A Day trip to Monaco from Nice, France
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.
Monaco could easily be compared to Las Vegas or Dubai, however, on a much smaller scale - the whole area of the Principality is only 2 square km (less than 1 mile)!
If you have never been to Monaco & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
How we got to Monaco from Nice
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 them 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: There are high speed trains (TGV) available here for many French cities. 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.
Gare de Monaco Train Station: 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 over 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.
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.
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. A beautiful building!
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. 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 not ever 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.
Fairmont Hairpin Bend: 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".
We had stopped for a Starbucks, in a shop high above the Avenue Princess Grace. This is looking east along the Monaco shoreline as it marches off to the border with France.
Construction on the Avenue Princess Grace: The street at the very bottom of this picture (as seen from Starbucks) is Boulevard Louis II as it begins it's route into the Larvotto Tunnel. Avenue Princess Grace continues eastward, the right turn onto Boulevard Louis II takes you to the tunnel.
This Starbucks had 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.
Tunnel Larvotto: You can see why there is a tunnel here, the Fairmont Hotel stands 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!
Looking for the Water Taxi: 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.
Monaco 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.
Monaco from the Harbor: You can see how the city marches up the surrounding hills and some buildings & hills disappear into the clouds.
Lady Moura in Monaco Harbor: This spectacular four-level vessel, 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.
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 Musée Océanographique de Monaco, as we approached it from the harbor area.
The Oceanographic Museum was inaugurated in 1910 by Monaco's modernist reformer, Prince Albert I. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was director from 1957 to 1988.
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.
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.
Looking down at the beach as we approached the Musée Océanographique. See the steps in the lower center of this 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 this picture, pedestrians (like us) are required to walk around the parking building to the left.
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 would be scenic.
For a more complete discussion of the Monaco Race Circuit, visit the Formula One Website.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.