Things to do in Monaco on a budget | TRAVEL GUIDE

Monaco Port Hercules

Monaco is one of the most exclusive and popular destinations in Côte d’Azur. Nestled on the Mediterranean coastline, halfway between Nice and the Italian border, Monaco has traditionally been compared to the likes of Las Vegas and Dubai – on a much smaller scale, however! Despite having a total area of barely a square mile, the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican comes with its very own tax-free status and has been a worldwide reference for luxury and gambling for more than a century. The glitz and eternal glamour have survived throughout the years thanks to Grace Kelly, various James Bond movies, the Monaco Grand Prix, lavish five star hotels and casinos and countless luxury yachts and cars.

Its strategic location (just a 30min train ride from Nice!) and rather smaller size than its neighbouring French resorts make it the perfect place for a quick day trip. Exploring Monaco in a day is actually possible and the micro-state is full of lesser known hidden gems for those looking to be money savvy. Here are our top tips on things to do in Monaco on a budget.

Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco

1. Try Your Luck at the Monte Carlo Casino

The elegant and posh district of Monte Carlo is home to the emblematic Casino de Monte-Carlo, an impressive beaux arts gambling and entertainment complex sitting on the Place du Casino. Opened in 1863 and designed by Charles Garnier, architect of the Opera of Paris, it features a palace-inspired façade and an equally impressive belle époque interior. Luxurious fast cars including Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces sit on the outside, just a few steps from the extravagant five star Hotel du Paris.

A delight for gambling lovers, the marble and gold complex features not only 7 games rooms but also the splendid Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Various private rooms, such as the iconic Salle Médecin, were featured in Ocean’s Twelve and several of the James Bond movies (Goldeneye, Never Say Never Again and Casino Royale). The Monte Carlo casino also holds the largest slot machine collection in Europe, with more than 1,000 of them spread across the different rooms. The Salle des Amériques is made entirely for slot machines, while the rest of the rooms also incorporate a selection of European (English and European French Roulette) and American table games (Blackjack and Texas Hold’em Poker).

The rooms are constantly updated to incorporate the latest slot machine models, making it one of the most exclusive casinos in the world. A strict “over eighteen only” admission (with ID or passport) and appropriate casual clothes rule is applied from 2pm, requiring a smart dress code in the evening. Entry costs 10€ plus a further 10€ for anyone wishing to gamble in a private room. The casino is also open for tours every day from 9am to 2pm, except when the Monaco Grand Prix is on; however, it’s currently undergoing renovations and tours are suspended in the meantime.

2. Walk along the Monaco Grand Prix Circuit

The Monte Carlo district is also home to the Monaco Grand Prix, held in the principality’s streets every May. The prestigious Formula 1 circuit is widely recognised as one of the most reputable racetracks in the world, with its 3,337km long circuit running along large parts of the everyday roads of Monte Carlo and the harbour streets of La Condamine. This gives you the opportunity to walk or take a taxi ride along the street circuit and spot the famous start/finish line, the red and white striped corners such as La Rascasse and Fairmont Hairpin Curve and, of course, the Monaco Grand Prix tunnel section.

The micro-state is also home to one of the six statues of the famous Argentine Formula 1 driver Juan Miguel Fangio, dotted across several race venues in the world. Channel your inner racer by sitting inside his car and pretending you’re part of the Monaco Grand Prix!

Monaco Tunnel Exit

At the Monaco Grand Prix Start Line

3. Walk up to the top of “The Rock of Monaco

A completely different side of Monaco can be seen within the city walls of the historical old quarter of Monaco-Ville. Colourful buildings, narrow medieval alleyways and charming gardens fill the 62m (203ft) high Le Rocher, a fortress-like hill home to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. Walk up the red bricks of the Rampe Major and through the two 16th century gateways to get the best views of the downtown districts of Monte-Carlo and La Condamine, with the luxury yachts of Port de Fontvieille and Port Hercule blending in with the blue Mediterranean Sea.

