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Monaco from nice - full day or half day trip?

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Hi everyone,

A couple of friends and I are planning to stay 3 days and 2 nights in Nice.
We were thinking of doing a day trip to Monaco. But we were wondering if there is enough to see in Monaco and whether it's more of a half-day trip or a full-day trip...?

If it was a half-day trip, we were also considering going on another half-day trip somewhere else... If you have any thoughts on this and recommendations, that would be great.

Thanks!

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    Monaco is nice if you have a lot of money to spend. It has a cute royal palace and a ton of VERY expensive shops (world class designers) and restaurants as well as the casino.


    If in the area we usually spend an evening there - dinner and the casino - doing the James Bond movie thing and watching the incredible gowns and jewels on the very rich people from the gigantic yachts in the harbor.'

    For general sightseeing there are a tone better places in the area - from resort towns to small villages in the mountains, ancient churches, wonderful small museums, etc.

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    There are plenty of things to keep you occupied for a day trip to Monaco - just depends on what interests you (museums, casinos, people-watching, swanning around). However, as you only have a limited time in the area, I'd suggest a half-day trip that takes in the afternoon and evening, then catch the 10pm(ish) train back to Nice.

    You could arrive in Monaco around 3pm, wander the harbour, walk up to "the rock" (aka Monacoville where the royal palace is) and wander the streets, visit the Oceanographic Museum (again, if that interests you, but it is impressive), have dinner either in Monacoville (there are two decent restaurants I know of, the rest not so much) or over in Monte Carlo (can be an expensive or moderate meal, depends on what you want to eat/spend/experience), go into the Grand Casino (either the lobby for a quick glimpse or pay Euro10 to go all the way in), have a drink somewhere lovely (plenty of bars to choose from) and then catch the train back to Nice. If you choose this option, be sure to dress well as the Grand Casino has stricter dress codes than some of the others (the Sun Casino is a little more relaxed, but still needs a button up shirt for men and no jeans) and take ID as they often ask (regardless of age in many cases).

    If that doesn't sound like your thing, then by all means take a trip by train up to Monaco, have a look around (esp from the lookout near the royal palace) then consider making your way back towards Cap d'Ail for a little glamour and on to Eze for a little more sightseeing before getting back to Nice.

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    With only 2 nights, I would opt for zero days in Monaco and 5 days elsewhere. There are soooo many places within 1 hr from Nice that I find a lot more enjoyable/interesting - unless you like concrete/congestion/traffic.

    From my 27 page cote'd'Azur itinerary:

    Nice & other coastal towns 3-4 days

    We’ve spent about 4 weeks staying in Nice, and over 4 weeks in St Tropez over the last 25 years. We’ve also stayed 5 weeks just inland from Nice near St Paul & Vence. We much prefer staying in Nice over Cannes, Menton, or Villefranche at the east end of the Riveria. In Nice, we’ve always stayed at the Hotel Windsor. You can get to most of the coastal towns by train – except St Tropez.

    I won’t describe things to do & see in Nice, Cannes, Menton, Antibes, etc. There are many tour books that discuss these towns. For Nice, follow the walking itinerary that’s described in the Green Guide. Take this walk in the morning so the sun won’t be in your face for the view out over Nice from the Chateau. Antibes** (old section) is quite nice. Biot* is a perched village worth visiting and it has our favorite restaurant on the Cote – Les Terraillers*. Eze** is a top attraction, but it’s too touristy for us – even more tourists than St Paul. Villefranche-sur-Mer* is a steep village just east of Nice and is interesting to explore.

    We spend 2 months in France most years (that’s 40 or so restaurant dinners per year) and the worst restaurants we’ve dined at in France are in Nice – stinky mussels, soggy fries, thin soupe de poisson, overcooked fish, etc. You can probably find a good meal if you want to pay top dollar, but when we visit Nice we want to dine outside in Old Nice and watch the “scene” on the Cours Saleya. One exception is Safari on the Cours. We’ve dined there 3 times and the food was better than the other places on the Cours, and the people-watching was superb. It’s quite popular, so reserve ahead – last time we were there they were turning away walk-ins at 9PM. Another dining option while in Nice is to have dinner in Villefranche. There are frequent trains there (8 min trip). We dined outside at La Mere Germaine and had an excellent meal while we looked out over the port from their outside dining terrace. Reserve ahead if you want an outside table with the best views. When we dined at Villefranche at night, there was only a late return train to Nice on Saturdays – other days you will need to take a taxi to return to Nice.

