The dramatic heights of Monte-Carlo are the best known area of Monaco.
The principality of Monaco lies in between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by the French Riviera to the west and the Italian Riviera to the east.
The principality of Monaco offers a great balance of historical and modern attractions. There are various museums and palaces to visit as well as shopping malls and casinos. Monaco also offers relaxation spots along the harbor and even around the attractions. It is relatively easy to navigate Monte Carlo and Monaco if you take the time to learn where the various “short cuts” are. City maps are generally available at most news vendor stands and shops for a small fee.
Take a walk through Monaco-Ville, also known as “le rocher” or “the rock.” Monaco-Ville is still a medieval village at heart and an astonishingly picturesque site. It is made up almost entirely of pedestrian streets and passageways and most previous century houses still remain. There a number of hotels, restaurant and souvenir shops tourists can stay, eat and shop at. You can also visit the Prince’s Palace, the Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum, the City Hall, and the Saint Martin Gardens.
The Palais Princier (Prince’s Palace) is in old Monaco-Ville and is worth a visit. There are guided tours of the palace each day and usually run around the clock. The Palace also offers a breathtaking panoramic view overlooking the Port and Monte-Carlo. Everyday at 11:55 AM, in front of the Palace’s main entrance visitors can watch the changing of the guard ceremony performed by the “Carabiniers.” “Carabiniers” are not only in charge of the Princes’ security but they offer Him a Guard of Honor and on special occasions, are His escorts. The “Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince” has a military band (Fanfare); which performs at public concerts, official occasions, sports events and international military music festivals.
The Monaco Cathedral was built in 1875 and stands on the site of a 13th century earlier church. It is a Romanesque-Byzantine church dedicated to Saint Nicolas and houses the remains of former Princes of Monaco and Princess Grace. The church square also contains some of Monaco-Ville’s finest restaurants.
The Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium is a world-renowned attraction. Located 279 above sea level, the museum contains stunning collections of marine fauna, numerous specimens of sea creatures (stuffed or in skeleton form), models of Prince Albert’s laboratory ships, and craft ware made from the sea’s natural products. On the ground floor, exhibitions and film projections are presented daily in the Conference room. In the basement, visitors can take pleasure in watching spectacular shows of marine flora and fauna. With 4,000 species of fish and over 200 families of invertebrates, the aquarium is now an authority on the presentation of the Mediterranean and tropical marine ecosystem.
The Jardin Exotique (Exotic Gardens) is one of the many gardens Monaco has to offer. It is also one of Monaco’s finest tourist attractions. Several thousand rare plants from around the world are presented in a walking tour that is quite memorable for the views as well as the flora and plants. Due to the rise in altitude, not only are there many displays of desert plants but there are a handful of subtropical flora displays as well. There is also a grotto (cave) that has scheduled guided tours.
La Condamine is the second oldest district in Monaco, after Monaco-Ville. Here you can stop and marvel at the many luxurious yachts and cruise ships which usually adorn the docks in the marina. La Condamine is a thriving business district where you can visit the Condamine Market and rue Princesse-Caroline mall. With enjoyable landscaped areas and modern buildings, La Condamine is surely worth a visit.
The Monaco Opera House or Salle Garnier was built by the famous architect Charles Garnier. The auditorium of the opera house is decorated in red and gold and has frescoes and sculptures all around the auditorium. Looking up to the ceiling of the auditorium, the visitor will be blown away by the superb paintings. The opera house is flamboyant but at the same time very beautiful. There have been some of the most superior international performances of ballet, opera and concerts held in the opera house for more than a century.
The Marlborough Fine Arts Gallery was founded in London by Frank Lloyd and Harry Fischer. A second gallery was opened in Rome, another in New York, and one more in Monaco. The gallery holds a grand collection of post-World War II artists and even paintings by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Jules Brassai, Louise Bourgeois, Dale Chihuly, David Hockney and Henri Matisse. Admission is free and the gallery also offers group exhibitions.