Monaco in a Day: How to Make the Most of Your Visit
If you’re spending time in the French Rivera, you’re bound to be enticed by the prospect of visiting Monaco. After all, visiting the second smallest country in the world can earn you some bragging rights. But is it possible to visit Monaco in a day? And is it worth it?
Here’s the truth: spending one day in Monaco left me feeling like I had time to thoroughly explore the country.
I rarely feel that way about a city, let alone a country.
So yes, visiting Monaco in one day is possible and worth it.
Got five minutes?
Great. Let me show you how to take a Monaco day trip.
Accessibility Note: For details on wheelchair accessibility in Monaco, head to the bottom of this post.
Psst…In case you haven’t heard, Monaco is expensive. Don’t miss my guide about visiting Monaco on a Budget if you’re strapped for cash.
How to get to Monaco from Nice
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I visited Monaco in a day from Nice. Since this is the most common route people take when visiting Monaco in one day, that’s what this section will focus on.
The good news is that if you’re staying along much of the French Rivera, these instructions will apply to you — you’ll just have a different pickup point.
Bus to Monaco
Taking the bus to Monaco is the best option for budget travelers. The cost is only 3 Euro round trip and you can pay the driver in cash when you board.
When traveling at any point along the French Riviera between Nice and Menton, you’ll want to take Bus #100.
When traveling from Nice, the bus will read Menton por Monaco. The buses run about every 20 minutes, although times are subject to change depending on the hour of the day, day of the week, and holidays.
For up-to-date information about bus schedules, I recommend checking out Moovit.
You might be wondering: what are the buses to Monaco like?
They’re clean, temperature-controlled, and have screen monitors showing the upcoming next three stops with both a French and English announcement.
Long story short, you’ll be plenty comfortable, assuming the bus isn’t packed.
Travel Tip: When traveling from Nice to Monaco, sit on the right side of the bus for ocean views. There aren’t a lot of seats on board, so standing on the right side is an option too.
So, how long is the bus ride from Nice to Monaco?
They say 30 minutes is average. But in reality, my 8:00 am Saturday bus took only 20 minutes.
Once you arrive in Monaco, you’ll have a few different bus stop options to choose from. I recommend either Monaco-Ville (historical center) or Monte Carlo.
Scooter or Motorcycle to Monaco
For those with the appropriate licenses and means, arriving in Monaco by scooter or motorcycle is a great option.
Why not a car, you ask?
Because parking in Monaco is a beast if you’re traveling during the high season. So, scooters and motorcycles will be easier to maneuver and park.
If you’re planning on showing off your fancy vehicle while in Monaco, consider this — Monaco is a walkable country.
In many cases, exploring by foot and using the free public elevators to take you up and down the mountainside will be a more efficient way to get around than trying to drive, park, drive again, and park again.
Biking to Monaco
Biking to Monaco is possible, but I only recommend this for experienced cyclists.
For starters, the road doesn’t have a shoulder for most of the coastal journey between Nice and Monaco. The road is also curvy with some hills.
But I didn’t know this before I traveled to Monaco; all my eyes saw was a map with endless miles of road hoovering above the beautiful Mediterranean.
So, I sought out a bike.
As luck would have it, a bike rental employee in Nice took one look at me and said, “No way.”
Thank you, dear stranger.
He instead suggested I rent an electric bike to take a day trip to Monaco (35 Euros). I was tempted by this, but since they didn’t open until 9:00 am and I wanted to get an earlier start, I decided against it.
And so, the bus was my (wonderful) fate.
I later realized that there were public electric bikes in Nice that I could have taken. Although I would’ve loved to have had the flexibility to stop whenever I wanted to take in the beautiful Mediterranean views, after seeing the lack of shoulder on the roads, I was glad I didn’t.
Plus — and this is a big one — visiting by bike would significantly cut into the time I would have had to explore Monaco in a day.
Train to Monaco
Finally, you can take a one day trip to Monaco by train.
I know, I know — you’re wondering why I saved the train for last. This is Europe we’re talking about, after all.
Your point is valid, but here’s the thing: the train doesn’t offer the same kind of stunning Mediterranean views as the other transportation methods discussed here.
