Monaco is the world’s second smallest country. (The smallest is the Vatican in Rome.)
Monaco is a country of beautiful views.
It is also a country of legalized gambling; something like what Macau is for people in China, or what Las Vegas is for people in Los Angeles, Monaco is for people in France and Italy.
Monaco is where the who’s who of much of Europe’s elite come to play and party.
Monaco has a long and distinguished history and is not part of France. The Monganeque speak French, but Monaco has it’s own culture and background. Monaco is part of the European union and uses the Euro as it’s currency.
Our day of visiting Monaco started and ended in Verdello, Italy, which is 4 1/2 hours away by train.
That meant that it was 9 hours of train time for 3 1/2 hours in Moncao.
And we are glad we went.
One nice thing about Europe is that it’s possible to take a train to nearly anywhere, so with a wireless 3g USB stick, we can access the Internet (inconsistently, but as the train pulls in and out of big cities) while traveling across a country, getting in a good amount of work on the way to and from our destinations.
The mistake we made this time was getting 2nd class instead of 1st class train cars, so we ran out of electricity. But while the battery lasted on my computer, being on a train and working wasn’t much different than it would have been to stay in Verdello and work.
We definitely live in a cool era of human history, when work isn’t location dependent, and an Internet connection isn’t dependent on being stationary.
On to Monaco…
We toured around Monaco for 3 hours, and feel like we saw most of the interesting sites in just 3 hours (as it is quite small).
There are just a few main attractions.
Leaving the train station, we went down one of the main avenues to the seaside walk by the harbor, where more yachts are anchored in one place than I think I’ve ever seen.
We walked up a hill to the palace, which is where the monarch of Monaco still lives. Tours are available for 8 euros each, which is something we would consider for a return trip, but with just 3 hours, we decided to forgo the tour.
We also saw the cathedral, a beautiful building completed in 1911 (on the site of an earlier cathedral) but designed to look much older, and toured around the old city of Monaco, much of which has been there since the 16th and 17th centuries.
We also saw the maritime museum (from the outside)
Since the casinos are on the other side of the country (which is just on the other side of the harbor), we just looked at them from the distance. They look nice from the outside, and we read in advance that there is a jacket-for-men and no-tennis-shoes dress code for one, as well as a fee – just to enter – the most well-known casino.
Again, we might visit the casinos another day, but neither of us is a big fan of gambling, and it didn’t make sense to spend time in a casino, even just to see it, on a day with only 3 1/2 hours to see the whole country.
I made the mistake of ordering an iced chocolate coffee at one of the main plazas without knowing the price. 4.90 Euros, or about $7. That makes the iced coffee I had in Monaco the most expensive (and least “worth it”) coffee style drink I have ever purchased.
All in all, it was 100% worth it to travel that long on the train to see the second smallest country in the world. Although I don’t think we will return any time soon, I did enjoy the time there. It was absolutely stunningly beautiful, if a bit over-urbanized.
We would definitely go back, IF we were invited by someone to visit Monaco as guests onboard one of those beautiful private yachts.
Absent that, for the same amount of money and time, I’d rather spend a weekend in a smaller and equally as beautiful coastal town like Corniglia or Ventimiglia (which was the Italian town we passed through in order to get to Monaco, and looked like the water there was absolutely amazing).
I recommend you do go to Monaco, for the beauty of the place and if for no other reason to say that you’ve been to the second smallest country in the world.