Monte Carlo, Monaco
The Principality of Monaco located on the Mediterranean Sea is one of the smallest countries in the world, measuring less than one square mile. It is located barely west of the Italian border and surrounded by France on all sides except for the 2.5 miles of coastline. Monaco is a self-governed sovereign nation under the protection of France. It has been ruled by the Grimaldi family for the past 700 years.
Arriving by ship into the Monte Carlo harbor is an amazing experience. If your docking time is before dawn, you’ll see the lights of the principality twinkling throughout the mountains that surround the harbor and the beautifully lit Grand Casino at center stage. If you arrive during daylight hours, you are faced with the sight of one magnificent yacht after another vying for space in the little harbor.
The principality, which is home to the most millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world, has no natural resources; its national economy is based on tourism and banking. The two go hand in hand in this idyllic slice of the Cote d’Azur. The wealthy Europeans who do their banking here demand the best, and cost be damned. This makes it harder for workaday folks to enjoy a stay, but coming in on a cruise ship for the day gives one a sense of James Bond cool.
Monte Carlo is the playground of the rich and famous. Sleek yachts grace the harbor. Boutiques offer the latest fashions from the most prestigious couturiers in Europe. Cafés, cabarets and the elegant Casino throb with nightlife. Monte Carlo is also the modern district of the principality of Monaco, sitting atop a promontory above the old port of Monaco and its dazzling harbor.
Monaco means yachts, roulette wheels and ocean views. Play a round of blackjack at the famous Monte Carlo Casino, pay a visit to the Palais du Prince, the 13th-century fortress where the Principality’s current royal family resides or do some sunbathing at Larvotto Beach; the golden sands of this urban beach are just a short walk from the upscale shops of Avenue Princess Grace.
The disabled cruiser visiting Monte Carlo will find the terrain mostly friendly. Around the port, the area is flat, but access to Monaco rock involves steps also access to Casino square involves 80 steps to walk up. Local city buses are available from town to reach Casino square or Monaco Rock (accessible to wheelchairs). Most of the pavements have dropped curbs.
The old town of Monte Carlo includes cobblestone surfaces, inclines, and some steps. There are a lot of escalators and lifts to help people get around Monaco, which are featured on the main tourist map, but often there are still a few steps to negotiate, so advance planning is essential.
Once you get to Monaco, getting around really depends on where you want to go. By car you could park at the Casino car park which would mean the Casino Gardens, Cafe de Paris and Casino itself would be within easy reach. There is wheelchair access into the Casino, level access into the Cafe de Paris and the gardens are on a slope. The views of the fountains are very pretty from any point around there.
The other main place to visit would be the Rocher (Old Town) for lovely views and fairly level walking through the narrow streets once you are there. Buses 1 and 2 have wheelchair access and both go through Casino Square and terminate on the Rocher, which would be the best way to get from one area to the next as it’s a long walk.
Note: On occasion Monte Carlo is an anchorage port. If at anchor, passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender. Since the cruise ship does not dock and the disabled cruiser is tendered to shore from out in the harbor; if the water is too rough, the captain may not let the disabled cruiser off the ship. Anyone with limited mobility would have some difficulty. Anyone in a wheelchair would have to be carried on and off the tender.
Where You’re Docked
Opened in 2003, the modern cruise ship pier (Nouvelle Digue de Monaco) is located next to the yacht harbor in the Port of Monaco (Hercules Port), just east of the Palais Princier, the home of Prince Albert, and just below the sector of Monte Carlo. Although the 352 meter dock can accommodate several ships in port, there will be the odd occasion where it’s booked up and tenders will need to be utilized.
There’s very little at the pier itself. When you get to the gate at the end of the pier, you can walk along the seawall adjacent to the yacht harbor to get into the center of Monte Carlo (about a mile from the ship) or take an elevator and stairs (about 500 yards) to Old Town where you will find the Palais Princier and the Oceanographic Museum.
Good to Know
Streets are steep, nearly vertical in some places. However, several elevators and “travelators” are available to help negotiate the inclines in the following areas:
Between the Place des Moulins and the beaches; between the Princess Grace Hospital Centre and the Exotic Garden; between the harbor and the Avenue de la Costa; between the Place St. Devote and the area of Moneghetti; between the terraces of the casino, the Congress Centre Auditorium and the Boulevard Louis II; between the Avenue des Citronniers and the Avenue Grande-Bretagne between the highway and the Larvotto Boulevard.