You’ve come so far to take a day trip to Monaco. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of the scenic journey!
Things to do When Visiting Monaco in a Day
For such a small country, Monaco offers a mind-boggling amount of activities. But your time is precious, so I’ll focus on the absolute must-sees.
Below are my top suggestions for how to spend one day in Monaco. To help maximize your time, I’ve ordered these activities logistically, starting from the old town and ending in Larvotto Beach.
1. Monaco-Ville Old Town (aka “The Rock” & “Monaco City”)
Like any European country, Monaco has a historical center and it’s one of the highlights of visiting the country.
When I arrived in Monaco by bus from Nice, I disembarked at Le Port (the port) bus stop and backtracked towards the old town on foot, walking uphill on a pedestrian path. If you start your Monaco day trip early, I highly recommend doing this.
Travel Tip: Don’t waste too much camera battery at the port. The views get even better as you climb the pedestrian stairway.
Bonus: At the base of the stairway before you make the climb up to Monaco-Ville, there’s a small outdoor fruit and flower market.
The stairs to Monaco-Ville follow the hill’s steep incline. But the steps are short in height and wide in length, making the climb infinitely easier.
As you approach the top, you’ll come across an archway. Shortly after that, there are public restrooms. Then, the path will drop you directly off at the Prince’s Palace and the expansive viewpoint area.
The viewpoint by Prince’s Palace is one of the best viewpoints over Monaco.
But it doesn’t end there.
Walk around the side of the palace for other amazing views. Then, once you’ve soaked it all in (if that’s even possible!) spend time wandering the old town streets and cathedral.
Monaco-Ville is small, so you’ll be able to see it all in an hour. There are plenty of souvenir shops around and some restaurants.
However, if you’re coming from Le Port, you’ll be able to find cheaper meals there.
Want more budget tips? Check out my post about Monaco on a Budget.
2. Prince’s Palace
The Price’s Palace is basically a Monaco version of the White House; it’s where the prince lives.
Visits to the palace vary throughout the year, so it’s best to check the palace’s website for the most up-to-date information.
The entrance fee is 10 Euros for adults and 5 Euros for children. However, if you’re not keen on paying to enter, there’s another option — watching the Changing of the Guards.
The Changing of the Guards takes place at 11:55 am each day. So, if it fits with your schedule for visiting Monaco in a day, it’s a great (and free) perk.
3. Oceanographic Museum
The beautiful Oceanographic Museum is perched on a hill in Monaco-Ville. Even if you don’t want to pay the 16 Euros fee per person to enter, it’s still worth heading there to admire its architecture.
A good option for kids, the Oceanographic Museum is both a museum and an aquarium. There’s an aquarium with touch tanks located in the basement with two floors of exhibits above.
The exhibits lacked information, so they try to get you to purchase a 1 Euro brochure to make up for it. But their showcases of marine and terrestrial wildlife is impressive.
In addition to visiting the inside of the building, there’s a viewpoint on the roof. But I won’t beat around the bush here — you’ll get better views of Monaco and the Mediterranean coastline from Prince’s Palace and Cactus Park.
4. Cactus Park
From the old town, follow the path to Jardin Exotique de Monaco. AKA, Cactus Park.
It’s exactly as it sounds — a park full of cacti — but it deserves some adjectives in front of it because it’s stunning.
Cactus Park is filled with unique looking cacti. And just as wonderful, you’ll get amazing views looking down on Monaco from your mountainside viewpoint.
The photos you’ll get from there aren’t just Instagram worthy, but everything worthy.
Cactus Park is open year-round with varying hours of operation, depending on the season. It offers more reasonable prices than what you’ll find at most other entrance fee-based Monaco attractions.
If you’re traveling to Monaco in a day on a shoestring budget, visit the Saint-Martin Gardens instead. You’ll still get some good views and be able to see a variety of cacti (although let’s face it — Monaco is full of cacti, so you don’t need to go to a park to enjoy it).
5. Casino de Monte-Carlo
If you’re saving your money for a single entrance fee during your Monaco day trip, let it be the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo, and the gambling lifestyle, is one of the biggest definers of Monaco. I’m not a gambler, but being denied entry because I was wearing sneakers past the “tourist” cut-off hour left me feeling unexpectedly let down.
