Monaco, that little piece of beauty on the French Riviera, is its own sovereign city-state with a ruling Prince and Princess. Monaco is also known as a playground for the rich and famous. It's bougie (like bourgeois, but higher-class), it's fabulous, and it's not cheap. So when my dream vacation took me trouncing through the area for a day, I was wondering how much money I might have to throw down to have a good time in a place where it appears the square-footage of all the yachts docked in the port is greater than the square-footage of the landmass of Monaco, itself. It was time to figure out how to do a day in Monaco on a budget.
My boyfriend and I were determined to live the more-than bougie life of a Monaco summer holiday regular, without the price tag. Here are some of my tips to get that done:
Tip 1: Stay just outside of Monaco
Our one-night stay actually placed us just outside of Monaco in Cap d'Ail, France which is literally right next to the Monaco border. Although, we were able to use some points toward our hotel stay, we did notice that prices were at least 50% less if we were paying for a hotel and willing to walk 5 extra minutes to get to the heart of Monaco to explore.
Example: A one-night stay on a Friday night in Monte Carlo, Monaco will run you from $350-$700, while a one-night stay just outside of Monaco on a Friday night is closer to $200 per night. (Not bad when you split it by two people.)
Tip 2: Be willing to walk and explore
We knew there wasn't a ton to do in Monaco if we weren't looking to go shopping or gambling at the casino (both killers to the budget, so no thanks). It was decided that our stay in Monaco would serve as a beach day and exploration by foot. We asked the concierge at our hotel where the best and closest beach was. (Taxis in Monaco are also pretty expensive.)
She showed us the beaches in Monaco, but then she told us about a beach reserve that was a mere 4 kilometer walk (2.5 miles) along the most beautiful path right along the coast. The beach reserve has a small public and private beach front. It wouldn't be in Monaco, as it was the opposite direction of our hotel which was already situated outside of Monaco, but it was so much more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.
When people ask me about my favorite part of my trip in Europe, this was it. Taking a 4 kilometer walk along a gorgeous path situated right along the coast, just outside of Monaco.
The only other people on the path were locals out for an afternoon stroll, running for exercise, or finding hidden nooks to sunbathe topless and play in the waves. We walked along the path, watched the massive yachts coast along the Mediterranean Sea, and spent hours at the small beach until mid-afternoon when we walked back to our hotel then made our way into the city.
Cost of my favorite experience during my Mediterranean adventure? Free.
Tip 3: Window shop, but don't buy
During the tail-end of the afternoon we walked ourselves up the hill to where the palace and cathedral were situated. We didn't have much time to go inside either, but walking around the small village-like town, at the top of the hill, opposite of the palace where the ruling Prince lives was all we really needed after a long day in the sun. We read about the history of city-state and awed over the streets that were once walked by the beautiful Princess Grace Kelly.
After dinner, we strolled passed the main docks that housed the massive Leonardo Dicaprio-style five-story yachts, hiked up to the famous Monte-Carlo Casino, and walked through the Monte-Carlo Pavilions, which feels more like an art experience than a shopping center. The stores located inside these eggshell structures were all well out of my price range, but window shopping was all we really needed anyhow.
Tip 4: Prioritize where you want to splurge
This is something I advise for all of your travel adventures. Know what you're willing to skimp on and where you want to spend your money. Since the boyf and I were able to do some travel hacking to book hotel rooms, and other nights stay in some lower cost single beds with no air conditioning (thank you, Italy) we had plenty of money in our budget to spend on really good food, especially in Monaco.
The cost of our day trip had totaled $0.00 thus far, so we knew we had it in us to spend a bit at a nice restaurant along one of the ports. We opted for Beefbar overlooking Port de Fontvieille. With a bottle of rose and some shared plates, plus a smattering of selections from their mashed potato menu (yes, you read that right), we capped off our bougie day and evening in Monaco and soaked up the life of a summer holiday regular in our new favorite destination.
Your turn: Where is your favorite place to visit for just a day? How did you make it work for your budget? I'd love to hear your tips. Share them in the comments below!