The famous Monte Carlo casino
Monaco has earned the reputation of the ‘playground of the rich’. It is one of the most glamorous places along the chic French Riviera. The Port of Monaco is one of the most desired places to moor your luxury yacht (if you are lucky enough to own such a thing!) You even have to be invited by the Prince of Monaco if you want (and can afford) to live in Monaco. Everything about Monaco oozes sophistication, luxury and money!
So, can you really visit Monaco on a budget? ...The answer is yes!
Of course, you won’t be staying in a penthouse apartment. In fact, you probably won’t be staying in Monaco at all! But you certainly enjoy a lot of what Monaco has to offer without having a millionaire’s bank account.
How do I know? Well, the French Riviera was one of the first places my husband and I visited as we embarked on our full time travels in 2021. And I can tell you, our budget was definitely more lemonade than champagne!
There are plenty of budget-friendly activities you can do in Monaco. If you’re travelling on a budget and want to visit Monaco, then I’ve got you covered with this one day itinerary for visiting Monaco on a budget.
One day itinerary for visiting Monaco on a budget
The below itinerary has been written in an order that can be followed as a DIY walking tour, visiting some of the best highlights in Monaco. I would recommend downloading an offline google map and pinning the highlights which you want to see so that you can create a route that works for you, without having to double-back on yourself. So, here's my one day itinerary for visiting Monaco on a budget.
1. Visit the Monte Carlo casino
You can’t visit Monaco without stopping by the iconic Monte Carlo casino. It’s a great place to start your day in Monaco as it is signposted from within the train station! Anyone can step inside the atrium to have a look at the grand decor, and take a couple of photos without having to pay a penny. However, if you want to enter the casino itself, admission is €17. There’s also a strict dress code and you will need to show ID to prove that you are over 18.
Even if you don’t go inside the casino, it is worth paying a visit just to see the grand building and manicured gardens. You will also be likely to see one or two super cars parked out the front of the casino too!
Posing in front of Monte Carlo casino
2. Take your photo at the Grand Prix ‘Hairpin bend’
This one is for the Grand Prix fans. In front of the Fairmont Hotel is the famous ‘Hairpin bend’ from the Monaco Grand Prix track. It’s literally just a road with a tight U bend, so if you’re not into Grand Prix, you can probably skip this one!
The Monaco F1 hairpin bend outside the Fairmont hotel
3. Visit the Princess Grace Japanese Garden
The Japanese gardens were designed with strict zen principles by Japanese architect, Yasuo Beppu at the request of Prince Rainier III. In the centre of the garden is a small pond and bridge with a little tea house. Entry is free and the gardens are a beautiful slice of calm within the busy city.
4. See the Monte-Carlo Opera house
Just behind the Monte Carlo casino is the Monte Carlo Opera house. You can expect to pay a premium to watch an opera show in this famous opera house. However, with its ornate detailing, and elegant windows, the architecture of this grand building is worth admiring from the outside.
Standing in the Jardins d'acclimatation looking over to the Monte Carlo Opera House
5. Stroll through the Jardins d'acclimatation
In front of the Monte Carlo Opera house sits the tranquil Jardins d'acclimatation. Within the coastal park are various sculptures to observe. Around the edge of the park are the footprints of famous footballers, pressed into concrete too! This is a nice place to have a quiet stroll and there are several benches where you can have a rest and enjoy stunning views out to sea.
6. See the luxury yachts in Port Hercules
Besides the Monte-Carlo casino, another iconic attraction in Monaco is the famous Port Hercules. This is the glamorous marina where the world-renowned Monaco Yacht show is held. The Yacht show is Europe’s largest display of luxury yachts in water and attracts thousands of visitors every year in late September. (you definitely want to avoid this time of year for visiting Monaco if possible, unless you’re planning on buying a yacht of course!) On the edge of Hercules Port is the Monaco Yacht club. The Yacht Club is an elite, members-only private club, so sadly tourists can’t enter, but it is an impressive building to admire all the same. Walking around Port Hercules is one of the top things to do during your day in Monaco, you might even bump into someone famous!
Looking down onto Port Hercules and the Monaco Yacht Club
7. See the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
After you have walked from the Yacht Club round the edge of Port Hercules, you will arrive near the base of the hill of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. On the corner of Avenue du Port, you will see a set of stairs in stone ramparts. Follow signs up the stairs for ‘Harbour viewpoint’ or ‘Vue Panoramic’. Continue all the way to the top of the stairs until you arrive at the top viewpoint.
If you want to visit one of the palace museums, to see the apartments, car collection or zoo, there is a fee. However you can enjoy the outside of the Palace for free. You might even catch the changing of the guards.
After you have taken your photos in front of the palace, spend some time wandering through the narrow streets on the hilltop in front of the Palace. There are many souvenir shops and little cafes and restaurants here.
The Prince's Palace of Monaco
8. Walk to Port Fontvieille viewpoint
On the other side of the hillside Palace ramparts is Port Fontvieille. This smaller, pretty port is sheltered by the rocky cliff face and is surrounded by colourful shops and restaurants along the waterfront. To get to the viewpoint, start from the Prince’s Palace of Monaco and take the small path next to the official souvenir shop. After you have enjoyed the views of Port Fontvieille and the surrounding city and mountain ranges, you can either go back to the Palace, or continue to follow the path down the hillside.
The hillside path winds down, around the Palace ramparts, leading you through the tranquil hillside Jardins de Saint-Martin, with gorgeous views out to sea. Eventually you will arrive at the Marine museum and open air theatre on the edge of Port Hercules.
Port Fontvieille (L) and the coastal walk through Jardins de Saint-Martin (R)
9. Wander through the Port Quarter
The Port Quarter is a shopping and dining area opposite Port Hercules. Here, you will find plenty of restaurants and cafes. For budget eats, head to the quieter streets, further inland. The further away you are from the Port, the more reasonable prices are and you will also find a couple of takeaway options. Even if you don’t want to go shopping or eat here, wandering around the small area of Port Quarter is a nice addition if you have a bit of time and your legs are still up for walking!
The tree lined streets of Monaco's chic Port Quarter
I spent the whole day in Monaco, had a great time and barely spent a thing! I travelled by train, using my unlimited Zou weekly pass. If you are staying in the French Riviera for a few days, this is such good value. I also packed a sandwich for lunch. Now, some of you may think that you can’t possibly eat a packed lunch in Monaco! Well you can and we did! We found a quiet spot, away from the main paths and tucked into our picnic with gorgeous views of Port Hercules and the Yacht Club.
Travel doesn’t have to be expensive, and Monaco is no exception. There’s so much you can see for free in Monaco. It’s a beautiful place and I would really recommend adding a day in Monaco to any trip to the French Riviera.
For more money-saving advice, check out my Top Tips for travelling in the French Riviera on a budget