It can be hard to discern those truly rich from your average tourist (well…it can sometimes be hard) since so many people dress up for the occasion. And, in fact, it’s required starting in the mid-afternoon.
When it comes to the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the phrase dress to impress is better phrased as dress to be accepted. Shorts, sandals, flip flops, and t-shirts are among the many pieces of clothing that aren’t allowed inside the Casino after 2:00 pm.
If you arrive before that time and simply want to visit the casino’s atrium, you’ll be welcomed with open arms in just about any attire. Best of all, it’s free to enter and children under 18 can join you.
6. Japanese Gardens
By now, your day in Monaco will likely be winding down. And what better way to wind down than by visiting a Japanese garden?
The Japanese Gardens are a perfect stop between the Casino de Monte-Carlo and your last stop, Larvotto Beach.
Here’s a fun fact: Prince Rainier III was fascinated by Zen designs. So, he requested that the Japanese Gardens be built in 1994 for all to enjoy.
The garden is open daily April 1st – October 31st from 9:00am – 6:45pm and from November 1st to March 31st from 9:00am – 5:45pm.
7. Larvotto Beach
As is typical for French Riviera beaches, Monaco’s Larvotto Beach is stone.
The good news?
The stones are more like pebbles; they’re smaller and flatter than stones in other parts of the Riviera.
In fact, they’re almost comfortable enough to wander around barefoot, and some people were. Here’s another fun fact: it’s illegal to walk around barefoot in Monaco if you’re not at or around the beaches.
Larvotto Beach is about a 15-minute walk from the casino, and much less than that from the Japanese Gardens. You’ll know you’re near the beaches when you see a complex with a Starbucks and McDonald’s. From there, you can either take the elevator down to the beach or continue walking down the path.
As expected on the sunny summer day I visited, the beach was packed and chairs and umbrellas were available for rent.
Larvotto Beach is nice. But in all honesty, since you’ll be visiting Monaco in a single day, I’d save the beach for other parts of the French Riviera.
Getting around Monaco
Now that we’ve covered what to do during a one-day trip to Monaco, let’s take a look at the options you have for crisscrossing the country.
Public Escalators & Elevators
Taking public escalators and/or elevators in Monaco is a must-do, at least once.
Not only is this very Monégasque, but you’ll get to travel between the coast and Casino de Monte-Carlo without sweating through that brand new jacket and tie you bought for gambling in its private game rooms.
There’s no cost to take the elevators and escalators in Monaco. And from my experience traveling during the summer, there were few to no lines.
You can easily walk to all the main attractions in Monaco; it’s just a matter of what kind of experience you’re looking for from your day in Monaco.
If you’re like me and enjoy the outdoors and being active, walking in Monaco is a perfect fit. But since Monaco is all about high-end shopping, casinos, and restaurants, opting for a less physical day makes it easier to dress the part.
There’s a small tourist train, the Petit Train, that runs through the country. Although called a train, it’s really a series of open-air carts on wheels.
The Petit Train is a fantastic option for those wanting to see Monaco’s highlights in one day.
You’ll start your tour journey with the Petit Train at the Oceanographic Museum. The tour lasts 30 minutes and comes with headphones, offering an educational experience in addition to sightseeing.
Hop-on Hop-off Bus
The international Hop-On Hop-Off bus operates in Monaco and is an excellent option for day-trippers.
You’ll get to pick and choose where you want to get off the bus and explore before setting off to your next destination.
So, for all you Hop-on Hop-off fanatics, rest assured you’ll have this option in Monaco!
There’s a ferry that runs between Monaco-Ville (old town) and Monte Carlo every 20 minutes. The first ferry from the Monaco-Ville port to Monte Carlo starts running at 8:10 am and the last ferry leaves at 7:50 pm.
The first ferry from the Monte-Carlo port to Monaco-Ville starts running at 8:00 am and the last one leaves at 7:40 pm.
On both sides of the port, there are elevators nearby to take you up and down the mountain. Tickets cost 2 euro per way and you can pay the driver onboard.
Ready to hear my thoughts on the ferry?
It was by far the most anticlimactic boat experience I’ve ever had; the ride took a mere few minutes and moved so slowly I swear I could have walked faster.