    Nice Hinterland 3-4 days Stay in St Paul/Vence area

    Small coastal villages ½ day
    See “Corniches de la RIVIERA” in the Green Guide (under R not C) and take route #1 from Nice to Village perche de Roquebrune* (Michelin guide under Roquebrune - Hill Village NOT Cap Martin). If the weather is clear, the view of Monte Carlo is stunning along the way. Roquebrune is a cute village with great views – walk through the town.

    Take D50 from Roquebrune to Gorbio* ( Michelin - see Gorbio in Roquebrune section). Walk through Gorbio. There are some nice shops in Gorbio.

    Retrace your route to Roquebrune & also the Grande Corniche to La Turbie*. Stop in La Turbie if you want to see the Roman “Trophie des Alps”* - but be careful driving – this is where Grace Kelly drove off the road & was killed. Take D53 north to Peille. Explore Peille* if you want. From Peille, take the D53 south to the D21 to Peillon**. This is one of the most spectacular perched villages on the Riviera – have your camera ready. There is no commerce in the village, but explore the rabbit warren of streets & passageways.

    Take the D21 then D2204 back toward Nice & then get on the A8 freeway west toward Cannes. Exit the A8 at #48 – I think it’s marked as either St Paul or Vence. Follow the signs & D536 to St Paul.

    St Paul de Vence & the surrounding area ½ day
    Explore the perched medieval village of St Paul**. It’s probably the most popular small village on the Cote. Shops are always open (although we’ve never been there on a Monday). I advise people to get there by 9:00 and leave by 11:30 to avoid the crowds. It is especially crowded on Sunday in the summer season. We’ve stayed just outside of St Paul at Hotel Le Hameau several times & it’s quite nice – nothing fancy.

    Head north of St Paul on the D2 toward Vence. The “old section” of Vence* is quaint. Look at the map in the Green Guide under VENCE to locate the old section at the east end of town. There is a walking tour described in the Green Guide. There’s an underground parking garage under the large open space on your right, just before you get to the old section. There are several stores in Vence where you can buy Provence fabric (see write up about Provence Fabric)

    After Vence, follow the signs to Tourrettes-sur-Loup (D2210), which is west of Vence.

    Explore Tourrettes-sur-Loup* – there’s a parking lot on your left, just off the road. You get about 45 mins of free parking (very confusing when your ticket is processed at the automatic ticket machine). Tourrettes is a real cute town.

    Continue on the D2210 west & do the Gorge du Loup** (Vallee du LOUP in the Michelin under L for Loup). Go in the clockwise direction – D2210 through le Bar, then D3 to Gourdon. Explore Gourdon*. Like St Paul de Vence it will be crowded & shops will be open on a Sunday & Monday. There is a restaurant called Nid d’Aigle with spectacular views of the hills & the Mediterranean – open daily (we’ve had lunch there – if you’re afraid of heights, then don’t go). Continue north on the D3. When you hit the D6, take it south back to Pont-du-Loup (this section is very scenic) & then retrace your route through le Bar and return to St Paul or Nice.

    Villages overlooking the Var River ½ day
    This route is difficult to follow if you are using the #528 map. Try to get the #115 map to make things easier for yourself.

    Some of the villages on this route are described in the Green guide under Vence – Excursions.

    If you are basing in St Paul, head north & go to Vence. When you get to the intersection where the “old” village is to the right & Tourrettes/Grasse to the left, go straight to St Jeannet (follow the signs). It’s marked as exit # 3 on the Michelin green & red guides. There is a grocery store on your right just after you go straight through the intersection. Follow this route to St Jeannet. This is a pretty drive. St Jeannet is a perched village, and you will have to turn left to get up to the village. There is a restaurant, hotel, and grocery at the intersection where you turn left. Follow the road uphill – there are a couple of switchbacks. When you get to St Jeannet, park your car in the large lot & walk into town & explore. There are some good vistas. Just as you enter the older section of town (the first 100 yds from the parking lot aren’t attractive) there is a simple restaurant with outdoor tables & nice views – a good lunch location.

    Return down the hill from St Jeannet, & take the D2 to Gattieres. Get out & explore if you have time. Take the D2209 to Carros Village – not the horrible modern town of Carros, unless you want to pick up a McDonalds hamburger (at the other end of Carros before you go over the Var bridge). When you get to Carros Village, get out & explore.

    Continue on the D2209 to le Broc & explore this village.

