“If you want to eat like a local, the Condamine market should be your first, second and third choice”
Oh Monaco, country of the rich and famous! A city impossible to imagine without the glamour of luxury cars, elegant tuxedos and a glass of Martini. Well, I´m just picturing any 007 movie, but you get the point. This is the place where travelers can get a glimpse of how just a few of us live. However, Monaco is a country which should not only be known for its wealth, but also for its rich culture, beautiful walking trails and fascinating history.
Of course, this is not the place to spend some weeks as a visitor. Most travelers come just for a day trip to Monaco and with such a short time in the country, why not make the most of it and forget those hopes of getting invited to the luxury yacht by some billionaire on holiday.
INSIDER TIP: Monaco is not part of EU, so your European data plan might not work in this country. In order to avoid a very uncomfortable bill (I got charged 60 EUR of data for just some hours of internet), turn off your mobile data or check with your provider if your internet is complementary.
Walk a country from west to east
It seems crazy to expect lots of green from the second smallest and most densely populated nation in the world. However, Monaco has 470,000 square meters of parks and gardens – that’s more than 20% of the city!
And it´s not only about the number of gardens, but also their diversity. The Exotic Garden, a park located in the north west of the city, offers visitors scenic views of the city surrounded by colorful and unusual plants. The park also has an underground limestone cave with picturesque natural formations of stalagmites and stalactites.
On the opposite side of the city, and no further away than 40 minutes by foot, the Japanese Garden definitely stands out. Ponds, islands, a waterfall and a Zen garden in the middle of the Monegasque skyline take you out of the Mediterranean atmosphere and transport you to one of the megacities in the far East.
And it´s not only these two parks at the corners of the city that grant a time-out from the urban hassle, as the whole city is interconnected by pedestrian paths and small gardens and parks where you can enjoy the sun and take a break.
Eat like the Monegasque in Condamine
Starting from 6 in the morning, this is the place where you can definitely see how the Monegasque live. Located on the western side of the city, the market in Condamine is more than a place to get a snack.
While in the morning the outdoor stalls sell fresh Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and colorful flowers, around midday the indoor market turns into the biggest food court in the city. Butcheries, bakeries and small restaurants sell regional dishes while customers sit at long tables, one next to the other. And Monagasques love it, as many of them come here at least once a week to meet friends and get a good meal.
“Whenever I come here for a bite, I encounter some neighbor, friend or old colleague, this is the real Monaco”, says Christophe Brico, press officer of the Monaco Tourism Authority.
Not all the fun is outdoors
Monaco has amazing, beautiful weather all year long and it is quite unlikely to catch a dark, cold and rainy day. Still, if you have bad luck with the weather, you can still give the cards a try. The Monte Carlo casino in the south-east of the city is one of the most popular spots for visitors. Enjoy Charles Garnier´s masterpiece architectural design, while having a coffee from the many cafes next to the casino, or – if you feel lucky – why not play a hand inside?
INSIDER TIP: Want to gamble in the Monte Carlo casino before leaving Monaco? Don´t forget to bring your passport. Fees range depending on what room want to visit – entering costs alone are 10 EUR and playing starts from 30 EUR right up into the hundreds. Dress code is extremely strict, men are required to wear coats and proper shoes.
Another option is visiting the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. Not only does its very detailed Baroque façade rise majestically from the cliffside rock into the ocean, but its interior design can be considered particularly singular, too. Founded by Prince Albert I of Monaco in 1903, the museum has more than 6000 species as well as a whole exhibition of the marine research done by the prince himself. Walking through the perfectly symmetrical rooms showcasing sea-related objects like tools, weapons and skeletons feels like visiting the private collection of an extravagant marine lover. If Wes Anderson used this museum as an inspiration for any of its movies, I wouldn´t be surprised at all.
A visit to the museum shouldn´t take you more than a few hours and it´s a nice way to spend a quiet and calm afternoon without any long walks and stress. The museum is quite compact and the sound of whales in the background simply transports you to a different world.
Since I´m such a bad card player, I decided to finish my day trip in Monaco with a visit to the aquarium – and yes, it was worth it!