The Principality of Monaco

Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

by and - last updated on 5/9/2024

So are you asking yourself "why were they interested in going to Monaco from Nice"? The issue for us was that since we were visiting Nice, we also wanted to visit Monaco because it is not only famous, but it is very scenic and highly photogenic!

If you ignore the Vatican City, the Principality of Monaco is the smallest country in the world. It's a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the beautiful French Riviera and tax free status. It\'s also the place where the rich and famous come - full of luxurious hotels, resorts and casinos. Did I fail to mention how many world famous "super cars" we saw on the streets of Monaco?

Monaco could easily be compared to Las Vegas or Dubai, however, on a much smaller scale - the entire area of the Principality is only 2 square kilometers (less than 1 mile)!

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Monaco Coat of Arms
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Monaco is 20 kilometers from Nice, and is easily accessible via train. The train is very convenient, but gets very, very busy during the late morning and afternoon, so you should go as early as possible. Ticket acquisition in the Nice Train Station is a bit confusing, so get your tickets ahead of time if possible. Some of the automated ticket machines will not accept U.S. credit cards, which complicated our ticket purchases!

Gare de Nice Ville Train Station       Map
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

There are high speed trains (TGV) available here for many French (and International) destinations. In addition, there are regional (TER) trains for just about any location up and down the coast. There are also EuroCity services (Thello) trains that utilize this station.

Each of the various train services are roughly equivalent in price, but operate on their own schedules. So preferring one over the other is generally just a matter of when you want to depart versus price differences.

There are usually two French Rail TER trains per hour to Monaco from Nice, and this is exactly what we selected to ride on.
Click here to view a Google Search Results Page for "train schedule from Nice to Monaco".

Exploring Monaco: Gare de Monaco Train Station
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All trains arrive in the underground area of this train station. Once you ascend to the exit level, this is what you would see from the sidewalk in front of the building.

To really demonstrate how small Monaco is, this train station actually resides just across the French border. Yet when you exit the front of the station building, you are in Monaco!

For the record, Monaco is approximately 202 hectares (500 acres) in size and is the second smallest country in the world (the Vatican being the smallest country).

Monaco has a total population of 38,400 (2016 census) and an area of 2.020 square kilometers. This results in 19,009 inhabitants per square kilometer making Monaco the most densely-populated sovereign state in the world.

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This Image is the property of Smiley.toerist via Wikipedia Commons using the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 ShareAlike license. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Casino Monte-Carlo       Map
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

Our "trek plan" was to walk from the train station down to the Casino Monte-Carlo, a distance of approximately 1 kilometer. This was Monaco's first casino, opening in 1863. Famously featured in the James Bond movies Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye, the Monte Carlo Casino opened in a bid to bring tourists and income to Monaco.

 More Info for the Casino Monte-Carlo 
  • Casino Monte-Carlo Wikipedia Article:
  • Casino Monte-Carlo Google Images Set:
 
Opéra de Monte Carlo Monaco       Map
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

And as we continued our walk past the Casino Monte-Carlo on Avenue de Monte-Carlo we walked past the Opéra de Monte-Carlo on our left. The round structure on the left of the Opéra building is the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, a five star hotel that is rather expensive! For example, a harbor or sea view room starts at 745 euros. A sea view room with a terrace will cost in excess of one thousand euros.

NOTE: Image is the property of avu-edm via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Casino History: With the lack of cultural diversions available in Monaco in the 1870s, Prince Charles III, along with the Société des bains de mer, decided to include a concert hall as part of the casino. The main public entrance to the hall was from the casino, while Charles III's private entrance was on the western side. It opened in 1879 and became known as the Salle Garnier, after the architect Charles Garnier, who designed it.

 More Info for the Opéra de Monte-Carlo 
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Sun Casino / Fairmont Hotel       Map
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

This is the famous Sun Casino which is adjacent to the Fairmont Hotel and is located at the very center of the "Fairmont Hairpin" which is the Formula 1 racing name for this corner in front of the hotel - the rest of us can just call it Avenue Princess Grace.

