With lamborginis zipping by every corner and giant yachts as far as the eye can see, Monaco is well known for being Europe’s playground for the rich and famous. And you know what? With the gorgeous blue water, opulent buildings and warm sunny weather, it’s easy to see why Monaco is a preferred getaway for the mega-rich. But you might ask, what about the rest of us who can’t afford yachts and lambos? Don’t worry – visiting this beautiful city-state is very doable on a budget. Here’s how:
1. For cheap accommodations, don’t stay in Monaco.
You can easily save some money by not staying overnight in Monaco. Instead, you can visit as an easy day trip from Nice, where accommodations are much cheaper. Public transit conveniently links the two areas, with the cheapest option being only €1.50 each way by bus (and a commute time of 30-45 minutes). Alternatively, you can take the train for only a few euros more.
2. For dirt cheap eats, visit a grocery store, local market, bakery or pizza place.
Having a sit-down meal in Monaco doesn’t come cheap. Luckily, if you’re really on a budget, grocery store prices are pretty comparable to what you would find elsewhere, so you can grab a quick bite and picnic. Alternatively, you can get some cheap takeaway meals at pizza joints, bakeries and local markets (there’s a large one at Place d’Armes), where you can take in more authentic local goodies.
If a sit-down meal for you is a must, I’ve heard that many restaurants in Monaco-Ville (the Old Town) offer set menus for a decent price. Be wary of the lunchtime rush though, where you’ll be fending for a spot against many other eager travellers.
Side note: While taking a peek inside a supermarket in La Condamine district, I stumbled upon THESE gems: Speculoos-inspired Twix ice cream bars. I, like the giddy child that I am, bought the box and devoured one on the street. … because I have no sense of propriety.
3. How should you get around? Work those leg muscles!
With an area of about 2km squared, Monaco is small and therefore very walkable. To save tired travellers from hilly Monacan terrain, there are even free public elevators that can get you up in a jiffy.
Another option of course is you can bus, which will set you back €5.50 for a 24h day pass. A nice perk of this however is that the day pass includes access to Monaco’s “boat bus” (yes, creative name) which brings you from Quai Kennedy – Digue Sud on a BOAT, so if “boat ride in Monaco” was on your bucket list, you can check that right off!
4. Need something to do? Seek out activities that are free or very cheap.
Many great activities in Monaco are free! For example, you can visit…
The Prince’s Palace of Monaco: While you can opt for a (paid) tour of the interior, the daily Changing of the Guards is a free spectacle that you can admire from the Palace Square.
Monaco Cathedral: A simple yet beautiful attraction nestled in the Monaco-Ville district and the final resting place of many Monacan royals including Grace Kelly.
Princess Grace Rose Garden: A romantic garden created in memory of Princess Grace with a vast collection of 8000 rose bushes in over 300 varieties.
The Japanese Garden: An exquisite and meticulously maintained oasis in the middle of the city, made complete by intricate water features and trees.
Larvotto Beach: A nice spot to relax and soak in the Monacan sun (after a long day of sightseeing).
Other great activities can be really inexpensive! For example, we spent the latter half of our afternoon at this awesome public pool we found right by the marina in La Condamine. For a couple of euros, we got access to the pool and chair rentals for the day. Let me tell you folks, there is no better way to beat the heat.
At the end of the day, Monaco is a lovely place and you should take the time to see it, regardless of what your budget is. The first time I visited, I was a frumpy little high schooler on an organized school tour. Even then, I remember being blown away by the colour of the water and the endless display of yachts! It was truly like something out of a postcard. I felt the same way when I revisited last summer. Maybe one day I’ll be making enough of the big bucks to call Monaco home? HA just kidding – I’d be better off attempting to marry rich. Wish me luck!
So, have you ever been to Monaco? If so, what was your favourite part?