Taxis come to the end of the pier (just outside the gates) until approximately 6 p.m. Buses stop at 7 p.m. near the dock but run until 9 p.m. in the principality. The bus system is extensive, but it’s quite a long walk to the bus stop from the ship docks. The Monaco bus company, CAM, operates a network of six routes that cover all the main attractions. There are 142 bus stops around the principality, so you never have to walk far to find one.
A fun way to cross the harbor is on the electric water bus, which runs between the cruise terminal and the city center, near the casino.
If you’re physically fit, you can walk around the principality, but be warned: It’s steep, almost everywhere. However, the good news is that you never need worry about safety because Monaco has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency in Monaco is the euro. There is a bank (and ATM) on nearly every corner. Banks are generally open from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with some staying open during lunchtime. Credit Foncier de Monaco, located near the casino, is open daily; including Sundays and holidays from noon to 11 p.m.
The official language of Monaco is French, but because of the international nature of the place, and its proximity to Italy, Italian, English and Spanish are all widely spoken and understood. There is also a Monegasque dialect, derived from Italian and spoken by around 20 percent of the population.
Monaco’s local markets are as delightfully simple as its local food. Condamine Market evokes France’s nearby Provence region; head there for handmade goods, including the region’s signature lavender products. Cruise to Monte Carlo and head to the Place du Casino or Cercle d’Or if you want to shop with the city’s highest rollers for luxury goods such as designer watches, silk scarves and leather shoes.
Despite the island’s reputation for extravagance, residents of Monaco are famously modest about their food. While it’s true that local specialties like stocafi (dried cod cooked in tomato sauce) and socca chickpea pancakes can be found elsewhere in the Mediterranean, this simple cuisine manages to be every bit as elegant as the casino and the yachts. You can find; in the center of Monte Carlo and in the Old City; vendors selling socca, or bakeries selling another Monegasque specialty, fougasse, a sweet pastry with almonds and anise seed. Most of the restaurants are open for lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m.; brasseries and cafes are open from about 11 a.m. until late.
Points of Interest
- Les Grands Appartements du Palais – Visitors can go through the home of Prince Albert and check out the throne and artifacts of the principality’s history. Stunning artwork by Breughel and other Old Masters hangs in these rooms, as does the state portrait of Princess Grace. If you get there in time for the changing of the guard (releve de la garde), you can enjoy the pomp and circumstance of this unique little “country.” After the tour of the Appartements, you can visit the Musee du Palais du Prince, with more historical artifacts, mementos and documents from the era of Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Old Monaco – Twisting lanes and vaulted passageways make up this quaint section which dates back to the 14th century. Walking the narrow lanes is like being transported back in time and yet modern life abounds.
- Musee de l’Oceanographie – This is basically the state aquarium with a historic maritime museum thrown in for good measure. But don’t mistake “basically” for “basic,” as it’s anything but. This is one of the most important aquariums in Europe, with 4,000 species of fish and 200 types of invertebrates. The building, dedicated in 1910, sits below the palace; the aquarium butts into the sea and features more than 90 tanks. The highlight is the Shark Lagoon, where visitors can get a close-up view of sharks, moray eels, turtles and other marine creatures from four different angles.
- Saint Nicholas Cathedral – Located in the old city, this is where Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly married and also where they are buried. Saint Nicholas Cathedral is built on the site of a 13th-century church and is located in the heart of the old city. The cathedral was built in 1875 with white sandstone brought down from the village of La Turbie.
- Monte Carlo Casino – The extravagant Monte Carlo Casino is one of the most breath-taking attractions in Monaco. You can see the elegant building with two spired towers, which was built in 1878 by Charles Garnier (the architect of Paris’ famed Opera House), from your ship. Oddly enough to most North Americans, it houses not only the gaming rooms but the Monaco Opera and Ballet as well. There is a dress code: jacket and tie required of men, resort chic for women.
- Hotel de Paris and Hermitage Hotel Lobbies – Hotel de Paris is a Beaux Arts gem, built in 1863. The portico is reminiscent of an elegant Parisian palace of the same era. The Hermitage, which stretches over several buildings, up and down hills, recently renovated its Beaumarchais Lobby that was originally built in 1900. Lovers of historic buildings and period architecture will really enjoy looking at these elegant respites for the rich and famous.
- Condamine Market and Rue Princess Caroline – This area has always been the trading place in Monaco. The thriving market, which dates to 1880, features fruit, vegetables, fish, flowers, kitchen wares, coffees, wines; everything you’d expect in a city marketplace in Europe. Beside the market is Rue Princess Caroline, a pedestrian mall lined with shops and park benches.
- Azur Express Tourist Train – This full narrated loop takes only 30 minutes, but this little open-air trolley is the best deal in the entire principality. You get a full tour through the old town and Monte Carlo; it sure saves those leg muscles.
