The Principality of Monaco is opulent and exclusive,
and we can feel as if we belong.
We did arrive on the biggest yacht in the harbour.....
Monaco is the second smallest country in Europe, approximately 2 square kilometers or .78 of a square mile. To reside here, you must put 500,000 Euros in a Monaco bank and that stays there until you leave - and you must pass tests of desirability to prove you would be a good resident. So - Monaco is wealthy and safe. Banking and tourism are the sources of revenue.
Prince Albert is the constitutional monarch, and the first place we will visit is the Palace....
The yellow line below is the Monaco boundary.
©2018 Google Image©2009 TerraMetrics
A Walk to the Palace
From your ship, whether you are at the dock or are tendering, you can see raised rocky land on the left of the main port and marina. This is known as 'The Rock', and was fortified in early days as protection for the community. Now the Palace, the Cathedral and other important buildings are there. The picture beside shows it from the back. You can see the fortifications.
From the dock, you need to get up to the roof of the cruise port terminal where there is a walkway. There is an elevator inside near the end of the port building or long stairs below the tower fortifications.
Looking up, the tower is called Fort Antoine, and it was built in the 1700's. This is now an outdoor theatre in the round area at the top.
The picture beside right is taken from the path on the cruise port roof, and from here you walk to the left. There is a roadway into a parking garage, but keep left next to the ocean.
At the top, you are just at the end of the Oceanographic Institute. This is a fascinating building, with lots to see if you have the time. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was the director for 30 years, until 1988.
As you walk along, if you look back you can see the ship (above left). Go around the path until this is your view (beside).
Above you is the Oceanographic Institute - go in the door you see in the picture at ground level. This takes you into a large underground parking garage with a number of levels.
To go up to the top of the Rock - you take an elevator first, then walk past the escalators to a new set of elevators, go to the top and then take an escalator to the street level above. These are marked pretty well, but it is a large area. Just keep going up until you get to the top!
top of escalator
Then you walk up the red brick path, past lovely homes and gardens. You will come to the Cathedral, where Princess Grace was married - the church where all the Royal occasions are held. It is usually open, and you can go in and look around. Past the cathedral the red brick ends and you have a choice of walking to your left down through the park or along a very narrow street.
The street narrows to barely one lane. It was here, on my first visit to Monaco, that the guide told us to make ourselves thin against the wall. Three Prius cars with darkened windows came by within touching distance - the guide said that Prince Albert was in the middle car - how she could tell, I'm not sure - but that was my brush with this Royal Family.
Just past this and you are in the Palace Square.
For a fee you can go inside and view some of the older areas of the palace, through the doorway on the left. The palace is a rectangle with a inner courtyard.
Walk to the far right of the square and admire the views of the harbour and the city. As you can see on the map above, Monaco only goes part way up the hills, and the border of France is about even with the middle corniche. (There are three highways that go along this part of the French Riviera - the upper corniche near the top of the inhabited areas - a dangerous twisting highway. The middle corniche is mid-mountain and the lower corniche is nearer the ocean.)
The narrow streets near the palace are fun to explore. There are interesting stores and picturesque buildings.
Walk to the far left (west) side of the Palace Square, and there are stairs down to the hillside park (and washrooms). There are gardens with exotic plants and views of the western area of Monaco. Here you are looking down on the district called Fontvieille, an area reclaimed from the sea. A one-bedroom apartment would cost you about 4 million Euros.
Return to the ship the way you came, walking back on the red brick path to the Oceanographic Institute, going down the escalator and elevators, then through the parking garage and around the ocean walkway to the pier.
The Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus
In Monaco, this is a very good option. As you can see in the picture beside, the red bus is very handy to the ship. The route takes an hour, and it goes up to the palace, around the Fontvieille area, along the waterfront to the far eastern end of the principality and back by the casino and through the narrow streets. (On one afternoon I stayed on the route twice, sitting on opposite sides of the bus's upper area to take lots of pictures and because it was very pleasant.) Of course, you can hop off when you like.
Something to think about.....
In 2023, the Monaco Grand Prix is May 26 to May 28. This means, through May all the harbour waterfront and some streets near the casino are going to be closed while barricades and viewing stands are put in place, and then after the race must all be taken down. The following walk will not be possible. If you want to see the other side of the harbour and the casino, the HOHO buses will take different routes and you can still get off near the casino. You could check city buses as well. The tourist information center will be able to help you.
A Walk to the Casino
To walk from the cruise port to the casino is approximately 1.6 km./1 mile. It will seem less, because it is interesting all the way - there is a lot to see.
Walk from the dock area towards the town along the water, and where the harbour turns and the slightly curved end of the harbour begins, turn and walk the length of the end of the harbour. There is a wide walkway on most of it, and a swimming pool. Just before the back of the harbour ends, go to the roadway sidewalk. Go just around the corner and cross the street on the crosswalk. Ahead you will see steps to take you up to the next street - a street that angles up the side of the hill.
Perhaps the picture will help! You can see the crosswalk, and the street going up the hill that you want to take.
You get great views as you climb the hill, and near the top you can walk from the street to viewpoints, some on the roofs of buildings below.
The road splits as you get near the top - take the right hand option. Ahead is a garden with palm trees and straight ahead is the entrance to the Monaco Opera House. Walk around to the ocean side of the building to see the front.
Continue walking up the street and you will find that this same building on the other side is the Monaco Casino. There may be some fantastic cars parked near the door! In front of the casino in the square is a reflecting ball - you can take interesting photos of the casino reflected in the ball.
If you want to see the inside or try your luck, there are some dress codes (not stringent), especially in some areas of the casino - check that out on-line.
Just behind the photographer is the Monte-Carlo Shopping Promenade, a collection of forty very high-end shops in modernistic shaped buildings.
If you are interested in the Monaco Grande Prix, walk east past the casino entrance (top left of the photo beside) and building to a park at the end that goes down the hill. You can walk down steps to see the sharpest corner on the race route. I think it is called the Mirabeau, the name of the hotel facing it. The drivers slow to 47 km./hour (30 mph) to make the corner.
©2018 Google Image©2009 TerraMetrics
To return to the ship - you can walk from the park in the photo above around in front of the Opera House and down the hill you climbed previously, or you can follow the sidewalk beside the race curve downhill and then out towards the sea. Cross the street to the water side, and then walk in the tunnel back to the harbour. The tunnel is partially open to the sea view beside the pedestrian walkway and is safe. The race goes through this tunnel and because it is a steady curve, the cars can get up to speeds of 289 km/hour (180 miles/hour).
I hope you enjoy Monaco and the cobalt blue Mediterranean!