Simply put, Monaco is the epitome of luxury and grandeur. A tiny country nestled on the glorious French Riviera, Monaco has long been a haunt for the rich and famous, thanks to generous tax laws, beautiful scenery, and fantastic weather.
With such wealthy residents (one in three Monaco residents is a millionaire), it’s no surprise that the country is a hotspot for five-star hotels, Michelin-star restaurants, and a super yacht (or ten). Luckily, Monaco isn’t out of bounds for us regular folk, and tourists from all over flock to experience the ‘lifestyle of the rich and the famous.
Realistically, a holiday in Monaco doesn’t come cheap… but, if you cut out the accommodation, that can bring down the cost considerably. We’ve created this ultimate guide to a Monaco day trip from Nice, for those of you who want to play Grace Kelly for the day, hit up the streets of Monte Carlo, or relax on the shores of the Plage du Larvotto.
Table of Contents
- How to get to Monaco from Nice
- Things to see and do in Monaco
- Where to eat
- The best time to visit Monaco
- Monaco tips
- Final Thoughts
How to get to Monaco from Nice
Nice and Monaco are only 21km apart, making it the perfect day trip! The journey between the two is short, and you can easily get from one to the other via train, bus, or car. We’ll outline the details below:
Getting to Monaco by train is by far the easiest way. It’s easy to organize and only takes between 19-24 minutes.
The trains depart from Nice Villa and bring you right into the heart of Monaco, to the Monaco-Monte-Carlo Station (the country’s only railway station). There are regular services throughout the day, starting at 05:36 and ending at 21:36. The best part? On average a one-way ticket only costs around €4.30!
If you thought the train was cheap, the bus to Monaco can cost as little as €1.50.
You’ll find the Nice bus terminal in Le Port (Nice Port), and from there, it takes around 40 minutes. There are two bus services, but we recommend Bus #100 as it has the best views along the way.
Unlike the train, there are four bus stops in Monaco so this may be the best option if you want to start your trip somewhere outside of Monte Carlo. The stops are Place D’armes, Saint Dévote, Monte Carlo, and Place de Moulins. You can check the exact timetable here.
The Bus 100 winds along some stunning coastal scenery so make sure to sit on the right side as you go from Nice to Monaco to enjoy the views to the max!
It takes around 30 minutes to get from Nice to Monaco by car. However, if you’re on a budget, we’d recommend taking public transport as renting a car will be more expensive.
If you do decide to splash out and get a car for the day (maybe a convertible???), or if you’re doing a French Riviera road trip, then we recommend driving along the A8 from Nice to Monaco (you’ll be driving along some lovely country back roads). On the way back, take the M6007 and stop by Èze, a charming French village overlooking the coast.
You may come across some tolls, so be sure to have some euro coins handy.
Things to see and do in Monaco
Stroll through Monaco’s gardens
With so much packed into such a small space, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Monaco doesn’t have a lot of open spaces. In fact, Monaco has several beautiful gardens dotted throughout the principality. Each garden has a different vibe, so you could easily explore them all without getting bored!
Our favorite is the Princess Grace Rose Garden inside Fontvieille Park. It was founded by Prince Rainer III in memory of his wife, Princess Grace. The rose garden covers 5,000m², with over 315 varieties of rose and 6,000 individual rose bushes. Make sure to pass by the bronze statue of Princess Grace which watches over the garden.
Other amazing gardens include the Exotic Garden (closed for 2022 for renovations) and the Japanese Gardens. The Exotic Garden sits high up on the cliffs with breathtaking views of Monaco and contains ‘exotic’ species from Mexico, South America, South Africa, and more. The Japanese Gardens will transport you a world away with traditional Japanese structures, plants, and water features.
Explore Monaco’s historic centre
Monaco-Ville, also known as ‘The Rock’ is the principality’s historic centre, with narrow medieval streets and beautiful old buildings. The Prince’s Palace of Monaco is one of the neighborhood’s most prominent attractions (akin to Buckingham Palace in London) with a daily changing of the guard at 11:55 am. The palace is the official residence of Monaco’s Prince and is open to tours.
Other must-visit attractions in Monaco-Ville are the Saint Nicholas Cathedral and the Palace of Justice. The magnificent Roman-Byzantine-style building dates back to 1875 and is home to the tombs of Monaco’s late princes. Often overlooked, the Palace of Justice is a stunning building that was built in 1930. The curved building is still used by the courts today, so you can’t go inside, but we definitely recommend passing by.
Another must-see in the district is the Oceanographic Museum. Established in 1910, the museum is anything but dated! Inside, there are huge aquariums, interesting exhibitions, and (behind the scenes) ongoing cutting-edge research.
Live it up in Monte Carlo
The neighborhood of Monte Carlo is home to the country’s iconic casino which was built in 1863. No visit to Monaco would be complete without playing a game or two of Poker or Black Jack… The games room is open from 2 pm (although you can visit the casino between 10 am and 1 pm). You’ll feel like a real-life James Bond amongst the crystal chandeliers, artisan-made gaming tables, and the all-around glitz and glamour!
Nearby the casino, you’ll find some spectacular shopping, although your wallet might not thank you after a trip to the haute couture, jewelry, and luxury antique shops…
Monte Carlo is also a good jumping-off point for Port Hercules, an ancient port now home to million-dollar yachts and sailboats. It’s a nice area for a scenic stroll and you’ll find lots of cafes, restaurants, and snack bars nearby the water.
