1. Visit the Royal Palace and witness the changing of the Guard
An event to witness every day at 11:55 a.m., the Changing of the Guards at the Royal Palace has remained unchanged for over 100 years. Wearing white in the summer and black in the winter, the group comprises of 3 Officers, 15 Sergeant-majors and 80 Privates, all highly trained French military men. This event is only a small part of their duties as they are responsible for keeping the Royal Family safe, escort ceremonial processions, assist the Red Cross, and provide support in times of emergency. According to the Palace website, the Palace Guards are also trained gunsmiths, accountants, electricians, IT specialists, mechanics, carpenters, painters, plumbers, radio specialists, cabinet makers, and designers, which makes their unit completely independent of outside assistance.
2. Visit the Musée Océanographique de Monaco
Construction of this building commenced in 1899, and was inaugurated in 1910, 11 years later. This impressive building rises 85m out of the seaside monolith ‘Rock of Monaco’, overlooks the French Riviera and was the brainchild of Prince Albert I of Monaco. Famed explorer Jacques Cousteau was Director of this Museum for 31 years!
Prince Albert I was fondly known as the Prince of the Seas, and was well known for his love of the ocean and the many expeditions he personally went on. Interestingly, it was one of these expeditions where Charles Richet and Paul Portier were invited to study the sting of the Portuguese Man-o-war which led to the subsequent discovery of Anaphylaxis. Dr. Charles later received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this discovery. The museum has a number of interesting specimens, including but not limited the Prince’s work, notes on flora and fauna, the skeleton of a shark and the option to adopt a fish! The Monarchy’s love of the ocean continues with his great-grandson Prince Albert II who has recently recommitted to preserving ocean health.
3. Drive on the Grand Prix Track
The circuit, which has remained nearly identical since 1950, is 3,340 km long with 78 turns and the Monaco Grand Prix remains one of the most anticipated sporting events in the world. I’m by no means a racing enthusiast, but I do know the key phrases – Formula One, Grand Prix, Pirelli, Bugatti. Pit is a racing thing also, right? Thanks, Talladega Nights & Ricky Bobby! Anyway, its still a thrill to drive on the track. You can either rent (or buy! C’est la vie!) a Ferrari or some other fancy cars as some sites advertise, or, do as we did and do a bus tour that’ll take you on part of the track.
4. Lose some money at the Casino de Monte-Carlo
I didn’t go in based on time, but I mean come on. Will you go to Monaco, the epitome of luxury, the classic setting of a James Bond movie, ripe with Yachts, Champagne and diamonds without at least playing a round of Blackjack? Built in 1863, the Casino has evolved over the years and currently additionally houses the headquarters of the Monte Carlo Ballet and the Grand Opera Concert Hall. Also of note – the first Women’s Olympiad in 1921 was held at the Monte Carlo.
There is a dress code to access certain areas at certain times and you can check their site to verify. But I mean come on (again) – if you’re gonna pack once fancy outfit for a trip this should be the place you wear it!
5. Visit (outside!) the Prison
Having first been in existence in the form of 6 rooms within the Royal Palace in 1800, the Remand Prison (Maison d’Arrêt) was moved in 1865 to a large underground chamber under the St. Martin gardens in Monaco-Ville, a protected area. In recently years, over 50% of the Prison’s population has been made up of individuals who are neither Monaco Nationals nor French. While I by no means advise you to go in (or do anything to get you thrown in!), passing the area with well maintained gardens and a stunning view of the French Riviera, will definitely make you do a double take and ask “THIS is the prison?” Want to do a triple take? Apparently the Detention Centre within the Prison contracts the services of a dentist and hairdresser.
6. Take a picture with a Seagull
Seagulls are quite tame and seem to be accustomed to having their photos taken. It’s not unusual to lean in closely to have your picture with them as well. Plus the treats thrown by tourist may have lulled them into laziness. They know which side their bread (crumb) is buttered.