Before planning any portion of my family’s visit to France it was agreed that going to Monaco was at the top of the list. Monaco is a short train ride from Nice; just over twenty minutes. Monaco is beautiful both day and night. While there are several places to visit and things to see, the Principality is quite small. One day was more than enough for us to do everything on our list.
Our visit started out with a walk down to the port from the train station. During my first visit to Monaco at the beginning of December, my friends and I went solely for the Christmas Market. This time around I knew we would be exploring the entirety of the area, so I stopped into the welcome office in the train station to get a map. It turns out Monaco is quite easy to navigate so the map wasn’t necessary. Yet if you are visiting for the first time, you can have the person manning the welcome desk to point out places of interest on a map for you.
During the month of December, Port Hercule becomes home to the Marché de Noël, or Christmas Market. All of the traditional staples were present: Ferris wheel, ice skating rink, vin chaud, chocolat chaud, and Nutella covered pastries of the deep fried variety. The market in Monaco has a few stalls or chalets with gifts for sale as well. Being that it is a Christmas Market, ornaments, candles, santons, and other holiday goods were the most popular. I’ve found that cheeses, meats, teas, and scarves are also popular items for sale at Christmas Markets. The market is a nice place to sit down and have a snack or a drink if you’re in need of a break from walking around. This market is fairly small, thus we were ready to move on shortly after entering.
Palais Princier de Monaco
From the port we began to make our way up to the Princes Palace of Monaco. We walked up Rue Princesse Caroline passing shops, cafés, and restaurants along the way.
While you can take the bus up to the Palace and Old Town, I recommend walking up. The views of the port and the mountains are beautiful. If walking isn’t an option, you can buy bus tickets from the ticket machine at each bus stop for just 1,50€. If you buy tickets from the driver on the bus you will pay 2€. Don’t forget to validate your ticket once you board!
We followed the signs, and the hordes of people, to find our way up to the Palace. Of course we stopped for numerous photo ops along the way.
After visiting the Palace and the square, we explored the narrow streets, taking some time to stop in a few shops. The majority of the shops in the Old Town near the Palace are very touristy.
Cathédral de Monaco
From the shops we walked to the Saint Nicholas Cathedral. This church is probably best known as the location of Grace Kelly’s marriage to Prince Rainier III. Built in 1875, the cathedral houses the remains of past Princes and Princesses. Admission to the Cathedral is free and I highly recommend taking the time to go inside if you find yourself in Monaco.
Across from the Cathedral is the courthouse, and just down the road you can find the Oceanographic Museum. We opted to forego the Museum but a return trip is on my list.
Our plan was to head to the Casino in the evening before heading back to Nice. At this point we decided that taking the bus would be our best option. The Old Town and Cathedral are southwest of Port Hercule and the Casinos are northeast of the port. The buses come frequently and, as previously mentioned, are cheap. Schedules including times and stops are posted at each bus stop, making it easy for first time users to find their way.
After getting off the bus we walked past the Opéra de Monte-Carlo on our way to the Casino Monte-Carlo.
There are four different casinos in Monaco: Casino Café de Paris, Casino Monte-Carlo, Sun Casino, and Monte-Carlo Bay Casino. Casino Monte-Carlo and Casino Café de Paris are located at the Place du Casino, along with the Hotel de Paris and les Jardins du Casino (gardens).
The entrance fee (10€) and dress code required to enter the Casino Monte-Carlo were well worth it in my opinion. My family enjoys casinos, and while I’m not much of a gambler, I knew I had to set foot inside arguably the best casino in the world. I even had the honor of losing some money while inside…we can’t all be lucky.
The Place du Casino was beautifully decorated for the holidays and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture dozens of photos. Monte-Carlo on a December night is a sight to remember forever.