- Eze – This medieval village was once a favorite destination of Walt Disney. This rocky outcrop now attracts tourists from all over the globe, many of whom visit the famous Fragonard perfume factory.
Monte Carlo Accessible Excursions
Monte Carlo is known for its gambling casino and one of the leading tourist resorts in Europe. Highlights include the magnificent Palais du Prince and Grand Theatre de Monte Carlo within the casino complex, as well as the headquarters of Ballets de Monte Carlo. After Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier III, Americans became particularly enchanted with Monaco and today it’s a popular destination due to its natural beauty. From here tourists can also visit Antibes, Eze, St.Paul de Vence, the villas of Cap Ferrat and Beaulieu.
Royal Monaco Accessible Guided Tour
This 3 hour accessible Monte Carlo walking tour uses step-free walking/rolling routes between the Monte Carlo cruise dock and the sights perched high overhead on Le Roc. Your professionally licensed guide will pick you up from the cruise terminal, escort you over a flat 500 meter walkway that curves around the Monaco-Ville cliffs, and will bring you through a series of elevators to reach the historical district of Monaco-Ville.
The Royal Monaco Accessible Guided Tour takes you on a picturesque stroll thought the charming heart of the city, where you’ll see the majestic Monaco Cathedral and the tomb of Princess Grace Kelly. You’ll also see the breathtaking façade of the Oceanographic Museum where explorer Jacques Cousteau was the director for over 30 years.
If you visit in the morning you can catch the Changing of the Guard in front of the Royal Palace. And you will also see the views of the Monaco Port and the Mediterranean Sea.
Elegant Monte Carlo Accessible Cruise Excursion
The country of Monaco may be small, but it has so much to see and do. This 4 hour accessible Monaco driving tour visits all of the best sights of the area, using a wheelchair accessible van and fully accessible venues.
Your driver and professionally licensed guide will pick you up from the cruise terminal utilizing convenient accessible vans for transportation with a wheelchair ramp. Your accessible cruise excursion will visit Old Monaco-Ville and the historic architecture found here. See the spectacular Monaco Cathedral, capture the breathtaking façade of the Oceanographic Museum and Palais du Prince (Prince’s Palace), and enjoy a unique opportunity to watch the Changing of the Guards (only available in the am).
After a memorable time in Monaco-Ville, you’ll enjoy a short ride in your accessible van to the town of Monte Carlo for a visit to the ever-famous Monte Carlo Casino. Note: The casino is open to visitors in the morning but actual gambling does not start until 2 pm.
The Elegant Monte Carlo Accessible Cruise Excursion uses a van with a wheelchair ramp that is suitable for heavy electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters. It involves few cobblestones and hills and no long distances.
Classic Wheelchair Friendly Monte Carlo Shore Excursion
Budget friendly option using accessible public transportation.
Experience Monaco firsthand by combing a picturesque stroll in Monaco-Ville with a visit the famous Monaco Casino. This 4 hour tour combines an accessible walking/strolling tour with wheelchair friendly public transportation, which means less distance to cover at a more affordable cost than the same tour using a private accessible van.
Start your day by meeting your local tour guide at the cruise dock and enjoy a short stroll from the pier. You’ll spend the first part of your day exploring the heart of the medieval quarter while enjoying the spectacular, picturesque backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. In Monaco’s charming main square, the Place du Palais, you’ll get to see the Prince’s Palace, home to the House of Grimaldi since 1297.
Your accessible Monaco tour continues as you pass the beautiful St. Nicholas Cathedral. The church is the burial site of the royal family, including the American actress-turned-princess, Grace Kelly.
Escorted by your friendly tour guide, you’ll explore Old Monaco-Ville and the historic architecture found here. See the spectacular Monaco Cathedral, capture the breathtaking façade of the Oceanographic Museum and Palais du Prince (Prince’s Palace), and enjoy a unique opportunity to watch the Changing of the Guards (only available in the morning). There will also be time to grab a snack or refreshment at one of the accessible cafés in the area.
Spend some time at leisure before your private guide will escort you to Place de la Visitation, where a wheelchair accessible bus will take you on a drive along the portion of the Grand Prix Motor Race circuit. You’ll also have time to see the magnificent Hotel de Paris and the famous Casino.
As your tour comes to an end, you’ll once again board the accessible public bus and head to Place d’Armes. Here you’ll enjoy a leisurely stroll along the picturesque harbor, before returning to your cruise ship.
The Classic Wheelchair Friendly Monte Carlo Shore Excursion uses accessible public transportation. It involves few cobblestones and hills along the walking/strolling portions of the tour, but no long distances.