Monaco? Surely the playground of the rich and famous is going to be way out of my league, I hear you say. Believe it or not, it just might not be. While the tourist industry in this glamorous and exclusive principality might thrive on charging mega bucks for the pleasure seekers, you can side step the package deals and enjoy this beautiful spot in all its glory for a whole lot less. With plenty of free attractions and festivals during the year, any independent traveller looking to enjoy Monaco’s capital, Monte Carlo, is in for a real treat.
Here’s the lowdown on what you can visit when exploring Monte Carlo on a shoestring.
Due to its relatively young age (it was built in 1875), the imposing Saint Nicholas Cathedral has a relatively modern feel. Its light coloured limestone facadeprotects the resting place of several members of the Grimaldis (Monaco’s royal family) including Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier.The cathedral also houses an impressive marble altarmade of the famous stoneCarrara stone from Italy. If you happen to be visiting between September and June you can attend the Sunday mass, which is held at 10am. During the mass, the Monaco Boys Choir and the Choir of Monaco Cathedral impress locals and tourists with their performances.
Changing of the Guard
You really shouldn’t miss the Changing of the Guard when you’re visiting Monte Carlo and this respected pageantry is every bit as popular an attraction here as it is in London.The ceremony gives you a real sense of the importance of the monarchy and its place in society.
The Changing of the Guard takes place every day at 11.55am in front of the Prince’s Palace. You actually get two attractions for the price of one here, as the views from the Place du Palace are pretty spectacular.
The Japanese Garden and the Princess Grace Rose Garden
If you’re anything like me when you’re on a city break, you will be on a mission to fit in as much as possible. Having said that, I am a sucker for finding a place among the hustle and bustle where I can take a moment to chill. Monte Carlo’s answer to this is the Japanese Garden. Relaxed and tranquil, thislovely garden isconveniently located in the Larvotto ward of the city centre, so it’s easy to step away from the busy-ness and recharge your batteries. In true Japanese style, the plants and flowersare meticulously maintained and the garden contains some truly beautiful elements,such asnumerous detailed water features and a welcoming Zen area.
Created in honour of Grace Kelly, the wife of Prince Rainier, these gardens are truly beautiful. If you want to see the full effect of the 300 different varieties of roses, spring or autumn are the best times to visit. I have been in summer too,however, and the gardens still exude a delightful elegance. They’re definitely worth a visit even just to marvel at the statues – the most famous of which is that of Princess Grace of Monaco.
A free beach in Monaco! This makes the perfect spot to lie back and soak up a few rays if you need a bit of relaxation time. I love a city beach, and this one is particularly good for the people watching.The beachbenefits from very calm waters, so swimming is real pleasure -but if you fancy a bit of adrenalin action, you can join in some of the water sports on offer, which include windsurfing, jet skiing and parasailing.
Hopefully these recommendations for some free attractions have inspired you to visit Monte Carlo. Who says you can’t join the glamorous, wealthy jet set without paying the price?
How to Get to Monte Carlo
Nice is the airport of choice when visiting Monte Carlo, and with a flight time of around two hours, the journey is conveniently short from the UK. The popular and very busy Nice Airport is well served by a number of budget airlines, such as Ryanair, easyJet and Jet2.
For your onward travel to Monte Carlo, take the easy way and book a transfer with Shuttle Direct. Offering transfers from the airport to your chosen hotel, you can opt for a private vehicle, or save your pennies with a shared option. Either way you can look forward to a reliable and comfortable journey, which will take around 30 minutes. Booking in advance means that you have nothing to worry about on arrival.
Where to Stay
Monte Carlo Enjoy – This is a great base if you’re looking for a city centre location, free Wi-Fi and self-catering facilities. The spacious and airy rooms at Monte Carlo Enjoy provide a welcome respite from the bustling streets,and the lush gardens are the perfect spot for kicking back with your guidebook. In just over ten minutes you can be on the doorstep of the Saint Nicholas Cathedral and other attractions. The apartments even have a washing machine so you can plan to pack light!
Studio Monaco (133) – This trendy looking hotel with its exotic exterior is an excellent self-catering accommodation option that benefits from a central location. It’s a leisurelyten-minute stroll from the port and the Opera Garnier and Métropole Shopping Centre are even closer. I love the space of the apartments,which is especiallyhandy when you need to spread out the guidebooks and camera gear.With all the facilities you need to rustle up a meal to save money, Studio Monaco (133) is a firm favourite.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of transfers in Europe and North Africa, so it makes good sense to use us for all your onward travel requirements. We offer a pre-bookable, reliable service and you can choose from private transfers or shared options for those travelling on a budget.