The principality of Monaco or the city-state Monaco lies in between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by the French Riviera to the west and the Italian Riviera to the east.
This is the second smallest independent state in the world (after the Vatican) and is almost entirely urban. Monte Carlo is not the capital of Monaco but a government district. The country is divided into four areas: Monaco-Ville (the old city), the Condamine (port quarter), Monte-Carlo (business and recreation), and Fontvieille (recreation and light industry). With no natural resources to exploit other than its location and climate, the principality has become a resort for tourists and a tax haven for businesses. Monaco is six times the size of the Vatican and still remains the world's most densely populated independent country.
The nearest airport is the Nice Côte-d'Azur International , which is around 40 kilometers (24.85 miles) away from the city-centre in neighboring France. It operates daily flights to nearly all of Europe's main cities, such as London and Paris. There are regular Rapide Cote D’Azur buses connecting Monte Carlo with both the terminals at Nice Cote-D'Azur airport, and taxis are always available outside the terminal buildings - although make sure a fee is agreed in advance or the meter is indeed switched on at the start of the journey, as shady French taxi drivers are notorious for charging tourists whatever they see fit.
Heli-Air Monaco also operates helicopter services between Nice and Monte Carlo. After collecting your luggage at the Nice airport, you go to the helicopter service waiting area. The helicopter ground crew takes you and your luggage from the Nice airport to the Nice heliport, on the other side of the airport, by van. The flight along the coast is beautiful, and you land right at the water's edge at the Monaco heliport, where a car service takes you directly to your hotel. Other than arriving by yacht, this is the best way for the international traveler to enter Monaco. Rates vary seasonally, in the range of €100-€300. They spike up to €700 or more, however, during the Cannes Film Festival, usually held in late May.
The Monaco-Monte Carlo station has good service to most of neighboring France and Italy. There are 2-4 services per hour to Nice, Cannes, Menton and Ventimiglia (Italy). Most international trains will stop, such as the 'Ligure' which links Marseilles and Milan, the 'train bleu' which operates between Paris and Ventimiglia, and the famous high-speed TGV which runs between Nice and Paris . A TGV train between Paris and Monte Carlo takes around 6 and a half hours. The station also has some links to other towns in the principality. Be aware that there's no left-luggage in the train station nor in the rest of Monaco. There's a law in Monaco forbidding leaving bags etc. in any place.
For further information like price and times visit Trenitalia
Monaco is easily accessed by its land borders from France or Italy by a network of highways, most commonly used of which is the A8 which runs west from Monte Carlo to Nice and Marseilles, and east towards the Italian border.
Between Nice and Monaco, there are also three more scenic roads: the Basse Corniche (Low Coast-Road - Highway 98), along the sea, the Moyenne Corniche (Middle Coast Road - Highway 7), going through Eze-Village, and the Grande Corniche (Great Coast Road), going through La Turbie and Col d'Eze (Eze Pass). All are pretty drives offering spectacular views over the Coast line. For an extra-special treat, rent a convertible sports car from the many airport rental services and take in the French Riviera in style.
Taxi trips to and from Nice are also affordable.
There is no bus station in Monte Carlo. Instead, international buses stop at various points throughout the city. Regular buses, run by Rapide Cote D’Azur , connect Monte Carlo with Nice and other French destinations. Services run regularly to many major French towns and cities. Route 100 leaves every 15 minutes from the central bus station (Gare Routière) in Nice and costs €1. An express shuttle, route 110, links the Nice Côte d'Azur Airoport and the principality. A bus leaves every half hour and a single ticket costs €18.00 (6/2009). €28.50 round-trip (9/2009) with stops near all major hotels throughout Monaco, not just Monte Carlo.
Monaco's two ports are no strangers to private yachts. Port Hercule is exceptionally beautiful and offers mooring and anchoring possibilities for up to five hundred vessels, some of which are extremely large and elegant (in fact, many tourists often take time out of their day to simply have a drink by the water and admire the fantastic super yachts). This port also serves as an embarkation port and port-of-call for cruises, so small cruise ships can often be spotted sailing in or out of the marina, larger ones moored offshore. The Port of Fontvieille, integrated into the new district, can receive as many as 60 vessels of at least 30 meters in length.
At close proximity, the Port of Cap d'Ail is also a choice destination for pleasure-boats.
Walking is by far the best way to get around Monaco; however, there are some areas, such as the Exotic Gardens, that require a large change in elevation and therefore make for rather strenuous hikes. There are also seven public escalators and elevators (all free) that help negotiate the steep slopes of the city. If you find yourself afoot and wanting to reach the opposite bank of Port Hercule, look for the small pedestrian-only ferry that runs each 20 minutes or so during daylight; it costs only one Euro.
Monaco has an urban bus service, operated by the Compagnie des Autobus Monaco , through the city's five bus routes (labeled 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6) which serves 143 stops. Each stop has the bus number(s) that stop there, and most stops feature a real-time display showing waiting times for the next service. Each stop has a name and a network map. The service usually starts at around 6 in the morning and runs right through until about 9 o'clock at night. Tickets can be purchased on board the buses themselves or at many news vendors and shops throughout the city - often it will be advertised as to where you can do this. A daily pass allows you to use the buses all day for €3 (9/2009) and can also be purchased onboard the bus. A night bus service operates in a circular route from 22.00 until 04.00.
You can easily rent a motor scooter in Nice and take a short trip east along the sea into Monaco. The views are beautiful and the ride is fun along the twisty seaside road. There are plenty of places to park for free. Theft is not a concern, as there are cameras throughout and police everywhere.
It is possible to hire a bicycle from the Auto-Moto-Garage on the Rue de Millo.
