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French Riviera Itinerary: What To Do In Monaco For One Day

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2 months ago

Nothing says glitz and glamor like Monaco – a must-visit desintation on any French Riviera itinerary!

While most Monaco city tours head straight to Monte Carlo Casino, to really get under the skin of Monaco you will want to take the time to explore the old town and understand the unique culture of the Monegasque people (yes, Monegasque is the official demonym).

(Source: Visit Monaco)

To help you plan the ideal day trip to Monaco, here is the ideal one-day guide for Monaco.

Getting to Monaco from Nice, France

Regular trains run from Nice-Ville Gare (the main train station in Nice) to Monaco-Monte-Carlo station. This beautiful train ride takes only 22 minutes, but in the summer months you will want to reserve ahead!

monaco monte carlo train station
(Source: Visit Monaco)

If you are doing a French Riviera road trip, we do not recommend taking your rental car to Monaco. Parking in Monaco is extremely limited and very expensive!

10 am: Costadoro Social Coffee Monaco

Your first stop is my favorite café in Monaco: Costadoro Social Coffee Monaco. From the train station, ascend the seemingly endless set of escalators and take the short walk over to Costadoro Social Coffee Monaco. Being so close to Italy, you can expect extremely high quality coffee here.

Costadoro offer many different blends of coffee beans but for me the Honduras blend hit the spot. Milk snobs (who am I kidding, I am one) will be excited by the alternative milks on offer – great for vegans and our lactose-intolerant friends.

Travel tip: I love sitting outside with my iced latte and people watching, as locals go about their business in the tiny paradise of Monaco.

If you need any coffee recommendations, feel free to ask the baristas. They are extremely helpful and speak a great English!

11 am: Quartier Du Port

Next up, you are heading to the bustling Quartier Du Port. Walking the streets and alleys here, you can see what Monaco is really about. Yes, Monaco is the home of millionaires and an outrageous number of sports cars (you know you have too many sport cars when most of them are used purely as decoration). But its also the home of ordinary people, coming and go from their daily errands or soaking up the sun with an early morning martini.

monaco harbour boats mountain blue sky

Begin by walking down Rue Princesse Caroline towards Port Hercule, where you find a street bustling full of restaurants, cafés and bars. Once you’ve had your time weaving in and out shops, take a seat by Port Hercule: soak in the ambiance and admire the luxurious yachts.

12 pm: It’s pasta time

You are only a short hop from the Italian border and some of the most beautiful corners of Northern Italy. So, for lunch, you’re going to have some of the best Italian food in Monaco!

Head back up the hill (I’m sorry) to the local market, Le Marché de la Condamine which, if you’re running late, is open until 3:30 pm. Here, you are looking for the Maison des Pâtes Condamine – anyone in the market will be able to point you in the direction.

Le Marché de la Condamine outdoors with stalls and flowers
(Source: Visit Monaco)

This pasta restaurant is no nonsense and extremely straightforward. First, you choose what type of handmade pasta you want. Second, you pick your sauce, and then, finally, you patiently wait for your name to be called out.

Maison des Pâtes Condamine is extremely popular, so we are sending you here a little early – in case you need to wait in line!

There is no question that you are here for the truffle ravioli (you won’t regret it), but do keep an eye open for their daily specials!

1 pm: Casino de Monte-Carlo

From lunch, take a leisurely stroll through the promenade by Port Hercule, the main thoroughfare of Monaco. 

You will know you’ve reached the Casino de Monte-Carlo when you begin to see all the sports cars and people lining up for photos. Designed by Charles Garnier, and officially opened in 1863, the casino at its peak served as the primary source of over 95% of Monaco’s revenue.

If you are planning to visit the casino, don’t forget to bring:

  • Your photo ID
  • Jackets for men (for the private gaming rooms), and after 8 pm
  • Cash (the cashier will exchange any currency)

Travel tip: It’s free to enter the slots room, which is worth visiting for the architecture alone. If you wish to join in the gaming tables, the main room costs €18 to enter.

casino monte carlo monaco games chips

2 pm: Race time 

In my opinion, you can’t really visit Monaco and skip the Formula 1 track running through the centre of town. My favourite spot to appreciate the track is the Fairmont Hairpin, which is a famous turn in the racing world (or so I’m told).

the fairmont hairpin formula 1 monaco
The Fairmont Hairpin

Along the way you will find many car monuments and some you can even climb into and pretend you’re the one racing around Monaco. You’re in Monaco so don’t worry about kitsch; it’s all pure class in the French Riviera!

bronze car formula 1 monument in monaco

If you are a Formula 1 aficionado, you might want to consider taking an inside tour of the Formula 1 in Monaco, where you can learn more about the history of the Grand Prix in Monaco! After Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive exploded in popularity, so many more Formula 1 tours popped up. We recommend this inside tour of the Formula 1 for those looking for a tried-and-tested tour.

