Things to Do in Monaco
The small principality of Monaco, teetering on the side of a cliff that spills down to the Mediterranean, jams loads of history into its 500 acres (202 hectares). The Old Town of Monaco, aka Monaco-Ville and The Rock, is home to a number of historical buildings, monuments, and alleyways that transport visitors back to the Middle Ages.
One of Monaco’s highlights, Casino Square (Place du Casino) is home to the world-famous Monte Carlo Casino, as well as the glamorous Hôtel de Paris and other storied landmarks. A popular destination for both high rollers and curious visitors, the square has a reputation for opulence that’s known the world over.
Petite Monaco’s only public beach, pebbled Larvotto Beach offers one of the best places to swim, sunbathe, and soak up the city’s rarefied ambiance. Located on the eastern edge of Monaco’s coastline, the beach is renowned for its clean, crystalline water. Go for a dip, though wear your best bathing suit—Larvotto attracts glamorous types.
Prince Rainier III of Monaco was passionate about cars and had a wide collection which is now open to the public. Not only does this carefully curated collection showcase some of the most desirable cars in the world, but it also offers a fascinating insight into the history of motoring.
Rising majestically from the cliffs above the Mediterranean, Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum (Musee Oceanographique) is one of the most renowned marine science centers in the world. Discover a highly varied collection of marine life and objects, and come face-to-face with your favorite sea creatures in the aquarium.
Founded in 1939 and rebuilt in 1985, Monaco’s Louis II Stadium (Stade Louis II) isn’t your typical sports arena. Its dramatic, seaside location sets it apart, as does the fact that many of its facilities are located underground. Home to AS Monaco and the Monaco national soccer team, it has a capacity of just 18,500 seats.
Visitors to Europe (and to France in particular) may be fatigued from seeing so many churches, even the fantastic ones, so at first glance, the relatively humble facade of the Monaco Cathedral may not rouse much excitement. But it's worth a visit for a variety of reasons.
First is its history. Generally referred to as the Cathédrale de Monaco, its official name is Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée, but it is also known as the Saint Nicholas Cathedral because of the original site on which the church was built, which was dedicated to Saint Nicholas in the 13th century. There are remnants of 15th-century architecture here, as well as a mish-mash of other styles.
The church is also notable for its relatively recent history, as this is where Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier III in 1956 and also the couple’s final resting place; you can visit their tombs and even leave flowers if you wish. All events for the Monaco royalty are held here, and it is the epicenter of national religious holidays.
The summer masses are also a reason to visit, as this is when the Children’s Choir of Monaco sings the hymns. Open to the faithful as well as non-religious visitors, it's quite an experience and a unique chance to see what local life is like in such a dream-like place.
Stretching from the Circus and Heliport to the Columbus Hotel, Monaco’s Fontvieille Park offers a welcome green space within the highly populated principality. Situated in a separate area within the park is the Princess Grace Memorial Rose Garden, an oasis of natural beauty and calm.
Home to over 250 model ships, as well as numerous naval objects and artworks, the Monaco Naval Museum was founded in 1993. Drawn from the collection of shipbuilding enthusiast Professor Claude Pallanca and supplemented with artifacts owned by Prince Rainier III, it remains one of the city’s most fascinating and unusual institutions.
Dating back to 1215, the Prince's Palace (Palais Princier de Monaco) is the official residence of the Prince of Monaco and one of Monaco’s most impressive landmarks. As well as hosting state occasions and royal celebrations, the palace receives flocks of tourists who come to tour the lavish state rooms and watch the traditional Changing of the Guard ceremony.
More Things to Do in Monaco
Immortalized on screen as the preferred nightspot of choice for James Bond, Monte Carlo Casino (Casino de Monte-Carlo) is famous for its glamorous clientele and decadent decor. Its Belle Epoque facade along the seafront in the tiny city-state of Monaco draws visitors from all over the world.
The Exotic Garden of Monaco (Jardin Exotique de Monaco) is an open-air display of succulent plants from arid regions around the world—namely the Americas, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. At the base of the cliff is the Observatory Cave, a large cavern fit for visitors and local spelunkers to explore its prehistoric rock formations.
The glamorous principality of Monaco is one of the highlights of the French Riviera and a hugely popular cruise destination, welcoming some of Europe’s biggest cruise lines. Arriving at Hercules Port (Port d'Hercule) is an experience in itself, as you dock beneath the dramatic Rock of Monaco, gazing out across the glittering Mediterranean.
Though Monaco is limited in real estate area, the small principality is home to quite a few green spaces, including the beautiful Japanese Garden (Le Jardin Japonais). It was created in 1994 following strict Zen design rules at the wishes of Princess Grace of Monaco. The almost 2-acre (0.8-hectare) garden hosts a waterfall, small mountain, pond, and tea house.
Just a few miles from the French border, the Italian city of Ventimiglia is famed for its scenery and for its history. Ancient Roman ruins number among its top attractions, while Côte d’Azur day-trippers regularly cross the border to soak up its seaside charm, shop its weekly market, and relax on its two beaches.
The Opéra de Monte-Carlo is known locally as the Salle Garnier, which may sound familiar if you’ve visited Paris. The opera house in the City of Light is called the Palais Garnier, and both houses are named after their architect, Charles Garnier. Like its cousin in Paris, Monaco's Salle Garnier is a stunner both inside and out.
Situated on the sea next to the world-famous casino of the same name, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo was conceived as a means of additional entertainment for locals and visitors coming to see and be seen at the glamorous gambling hall. Since its opening in 1879, the opera house has premiered many works; today it hosts about six performance series per season, split between operas, ballets and thematic pieces by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.
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