Squeezed into just 200 hectares of space, Monaco makes for a compact yet fulfilling visit. Known for its extraordinary wealth, stunning coastline, and range of nightlife options, the Mediterranean sovereign principality is also home to a surprising number of fascinating historic sites. Here’s our pick of 5 which make for worthwhile viewing.
1. The Palace of Monaco
The Palace of Monaco began as a medieval fortress, undergoing centuries of conflict and attack before becoming a royal palace.
Today, visitors to the Palace of Monaco can tour the site, including the state apartments and several museums. Particular highlights include its incredible frescos, the royal courtyard and the Mirror Gallery. Much of the Palace of Monaco has echoes of Versailles, making it an especially beautiful palace. There is also a museum of antique cars and a museum of Napoleonic souvenirs.
2. Monte Carlo Casino
One of Monaco’s most famous landmarks, Monte Carlo Casino is both a playhouse of the wealthy, common James Bond location, and tourist attraction. It opened in 1863 with the aim of generating revenue to save the House of Grimaldi from bankruptcy. This is maintained today: citizens of Monaco are forbidden from entering the gaming rooms, so as to ensure that money doesn’t leave the Principality of Monaco.
Originally boasting a ‘seaside’ façade, the casino was later renovated and now features dazzling interiors and exteriors which make it a worthwhile attraction.
3. Saint Nicholas Cathedral
Located on the Rock of Monaco in the old town, the Roman-Byzantine style Saint Nicholas Cathedral is the main church of the Monegasque Archdiocese and an important symbol of Monaco’s identity, history, and faith.
Construction started in 1875 and took over 25 years to complete, with it being consecrated in 1911. It was finally consecrated in 1911. Originally, a chapel which dated to the 13th century was built where the cathedral is now situated, and visitors can still view the 16th century altarpiece of Saint Nicholas that survived.
4. Oceanographic Museum
The Baroque Revival style Oceanographic Museum towers over the sheer cliff face of the sea at a height of 279 feet. Inaugurated in 1910, it took 11 years to build, and used 100,000 tons of stone from La Turbie.
The museum has a huge collection of ocean-related exhibitions as well as animals such as starfish, seahorses, turtles, jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, rays, sharks, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eels, and cuttlefish. It also houses model ships, sea animal skeletons, tools, and weapons.
5. Fort Antoine
Built at the beginning at the 18th century and destroyed in 1944, Fort Antoine is now an open air theatre. It was rebuilt under the initiative of HRH Prince Rainer III in 1953. Its military architecture, watchtower, and quiet which can be found there make it an attraction that is a little off the beaten track, but certainly worthwhile.
There are nods to the military architecture, with a pyramid of cannonballs arranged in the middle of the stage, and the former defences of the fort being emphasised by the pittosporum hedges which serve as protection where there is no parapet.