Yay, tiny nation-states! The Principality of Monaco is bested by only Vatican City in the list of smallest countries on Earth, which alone makes it awesome and worth a visit. It’s located in a teensy pocket of the extreme southeastern corner of France – to get from France to Italy along the coast, for example, the route from west to east is France-Monaco-France-Italy. (It should be noted that if you’re telling people in Italy that you want to visit Monaco, you have to say Principato di Monaco; Monaco on its own is Italian for Munich, Germany. Everywhere else, you can just say Monaco.)
Overview: Monte Carlo
It’s a common misconception that Monte Carlo and Monaco are one and the same; there are actually 10 “wards,” each with their own name, grouped into four “quarters,” each with their own name. See this list for more info, but here’s the basics: Monte Carlo is where the high-rise condos and the Casino are; Port Hercule, which may as well be the world capital of photo-ops, is in La Condamine; the palace is in Monaco-Ville; and Les Révoires is home to the Jardin Exotique de Monaco (Exotic Garden). If someone gets on your case about being super-exact, they’re just giving you a hard time.
How To Get To Monaco
Check out this handy map, which shows you all the roads that lead to Monaco:
A couple things to keep in mind while you’re driving around the principality:
1. There are MANY MANY MANY truly exquisite cars in Monaco, which people use as their everyday errand-running cars. This means fender-benders take on a whole new meaning. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:
2. The city is built into a mountainside, and the roads reflect this vertical mobility. Hairpin turns and switchbacks abound.
3. The Grand Prix is here every year. As in, on the very roads you’ll need to navigate by car. Check that it’s not on, or about to be on, before you go renting a car in France to drive there.
Trains that run between Nice and Ventimiglia, Italy stop in Monaco’s sleek train station, located inside a mountain. Note that there is no luggage check at that station. Even if you’re not planning on staying in Monaco, if you’re taking this train it’s worth it to hop off, check out the incredible views, and then hop on the next train.
There are no flights to Monaco directly, but you can fly into Paris, Nice or Marseille and take a train or car from there. If you’re staying somewhere else on the French Riviera and you want to make a James Bond entrance, then there are helicopter services. You glamourpuss, you.
Check out airfares here:
One word: MEGAYACHT. And if they’re not big enough for you, cruise lines also make a stop at the port.
Here is less snarky, more specific information:
Where To Stay In Monaco
To be honest, I don’t recommend staying in Monaco – or, to be more specific, don’t use it as a vacation base. It’s just super expensive. Stay in nearby Nice and make it a day trip. If you absolutely must stay overnight, use the widget below to see if you can find something in your budget range.
And plan your overall trip to France by starting here:
Top Photo: GIPE25