Monaco is an increasingly common destination for international travelers, but newcomers might not know exactly how to make the most of their vacation. Technically considered a sovereign city-state, the Principality of Monaco is located near the southern tip of France, bordered by the country on three sides while also sharing a border with the Mediterranean Sea. It is the second-smallest country in the world, only beaten by the Vatican, and has a population of just 38,682.
That said, Monaco has some of the most interesting sights to see and experiences to enjoy—if you know how to make the most of them.
Tips for First-Time Travelers
If you’ve never been to Monaco before, make sure to follow these tips:
- Enjoy the Monaco Grand Prix. Since 1929, Monaco has been the site of the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious auto races in the world. Designed for Formula One vehicles, the track is known for being extremely narrow, with tight corners and elevation changes that make it challenging for drivers and riveting for fans. If you’re interested in seeing the races as part of your trip, consider getting a Monaco Grand Prix travel package to save money.
- Budget appropriately. While small, Monaco is not a cheap country for an international trip. Budget hotels are pretty much non-existent. No matter what you do, where you stay, or how you plan to enjoy your vacation, you’re probably going to need some money.
- Consider staying in France. If you live in the United States, the thought of staying in one country to visit another might seem perplexing, but France and Monaco are very close together. If you’re planning your visit to last a few weeks, you might be able to enjoy both countries. If you’re only planning to spend a few days in Monaco, you can probably find a good hotel on the border of France and Monaco, and save some money in the process.
- Walk or use the bus system. Driving in Monaco is challenging. The roads are narrow and typically congested, and it can be hard to find your way around. Accordingly, renting a car may not be your best option. Instead, you’ll find that Monaco is fairly walkable. Everything is fairly close by. The only real problems are the steep elevation changes that can make even a short trip exhausting; thankfully, there are many public lifts that can take you from one level to another, assuming you’re fortunate enough to find one when you need one. In the meantime, take the bus; Monaco’s public transportation system is quite good, especially if you buy a ticket that allows you to take multiple journeys.
- Get there early (wherever you’re going). Monaco is a popular travel destination, and accordingly, most of its attractions and shops get crowded during peak hours. If you want to enjoy some of the best sights and experiences Monaco has to offer but you don’t want to deal with crowds, try to get to places early.
- Understand the shopping. Most of the stores in Monaco are small businesses owned by locals. This can make for some incredible shopping, since you’ll find unique items and, potentially, some great bargains. However, there are a few tradeoffs to keep in mind. For example, some independent shopkeepers will hold inconsistent or strange hours; if you aren’t careful, you may miss your chance to visit a store altogether.
- Relax in the gardens. Monaco is known for its many gorgeous gardens, which make for great places to cool off and relax—especially after a long day of walking. The Casino Gardens, the Japanese Garden by the Mediterranean, and the UNICEF Garden are just a handful of examples. Just be careful to avoid these in the morning; every morning, they’re typically watered with sprinkler systems, so they can be quite humid.
- Prepare for the climate. For the most part, Monaco has a mild climate. If you visit in January and February, you can expect cool, but reasonable temperatures, and you can expect minimal rain all year long. However, during summer months, Monaco can get quite hot; if you visit between June and August, make sure you’re prepared for exceedingly high temperatures.
Balancing Plans and Improvisation
Obviously, if you’re visiting Monaco for the first time, whether it’s for the Grand Prix or just to see a different corner of the world, you’ll want to make some plans. That way, you’ll have must-see highlights to guide your journey. However, it’s also important to leave some empty time on your schedule, so you can wander, explore, and discover sights you otherwise would have missed. Keep your planned endeavors and improvised ones in balance.