Word association: what comes to mind when you think of Monaco? Images of Grace Kelly, Grand Prix and James Bond? Monaco is so much more! Our Travel Hack Traveling Mom recently visited the 700-year-old principality and has tips for families exploring Monaco by day or by night.
Arrive in True Monaco Style: By Helicopter
I’m not usually one to tell you to spend extra money- but when in Monaco it only seems right to arrive in luxury. Nice, France is the most logical gateway into Monaco. From Nice airport you can easily catch a heli-taxi with Monacair and be whisked to your destination in seven minutes. I’ll let the pics do the talking:
It’s a ride you and your kids won’t soon forget!
Monaco by Day
The Prince’s Palace is situated upon the strategically located “rock” on Monaco- which also makes it a terrific point to begin a tour of the Principality. The Palace is still in use but large portions are open to the public. Individual rooms are kept to specific time periods in Monaco’s history so it’s easy to imagine what life was like there.
I especially like the compact size of the Palace as an attraction for families: some castles/museums have kids crying uncle after the 2nd room but most kids I saw at the Prince’s Palace were fully engaged. You could tour the entire palace in an hour and not feel like you missed anything important.
I highly recommend timing your visit around 11:55AM so you can witness the changing of the guard ceremony. As a working government office the ceremony is not just ceremonial- these guards mean business!
Traveling Mom Tip: although the hop-on hop-off bus tour was enjoyable, the public buses were much less expensive and just as useful for most tourist sites. I recommend taking the bus to the top of the rock and walking down, enjoying the Byzantine maze of pedestrian only streets along the way. Gelato is a must.
Once you make your way to the bottom of Monte-Carlo a visit to the casino is a must. You’ll want to see it by night as well, but during the day a picnic in the gardens makes for a delightful and affordable lunch option. Pick up your supplies at the Spar Market across the street in the Metropole shopping center.
The cuisine distinctly benefits from Monaco’s strategic location. When we weren’t picnicking we enjoyed French pastry for breakfast and Italian antipasto for lunch.
I hesitate to call “weather” an attraction but the climate deserves special mention. The plethora of gardens, seaside promenades and historic walks could fill an entire vacation. In addition to the gardens, we spotted many well maintained playgrounds for kids of all ages. We spent much of our visit on our feet- it helps the entire principality is a compact 485 acres with 2.5 miles of Mediterranean coastline. Much of Monaco is also built on a hillside- expect lots of up- and downhill walking or utilize the handy public elevator network.
Monaco by Night
While gambling is off limits with kids, Monte Carlo at night certainly isn’t. Monte Carlo sparkles at night and I highly recommend getting out for a night time stroll. The people sparkle almost as much as the architecture! Monaco made me want to raise my fashion game but I’m still not ready to join the European women who can walk miles in five inch heels.
Monaco’s harbor takes on a more family-friendly level of beauty. There’s even a park at the harbor with carnival style attractions. The Tourism office recommended Stars N’Bars restaurant at the port with kids and at first I was skeptical. Why would an American want to eat at an American themed restaurant in Monaco? However, once I arrived I understood. Stars N’Bars has an enormous collection of Grand Prix Memorabilia and the best location on the harbor. The steak tartare was among the best I’ve ever had.
You won’t feel out of place at night with kids- we saw families with strollers out past 11PM with no problems at all. Dinner starts late and the streets felt perfectly safe both at the harbor and walking back to our beachside hotel from the casino after midnight.
By Day, By Night, Anytime!
To me, some places are “do” places, where I feel the need to explore. Others are “be” places, where I want to just absorb everything around me. Monaco was a combination of both. We loved the sights but were also happy exploring the gardens and enjoying a gelato while watching the world go by.
Thanks to the Monaco Tourism Board for facilitating my visit.