Monaco Awaits the Curious Traveler

Monaco's grand harbor is full of huge luxury yachts and is the center of the city of Monte Carlo perched on hills. Max Hartshorne photos.
Monaco’s grand harbor is full of huge luxury yachts and is the center of the city of Monte Carlo perched on hills. Max Hartshorne photos.

Beyond the Glamour: Exploring Monaco’s Heritage

By Oscar Davis

The home of the prince is the most popular tourist attraction in Monaco, including watching these guards parade in front of the door.
The home of the prince, La Palace du Prince, is the most popular tourist attraction in Monaco, including watching these guards parade in front of the door.

Located on the rocky coast of the French Riviera, Monaco is a small, sovereign city-state that has become famous for its luxurious lifestyle, Grand Prix race, and casinos.

While the city is known for its extravagance, there is much more to Monaco’s culture than meets the eye. History lovers will find plenty of reasons to visit Monaco, with its range of fascinating museums and galleries.

Belle Epoche to Ultra Modern

Not to mention that the city itself is an architectural marvel, made up of styles ranging from Belle Epoque to ultra modern skyscrapers.

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Monaco is much more than just casinos and fancy cars, it is a city which truly has something to offer everyone.

With there now being such a range of hotels in Monaco, there has never been a better time to visit this culturally rich French city.

IMG 9759A Brief Monaco History Lesson

Monaco has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the 13th century. The city was originally founded as a colony of Genoa and has been ruled by the Grimaldi family since 1297.

The Genoa rule lasted almost 400 years ending in 1701 and in the time since then Monaco has been invaded by various powers, including the Spanish, the French, and the Italians.

Wealthiest City

Despite these challenges, Monaco has maintained its independence and has become one of the wealthiest and most glamorous cities in the world since its sovereignty was officially solidified in 1861.

In the present day Monaco is the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican city but despite its size it is the most densely populated with a population of around 35,000.

Tall escalators and elevators make getting around the hills of Monaco easier for pedestrians.
Tall escalators and elevators make getting around the hills of Monaco easier for pedestrians.

Evidence of Monaco’s rich and diverse history is plastered all over the city, making it a fantastic place to visit for anyone interested in historical sightseeing.

Palais du Prince

One of the most popular attractions in Monaco is the Palais du Prince, also known as the Prince’s Palace. This palace, built in 1191 as a Genoenese fortress, has been the home of the Grimaldi family for over 700 years and is open to visitors throughout the year.

View from the Palais du Prince in Monaco.
View from the Palais du Prince in Monaco.

Over the years the palace has seen absentee landlords, revolutions and restorations but remains a beautiful example of Baroque architecture.

Featuring stunning gardens, courtyards, fountains and guided tours of the Throne Room, the Blue Room, and the Chapel of St. John, the Palais du Prince is a must see for anyone with an interest in French architecture.

The palace is also famous for its changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place daily and is a popular tourist attraction.

The palace is located on the Monaco Rock near the Old Town and is open to visitors from April to October every day between 10AM and 5pm. Between July and August opening hours are extended meaning the palace is open from 10AM to 6:30PM.

Outside of the Monte Carlo Casino, luxury and high end sports cars are strategically parked
Outside of the Monte Carlo Casino, luxury and high end sports cars are strategically parked.

Musée Océanographique

The Musée Oceanographique is another must-visit attraction for history lovers in Monaco.

This museum was founded by Prince Albert I in 1910 and is one of the largest and most famous oceanographic museums in the world.

The museum features over 6,000 marine specimens, including fish, turtles, and sharks.

Visitors can also see the famous Lagoon, which houses over 200 species of fish and is a replica of a coral reef.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum also hosts regular lectures, workshops, and film screenings and is home to a research institute that conducts cutting-edge research on marine biology and oceanography.

On the first floor the exhibit, “A Sailors Career,” celebrates the work and life of its owner, Prince Albert and includes the laboratory from L’Hirondelle, one of his own research yachts.

Located in Le Rocher, the Musée Oceanographique is open everyday from 10AM to 6PM and is fantastic for anyone with marine or naval interests.

IMG 9784Musee Naval in Monaco

Monaco happens to be a staple for naval history, also being home to the Musée Naval, a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in anything maritime.

The museum features a lange of exhibits, including models of ships, historic naval equipment, and ancient maps.

Visitors can learn about the history of navigation, the development of seafaring technology, and the important role that the sea has played in Monaco’s history. The museum also offers guided tours and workshops for visitors of all ages.

Born from the collections of Professor Claude Pallanca, the Musee Naval is located in the Fontvieille region of Monaco around a 20 minute walk away from the train station. Once again this Museum is open to visitors all year round from 10AM till 6PM.

Monaco Cathedral.
Monaco Cathedral.

Cathédrale de Monaco

The Monaco Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is a beautiful Roman-Byzantine-style  that is located in the heart of the city. The cathedral was built in 1875 and features stunning mosaics, frescoes, and stained-glass windows.

Tomb of Princess Grace

Visitors can also see the tomb of Princess Grace, the beloved actress who became the Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier III in 1956. For such a famous member within Monaco her grave remains understated, tucked away towards the left of the building close to her husband and son.

If you are interested in going to see the Cathedrale de Monaco and the Episcopal throne which lies inside it, the building is open to visitors from 9AM till 6PM. Visitors are asked to dress respectfully, with shoulders covered, miniskirts and shorts are not permitted.

It is worth keeping in mind dress codes throughout your entire stay in the city-state as they are enforced frequently across many different establishments. The Monaco Cathedral is located near the Old Town between the Musée Oceanographique and the Palais du Prince.

Hilly downtown Monaco.
Hilly downtown Monaco.

Collection de Voitures Anciennes

Monaco is a haven for any type of car enthusiast, with excellent examples of both vintage and modern cars scattered around the city.

Not only are the streets and casinos lined with glamorous vehicles, the city is home to a museum which features a stunning collection of classic cars.

With a fantastic collection of vintage models from the 20th century, visitors can see iconic classic cars from brands such as Bugatti, Rolls-Royce, and Ferrari.

The museum also offers many workshops and tours if you wish to learn more about the history of automotive engineering.

The museum is located in the Fontvieille district and is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.

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A Place To Be Lost In

Europe is home to countless places where you can get lost in culture and Monaco, though most famous for its casinos and Grand prix, is no different. From the stunning Palais du Prince to the iconic Monaco Cathedral and the fascinating Musée Oceanographique, there are plenty of attractions that history lovers will enjoy.

Whether you are visiting Monaco for the first time or the tenth, make sure to take the time to explore the city’s history and culture. And while you’re there, don’t forget to take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, enjoy the local cuisine, and soak up the Mediterranean sun.

Just make sure to plan your visit well in advance, as due to the size of the city Monaco can get quite crowded during peak travel seasons. It’s a good idea to book your accommodations and transportation early, and to have a flexible itinerary that allows for unexpected changes due to weather or other factors.

Monaco Makes a Lasting Impression

If you plan accordingly and carefully as you would with any holiday, you will find that Monaco, with its stunning architecture, fascinating museums, and luxurious local lifestyle, is a fantastic holiday destination that will leave a lasting impression on any traveler.

Find out more about visiting Monaco at their tourism website, visit Monaco.

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