Your stay in Villa Hippocampo in Villefranche-sur-Mer should not be limited to the local experiences; instead, you should take advantage of all the fabulous places you can see. One of these is Monaco, and here we’ll share a suggestion for spending a day in Monaco.
Monaco is only 15 km east of Villefranche-sur-Mer, and you can take your time and have a nice drive along the beautiful cornice roads overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean. While the Principality of Monaco is very tiny, it has so much to offer, no matter the time of year you decide to visit.
The weather is well inclined towards reasonable, with not too hot in the summer and not too cold in the winter. We need to note that the high season brings a lot of visitors to Monaco so it can become pretty packed, but the winter is usually mild and offers a lot of winter sun that you can take advantage of.
When you arrive in Monaco, you will feel a different atmosphere, as almost everywhere you look, you can see the wealth and luxury due to 30% of its residents being millionaires. The wealth also calls for high security, so this is also one of the safest places in the world.
We propose you put on comfy shoes and plan a walking tour around Monaco because it is very tiny and all the best places to see are within walking distance. Meanwhile, you can use the public escalators and elevators because the city is very steep in places, but, hey, another unique experience you’ll find in Monaco.
We suggest you start your day tour of Monaco at the port, which is called Port Hercules. The port is unique: luxury sailboats and one-of-a-kind yachts anchored in the deep-water port. Stroll along the port and see up to 700 luxury vessels anchored here.
When here, you are in the La Condamine municipality, and it is an excellent opportunity to explore the famous La Condamine market. The open-area market is at Place d’Armes, where traders sell fruits, veggies, flowers, and other fresh produce; the covered hall has various sellers and a food court where you can grab a meal and enjoy it at the shared tables.
From here, you can walk to the Sainte Devote Chapel, dating from 1070. The chapel is where every royal bride lays her bouquet after the wedding. Also, the front of the chapel is a sharp bend part of Monaco’s Grand Prix circuit.
Next, to truly experience Monaco, you must walk through the Old Town. The Monaco Old Town or Monaco-Ville is perched high on a hill, also referred to as le Rocher or the Rock of Monaco. Overlooking the sea, this is the oldest part of the city, and it has the Prince’s Palace, the Cathedral, the Courthouse, and the Oceanographic Museum.
The Prince’s Palace is open for visitors from April to mid-October, every day from 10 AM to 6 PM. If you opt for a tour, you can see the change of the guards, the State Apartments, the Palace Chapel, the Throne Room, the Hercule Gallery and much more.
You can see the Monaco Cathedral next to the Prince’s Palace. Initially built in 1252 and devoted to Saint Nicholas, the old building was demolished in 1874, and a new church was built, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. This is the official seat of Monaco’s Archdiocese and is where many royal weddings take place. Also, the cathedral is the official burial place of the Grimaldi royal family, including Grace Kelly.
While in Monaco-Ville, don’t miss the Oceanographic Museum, housed in an impressive Neo-Baroque façade building. It was opened in 1910 under the guidance of Prince Albert I, an avid explorer who brought back plenty of specimens during his oceanographic campaigns. The museum showcases over 6000 specimens. The famous marine explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau was the museum director from 1957 to 1988. If you plan to visit the museum, you should know the aquariums are a must-see here, as you can see sea turtles, fluorescent corals, and much more.
Right next to the Oceanographic Museum, you will find the Jardins de Saint-Martin, where you can take a relaxing stroll and get some impressive views of the Port de Fontvieille, the other port in Monaco.
Next, you can visit the beautiful Monte Carlo, Monaco’s premier residential and resort area. Of course, here you must see the Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco’s largest gambling and entertainment center, also housing the Opera de Monte Carlo and the Monte Carlo Ballet. We have a separate guide on experiencing the Monte Carlo Casino to its limits.
From here, you can also walk along the Grand Prix circuit and then walk the Avenue Princess Grace to visit the Grimaldi Forum and the Japanese Garden. Built on the reclaimed land of Larvotto, the Grimaldi Forum is the premier international event venue with about 120 annual events. Next to it, you can walk through the Japanese Garden, designed in 1994 at the request of Prince Rainier III, and enjoy the Zen atmosphere. Walk through the garden and enjoy the predominant Japanese details like the pond, the waterfall, the wooden bridges, and the tea house.
After you’ve had your fill of Monaco, it is time to return to Villa Hippocampo in Villefranche-sur-Mer. But, before you go, you can drive up to the Tete de Chien or the Dog’s Head viewpoint. Be careful along the road, as it is narrow and full of bends, but the views are worth it. Park your car at the parking lot and hike along the steep trail. Once you reach the top, you’ll see Monaco from above and a significant part of the beautiful Mediterranean coastline.