There aren’t many places in the world like Monaco, It’s a unique destination and, much like Cannes, is a place you probably either visit because you’re a billionaire with a mega yacht, or because you’re basically going to stare in amazement at those billionaires and their mega yachts!
We were staying near Grasse, which was about an hour’s drive from Monaco in good traffic and decided to visit on the one day of the holiday which was a bit cloudy and not quite as boiling hot as the other days. This was a good choice, as there’s no real beach in Monaco and nowhere really to cool down on the very hot mid-summer days that we were here, so a (relatively) cooler day with a bit of cloud was ideal.
The road in to Monaco starts high up on the hillside above with great views over the marina and the sights familiar to any Formula One fan. After negotiating the series of tight switchback turns which bring you down to sea level, we found a multi-storey car park about 5-minutes walk from the marina.
The marina was the first place we headed – it’s unmissable with some of the most enormous super-yachts you’ll see anywhere in the world. Just like in Cannes, we wandered around the edge of the marina gazing in amazement at these insanely huge boats, wondering who on the earth owns them.
There’s a promenade that runs the width of the marina with various traders, stands and rides, which occupied us for an hour or so. This bit of Monaco was aimed more at the likes of us – day-trippers, sight-seers and families – and we asked the kids what they’d like to do, the answer to which, bizarrely, was the ‘fish pedicure’ stand!
So we paid a fairly reasonable price for Emma and Luke (aged 6 and 10) to sit for 15-minutes with their feet in a tank having their skin nibbled by miniature fish. They both seemed to love it and were giggling and chuckling to themselves the whole time and didn’t want it to end when their time was up. Not what we’d normally expect a 6 and 10 year old to request and we wondered what their teachers might think if asked what they got up to in the summer: “Yeah, we went to Monaco and got a fish pedicure!”
From here, we headed over to the steps which lead all the way up to the Prince’s palace, high above Monaco. It was quite a trek and we were glad of the cloud cover. The views from the top over the whole of Monaco are more of an attraction than the palace itself which, while certainly an impressive building, didn’t have much to entertain the children.
From the viewpoints up here you can trace the familiar-looking route of the Monaco Grand Prix track as well as get a bird’s eye view of the spectacular marina.
We walked from here over to the entrance of the impressive Oceanographic Museum and, from there queued for about half-an-hour or so waiting for the ‘land train’ – AKA ‘Le Petit Train’, which takes you on a full circuit of all the main sights around Monaco.
The land train is probably the best way to see all of Monaco if you’re on foot – although on the day we were here it spent a lot of time battling through traffic jams and wasn’t the most enjoyable journey.
By the time we’d finished the land train tour, it was nearly dinner time so we combined a look around the (ultra-expensive luxury) shops with a hunt for a reasonably-priced restaurant. Obviously there are many places to eat with menus and prices to suit the local yacht owners and Lamborghini drivers but we did also find a handful of sensibly-priced restaurants for the tourist masses too.
Having said that, it was actually one of the worst meals we’ve ever eaten out, with dreadful food and terrible service!
Monaco is certainly an interesting place to visit and, if you’re staying nearby, it would be a waste not to make the trip here to see the sights and to be able to say you’ve been there when the Grand Prix comes on the telly. There’s not a huge amount to do with children and you might struggle to keep young kids entertained for a full day, unless they’re particularly in to their fish pedicures like ours seem to be!