Private cars are singularly useless for getting around Monaco, as you'll spend more time trying to park than if you walked or took a taxi instead. Taxis can be hailed on the streets and there are two main taxi stands open around the clock at the Avenue de Monte Carlo and the railway station, although it is always best to agree a fee beforehand or make sure the meter is running. Most hotels will provide courtesy drivers to points of interest, such as the Palace and casino.
International car hire companies do have offices at the airport in Nice and also in Monte Carlo city. These include Avis, Gare Monte Carlo, Europcar and Hertz - drivers must have held a national driving license for at least one year and it is usually requested that the cost is paid for with the driver’s credit card. Driving in the city center can be intimidating in Monte Carlo with heavy traffic - however, it is often worth this to drive alongside the more expensive vehicles in the city!
The principality of Monaco offers a great balance of historical and modern attractions. There are various museums and palaces to visit as well as shopping malls and casinos. Monaco also offers relaxation spots along the harbor and even around the attractions. It is relatively easy to navigate Monte Carlo and Monaco if you take the time to learn where the various "short cuts" are. City maps are generally available at most news vendor stands and shops for a small fee.
Languages: French (official), Italian, English and Monegasque.
Monaco has the euro (EUR, €) as its currency. Therewith, Monaco belongs to the 23 European countries that use the common European money. These 23 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. These countries together have a population of 327 million.
One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse as well as all bills look the same throughout the eurozone. Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
Shopping in Monte Carlo is usually quite exclusive and is certainly no place for a budget holiday. There are plenty of places to melt the credit card alongside Europe's high rollers. The chic clothes shops are in the Golden Circle, framed by Avenue Monte Carlo, Avenue des Beaux-Arts and Allees Lumieres, where Hermes, Christian Dior, Gucci and Prada all have a presence. The area on and around Place du Casino is home to high-end jewelers such as Bulgari, Cartier and Chopard. You will find, however, that most tourists will simply enjoy wandering the area and window shopping, even if you don't buy anything. The normal shopping hours are from 9AM to noon and 3PM to 7PM.
For a more cultured take on shopping in Monte Carlo, try the Condamine Market. The market, which can be found in the Place d'Armes, has been in existence since 1880 and is lively and attractive - many hours can be spent simply wandering around, bargaining for souvenirs from the many tiny shops, boutiques and friendly locals. If however, your shopping tastes are more modern, just take a short walk along the esplanade to the rue Princess Caroline pedestrian mall.
The Fontvieille Shopping Centre is also a more "normal" shopping experience with 36 shops selling electronic goods, CDs, furniture, and clothes as well as a Carrefour supermarket and McDonald's. The tourist office also issues a useful free shopping guide to the city.
Some stores to browse or buy:
How to go wrong? Food in Monaco is universally excellent. There are many fine restaurants, beginning with the Cafe de Paris across the street from the casino, to the waterfront restaurants along the Port de Fontvieille. During the winter months, you will find the restaurants to be decently priced--for Monaco. Bouillabaisse is excellent here.
There are a huge variety of other restaurants and cafés in the city with a moderate price tag and excellent food. There are a few simple cafés along the marina-side, more like beach bars than anything else, that serve simple meals such as pizza, salads and hotdogs throughout the day. These can be excellent for simply sitting back during the hot midday with a cold beer or glass of wine, a snack to recharge your batteries from exploring the city, and the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean (and often the roar of supercars) in your ears. Most of these restaurants are equipped with water-misters in the ceilings that gently cool and refresh the clientele.
Somewhere in between these two dining experiences comes the world-famous Café de Paris, just outside the Casino. Tourists and locals alike can often be found during the afternoon and all through the night laughing, drinking, and eating some fabulous (but verging on expensive) meals. It is definitely a must-go during your stay in Monte Carlo, even if it is just for a snack in the afternoon - it is well worth it. A new favorite in Monaco is Beefbar located in the Port of La Condamine, they serve excellent meat.
Dining in Monaco can be a very sobering experience to whomever is paying the bill. Perhaps the most exclusive and famous restaurants in the city are the Louis XV Restaurant and the Le Grill de L'Hotel de Paris, both centered on the very exclusive Hotel de Paris. You are more than likely to be seated next to a member of the rich and famous, and the gourmet food is simply out-of-this-world - however, these experiences come with a rather hefty price tag!
Champagne has the status of a national beverage in Monaco. A single glass can cost as much as €40 at a fashionable restaurant!
If you're on a budget, Monaco is not the best place to be. For example, a two star hotel without breakfast and bathroom will cost around €60 per person. A better option is to stay in one of the many towns outside of Monaco, for example Ventimiglia, which is a sea-side town situated on the French-Italian border on the Italian side. Nice is only 1/2 hour away from Monaco and it's very cheap to use the frequent trains. During the winter season, a comfortable two star hotel will only cost you about €20 a person.
The Monaco Tourism center staff will also sit down and make phone calls to assist walk-ins in finding accomodation. Even if you ask for "cheap" lodging.
If you are seeking a career aboard one of the many superyachts in Monaco a good place to register and start looking is Crew Central
Monaco is a very safe, crime-free location, with a strong police presence. Every public space is blanketed with cameras and any kind of disorder may produce an immediate reaction and the attendance of many officers.
In many ways, the Respect section of the France page can detail how to be respectful toward the Monegasque population, but it should be noted that Monaco is a separate nation and it would be very insulting to casually conflate the two. Keep in mind that Monaco's population retain their own history, their own culture, and their own lifestyle. With that in mind, everyone is approachable, happy to chat with you and globally simply kind. Directions or other help are only a smile and a question away.