Soak up some sun at Larvotto Beach
If you’re in need of some beach time, then head to Plage du Larvotto (Larvotto Beach) via the Champions Promenade.
A hit with football fans, the Champions Promenade makes its way around the Monaco shorefront, linking Larvotto Beach with Monte Carlo. The promenade is almost the football equivalent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with footprints of football royalty (Maradona, Ronaldo, Schevchenko, etc.)
Larvotto Beach is Monaco’s most popular beach, with golden sands, turquoise waters, and views of the country’s towering apartment blocks and nearby mountains. Nearby, you’ll find the New National Museum of Monaco, a small but interesting museum housed inside two grand villas.
Where to eat
Monaco has no shortage of fantastic restaurants, but we’ve picked out a few that stand out from the crowd, with a range of prices.
- Blue Bay – €€€€
This two-star Michelin restaurant, run by Chef Marcel Ravin, will take you on a culinary journey of Caribbean and Mediterranean flavors. The open kitchen gives a unique insight into the behind-the-scenes action, with panoramic ocean views from the outdoor terrace. Expect dishes like green papaya spaghetti carbonara and organic egg with cassava, truffle, and passion fruit.
- Les Perles de Monte-Carlo – €€ – €€€
This is our top choice for seafood lovers. Les Perles de Monte-Carlo sits on the tip of the pier in the Port de Fontvielle so you’ll be dining right on the water! The rustic restaurant, owned by a pair of marine biologists, serves a range of sustainable seafood dishes, from oysters to sea urchins, to wild prawns.
- La Tavernetta – €€
La Tavernetta is a cozy Italian restaurant tucked away in the alleyways of Monaco-Ville. They have a limited menu, but, for Monaco, the prices are great and the food is delicious. Expect Italian dishes such as risotto, pasta, and pizza.
Monaco isn’t the best place for cheap eats, but if your budget is a bit tight, you could always bring some food with you from Nice or get something in a supermarket in Monaco. There’s also a lovely morning/lunch market (La Condamine Market) where you’ll find reasonably priced and tasty street food.
The best time to visit Monaco
Thanks to Monaco’s Mediterranean climate, it gets around 300 days of sunshine a year, making it beautiful all year long. Summer temperatures can reach an average maximum of 26°C and the winters are mild with average temperatures between 8-14°C.
The best time to visit Monaco for warm, dry weather is from mid-June to early September. However, this is the peak tourist season, so hotel rooms will be higher (not a problem if you’re on a day trip!) and it will be more crowded.
Otherwise, the shoulder seasons (April-June and September-October) are a great time to visit, just bear in mind that the ocean temperatures will still be a little cold in April and May.
As you can see, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on a day trip from Nice to Monaco. And, if you’re smart, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg! But, you may still be wondering about visas, how to get around, and any local customs you should know about. Keep reading below as we’ve got the answers coming up.
How to get around
Given Monaco’s tiny size (it’s only 0.76mi²), getting around is super easy and you can actually walk across the Principality from east to west in just 45 minutes! However, in the heat of the summer, you may want to choose something a bit quicker, and in this case, you can use buses, bikes, boat taxis, and taxis.
Monaco has an extensive bus system with dedicated bus lanes and six bus lines. Between these, there are buses running between 7 am and 9:30 pm every day. If you want to use buses during your day trip, we suggest buying a ticket for the Monaco Le Grand Tour hop-on, hop-off bus. These comfortable double-decker buses have 12 stops and run between 10 am and 5:30 pm.
For those of you looking to be a bit more active, the areas of Fontvieille and Larvotto in particular can easily be explored by bike using their dedicated cycle paths. There are 35 MonaBike stations throughout the principality, where you can easily pick up a bike using the MonaBike app.
Lastly, (what we think is the most fun way to get around Monaco) there’s the Bus Boat service. If you find yourself needing to travel across Port Hercules, then you can use Monaco’s ‘bus taxi’ which brings you from the districts of Monte Carlo to Monaco-Ville. There are crossings every 20 minutes, and tickets cost €2.
How expensive is Monaco?
According to budgetyoutrip.com, the average traveller to Monaco spends €47 on meals and €16 on transport. This is not cheap and realistically could be much higher, but you can always bring these costs down by following our tips on how to eat on a budget and how to get around (see above). A lot of Monaco’s attractions are free, so that’s an added bonus!
In Monaco, restaurants will usually include a 15% service charge on top of your bill. Make sure to double-check that it’s been added on because if it hasn’t been added already, it’s customary to tip 15%. It’s also customary to tip 15% in bars.
You should only wear beach attire on the beach or in bathing areas, this includes being stripped to the waist or walking barefoot. In public buildings and places, appropriate clothing must be worn at all times. In religious buildings, a strict dress code may be in place (shoulders covered, no shorts/skirts above the knee).
Do you need a visa for Monaco?
If you’re entering Monaco from France, you won’t need an additional Monaco visa as your French visa will entitle you to entry. Similarly, if you don’t need a visa to enter Schengen Member states, you won’t need a visa for Monaco. What you will need is to carry your passport or identity card.
With its proximity to Nice, interesting attractions, and all-around splendour, Monaco makes a fantastic day trip. Yes, its reputation for being an expensive destination is well deserved, but if you cut out spending the night and are smart with your activities and restaurant choices, you can easily visit this jewel on the French Riviera without breaking the bank!
If you have any more tips for us on great restaurants, attractions that we’ve missed, and money-saving tips, feel free to pop us a message below.