low-key glamour: monaco in an afternoon

Monaco is home of the eponymous Grand Prix, the belle-époque Monte Carlo casino, scores of luxury yachts, and–let’s not forget– actual royalty.

Despite the evident glamour, I’ve always found a visit to the second-smallest country in the world surprisingly low-key.

It’s the natural beauty that catches my eye: the hardy Mediterranean flowers and cacti clinging to cliffs, the clouds that drift across the mountains, the views that leave you hard-pressed to identify where the sea ends and the sky begins. The setting lends a wild charm to the rows of shining white yachts and the clusters of buildings.

In case you were wondering, Monaco feels just like France. Though Monégasque is a recognized language, spoken by some residents and appearing on the occasional street sign, Monaco doesn’t give the casual visitor the same jolt of newness as when crossing the border from Menton to Ventimiglia, Italy.

acs_0388

There’s not a ton to do here, so don’t come expecting art museums or a wealth of hip cafés. Rather, be prepared to walk, as Monaco is best explored on foot. In my opinion, Monaco offers one of the most beautiful walks on the French Riviera, and one of the best places to watch the sun set. You don’t even have to plan ahead or bring a backpack–just maybe don’t wear heels. (To capitalize on the country’s glitzy image, visitors often dress up in their trendiest outfits to take pictures with the view from Monaco-Ville, the old section of town that sits on a rocky cliff jutting into the sea. A great photo op, but what you don’t see is the way they have to sidestep down the steep hill in stilettos).

If you come by train, upon exciting the station you’ll soon find yourself across the street from the bay. To fuel your walk, I’d recommend a scoop of gelato from La Gelateria (conveniently located, as fate would have it, right next to the train station). From there you can cross the bay and begin the steep, winding ascent to Monaco-Ville.

At the top, you’ll have a nice view of the city. (Monaco, the city, and Monaco, the country are geographically the same).

acs_0378acs_0375acs_0374  acs_0376

On the other side you’ll see the Palais Princier, the official residence of the prince of Monaco since 1297, and once home to Grace Kelly.

The palace is delicate from the outside, a subtle white or buttercup yellow color depending on the light. Upon seeing it for the first time, my friend remarked that it looked like a paper cut-out. I knew exactly what she meant, and envisioned some Mediterranean mountain giant snipping merrily away with a pair of scissors.

acs_0389

The old part of town is very small, with just a few restaurants and shops. Unfortunately, most of them are tourist traps, selling piles of refrigerator magnets and average sandwiches. The buildings, though, are lovely. It feels more apt, almost, to describe them in terms of flavor instead of color, as they bring to my mind shades of saltwater taffy. melon, strawberry, orange creamsicle

acs_0383 acs_0382 acs_0380  acs_0379

Continue through the old town to the Musée Océanographique. If you have time, the aquarium is worth a visit. I’ve been there twice and was fully enthralled both times. It’s easy to spend a good two hours staring at tiny seahorses.

acs_0385

acs_0384

acs_0386

acs_0390 acs_0403 If you want to stay outside, continue on through the botanical garden along the edge of the promontory. Exiting the garden, you’ll have a view of the port. This is my favorite view in Monaco. acs_0395acs_0398acs_0393acs_0404 acs_0396  As night falls, head back to the palace to see the lights click on, turning the building a whimsical pink.

acs_0401acs_0416acs_0400  End your night on the right note with a glass of wine somewhere. And don’t miss your train!


For more on Monaco (aquarium, casino): Mediterranean Magic, a Walk around Monaco

 

11 thoughts on “low-key glamour: monaco in an afternoon

  1. The Monsoonfamily's Mum

    Monaco is so tacky! I went once, just to see what it was all about, and I found no interest what so ever to this place. But you managed to take some really nice photos. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

      1. The Monsoonfamily's Mum

        I went in July. It was calm, that’s true. But it looks like a Disney theme park to me! Most buildings seem fake – especially the Palace and its surroundings. It is not ugly looking but there is just no character to it. That is my humble opinion! 😉

        Like

      2. Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean! “Disney” is definitely the word. I think it’s kind of cool, though, that while Disney is a essentially a micro-wonderland created for profit, this place has hundreds of years of actual history. But I do agree about the character: when walking the streets, I don’t feel like I’m in any particular culture. Rather it’s kind of anywhere…nowhere… In that way I guess you could say it’s completely Disneylandish.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. we ate at a restaurant on rue princess caroline called bilg cafe- we really liked it and not crazy expensive, there were also restaurants on the hill near the palace, that were reasonable as well

        Like

  2. Heide

    I’ve heard such mixed reviews about Monaco — but I suppose the experience depends on each traveler’s tastes and expectations. You’ve certainly piqued my curiosity with your beautiful photos and lovely descriptions of the major sights!

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s