June 18, 2024

The Magic of Monaco

The view of Monaco’s yacht-filled harbor can be seen from the walk to the palace.

The tiny principality of Monaco, on the French Riviera, epitomizes glamour. Nestled in hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this coastal enclave covers less than a square mile but enjoys an international fame far exceeding its size. Attractions range from the royal palace in Monaco-Ville to its famous casino in Monte-Carlo. If this weren’t enough, fans of Formula One can walk the iconic circuit of the Monaco Grand Prix, passing landmarks barely visible on race weekend when the street route is temporarily transformed with crash barriers and corporate signage.

For cruise passengers stepping ashore in Monaco’s yacht-filled harbor for a day of sightseeing, the principality’s highlights are within easy walking distance. Public elevators are strategically situated to help people ascend some of the steep streets and the local buses are an efficient way to get from one side of the principality to the other.

Large cruise ships anchor and tender their passengers into Port Hercule, which is sheltered from easterly swells by a sea wall and breakwater. Rising above this natural bay is a steep headland known as the Rock of Monaco – site of the old town’s medieval fortress and royal palace.

Princess Grace was laid to rest in Monaco’s cathedral.

Avenue de la Porte Neuve leads up to Monaco-Ville where cliff-top gardens provide sweeping views out to sea and narrow, winding streets lead to Place du Palais and its grand Italianate palace in which a reigning prince has resided for over seven centuries. Standing outside is a statue of Francesco Grimaldi, who seized control the fortress in 1297 by disguising himself as a Franciscan monk. A changing of the palace guard takes place every day at five minutes before noon.

Not far from the palace is the cathedral in which Princess Grace, who died in a tragic automobile accident in 1982, is buried. Monaco gained a layer of Hollywood glitter when film actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956 to become Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. Her son Albert has been Monaco’s constitutional monarch since the death of Prince Rainier in 2005.

After a few hours spent strolling around Monaco-Ville, it’s time to head to the other side of the harbor to enjoy the famous sights of Monte-Carlo, including those associated with the Monaco Grand Prix. This is the most historic and famous race on the Formula One calendar and its route is shown on Monaco’s visitor map. It starts on Boulevard Albert I, which runs past the La Condamine quarter of boutiques and traditional open-air markets before heading up to Place du Casino in Monte-Carlo, then circling back down the hillside and through a tunnel to emerge along the harbor.

The famous Monte-Carlo casino anchors the annual Formula 1 race.

Monte-Carlo’s famous casino overlooks the fountain-filled gardens in Place du Casino, where other attractions are the luxury Hotel de Paris and the historic Café de Paris – the perfect place to pause for lunch before visiting the casino, its interior a dazzling display of gold-leaf and gilt. Afterwards take a stroll through Place du Casino’s gardens to the seaward side of the casino complex to view the ornate façade of the opera house, then head down the hillside to the harborfront. From there it’s a pleasant walk along the marina promenade back to the cruise tender dock or you can instead hop on the bus boat for a five-minute crossing of the harbor.

Cafe de Paris is a good spot to have lunch near the casino.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.