Grace Kelly has turned Monaco into an eternal sigh of glamour and coquetry. Millionaires and courtiers flock to each other to show off their latest sporting models and boast the length of their boats moored in the harbor. The longest-lived princely dynasty in Europe and around the world, the Grimaldi family, is one of the ingredients that spice up this city-state seen by the general public as an urban Formula 1 circuit where between curves and chicanes tinkle with high heels and open the doors of the convertibles in front of the Montecarlo casino.
Attractions to escape to know it. So, what if we take a walk from end to end together and see how much you can see in Monaco on a day trip? As long as no one says otherwise, it’s still free to do so…
What to see in Monaco? On foot through the city of luxury in the heart of the Côte d’Azur
Notice to navigators. Being the second smallest country in the world, just below the Vatican, we cannot go to Monaco with too many pretensions. This is an ideal day or half-day excursion if you are making a trip along the Côte d’Azur. Either on our own or by booking a guided tour with someone who knows the place well. Logical starting points are Nice or Cannes.
If we leave the railway station or park our vehicle in one of the many public car parks available in the Principality (and which are surprisingly cheap) we should always look for the port, link or bridge between two elevated worlds as they are, to the west the old city born from the palace of the Grimaldi and to the east Montecarlo with its imposing casino and its five star hotels in which Lamborghinis remain parked at the door. From that moment on we will be very clear about the three worlds or spaces of Monaco.
More than a promenade it is a walk between sheik yachts and multimillionaires with no limits on their gold card. In summer they open attractions for children and are filled with fast food stalls that are the perfect safe-conduct to ordinary tourism that does not issue checks lightly and is dedicated only to see but not touch.
The port area has a lot of movement. It is a constant movement of people who move between Monte Carlo and the castle district to which it serves as a link. On the other side of the hills, there are two very interesting facets of this tiny (but not humble) country situated in the foothills of the Alps and overlooking the bluest Mediterranean.
The district of the castle
The only way up from the marina is up. To the west of the yacht park, there are sloping paths and staircases from which you can cross a good slope through luxuriant foliage. Suddenly we enter the Middle Ages and the times of Francis, the first regent of the Grimaldi in Monaco in the late thirteenth century, who did not hesitate to disguise himself as a monk to climb to the throne.
A stone gateway and watchtowers in the walled part of the city serve to put us in front of the castle, or rather palace of the Grimaldi. The battlements are the remaining excuse to call a castle what is a palace or palace with a Renaissance facade without too many flourishes but sober and elegant. From one of its balconies comes the princely family occasionally, something we have seen in some of the weddings of some members of the European royalty who have always given much to talk about.
On the rock of the princely castle, in addition to masterly views of the port, Monte Carlo and the high towers that rise in the mountains, there is a succession of classic buildings that we must observe. Painted in pastel color, they open into alleys that follow the traces of the turbulent history of this curious country. Let’s take the street that we take, besides showing us that traditional Monaco away from the great constructions, we will always arrive at the cathedral of neo-romantic style consecrated in 1875 on the place that occupied the humble church of San Nicolás. The place where lies the most famous couple the Principality has given us, Rainier III and Grace Kelly, is probably the most visited of all. The final destination of Alfred Hitchcock’s muse has made this beautiful and photogenic white stone temple legendary.
Another attraction of the princely palace district is the Oceanographic Museum. Only with the facade is worth a visit that is unable to disappoint. It is one of the best marine museums in Europe. Unequalled in its location and worthy of prolonging a stay in Monegasque lands.
Monte Carlo and its casino
From the castle, we must go back down to the port. There is no other way if we want to reach the other side of Monaco, Montecarlo. The ideal thing is to do it following the circuit through which the Formula 1 vehicles pass fast every year in the Grand Prix of Monaco.
There are numerous traces of the boxes and even the tires impregnated in the asphalt on the part of runners like Fernando Alonso, Hamilton and other figures that we can see nowadays on television. Although long before the Fangio (which has a statue in the port), Fittipaldi, Sena, Schumacher, and the company played there. Whichever way you look at it, Monaco is a living history of world motoring (although for much of the year Formula 1 is replaced by luxury cars). We cross the bridge, take the most mythical chicane of Formula 1 and arrive at the casino area of Monte Carlo.
A building built by Garnier, the same building that built the Paris Opera, shows us the grandeur of one of the busiest places in Monaco. And, without a doubt, the space with the most millionaires per square metre. All you have to do is stand in front of the main façade and see how the valets can’t cope with the Ferrari, Bentley, Lamborghini or Rolls Royce on duty. It’s a real pleasure for those who are passionate about sports cars because it’s hard to find so many cars so close together at the same time.
The luxurious Hotel de Paris, on one side, is another of those unmistakable classics of this elitist Monte Carlo. The whole is to be seen, even if after a while the scenes of the transit of great fortunes may touch the limits of the obscene. And also envy, why should we deny it?
And with the casino as our last taste in our mouths, we leave Monaco where we came from. Nearby are some destinations on the Côte d’Azur that require our attention, such as Nice, Cannes, Menton, Antibes or that Saint-Paul-de-Vence perched on a mountain. We change the caviar for the chopped sandwich that awaits us to return to the apartment…
It is what Monaco has, that to leave is like twelve o’clock in the night in the tale of Cinderella.