If you have ever seen a Formula 1 Race, then you will have seen race cars looping around this very tight corner as they descend to make the right turn onto Boulevard Louis II.

If you have never seen a Formula 1 Race and you want to see what I am talking about, then go watch this video on YouTube. The camera was on top of the Sun Casino building pointing down at the corner as the race cars slow to approximately 30 mph.

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Image # 2 above is the property of otterboris via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Video is the property of Blondie Fickle from YouTube.

Fairmont Hairpin Bend
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

The Avenue Princess Grace as it approaches the Sun Casino and the famous Fairmont corner. If you look at the left center area of this image, you can see how the Avenue makes a 180 degree turn and swings downhill just in front of the Sun Casino.

This just might be one of the most famous corners in any type of racing! It is officially known as "turn 6" in Formula 1 Racing also known as "Grand Hotel Hairpin".

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Image # 2 is the property of Snowdog via Wikipedia Commons using the Creative Commons CC0 License.

 More Info for the Fairmont Hotel 
  • Fairmont Hotel Wikipedia Article:
  • Fairmont Hotel Google Images Set:
 
Above Princess Grace Avenue       Map

We had stopped for a Starbucks (needed something iced, as it was getting hotter by the minute), in a shop high above the Avenue Princess Grace. These images are looking east along the Monaco shoreline as it marches off to the border with France. Incredible view and we were able to get some of the off-shore breeze up there!

The street at the very bottom of these pictures (as seen from Starbucks) is Boulevard Louis II as it begins it's route west into the Larvotto Tunnel. Avenue Princess Grace continues eastward, the right turn onto Boulevard Louis II takes you to the Larvotto tunnel.

This Starbucks has a really nice patio where patrons could consume their drinks, relax and take in the stunning views! And not only did this patio have a tremendous view of the east side of Monaco, it had an even better view of the Mediterranean Sea.

As we were sitting there enjoying our iced drinks and sitting on the Starbucks bacony, their wall to prevent customers from falling down the cliff to Boulevard Louis II below did not preclude us from being able to see a number of "super cars" on the road below. We took a video of these cars, because it was just too good to be true. That video is displayed below;


Youtube Video Link
Click this image to watch a video of these high-end cars driving through Monaco. This video is the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.

 Image Credits
  • Image # 2 is the property of Antony Beliaev via the Four Square City Guide.
  • All other images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
Tunnel Larvotto       Map
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

You can see why there is a tunnel here, the Fairmont Hotel is immediately above above the tunnel entrance. When you exit the western end of the Tunnel, you will find yourself in front of the Monaco Harbor.

Formula 1 race cars are generally hitting speeds of 160 mph as they enter this tunnel. And if you recall, the race cars slowed to approximately 30 mph on the Grand Hotel Hairpin, then they had to make a sharp right turn onto Boulevard Louis II from Avenue Princess Grace and then they accelerate again!

NOTE: Image # 1 is the property of Alexander-93 via Wikipedia using the Creative Commons CC0 License.

Looking for the Monaco Harbor Water Taxi
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

This is the scene as we walked down the stairs from the Larvotto Tunnel looking for the harbor water taxi (bateau bus) to get to the Musée Océanographique. You can see the water taxi dock area in the lower center of this picture.

Our travel research had made us aware that the water taxi was inexpensive and would save us from having to walk completely around the harbor to reach the Musée Océanographique. As an example, it would have been a 2.5 kilometer walk to get to the Musée Océanographique if we had walked around the harbor, but using the taxi allowed us to sit in comfort and admire all of the beautiful yachts as we motored along.

Inside Monaco Harbor
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

The harbor was filled with beautiful motor yachts, and as we were taken by water taxi to the other side of the harbor, every direction we looked at was filled with more & more beautiful motor yachts. Keep in mind that this is a very expensive harbor to keep a boat in; An article on Forbes stated "To moor in one of the world’s most expensive marinas during high season, a superyacht owner can be expected to pay up to $4,130 per night, and during prime time events such as the Monaco Grand Prix rates can skyrocket to $100,000 or more for a five-day stay in Monaco’s prime berths.”