    Continue north on the D2209. Just before the D2209 reaches the Var River & connects with the N202, go straight on the D17 toward Gilette & Bonson. Take the loop to Bonson (D27). Drive through Bonson & continue on for a couple of kilometers until you reach the small road that goes to Gilette (D227) & take it to Gilette, where it merges with the D17. Take the D17 back to where you started the loop at the Var river/N202 intersection & then take the N202 north.

    Go north on the N202. You will see the town of Bonson perched high up on your left. Notice on your map that there is a road on the east (N202) and on the west side of the Var River. Continue north to where the two roads intersect, and then go back south on the road on the west side of the Var.

    Stay on the N202 south. As you follow the Var south, look to your right & see the villages of Carros Village & Gattieres that you visited. The best way back to St Paul is to follow the N202 & get on the A8. Get off the A8 near Cagnes, at the exit #48 that says either St Paul or Vence and follow the signs back to St Paul.

    I’ve driven through Cagnes dozens & dozens of times & I still get lost. If you want to visit the Haute de Cagnes*, take the D336 to Vence, and then when it joins up with the D36, head south to Haute Cagnes. Look for a parking garage on your left. It’s an “automated” garage where you park your car on a ramp & a door opens & then your car is sucked inside (without you) & parked on some kind of revolving track. After your car is parked, walk up the stairs & find the old section of Cagnes. There are some decent restaurants in Cagnes. We’ve eaten at Josy-Jo* (a Michelin 1 star) but didn’t like it. Cagnard seems too “upscale” for us, so we never tried it. We have dined at Restaurant les Peintres several times & have enjoyed it – the view is nice. This restaurant is on Montee de la Bourgade, where Haut Cagnes descends into Cagnes. There are several other “good looking” restaurants on this street. At the Place du Chateau there are several “pizza” restaurants, & it’s a good place to sit outside.

    Return to St Paul

    Deeper into the Nice Hinterland allow a full day
    There are dozens of cute perched villages in the area behind Nice. This gets you up into the “serious” Alps and driving to these villages is the best part - fantastic gorges and breathtaking views galore. Sometimes the perched villages offer a more interesting eyeful from the “outside” rather than from the “inside” maze of passages & steps.

    Get on the N202 (east side of the Var river) heading north. If you’re departing from the St Paul area, follow the route described in the Villages overlooking the Var section of this itinerary.

    When you reach the D2565, turn right and head up through the Gorge de Vesubuie** toward Lantosque. This entire drive is beautiful – you will want to get out of the car several times to “take in” the scenery. Explore Lantosque a bit. If my memory is correct, the best view of this town is from the north, a few kilometers past the village. Continue on the D2565 to St Martin-Vesubie.

    Explore St Martin-Vesubie* This is a very attractive town. It’s a good spot for lunch and there are several shops for browsing. It has a very interesting river that runs down the middle of the main street in town.

    You might notice that your green guide says that le Boreon is a ** attraction. It’s actually a starting point for many hikes into the higher mountains in this area and not really a “place” to visit.

    Re-trace your route back the way you came, toward Lantosque. Just before Lantosque, where the D70 hits the D2565 (that you are on) turn left on the D70 & drive to la Bollene-Vesubie. I have this town circled on my map, but I don’t recall if it’s a “get out & explore” town.

    Continue on the D70 & then turn right (south) on the D2566. Pass Peira-Cava (don’t stop). Continue on to where the D21 intersects with the D2566 & take the D21 east.

    If you don’t know the meaning of the French word “Lacets”, you will soon find out. There are 16 of them on this road. Take the D21 to Luceram.

    Explore Luceram*. This is one of our favorite towns in the area. Wander around as much as possible. This village is in a remarkable setting. If you think that you are in a deserted village, notice the number of satellite dishes perched on buildings.

    When you finish exploring Luceram, take the D2566 which heads west of the village – not the D2566 heading south. Take this road just far enough to obtain more views of Luceram. When it’s no longer in sight, turn around & return to Luceram and then head south on the D2566 to L’Escarene.

    Explore L’Escarene then take the D2204 northeast toward Sospel.

    Explore Sospel*. This is another very cute town. There’s a little more commerce here ( good, not ugly commerce). The last time we were here, they were filming a movie & everyone was dressed in Medieval clothes. Oddly, they didn’t look out of place (which gave us a chuckle). Notice the buildings on the riverfront. Take time to explore this town thoroughly.

    Return to Nice. The best way is to retrace your route through L’Escarene, and then take the D2204 to Nice where you pass under the A8 and then loop to the right to get on the A8 toward Cannes. Get off at exit # 48 – St Paul/Vence.

    Villages we have visited that didn’t appeal to us, are Coaraze and Contes. A village we liked but did not include on this itinerary is Levens.

