The southwestern half of Monaco is incredibly picturesque, and has more to offer the casual tourist. The old fort of Monaco-Ville and the adjacent port district of Fontvielle, the southwest breathtakingly embraces the Meditteranean coastline. But there's a lot more than just the coast, as you will see.
Monaco-Ville was constructed on the site of a 13th century Genovese fortress, the towers of which are still present and well-preserved. Although it looks isolated and difficult to reach, you needn't worry -- there is a major roadway dug into the side of the plateau (near the leftmost tower in the photo) that brings cars and buses directly to the top. Also, the pedestrian walkway is only a moderate climb, reasonably accessible by those in OK physical condition. There is an advantage to making the climb, as you will have a clear view of the Port de Monaco.
The Prince's Palace, shown in the second photo, is both royal residence and museum. Like the rest of Monaco, the Palace grounds are pristine and scenic, as the photo suggests. When planning your visit to Monaco-Ville, pen in 11:55 as the time to be at the Palace. 11:55 is the time of day for the ceremonial changing of the guard, and it is every bit as impressive to watch as at Buckingham Palace.
The Palace only occupies a small part of the Ville, there is much more to see here. The next photo shows the Monaco Cathedral, built in the 13th century on the site of an earlier church. The church stands near the cliff's edge facing Fontvielle to the south, and the church square (left of this photo) contains some of the Ville's finest restaurants.
An even more impressive structure is the nearby Monaco Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium. Commissioned only a century ago, it is both an extraordinary museum of the aquatic sciences and an architecutural masterpiece, constructed above and into the cliffside. There's also a wax museum, a couple pretty chapels, and several of Monaco's government buildings here. The Ville's center is made of tight cobblestone streets with many of the usual tourist accoutrements -- hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops. There is also a walkway that follows most of the Ville's exterior, allowing visitors to capture some breathtaking views, such as shown here.
The port shown is Fontvielle, the southernmost of Monaco's districts. The port is smaller than its bustling northern cousin, but it has several wonderful museums and shops to catch your attention. Included are Monaco's Zoological Terraces, Museum of Stamps and Coins, and Naval Museum. The shopping center is less well known, and less expensive, than those in Monte Carlo. Nearby, there is a rose garden planted at Fontvielle Park in honor of Princess Grace (who's legacy is treated with great reverence, judging from the quantity of state facilities named for or attributed to her). Fontvielle is also home to the Chemin des Sculptures, an open-air sculpture trail across the town.
Another district, Moneghetti, sits in the hills overlooking Fontvielle, and is home to several scenic attractions -- most notably the Exotic Garden and Observatory Caves from where the beautiful photo of Monaco-Ville (the first photo) was taken. The Exotic Garden exhibits plants brought in from all over the world, with the Meditteranean serving as a perfect backdrop. Moneghetti also has the Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology.
Also small in size, the southwest half of Monaco is simply jam-packed with things to do and places to see. One day was simply not enough to do everything!
Trip taken 16 February 2002 -- Page last updated 16 October 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin