Monaco has a reputation as a place of luxury, superyachts and supercars but I’m going to shatter the myth that you need to have lots of money to enjoy Monaco as a tourist.
Monaco/Monte Carlo is spread over a lot of hills, so if you’re a first time visitor you may not be aware of this and you should plan a way to get around to save yourself time and effort.
To help Monagasque residents do the same, the Principality has a nifty network of public lifts and walkways (78 lifts, 35 escalators and 8 travelators) so you can move between elevations in the different districts without much effort at all. For a free downloadable map of where to find the lifts and travelators are you can download it here: Monacopubliclifts
10 Places To Visit in Monaco On A Budget
From beautiful gardens to historic buildings, there are lots of cheap (or free!) things to do and see in Monaco. Here are 10 suggestions for top places to go in Monaco when you have no, low or limited budget!
- The Changing of the Guards outside Palais Princier
The Palais Princier on Le Rocher (the ‘Rock’) is the official residence of the ruling Prince of Monaco and has a lengthy history. The Grimaldis, an aristocratic family from Genoa have fought to keep the Palais (and their independence) over centuries, waging wars with France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England and the Earls of Provence in order to do so.
Every day at 11.55am, Monaco’s Changing of the Guards ceremony is held in the large public square in front of the Palais Princier. It’s free to watch for tourists and a brief insight into a tradition has not changed in more than a century. Even if you don’t go into the palace, you can watch the ceremony and the square has great photography vantage points over the ports on both sides. Insider tip: Look for the guards white uniforms in summer and black in winter.
2. Saint Martin Gardens
The free entry public St Martin Gardens are a wonderful place to walk around with wide pathways, fountains, statues, flower beds and shaded benches under pine trees. The views overlooking Port Fontvieille and toward the Monaco Oceanarium are fantastic.
From the Palais Princier, head for Ruelle Sainte-Barbe and follow that all the way along to the Monaco Oceanarium. Insider tip: Look for the bronze sailor statue of Prince Albert I.
3. Monaco Cathedral
Another of Le Rocher’s attractions is the Monaco Cathedral. It is well maintained inside; tourists can visit for free from 8.30am-7pm (6pm in winter) except during mass.
The Cathedral is known for its Bréa altarpiece, as well as being both the place of marriage as well as the final resting place of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.
4. Musée de la Chapelle de la Visitation
Largely unnoticed by many tourists who visit the hugely popular Monaco Oceanarium nearby, the small Musée de la Chapelle de la Visitation is home to Mrs Piasecka Johnson’s astonishing collection of religious art with baroque masterpieces by Ribera, Rubens and other Italian masters.
It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm. Adults cost €3 / Students €1,50 / Kids under 12 years are free
5. Le Petit Bar
If you are planning on visiting the Palais Princier or Monaco Oceanarium and are looking for a restaurant with friendly service, good prices and tasty food you can’t miss heading to Le Petit Bar on rue Basse.
It gets busy quickly, especially in summer so I recommend making a reservation in advance if you can. Excellent tapas, fabulous tiramisu and all mains priced under €15.
6. Musée Naval
Unfortunately, major review website TripAdvisor has a ton of reviews from tourists who have mistaken this small museum for the much larger Monaco Oceanarium! How they could mix up the two vastly different experiences I don’t know but I believe the name having ‘naval’ in it has confused many visitors to Monaco.
The Musée Naval is a small museum dedicated to model ships. Nothing at all to do with fish or natural history! Located on the Terrasses de Fontvieille, it is home to a collection of 250 model ships including the Titanic, submarines, Viking ships, a Venetian gondola and US battleship Missouri.
Ideal for families with kids or anyone keen on model making or seamaship, it is open every day except Christmas Day and New Years Day. The entry fee is €4 for adults and €2,50 for kids 8-14 years.
7. Musée Collection of Voitures Anciennes
Also at Fontvieille, you can find the private collection of Prince Rainier III showcasing over 100 vintage cars. The museum is accessible for families with kids in baby strollers or people who are wheelchair bound.
Open 7 days from 10am-6pm. The entry fee is €6,50 for adults and € for Students & Kids 8-14 years.
8. Chemin des Sculptures
A free sculpture path from the Jardin de l’Espace de Fontvieille allows visitors to discover some of the sculptures in Monaco.
Many sculptures are placed in lovely flower beds or along scenic paths and throughout Monaco you can find over 100 works from artists including Colombian painter/sculptor Fernando Botero, Marseillais artist César, Emma Sigaldi, and Lalanne.
9. Casino Square
A trip to Monaco must include a visit to place du Casino, better known as Casino Square.
The surrounding caféterias and restaurants are not aimed at the budget traveller, however it remains one of the best locations in Monaco for people watching especially from Café de Paris.
Get your photo taken on the steps outside the Casino de Monte-Carlo or sit in the gardens opposite and admire the supercars that drive past. The square is really beautiful at night because the surrounding buildings are illuminated. Insider tip: In summertime, Casino Square hosts free concerts so check the Monaco Tourism website for dates.
10. Japanese Garden
Dotted with pines, maples and flowering shrubs, the Japanese Garden was created in 1994 and is a wonderful surprise in Monaco located near the Grimaldi Forum. It is free to visit and open 9am until sunset.
Nearby, you can wander along the free seafront zone and see a small pathway called ‘The Champions Promenade’ that has footprints of some of the world’s top footballers including Diego Maradonna, Pélé, Ryan Giggs and more. Plage Larvotto, Monaco’s main beach is nearby also with public and private beach zones and a kids playground.
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