    Take a train ride through the Nice Hinterland & visit 2 villages allow all day

    Overview
    Driving through this beautiful area by car is the best way to see everything – except for the driver. The Cuneo train line from Nice to Cuneo, Italy passes through this area with stops in several villages. I spent many days researching train schedules trying to find an itinerary that would allow me to stop in as many villages as possible and still make this a one day event. I found that only 1 itinerary worked. Leave Nice about 8:30am & take the train to Breil where you will change trains (but no time to see Breil), and then head to Saorge for about a 3 ½ hour visit. Then on to Tende for another 3 hour visit. Then return to Nice on the last train for the day. The train trip was more of a “plus” for my wife than me (she does all the driving & I do all the navigating). When traveling by car, we stopped quite a bit to admire vistas, spend time in villages, watch helicopters drop climbers/boaters into areas, etc. On a train, you can’t do this. Also, the scenery passed too quickly & was often on the “other” side of the train. We enjoyed the trip because we had already spent several days driving in this area & we (she) needed a driving break. We got back to Nice about 7:00pm and had dinner there.

    Details
    Depart from the Nice main train station at 8:30am. There were about 4 other stations in Nice where it would have been easier to park the car & not have to fight the horrible traffic around the Nice station (the 4 lane road that goes behind the station was bumper-to-bumper at 8:00). When you get to Breil at 9:30, you will have to change trains to go on to Saorge. You have 20 minutes to do this, but there was no announcement to do so. Also, past this point many of the stations do not have attendants. The train schedule is usually posted somewhere in each station. If you choose to get off at a station, make sure you know when the next train arrives for the continuation of your journey. If you return from your trip & get off at Breil, the trains can split & go in two different directions – one to Nice & one to Ventimiglia, Italy. Some of the stations were pretty far from the villages. Some of the stops were more “hesitations” than stops. When we took this train, one 80 year-old man missed his station stop on the last train of the day and was stranded at the next stop.

    Arrive in Saorge** at 10:30. This is a beautiful village. The station is quite a distance away from Saorge & there’s about a 20 minute walk up to the town. The walk up has some great views of this perched village. You will be there 3 ½ hours, so there is more than enough time to explore. Have lunch at the Bellevue restaurant. It might seem like nobody’s in town (we were there in mid-June). but the restaurant was somewhat crowded at 1:00.

    Get back to the station (unattended & it was even closed when we were there) for the 2:00 departure. Get off the train in Tende* at 2:30. This station is close to town. Explore Tende for 3 hours. Tende is a very popular starting point for hikers, so there will be lots of people there in full hiking regalia.

    Take the train back to Nice at 5:30. This is the last train of the day. We got a little worried when there were dozens of people lining up to take the train back, and we knew that there would be people already on the train coming from Italy (the 80 year old man). Everyone got on the train OK. It arrives in Nice at 7:00.

    Got an extra day to explore more of the Nice Hinterland?

    Further information about the following can be found in the Michelin Green Guide for the French Alps.

    In early July of ’07, we stayed in a Gite just outside of the old town of Entrevaux*, and explored the beautiful canyons, mountains, and small villages in the area quite thoroughly. Entrevaux is only 1 hr from Nice along the Var River. The town of Entrevaux is quite remarkable. Look up Entrevaux in the Michelin Green Guide for the French Alps and you’ll see a picture of the town. However, it’s more dramatic than the picture shows. There is a huge rock spur that sticks up along the northern bank of the Var River. A Cathedral sits on top of the spur, with a fortified zig zag wall (built by Vauban) running down to the medieval village below – it’s quite a sight to see. For the best view of Entrevaux and the surrounding area, drive into the large parking lot (looks like a strip mall) that’s opposite the drawbridge entrance to medieval Entrevaux – on the opposite side of the N202. The entrance to the lot is at the extreme west end of the lot. Immediately to your right as you enter, there is a restaurant/café and then a very steep road heading uphill just after the restaurant. Follow this road up & up – admiring the views of Entrevaux as you climb. There are several areas to pull out & take a picture – which you’ll want to do. Keep going till you can’t see Entrevaux anymore and then return to the “strip mall”, park the car, & walk over the drawbridge into the medieval village. There are a few cafes for lunch there, but there are better ones just east in the town of Puget Theniers (village not worth exploring). You can take a scenic train from Nice to Entrevaux, but you can’t explore the canyons without a car.

