It’s no secret that I love Europe, but I didn’t particularly like the first ten days I was in France. Could it be because it wasn’t vibing with me as a solo traveller? Not sure. I had a lot of fun, but I didn’t love it. Then I got off the train in Côte d’Azur, and everything changed. The French Riviera was everything I’d hoped for.
Of the five days I had scheduled in Nice, one of those was set aside for visiting another country. Yes, that’s right, a whole other country. So I went to Monte Carlo to get a taste of the life of the rich and the famous. And because I loved my day trip to Monaco so much, I thought I’d share how you can have a similar adventure.
Getting to Monte Carlo
Unless you’re a luxury traveller, you’ll be taking the bus to Monaco. Unfortunately, not everyone can charter a helicopter for a ride! Don’t worry; the bus is a budget-friendly mode of transportation because your round trip to Monte Carlo from Nice will cost you a whopping €4. So which bus do you take? The #100 bus is the one you will want to hop onto. It will either say Monaco or Menton on the front. It doesn’t matter which one you get on, as long as it says 100. There is also a bus called the 100X, but I’d skip that one. It will only skim 10 minutes off your journey, and you’ll miss the amazing scenery.
These buses leave on a 15-20 minute schedule from the centre of the Nice port, across from the church. Thankfully I was staying in a sweet Airbnb across from the port, so it was only a 2-minute walk for me. Try to get a seat on the right side of the bus because the 45-minute drive to Monte Carlo is stunning.
Once you’re actually in Monte Carlo, you have a variety of stops to choose from depending on what you want to see.
- Place d’Armes – First stop just outside the tunnel. Get off here for Old Town, The Rock, the Palace or the Car Museum.
- The Port – Obviously, the stop for crazy big yachts and cruise ships.
- Monte Carlo – This stop is for going to the famous Monte Carlo Casino, Opera House and all the ridiculous shopping.
- Place de Moulins – This stop gives you access to the Japanese Gardens, the beaches and the Grimaldi Forum.
Buses will run until 4:00am on Thurs/Fri/Sat to bring you back to Nice. So again, make sure you get on the #100 bus to get home.
I am easily amused by the randomness of some things. When I got off the bus, seeing a sign pointing towards the Japanese Garden was a little unexpected, so naturally, I had to go.
Monte Carlo is built on different “levels”, and I couldn’t figure out how to get “down.” Turns out, there are loads of elevators all over the place that will take you to the level you need to be on. One elevator ride and a leisurely stroll later (I had to stop for ice cream and a postcard), I wandered through the gates of the Japanese Gardens.
It was the first time I’d ever been in a place like this, so all I was expecting to see was some cute red bridges and koi fish. I did indeed get to see both, but the gardens were much smaller than I anticipated. Though it was quiet and beautiful, I was in and out within twenty minutes.
My only solid plan for my time in Monaco was to go to the big sea museum at some point. Other than that, I didn’t exactly have any plans, and I’m a walker, so that’s what I did. Then, I left the gardens and headed towards the water, thinking I’d find beach access to eat the lunch I had brought. I ended up munching my packed food on the walk toward the port. Thankfully, I found a water taxi doing €2 trips across the marina. This was necessary because the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco was on the other side. Once you’re across, there are loads of signs that will direct you towards the elevator you must take to access the walkway to the museum. There was a massive cruise ship in the port when I visited, so I just followed the crowd.
Do I even need words? The views of the water from the walkway blew me away. I found a secluded beach that obviously needed exploration, and I spent a blissful hour there just soaking up the sun. At the end of the walkway, you have to take another elevator to get to the main entrance to the museum. However, the ticket desk is also outside, so ensure you hit that up before heading for the doors.
Oceanographic museum of Monaco
What do you even say about a museum designed to be a palace? The Oceanographic Museum is built into the side of the “mythical rock of Monaco” and is an incredible piece of architecture.
Regular season pricing is €14 for adults, €9 for under 18’s and €7 for under 12’s. If you’re a student, you can get reduced rates. They also offer a family package for 2 adults and 3 kids for €35.
This place has everything from a shark lagoon to a turtle island on the roof. There’s a touch tank where you can stroke a starfish, feel the spines of a sea urchin and physically learn about 13 other species. They also had baby sharks in a separate tank when I was there, so that was quite an experience. There’s a fantastic cylindrical tank of jellyfish and a whole section of colourful (and rare) coral. The sea life is showcased on different floors and categorised into the Mediterranean Sea and Tropical sea creatures. Prince Albert, I room features a massive historical collection of oceanographic artifacts dating back to 1885. This includes photos, specimens and even a life-size reproduction of a sperm whale hanging from the ceiling. This room alone is a journey.
A shark exhibition displays the jaws of the largest shark ever discovered, stretching two meters across and reassembling using real fossilised teeth. The primary purpose of this area is education. The museum and conservatory are trying to reduce the fear of sharks and spread awareness about them actually being endangered species.
The roof level of the museum has several cafes and tons of seating. In addition, there’s a huge play area for kids and a section for interacting with turtles. This level also offers the best panoramic views of Monte Carlo, so it’s worth paying the admission price just to go up there.
Back to Nice
After the museum, I searched for a bus station because I didn’t want to get squished on the last few buses back from Monaco. I was also travelling budget-friendly and didn’t want to fork over €20 for a meal when I had packed my food back at my Airbnb. I strolled back to the main roads in and out of Monte Carlo and hopped on the 100 bus, returning to Nice just in time for a killer Mediterranean sunset.