However, if you’ve opted to explore Monaco on foot, the ferry is a short cut to rest your weary legs. And my legs were weary, so I was thankful for the break.
If a real boat is more your style, you can take a 35 – 40-minute boat ride around Monaco’s coast.
The cost is 15 euro per adult and 10 euro per child under six years old.
You can also rent a private boat with a captain for a timeframe that you set (and pay for, of course).
Dress Attire in Monaco
Monaco is the perfect country for those who love to dress up. In fact, dressing up is required inside some buildings.
I dressed up a bit more than usual for my Monaco day trip (so I basically started from scratch), although sneakers prevented me from being able to enter the table game area of the Monte-Carlo casino.
From personal observation, the majority of people I encountered in Monaco were dressed up. However, if you plan on visiting in shorts, a tank top, and flip flops, rest assured that you’ll be among a healthy group of others doing the same.
With that said, make sure to wear a shirt and some form of footwear when you’re not within the immediate vicinity of the beach…it’s the law!
10 Euros Food Allowance Test
I ran an experiment during my first trip to western Europe — I tried to eat on a 10 Euros a day budget.
Was it crazy?
Did it work?
Most of the time.
Now, you must be wondering: how did Monaco hold up to my 10 Euros a day food budget?
It didn’t; I ended up spending close to double. But give me a little credit here — it was my first day on vacation and those ice cream shops were just too hard to resist.
Nonetheless, if I had more self-control, it would have been possible for me to stick with a 10 Euro (or so) food budget, thanks to cheaper sandwich/salad options by the port.
Are you interested in learning more about where to find cheap(er) food in Monaco along with cheap(er) souvenirs? If so, head over to my post about visiting Monaco on a Budget.
Miscellaneous Things About Monaco
Whenever I visit a new destination, my mind is constantly in analyzation mode, trying to find helpful tips to bring to you, my readers.
Below are a some miscellaneous items I discovered that I think will help you visit Monaco in a day.
- The Monégasque are extremely friendly, welcoming people.
- Restrooms are abundant, free, clean, and well stocked with toilet paper and soap.
- You can get your passport stamped at the tourism office near the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
- Although French is the official language, you’ll find plenty of English speakers. And by plenty, I mean that I didn’t come across a single person who didn’t speak English. And great English, at that.
- Drivers in Monaco are respectful of crosswalks. Many times, they anticipated my crossing before I had even decided whether or not I was going to cross. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was out of politeness or to show off their expensive car, but regardless, it was a breath of fresh air (and the cars were a head-turner, even for a non-car fanatic like me).
- In a country so small that you can stand pretty much anywhere and see the entire area, people get confused between Monte Carlo and Monaco; the words are sometimes used interchangeably. Monte Carlo is the administrative area of Monaco. Monaco doesn’t have a capital, but Monte Carlo is essentially its capital, without the fancy title.
Monaco for Wheelchair Users
Despite being built on the side of a mountain, Monaco offers decent accessibility for wheelchair users.
One of the best places for wheelchair accessibility in Monaco is along the coast. Here, sidewalks are flat and the boardwalk is wide.
Drop-down curbs are everywhere. Cobblestone is located in some pedestrian areas, but the majority of sidewalks have a smooth surface.
Unfortunately, some sidewalks in Monaco have small steps built into them. They’re easy enough to pop over with your wheelchair, but they’re annoying, to say the least.
Public elevators are located in a few points throughout the country. They’ll take you up and down some of the steepest parts of the mountain and are free to use.
When it comes to tourist attractions within Monaco, most of them are adapted to offer excellent wheelchair accessibility. An exception to this is at the Prince’s Palace, where the State Apartments are inaccessible.
Public transportation offers good accessibility within Monaco. Both the buses and ferries are wheelchair accessible.
Ready to Visit Monaco in a Day?
Monaco is an easy country to visit in one day. I hope this article has inspired you to visit and helped with your trip plans.
If you have questions about taking a day trip to Monaco, leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to help. I’d also love to hear about your own experience and tips about visiting Monaco in a day.
P.S.- Do you want to save money in Monaco? My guide on visiting Monaco on a Budget will help you.
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.