Port Hercules is the only deep-water port in Monaco and it has been in use since ancient times. The modern port was completed in 1926, and underwent substantial improvements in the 1970s. It covers almost 40 acres, enough to provide anchorage for up to 700 vessels.

Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

Looking north from the Harbor

The border with France is just beyond that set of hills in the distance - remember that Monaco is just a tick larger than two square kilometers.

Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

Monaco from the Harbor

You can see how the city marches up the surrounding hills and some buildings & hills disappear into the clouds.

Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

Monaco Harbor Views

Those hills above Monaco belong to France, giving you yet a better grasp of just how small Monaco is.

 Image Credits 
  • Image # 3 is the property of  Jongleur100 via Wikimedia Commons using the Public Domain license.
  • All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

The 'Lady Moura'

This spectacular four-level yacht, 344 feet long by 62 feet wide, boasts a state-of-the-art leveling system to avoid lateral tilts as it turns or accelerates. Its hull was built with a combination of steel and high-strength aluminum and is powered by two 6,868 horsepower diesel engines, which allow it to reach a top speed of 20 knots.

The Lady Moura is owned by Saudi Arabian businessman, Nasser Al-Rashid.

 
Musée Océanographique de Monaco
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

After our water taxi ride across the Monaco Harbor, we decided to visit the Musée Océanographique de Monaco. The water taxi dropped us off at a point where we could walk alongside the Mediterranean Sea. The images above are all of the rear area of the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, as we approached it from the harbor area. Image # 1 is looking back east as we approached the rear area of the Musée.

Image # 2 is looking down at a small beach as we approached the Musée Océanographique. See the steps in the lower center of that picture? That is the only way down to this beach and those stairs are very steep! The parking building for the Musée Océanographique is at the top center of image # 1, pedestrians (like us) are required to walk around the parking building to the left.

The Oceanographic Museum was inaugurated in 1910 by Monaco's modernist reformer, Prince Albert I. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was director from 1957 to 1988.
The Oceanographic Museum aquariums area contains a set of pools with more than 200 species of invertebrates.

The Oceanographic Museum area contains the largest cabinet of marine world curiosities, created by artist Mark Dion. More than 1,000 objects from the Oceanographic Museum’s collections are displayed in a 180-square-metre space: fossils, chimaeras, diving gear, valuable books etc.

The Oceanographic Museum (front view)
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This monumental example of Baroque Revival architecture has an impressive façade above the sea, towering over the sheer cliff face to a height of 279 feet (85.04 m). It took 11 years to build, using 100,000 tons of stone from La Turbie (a village in France in the hills above Monaco). During construction, the names of twenty well-known oceanographic research vessels personally selected by Prince Albert I were inscribed into the frieze of the museum's façade.

NOTE: The above image is the property of Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons and CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

 More Info for the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco 
  • Oceanographic Museum of Monaco Wikipedia Article:
  • Oceanographic Museum of Monaco Google Images Set:
Back to Nice
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

Back to the Train Station

After our visit to the Musée Océanographique was finished, we decided that we should catch a bus and visit the Formula One race starting point before we began our walk back to the train station. The starting line is on Boulevard Albert 1st, next to the Monaco Automobile Club building, so the walk back to the train station would take us through some of Monaco that we knew would be scenic.

This image is of the Monaco Yacht Club on Boulevard Louis II near the Quai Chicane.

For a more complete discussion of the Monaco Race Circuit, visit the Formula One Website.

Gare de Nice Ville Train Station      View Google Map
Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

On our way back to Nice - only a 20 kilometer train trip from Monaco. The return trip was somewhat more crowded than the trip that morning, as we were probably riding during the "rush hour". There was still sufficient room, and the stops were frequent to allow commuters to arrive or depart.

Monaco in a Day - From Nice to the Playground of the Rich & Famous

The French Rail System is inexpensive, efficient & fast. I cannot imagine why anyone would rent a car to drive in the Côte d'Azur; parking is difficult to find, streets are narrow and the trains go just about everywhere you might want to go.

NOTE: Image # 2 is the property of DV via WikiMedia Commons.

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