Surrounded by mountains and just west of the Italian border and the Mediterranean Sea, tiny Monaco has a land border of only 4.4 kilometres, while only being between 0.350-1.7 metres wide. Despite its miniscule proportions, Monaco packs a lot in per square metre with several historic sites, picturesque buildings, and countless of excellent places to eat. It is also a popular go-to destination for the rich and famous.
The only deep water port in the French Riviera, Monaco’s Port Hercules has been used since ancient times and today is home to rows of super yachts. The port provides enough anchorage for 700 vessels.
Port Hercules is located in the La Condamine district, Monaco’s second oldest, and sits near the foot of the famous Monte Carlo casino complex, the same area where the renowned Monaco Grand Prix begins. Cruise ships dock along a modern 352-metre pier, which was completed in 2003. While the pier can accommodate several boats, occasionally if it is being fully used, cruise ships may anchor further out and tender passengers to shore.
Taxis are available at the end of the pier; however, there are few actual facilities along the port besides a tourist information centre. Because of the compact nature of Monaco, all attractions and sites in the city are within easy walking distance – although it is hilly. There are 7 travelator escalators and elevators to assist pedestrians to navigate some of the steeper slops of the city on foot.
How to Get Around
Walking is one of the best ways to get around Monaco and the major central quarter of Monte Carlo. The further away from the water, however, the steeper the hills are.
Despite being known for its celebrity visitors and luxurious accommodation options, Monaco boasts a well-serviced and affordable bus system. With 5 routes and 142 bus stops around the city, there is never a stop far away, and many routes loop continuously. A single trip is €2 if purchased on the bus, or €5 will get you a day pass for unlimited travel.
Taxis are also available, but can be expensive and difficult to hail. The best option is to call them directly to place an order, or to wait at one of two ranks at the Avenue De Monte Carlo near the ship pier, and at the railway station. Those travelling with kids may also like to ride the Azur Express tourist train, taking you around the principality’s highlights for €8, and accompanied with English, French, German and Italian commentary.
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 10 minute uphill walk using the elevators to the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium
- It is a 15 minute walk to the Grand Palace
- It is a 2 minute walk to the Condamine Markets.
- It is a 27 minute journey to Nice Côte-d'Azur International airport by car
- It is a 5 minute journey to the Monte Carlo Casino by car.
- Currency - The currency used in Monaco is the Euro, which is available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent coins and €1, and €2 coins. Bank notes in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500 denominations are also used. ATMs will typically only dispense €50, €20 and €10 denominations. Credit cards are widely used.
- Time Zone - Monaco falls in the Central European Time zone (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC.)
- Weather - Monaco and the surrounding French Riviera enjoy warm summers that are rarely hot, thanks in part to the oceanic climate. Winters are mild and rainfall is more common. The average high during January is 12-13 degrees Celsius.
- Oceanographic Museum & Aquarium - Reached by elevator on the Western side of Monaco, as far as aquariums go, the Musee de l’Oceanographie is world famous. Perched atop a 280 foot cliff, the museum section features marine fauna displays, and ship model collections. More than 4,000 species of fish and 200 varieties of invertebrates, as well the up-close-and-personal Shark Lagoon make up the aquarium section of the complex, located on the lower floors. The site is open 7 days from 10am-6pm.
- Prince’s Palace of Monaco - The official residence of the Prince of Monaco, this sprawling residence and grounds features Renaissance style towers overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Arrive around noon and you’ll be able to witness the pomp and ceremony of the changing of the guards. Visitors can also tour some of the state rooms in the palace during summer. Guided tours of the palace and grounds run each day. Prices start at €8 for adults, and €4 for kids.
- The Condamine Market - Located in the city’s second oldest district, visit this traditional European market, complete with everything from cheeses and fresh fish to wine and other artisan foods. Then enjoy the close by pedestrian-only shopping mall, and beautiful landscaped greenery along the Rue Princess Caroline. The market is open daily from 6am-2pm.