3 pm: Zen O’Clock 

If you are looking for a little relaxation and recharge, check out the Princess Grace Japanese Garden. Even somewhere as small and touristy as Monaco has local secrets – and you’ll likely have this place to yourself. You and the fish in the pond, that is!

princess grace japanese garden with fish and pond and mountain in monaco

Those brave souls visiting the French Riviera on a budget will be glad to know this is one of the best free things to do in Monaco.

4 pm: Monaco’s best ice cream 

If you’re visiting during summer, or you’re like me and really don’t need an excuse, it’s time for the best ice cream in Monaco.  

As you make your way back into the centre of Monaco-Ville, make the very important stop at Rossi La Bottega del Gelato. While there may be a short wait (this isn’t exactly a local secret), the ice cream here is worth it.  

I’m of the opinion that the friendliness of staff at an ice cream shop often correlates to how good the ice cream is (it’s a confidence thing). The staff here allow you to taste a number of flavors which is always a great sign (they’re confident in their product).

And if its on the menu, I always recommend the Matcha flavor.  

5 pm: Historic Quarter

As you enjoy the late afternoon sun, head towards the historic centre of Monaco-Ville (often referred to as Le Rocher). Strategically overlooking the sea, Monaco-Ville served as the stronghold for the famed Grimaldi dynasty and the palace here still serves as the private residence of the Grimaldi family.

old town monaco the rock with fort in french rivieria
(Source: Visit Monaco)

Le Rocher stands as the sole area in Monaco to have preserved its quaint, small alleys, similar to the photogenic backstreets of Nice’s Old Town. Spend the late afternoon exploring the quaint little souvenir stores and ice cream stores (you’re allowed a second ice cream – it’s the French Riviera!). Or if you’re a culture nerd like me, you might want to hop on a short heritage tour of Monaco to learn about the unique history of the principality and its culture.

cliffside alley with balconies in monaco ville with ocean view
Source: Visit Monaco

Getting to Le Rocher, you have two scenic options:

  1. By ascending the 16th-century red-brick Rampe Major from place aux Armes in the Condamine area.
  2. Taking the scenic pathway from the port through the tranquil Jardins St-Martin.
white palace mountain french riviera monaco

6:30 pm: The best burgers in Monaco

Grubers Burgers is a Monaco food institution.

I’ll be honest: Grubers is a great option for both budget travellers and burger fans. Eating out in Monaco can really hurt your pocket and Grubers is the perfect combination of a trendy restaurant which doesn’t require you to sell a limb!

With easy-to-use screens and a number of vegetarian options, Grubers was the perfect choice for me. And don’t skimp on the French fries: Grubers is famous for their French fries which certainly live up to the hype!

8:30 pm: Monaco’s only microbrewery

With only one day in Monaco, you definitely want to maximize your time. Take a stroll back down to the Port Hercule marina and indulge in Monaco’s only microbrewery.

Brasserie de Monaco crafts rich organic ales and lager and even serves tapas and pizza (if you’re feeling a little peckish). Given that France has some of the best microbreweries in Europe, it’s no surprise that Monaco is home to high-quality ales and lager. Brasserie de Monaco also regularly hosts live music and shows major sports events, particularly in summer.

For the sports fans

For soccer fans, try to time your day trip to Monaco to coincide with when the national football team is playing or the local team, AS Monaco, at Louis II Stadium. The match fixtures are normally released online a few months ahead of schedule.

There’s nothing more Monaco than being surrounded by locals cheering on their team – all in one of the smallest countries in the world!

Where to stay in Monaco

In my opinion, it’s best to avoid staying overnight in Monaco due to the exorbitant prices. Rather, I would recommend basing yourself in the Old Town of Nice and using Nice as your base for day trips along the French Riviera.

theatre in monaco with red curtain
(Source: Visit Monaco)

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Looking for the best comprehensive travel insurance? SafetyWing has you covered.
And for your eSIM in every country, there is only one option we recommend: Airalo.

Read more of our best insights from around the world