9 Reasons You Need to Visit Europe's (Second) Smallest Country This Summer
Monaco is the second smallest country in Europe (next to Vatican City) and is comprised of a tiny section of land between France and Italy along the beautiful French Riviera. Only one kilometer wide and two kilometers long, Monaco is an easy destination to travel to from many bigger cities throughout Europe and with the wealth, class, and abundance of things to do, it's definitely worthy of your bucket list.
Did you know people from Monaco are called Monegasque? People who are actually citizens of Monaco are in the minority in the country, making up less than one fifth of the people there. So, as a visitor, you will definitely fit in! Monaco is known for being a posh, glamorous, and possibly unaffordable destination. But there are so many things to do in this tiny country that won't break the bank and that will keep you entertained and feeling like Princess Grace herself.
Live in Princess Grace of Monaco's shoes for a day
Before she was actual royalty, Grace Kelly had already cemented her status as Hollywood royalty. She later went on to marry Prince Rainier in a fairy-tale wedding in Monaco and raised three children there. Visit the Royal Palace of Monaco, which is the private residence where the Grimaldi family has lived for centuries. The interior is open to the public and you can see the private residences up close and personal. If you can get there by 11:55 a.m., there is the changing of the guard every morning, which is a regal affair and one you can't miss in this opulent country.
Explore under the sea
Since you're right on the French Riviera, check out some of the exotic fish from the region. The Musee de l'Oceanographic is one of Monaco's most famous museums, which was headed by Jacques Cousteau for many years. It's located close to the palace in the Old Town, so you can do it on your way up to the Royal Palace, which sits on a high fill with views of the entire country. The aquarium has 4,000 species of fish and the museum is overlooking the water for great views and the perfect ambiance.
Check out the local fare at the market
La Condamine is a short walk from the center of Monaco. The market is set up every morning down by the harbor and is the optimal spot to get fresh Mediterranean produce, fish, and other local fare. It's here that you can sample pissaladiere, socca (chickpea pancake), or tapenade (an olive spread) without breaking the bank.
La Condamine is also one of the only places in the country you will hear the people speaking Monégasque, which is an old language that many locals know. It's a language that is comprised of French and Italian and isn't spoken as much anymore, but local children still learn it in school. When asking locals what you should do in their beloved country, this is the one that comes up the most.
It’s easy to get to from many bigger cities in Europe
Hop on a train from Paris and you are on the French Rivera in a short six hours.
Rail Europe is one of the biggest train companies in Europe and it brings together all the different routes to many different countries. Simply enter in your destination on its website and it will bring you all the different possible routes. Monaco is also close to other exotic cities in the South of France, including Nice and Cannes or even San Remo in Italy. The trains are a quick and easy way to explore the whole area and see three countries on one trip.
Check out the most famous race track in the world
The F1 Grand Prix track goes right through the center of Monte Carlo and you will be able to see all the incredible twists and turns of one of the toughest (and apparently slowest) Formula One tracks in the world. Right in front of the Fairmont hotel is the sharpest turn, called the Grand Hotel Hairpin, which forces racers to slow down to an extremely slow 30 MPH. This is definitely a cool photo op!
Experience yacht life like the rich and famous
The prestigious Yacht Club is limited to registered members only and the expense is thousands of dollars each year, but attached to the Monte Carlo Yacht Club is a small wine bar called Wine Palace Monte Carlo, which gives you great views of the harbor as well as some of the best wines in the region. They also have local charcuterie and an extensive local menu. Every single wine is hand-picked, and if you like it, you can purchase in the store below. No, you're not in the private club, but you're pretty darn close and you're getting the same great views.
Enjoy gorgeous views for lunch
There is every type of cuisine you can think of in this small country. Monaco takes a lot of its tradition from the Mediterranean and includes quite a bit of fresh vegetables, fish, and of course olive oil in the diet. The Fairmont Monte Carlo, which is situated right in the center of all the action, has a lunch buffet with some of the best assortment of these staple foods. Check it out for lunch and dinner and experience some of the best views of the gorgeous French Riviera.
The photo ops are incredible from the top of the country
Get your hiking boots out because it's not an easy walk, but it is definitely doable. There are elevators and secret stairways that help you navigate your way to the top of Monte Carlo where you will be met with some of the best views on the French Riviera. Take a trip up to the Jardin Exotique de Monaco located in Moneghetti (even though it's a different city, it's close!) for a twisty trip throughout some of the best exotic plant life in the world. Simulating the twists and turns of the streets of Monte Carlo, the Jardin has some of the best views of the French Riviera.
See three countries at once
Old Town has some of the best views of the entire French Rivera and it's where the palace is, so it's a can't-miss spot. Make sure to look to your right and you will get a cool photo of three countries in one! Each peninsula represents a different country: Monaco, France, and Italy. If you are feeling a little less athletic, Monaco has Mobees you can rent at various spots throughout the small country. The 15 existing vehicles are accessible 24/7 and can easily be localized on a real-time vehicle availability map. Check out the website or download the smartphone app. When you no longer need the vehicle, you can return it anywhere within Monaco.