4. Admire the Prince’s Palace of Monaco

An unmissable spot within Le Rocher is Le Palais des Princes de Monaco, a Genoese fortress built in 1191 and occupied by the Grimaldi family across various periods of time since the 13th century. Currently the official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco (and previously actress Grace Kelly, after marrying Prince Rainier III in 1956), the Prince’s Palace architecture reflects the history of the Grimaldi family and Monaco. Unlike other European palaces, it has been extended and fortified throughout time after being bombarded and besieged by foreign authorities on several occasions, giving it a unique puzzle-like shape.

The Prince’s Guards (Carabiniers du Prince) were established back in 1817 to provide 24/7 security for the Palace and the Royal Family. They’ve worn the same uniform ever since – an all white uniform in summer and a blue, black and red one during winter. The changing of the guards takes place everyday at 11.55am in front of the entrance to the Prince’s Palace, an activity that attracts multitudes of tourists.

Changing of the guards at Monaco palace

5. Visit Grace Kelly’s Tomb at the Monaco Cathedral

Officially known as Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée or simply Cathédrale de Monaco, this 1875 white stoned Roman-Byzantine church is also referred to as Saint Nicholas Cathedral because of the first parish church in Monaco that was built on the site in 1252. This is the most important religious building in the principality as it’s where Grace Kelly, Prince Rainier III and many of the other members of the Grimaldi family are buried. This is also where the couple got married in 1956 – a ceremony that was watched by an estimated 30 million viewers in a time when not everyone had a TV! All other royalty and religious events are also held here.
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Inside Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco
Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco

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6. Marvel at the Monaco Palace of Justice

Next to the Cathédrale de Monaco lies the small, Neo-Florentine and curvy Palais de Justice, with “LEX”, the Latin word for “law”, carved above the main entrance. Unfortunately, tours aren’t available as the building is still used by the Monegasque judiciary – however, don’t miss the opportunity to check out its façade! Built in 1924 using sea tuff, the Monaco Palace of Justice presents a characteristic exterior with small mollusc shells and pebbles embedded in its walls.

Palais de Justice de Monaco

7. Learn more about the sea world at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Built on the cliffs of “The Rock” overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the Musée Océanographique is both a museum and an aquarium. Founded in 1910 by Prince Albert I (also known as the Navigator Prince), this Baroque Revival structure took 11 years to build and used 100,000 tons of stone! The museum is now home to over 6,000 species in reconstructed natural habitats and features more than 90 tanks – sharks, tropical fish, molluscs, invertebrates, turtles and shellfish cohabit with marine mammal skeletons and marine paraphernalia. Here, the largest cabinet of marine world curiosities displays more than 1,000 objects including fossils, photographs, books and diving gear.

The Oceanographic museum of Monaco opens daily (excluding the F1 Grand Prix weekend and Christmas) from 9.30am/10am to 6pm/8pm, with tickets ranging from 7€ to 20.50€ depending on the season.

Oceanographic Museum, Monaco

8. Get the best sunset views at the Saint-Martin Gardens

Just a stone throw from the Oceanographic Museum, the beautiful Jardins de Saint-Martin offer incredible views of the sea and Port de Fortvieille. Marvel at the koi carp pond and the many statues dotted throughout the gardens, including one of Prince Albert I dressed as a sailor and standing at the wheel of a boat facing the Mediterranean Sea.

9. Eat local at La Condamine Market

And now, the food! Don’t miss the opportunity to pay a visit to La Condamine Market. Opened on 18th November 1880, this traditional open-air/covered market is the best place to find fresh local food in Monaco! Wine, cheese, fish, meat, vegetables, flowers and a whole lot of regional specialities – it has it all! Head over to A Roca, a traditional bakery that has been offering the best flavours of the French Riviera for the last 25 years. Our favourites? Barbajuan – a puff pastry filled with Swiss chard, ricotta cheese, leeks and garlic – and Fougasse Monegasque – a hard biscuit with almonds and small red and white aniseed sweets on top. Delicious!

