The principality of Monaco perches on the Mediterranean Sea in all its glory. It is one of the smallest independent states in the world, second only to the Vatican, and it oozes wealth and glamour all year round. Fortunately for the more regular traveller, there are lots of free attractions and sights to enjoy. Here are our favourite top 10 free things to do in this intriguing city-state.
Saint-Martin Gardens should definitely be on your list. Winding on the edge of the coastline, the garden’s pathways allow for the most splendid views out to sea, and the breeze is a welcome treat if you are visiting in the hotter months. It is one of the best spots for picnicking, too, as there are plenty of benches and shade. There are lots of exotics plants and flowers to spot, or you can simply just wander, slowly, watching the world go by.
Head into the steep winding streets in the old town and follow signs to the Prince’s Palace. On top of this headland you’ll come to the vast square of Place du Palace. This itself is worth a look, especially the breath-taking views and pretty-fronted buildings. Here, in front of the Prince’s Palace, every day at 11.55 a.m., the traditional ritual of the Changing of the Guard takes place. A must-see in Monaco.
A sweeping marble staircase, chandeliers and designer clothes at every corner, Monaco’s shopping centre definitely doesn’t disappoint. It is the perfect place to escape the heat for an hour or so and take in the opulence of the surroundings. The shopping centre is set over three floors and there are plenty of seats to rest your weary feet. Plenty of photo opportunities, too.
Almost 100 sculptures are dotted over Monaco. Consider it an all year round, free exhibition of internationally renowned works of art for you to enjoy. Head over to the Fontvieille quarter to discover the sculpture path. Here, the majority of the sculptures have been placed alongside a pedestrian walk. Keep an eye out for sculptures in the parks and gardens, too.
We all love a dip in the ocean, especially the Mediterranean, and happily Monaco’s man-made beach, Larvotto, is made up of both a private and free, public area. The only real difference between the two is that the private area allows you to hire loungers and parasols from the beach club. The sand is imported fine gravel, making the whole stretch feel tidy and polished like the city itself. Expect crowded summer days here; like the rest of the beaches on the French Riviera, everyone is people watching rather than cooling off in the clear waters.
For a ‘zen moment’, take a stroll through this calm and uncrowded landscaped Japanese garden. Centrally located, it makes for the perfect pause to your Monaco break and the care taken in its maintenance is clear. The Zen concept of compactness is at the heart of his garden and even though it is relatively small, the water and foliage makes you forget the hustle and bustle of a moment earlier.
The Rose Garden first opened in 1984, with Prince Rainier III wanting to create a place in memory of his wife Princess Grace. There are over 8,000 rose bushes in 300 different varieties here, so it’s best to visit in either the spring or autumn when the flowers will be at their most vibrant. At any time of year, however, this garden has a special kind of grace and is well worth the visit.
The last on the list, but by no means the least. Check out this gorgeous chapel when you’d like a little less ‘Monaco’ for a moment. Situated in the Valley of the Gaumates and dedicated to Saint Devota, the patron saint of Monaco, the Sainte-Dévote chapel really is a slice of solitude away from all the grandeur. If you are a Grand Prix fan, you’ll recognise the name ‘Sainte-Dévote’ from the first corner of the famous circuit.