    Next, drive through the very scenic gorges in the area. We made several drives along these gorges – taking advantage of the sunlight at various times of the day. These gorges are quite spectacular and different from the gorges closer to Nice. The sheer walls are red slate – a very dark red-rust colored rock. From Entrevaux, take the N202 west then head north on the D902 (which changes to the D2202 when it crosses into the Alps Maritimes dept) through the Gorges de Daluis**. The views are better going north than south. As you exit the gorge at Guillaumes, head east on the D28 to Valberg, then on to Beuil. Drive south through the Gorges du Cains*** on the D28. Visit the cute village of Riguald near the south end of the Gorge. When the D28 hits the N202, take the N202 east to Touet sur Var*. You will see Touet perched up above the road, but you’ll have to drive past the town to find the access to the town. Drive up to Touet & explore this picturesque village. Continue east on the N202 & then take the D26 to Villars sur Var. This town has some very interesting passageways. After visiting Villars, continue north on the D26 and visit the cute town of Bairols, and then the town of Clans. These are all miniscule villages, and you’ll be surprised that they are even inhabited today – we enjoyed visiting them. Continue north on the D2205, then east to St Martin-Vesubie* (see “Deeper” above), and then return to Nice.

    Other villages that we’ve visited & enjoyed in the area are Annot*, Roubion*, Meailles* (more picturesque from the outside than inside), and especially Colmars* (old town** plus fort),. Castellane* is a popular town and a center for exploring the Gorge du Verdon. It has good “bones” but is very touristy. The main street through town has some of the tackiest stuff that I’ve seen this side of Mt St Michel. Villages that were mentioned in various guide books, but we didn’t find that interesting were St Sauveur sur Tinee, & Roure.

    After visiting Annot, Meailles, and Colmars, we took a very scenic drive east from Colmars over the Col des Champs* on the D2 which changes to the D78 when it crosses from the dept of Alpes de Haute Provence into the Alpes Maritime dept.

    Stu Dudley

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    Go there a bunch for business not too pretty except for the
    area around the casino and things are amazingly expensive
    15 euro for a coffee there... half day or better skip and head
    for...

    www.saint-pauldevence.com/tourism_uk.html

    Prettier closer better in the time your have.

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    Please spend time somewhere other than Nice, as others have suggested. Too many nice places to do instead, including the already mentioned lovely St Paul de Vence with its fantastic museum/sculpture garden

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    We used Nice as a base and I was having breathing issues so we took a one-day tour. There were a bunch of brochures for different tours at our hotel. The van picked us up and we visited:

    Eze and a nearby perfume place, Monaco, in the a.m. Then Cannes and St. Paul de Vence after being given an hour for lunch in old Nice! Van took us to upper part of Monaco to see the changing of the guard then drove around the town tracing the car race route, passing the gorgeous yachts and then stopped at the Casino and surrounding area.

    Hub and I returned by train in the early evening another day and went to the Casino (designed by Garnier btw). I thought it was interesting and attractive. We didn't see the town's botanic gardens or Oceanographic museum though. If you wish to gamble, be sure to bring your passports-they wouldn't accept any other of our IDs. To answer your question, if Monaco is a place you wish to visit, you can do it in half a day if you don't want to putter around. The Cafe de la Paix is absolutely gorgeous inside but you should hock your silver to afford its prices.

    Since you are short on time, a van tour like we took could get you to several places easily. Again, you wouldn't have time to slowly wonder but you'd get the highlights.

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    We went just to say we'd been there. Half day is plenty. We took the train, taking the elevator at the station up to the top to go to Monte Carlo, which allowed us to walk downhill to the casino, then to the harbor, where we had a bite of lunch before finding the tunnel back to the station (just inland from the harbor) and headed back. We passed on Monacoville, having seen much more impressive castles and fortifications elsewhere on our trip.

    I would say that I wouldn't hesitate to scratch it off my list if I had other things that looked interesting on my radar, but if you really want to go, you can spend a half day.

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    I agree that you won't miss a thing by not going to Monaco. However, if you really want to visit, I would recommend the boat tour that goes from Cannes to Monaco. You will see the entire coastline and it's only a 45-minute ride. It is a whole day there as they leave Cannes around 9:30 and pick you up at Monaco around 4:30. Nice boat ride, but there are a lot more interesting places to see than Monaco.

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    We had 3 nights in Nice and thought our 3/4 day in Monaco was worth it. The oceanographic museum was the best I've seen, so if you're interested in tropical fish at all I would definitely check that out. (I was skeptical, but our very cheap cousins recommended it so we thought it must be OK!) I also agree with St Paul de Vence recommendation.

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