Top tip – indulge on an ice cream from L’Atelier du Glacier near La Condamine Market for an amazing, refreshing treat.

A Roca | Halle du Marché 15 avenue Place d’Armes 98000 Monaco

L’Atelier du Glacier9, Rue Princesse Caroline, 98000, Monaco

Have you been to Monaco before? Is there anything you think we’ve missed? If you really loved our things to do in Monaco on a budget post, please leave us a comment and show us some love on social media using the buttons below 🙂

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26 comments

  1. Jane Palmen

    Another spectacular place and as with all your blogs, so beautifully written that I wish I could go. Love the photos too – reminders of summer and warm days on these cold evenings x

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you so much, Jane 🙂 Such a lovely comment! x

      Reply

  2. Kayleigh

    Great post! I feel like some may be intimidated by Monaco because it is known for luxury.. nice to know it’s possible to visit on a budget too!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Absolutely, it’s such a fun place to visit on a day trip! No need to spend crazy amounts of money 🙂 x

      Reply

  3. Lisa

    Loved all your photos!! This looks like a great place to explore. I have seen a couple changing of the guards in my time and it is an amazing thing to witness. hard to believe that the same group has been doing it for so long and it is 365/24/7!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Agree! I was surprised to hear they do it every day, but I guess it makes sense? It’s the Royalty after all haha 🙂 x

      Reply

  4. Janja

    Monaco is so beautiful. I loved Oceanographic museum and the building itself is stunning. I just wish I had more free time there, as I visited with a group tour. If I ever go back I am definitely going to casino. This thing has been on my bucket list forever and what better place to tick it off than Monaco (or Las Vegas or Macao). 😛

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Oh Las Vegas sounds like such a fun trip! We’re doing a road trip around California next year and we sadly had to take Las Vegas off the list because we have so many places to visit already x

      Reply

  5. Nicka

    I love this!! I’m very interested to go to Monaco since it’s an exclusive country in the Mediterranean. Thank you for sharing your experience and gorgeous photos 💖

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you for the lovely comment, Nicka! Hope you like Monaco when you visit! x

      Reply

  6. Ellie

    This post is so useful. Monaco is one of those places that exudes money and opulence but I’ve wanted to visit for so long on a budget and these are great ideas! X

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thanks Ellie! Let me know your thoughts when you visit! x

      Reply

  7. Kristin Harris/Tales from Home

    This seems like such a neat place to visit! There is so much to see and do and the views seem so lovely!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Monaco is a very nice place and easy to see on a day trip! Couldn’t recommend it enough 🙂 x

      Reply

  8. Ellie

    Monaco looks stunning, thank you for sharing this post, It is extremely helpful!

    My recent post: https://lifeofellabella.blogspot.com/2018/11/real-talk-power-of-makeup.html

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thanks Ellie! x

      Reply

  9. Bianca Worthy

    New destination for my bucket list! Your photos look great! Thanks for sharing these affordable tips.

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thanks Bianca! Definitely a must! x

      Reply

  10. E

    The market looks so adorable! Great post for saving money in an expensive location!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you! x

      Reply

  11. aisasami

    Monaco always seems like an expensive city to go and visit as it is a “vacation”-like place but it doesn’t have to be. And you pointed that out! Thanks for the great advice.

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you for the lovely comment 🙂

      Reply

  12. Ashley Firth

    Wow your pictures are absolutely amazing! The Prince’s palace is definitely up there for me on my travel bucket list! Monaco looks beautiful 🙂

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Awe thanks Ashley! Really hope you can visit soon! x

      Reply

  13. WifeSquaed

    Awesome post! Great list of things to see or do. This is on our bucket list and we can’t wait to explore it. Thanks for the info, we will definitely be going to some of the places you mentioned.

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Wonderful! Hope you like them when you visit! x

      Reply

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