When we were planning our spring “Auffahrtswochende” weekend in San Remo, Italy, we thought it would be fun to check out Monaco for a day. We didn’t realize at the time that the Formula 1 Grand Prix might be taking place there at that time. But when we found out that the races were taking place on the same date that we would be on the border between Italy and France, we didn’t mind at all. On the contrary. From what I had read online, we knew that we probably wouldn’t see all the tourist spots that Monaco has to offer, but again, our boys would have the experience of a lifetime. So in this post of mine, you’ll find out what to expect when you head to Monaco during the F1 Grand Prix.
Monaco is a small independent city-state on the coast of France and is also the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican. The elegant Principality of Monaco, world-famous for its prestigious casino and Grand Prix, is one of the most enticing places in Europe. With a total area of only about 2 km², Monaco is perfectly walkable. Although the city is located at several different height levels, you’ll find public escalators and lifts throughout the city to make getting around easier.
How to get to Monaco from San Remo
Parking isn’t difficult, as Monaco has lots of car parks. All “Monaco Parking” car parks offer free parking for the first hour. After that, each additional hour of parking costs 2 euros or more. However, all the car parks have a maximum daily rate of around 20-30 euros, which is not too bad if you want to spend the whole day in Monaco.
We drove from San Remo to the town of Ventimiglia, 16 km away, and parked in the free car park just behind the station (Parking Stazione San Secondo). Here we bought our tickets to Monaco (one-way ticket 4,70 euro/adult, 2,40 euro/child) and boarded the SNCF train. If you want to have great views of the sea on the way to Monaco, I recommend sitting at the window on the left side of the direction of travel.
What you won’t see in Monaco during the F1 Grand Prix
Dazzling Monte Carlo
Casino Monte Carlo, the most famous attraction in Monaco and one of the most famous casinos in the world, is one of the places you won’t see up close if you go to Monaco during the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Normally, however, you would be able to visit (even in casual clothes) the lobby of the casino, which was built in 1858, for free after 2 pm. If you’d like to play here, you’ll need to be over 18, dressed appropriately (the flashier the better), and pay the €10 entrance fee.
Normally you would also follow the promenade around the sea to Port Hercule, where millionaire yachts are moored. However, the waterfront is closed during the F1 Grand Prix.
What you will see in Monaco during the F1 Grand Prix
When we got off the train, we followed the arrows to the tourist office, located right at the station. Here, a nice staff member at the center scribbled a map with a pen to show us where we could go instead. So we headed to the Rock of Monaco (Rocher de Monaco), a 62-meter high promontory that is also the oldest part of the country. Given its naturally protected position, it’s really no surprise that there was an 18th-century fortress on the “Rock” – Fort Antoine.
The easiest way to get to Monaco’s Old Town is via the Rampe Major staircase street, which starts just after the roundabout at Place d’Armes. In 10 minutes you can reach the Place du Palais, the square located in front of the Prince’s Palace.
The palace was built in the 12th century and is the residence of the current Prince of Monaco. The changing of the guard outside the palace takes place every day at 11:55 am (but not on Sundays during F1 races). Although it is a private residence, the state apartments are open to visitors from early April to mid-October. Admission is €10 per adult, and €5 per child aged 6-17. More information can be found right here on the Palace’s website.
Right from the ramparts, you will have a beautiful view of Port Hercule and the whole city center where the races are held.
The Oceanographic Museum
When we were done watching, and our ears were getting tired from the constant revving of the engines, we headed down Rue des Remparts towards the Oceanographic Museum. It opened in the 20th century and focuses on everything related to the ocean and marine science. The museum building, which was founded by the navigator and oceanographer Prince Albert I, is situated in a dramatic location right on the edge of the reef.
Jardins de Saint-Martin
The statue of the aforementioned Prince Albert can be found in the Jardins de Saint-Martin, located next to the museum. In addition to other statues, there is also a statue of Grace Kelly, whose footsteps you can follow in the Old Town (Parcours Princess Grace).
Port de Fontvieille
The park offers incredible views of Port de Fontvieille. Only fifty years ago Fontvieille was nothing more than a narrow stretch of sand where the rock plunged into the sea. The emergence of a new area in Monaco was linked to the economic development of the principality. During the development of these new plots of land (17 hectares encroaching on the sea) one section was set aside for the creation of a marina.*
St. Nicholas Cathedral, also known as Monaco Cathedral, is one of the most important religious monuments in Monaco. Construction of the cathedral began in 1875, but it was not consecrated until 1911. Many royal events have been held in the cathedral, such as the wedding of Grace Kelly and Rainier III in 1956. The cathedral is free to visit. From there, it’s a short walk through narrow streets back to Palace Square.
All in all, a day in Monaco and Monte Carlo is a wonderful experience, whether there are Formula 1 races here or not. I hope we will be back again soon to see what we missed on this year’s visit. And what was your impression of Monaco? Let me know in the comments!