rally.
There are very few places you can find a personal car collection this extensive, so it is well worth a visit.
Entry: €8 for adults
Location: Monaco Top Cars Collection – Les Terrasses de Fontvieille MC 98000 MONACO
Open Hours: Monday to Sunday 10am-5.30pm
Walk through the Metropole Shopping Centre
A short walk up from the Casino is the Metropole Shopping centre.
A glamorous, mostly below ground shopping mall with chandeliers and marble staircases. I mean, how many shopping centres have you been to with marble floors and period chandeliers?
Take a coffee break in the ground floor café and admire your surroundings (or fit in some shopping if your budget allows).
Location: 17 Avenue des Spélugues, 98000 Monaco (Google Maps)
Monaco Le Grand Tour: Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour
When time is of the essence, sometimes it is easier to make use of a tour bus.
The Monaco Le Grand Tour is the instantly recognisable red double-decker bus that you would have seen in many major cities in Europe.
These hop-on, hop-off tours can be good value in that there is no risk of getting lost, plus you get to enjoy the scenery as the bus slowly drives through the city dropping you off at the sites you want to see the most.
Tickets are purchased from the bus driver and are €23 for a single day pass, or €26 for a 2 day pass.
- A sneaky tip I did find was that you can purchase ticket bundles from the Oceanographic museum’s website at very good rates, including the Monaco Le Grand Tour. Have a look here for more information.
Take a Guided Walking Tour
If you prefer to walk but want some insider information, then this Guided Walking Tour is the solution.
The tour guide will take you through the history of Monaco and its Royal family, and you’ll get to try local specialities during the walk as well. This tour goes for 4 hours, but covers a lot of ground.
Monaco: Personal Travel & Vacation Photographer
A slightly different tour option is to hire a personal travel & vacation photographer. The photographer will discuss with you what type of photos you are after, and take you to the locations in Monaco that will give the best photos.
It definitely takes the pressure off trying to get the perfect holiday photos!
Enjoy some sunset drinks
After a long day exploring, you have definitely earned a break. Monaco is known for its night life, and there is no better place to start then at the Fairmont Monte-Carlo Hotel Bar (Saphir 24). Enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail while looking out over the water, and some of the best views of Monaco.
Good To Know
A tip for anyone using Google maps to find their way around, Monaco is a country filled with elevations and hidden levels. There are tunnels leading everywhere, and 7 public elevators. So it can get a bit confusing and Google Maps does struggle to pick up some paths and streets (I speak from experience – I got lost for over an hour because I relied on the maps a little too much. Upside, I found some really cute little streets and shops!)
So, if you find yourself lost, head towards the water. There are plenty of signs in English to help you find your way.
This post was last updated 15th June 2021