Monaco: a walk around the whole country
Monaco is one of those countries which is visited for the glamour, the nightlife, the boats, chilling out by the sea whilst sipping a glass of the local bubbly but for me it was a chance to walk the whole length of a country and check out the local sights at the same time. What’s that you say? A whole length of a country? Yes, with all the stops etc, I walked the whole length in about five hours but if I did it non-stop, the walk would have taken me about one hour and thirty minutes. You see, the principality of Monaco is the second smallest independent state in the world (the smallest being the Vatican City) and is surrounded by France on the Cote d’Azur (Italy lies a few kilometers to the east). The walk I did was about 6.6km long (around four miles) and can be challenging in some places especially on hot sunny days.
Arriving in Monaco by train (which has great connections to nearby Menton, Nice and Cannes along the French Riviera), I made my way to the Stade Louis II, a football stadium on the eastern borders of the country in a small area called Fontvieille. To understand Monaco better, the country is divided up into four quarters, Fontvieille in the west (which is mostly light industry and recreational area), Monaco-Ville (the old city and also the capital), Monte-Carlo (mostly business but where the famous port is), and Condamine (another area on the hill side which is very urban but for this walk, I didn’t touch the area). Just another fact before I write the walk, Monaco is six times larger than the Vatican City and is the world’s most densely populated country. There are apartment blocks everywhere (as well of yachts of course).
The football stadium is home to Monaco Football Club who play in the French league. They are a club side and do not have an international side (they did for about six years recently but didn’t play at any international tournaments like the European Championships or the FIFA World Cup, however playing friendly games against sides like Tibet, Vatican City and Kosovo. From here the walk took myself eastwards passing the port of Fontvieille where I checked out yachts of all different shapes and sizes and of course, from the cheap tacky ones to the right upmarket expensive floaters.
Following the coastline and walking along the Boulevard Charles II until arriving at a roundabout, there is a cobbled path which goes up a hill (called the Ramp de la Major). Now it’s not really ideal for those who can’t walk right or have wheelchairs etc but nearby there is an elevator to take visitors to the top (just ask a local to find it, I never did find it and been here many times!). The walk is a steep climb with many passing places and viewpoints along the way and this will take visitors to the old city of Monaco.
At the top the first view is of the amazing Royal Palace (Le Palais des Princes de Monaco) where if visitors are lucky can go around the palace on a guided tour. The Royal Family still do live here but most of the time are likely to be getting drunk on their yachts on the sea down below (or making rare public appearances when the Formula One Grand Prix comes to town every May). Also from here the views overlooking Monte-Carlo (to the east) and Fontvieille (to the west) are totally amazing.
Heading away from the palace (towards the sea), is a mass of small streets with lots of many side streets casting of them. Here around the old town is the place to get budget food and drinks as well as the gifts to take home. However on southern side of the old town is the Cathedral of Monaco, a modern cathedral comparing this to the rest of Europe as it was built in 1875 and in the style of an Romanesque-Byzantine church. As well as being dedicated to Saint Nicolas, what I found fascinating is that the Cathedral houses the remains of the former Princes of Monaco and Princess Grace (check the internet to find out about their story but they were very famous).
As well as checking out the expensive restaurants on the Church Square, just off it is the Garden of Saint-Martin, a nice peaceful place to walk around with it’s many different kinds of trees and plants whilst grasping the views overlooking the Mediterranean. From here, head eastwards (passing the huge aquarium – ocean museum) and find the path which leads back down the clifftop to the port of Monte Carlo down below.
At the bottom walking back inland on Quai Antoine 1er, there are some bars here which is worth checking out and probably just that little bit more cheaper than the rest of Monte-Carlo but still more expensive than that of the bars in Old Monaco. Still, a few of the bars may have a celebrity or two who are just happening to be passing by. Around the port (follow the road around the water – it’s called Route de la Piscine), and if anyone is into their Formula One Grand Prix race cars and circuits will know by now they are walking along the famous route. Carry on further and the famous tunnel (which goes underneath Monte-Carlo Casino) can be seen (and if time is not of importance, a walk can be done through it).
However, I backtracked and took the main road up the hill known as ‘Avenue d’Ostende’, a pleasant steep walk to the upper part of Monte-Carlo is. Here is the famous hotels and the Monte-Carlo Casino. My advice here is that visitors should only enter if they have the cash but walking around the area, I was noticing very beautiful architecture on the buildings and Ferrari’s parked up on the kerbside. Just north of here is where visitors can pick up the expensive suits and Rolex watches but that wasn’t for me (or my bank balance) and carried on walking eastwards.
Just off the ‘Place du Casino’ is a road named ‘Avenue des Spelugues’ which goes down the hill. At the bottom looking to the right is the other end of the famous tunnel. However, walk across the road to where the sea is (following signs for the beach ‘Plage’) and this took me around a huge garden before arriving in the area of Larvotto and has the best (and probably the only) beach in Monaco. It is the end of the perfect walk as a few meters further on (next to the Monte-Carlo bay Hotel) is the border with France. That ladies and gentlemen is the best way to walk west to east in this beautiful urban country and a great way to combine the sights as well.
All my photos were taken from various trips to the country as I have been there numerous times but the first time I went I did walk from west to east. If you want to walk a whole length of a country in one day, then Monaco is an easy one to do.