Things to Do in Monaco
The Principality of Monaco is a sparkling gem nestled between France and the Mediterranean, famous for the Monte Carlo Casino, Grand Prix Formula One Race, Princesses and glamorous lifestyles. Enjoy luxurious shopping, visit the 700 year old Grimaldi Palace on 'The Rock', relax in the Princess Grace Rose Garden and Exotic Gardens, and discover what lies beneath at the Oceanographic Museum, once headed by Jacques Costeau.
The Oceanographic Museum (Musee Oceanographique), directed for many years by legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau, rises from the cliffs in a magnificent location above the Mediterranean.
Dedicated to marine science and oceanography, the museum boasts unique collections of marine fauna collected by Monaco's pioneering "Navigator Prince," Prince Albert I, along with a world famous aquarium and shark lagoon. Four thousand species of fish and over 200 families of invertebrates can be seen swimming in the aquarium. Marine life in magnificent shapes and colors give a unique perspective of oceanic life, displaying the living beauty of the Mediterranean and tropical marine ecosystems with an extraordinarily diverse coral reef.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is a legendary gambling facility, known for the sublime location and Beaux Arts style architecture; it also contains an opera and ballet house, and was built in1893 by Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opera House. The paved marble 'atrium' is flanked by 28 onyx columns in the Ionic style, opening into the red and gold Opera Hall, in use for over 100 years for opera, concerts and ballets.
The series of "Gaming Rooms" each have their own unique atmosphere and decorations, while the casino itself is known for the exceptional diversity of its table games. Citizens of Monaco are forbidden to enter the gaming rooms, which are a model for the setting of the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale,
Salon Renaissance is one of the Casino's oldest rooms, a large vestibule at the entrance to the Salon de l'Europe, the first gaming room opened in 1865 with Moorish style decorations produced in Paris.
The Prince's Palace is built on the site of the original fortress and ramparts erected by wealthy Genoese merchants in 1215. The official private residence of the Prince of Monaco, the palace plays an important role in the lives of the prince and his subjects, and the State Apartments are open for public visits part of the year. The palace has been in use for more than 700 years and the courtyard is opened to celebrate important events such as Grimaldi weddings, births and the annual children's Christmas party.
Throughout the centuries it has been transformed into one of the most luxurious residences in the style of Louis XIV. One must pass through the Mirror Gallery in order to enter the state apartments, with the dramatic effect of the mirrors in imitation of Versailles, and 16th century frescoes of mythological figures adorn the gallery walls.
Visitors to Europe (and to France in particular) may be fatigued from seeing so many churches, even the fantastic ones, so at first glance, the relatively humble facade of the Monaco Cathedral may not rouse much excitement. But it's worth a visit for a variety of reasons.
First is its history. Generally referred to as the Cathédrale de Monaco, its official name is Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée, but it is also known as the Saint Nicholas Cathedral because of the original site on which the church was built, which was dedicated to Saint Nicholas in the 13th century. There are remnants of 15th-century architecture here, as well as a mish-mash of other styles.
The church is also notable for its relatively recent history, as this is where Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier III in 1956 and also the couple’s final resting place; you can visit their tombs and even leave flowers if you wish.
From James Bond fans to those who simply want to witness the good life, the Casino of Monte-Carlo is a sure-fire destination when visiting the principality of Monaco.
This swanky casino has a strict dress code, but those with laidback vacation attire can hang outside at Casino Square, which is just as (if not more) entertaining than the goings-on inside. In short, it's where the real action is. Originally built as the entry to the Monte-Carlo in the late 1800s, the square (also known as Place du Casino) was a spot to see and be seen. It brought the Hôtel de Paris and the Café de Paris together with the casino to create a large square to welcome patrons.
Men and women in their best outfits throw their keys to the valets, who get to drive some of the world's most astounding vehicles to their showcase parking spots around the fountain in the center of the square.
The Opéra de Monte-Carlo is known locally as the Salle Garnier, which may sound familiar if you’ve visited Paris. The opera house in the City of Light is called the Palais Garnier, and both houses are named after their architect, Charles Garnier. Like its cousin in Paris, Monaco's Salle Garnier is a stunner both inside and out.
Situated on the sea next to the world-famous casino of the same name, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo was conceived as a means of additional entertainment for locals and visitors coming to see and be seen at the glamorous gambling hall. Since its opening in 1879, the opera house has premiered many works; today it hosts about six performance series per season, split between operas, ballets and thematic pieces by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Monaco sits on what is essentially the side of a mountain that ends at the sea, so real estate is at a premium. Visitors are often shocked by the sheer scale of development here, with apartment buildings that would be veritable skyscrapers anywhere else.
But the hidden surprise within the borders of this small principality is its many public green spaces, perhaps the most surprising being the Japanese Garden on Avenue Princesse-Grace. It lies at the bottom of the mountain, just across from the Mediterranean Sea, a location that adds to the almost surreal tranquility of the garden.
It's a bit small, which has its merits – after all, there's plenty to do and see in Monaco. But there's so much in the country that is just over the top – the flashy cars, the James Bond-style casino, the yachts that are bigger than most people's dream homes – that a visit to the Japanese Garden can be just the respite you're looking for.
Discover the old town, Monaco-Ville, "le rocher" or "the rock" - a veritable open air museum as you wander through narrow alleyways from the Middle Ages. Explore the picturesque Place Saint Nicolas, Placette Bosio, the Chapel of Mercy, Palais de Justice and remains of ancient city walls on this magnificent rocky promontory perched above the Mediterranean Sea.
Visit the Place du Palais, to see the colourful changing of the guard in front of the Princely Palace, every day at 11:55am. The Museum of Napoleonic Souvenirs and Collections of the Historical Archives of the Palace housed in the southern wing contains a rich collection of objects and documents about the First Empire, some of which belonged to Emperor Napoleon I. Next door is the Cathedrale de Monaco, Romanesque-Byzantine burial place of past sovereigns, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.
More Things to Do in Monaco
This small northern retreat in the province of Imperia is located a quick train ride away from the coastal city-state of Monaco. Home to fewer than 60,000 people and covering just 20 square miles, Ventimiglia is ripe with the historical attractions, cultural landmarks and impressive artwork of a destination three times its size.
Ancient remains of a second-century Roman theater, as well as other architectural remnants of an era long gone, rank high among the list of stops for travelers to Ventimiglia. Visitors especially love the Church of San Michele Arcangelo, which was—perhaps a little ironically—built upon the same foundation as a pagan temple in the 10th-century. And the public library is home to one of the largest collections of 17th-century manuscripts in Italy. The nearby caves of Balzi Rossi offer a more natural look at a historic past, and the Hanbury Botanical Gardens are among the biggest in all of Europe.
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