Alternative Monaco: 5 unusual things to do

Venture beyond the honeypot sites of this tiny independent state and you'll uncover cultural gems and an authentic side that only the locals know...

4 mins

As the second smallest principality in the world at just 2 sq km, you’d be forgiven for thinking Monaco has only a limited number of things to do. But after you’ve visited the main attractions of Monte Carlo Casino, the Prince’s Palace, the Cathedral of Monaco and the sites we all know too well, there’s a chance to dive into a more authentic, natural and cultural side to the sovereign-city state, away from its extravagant façade and rich and famous hub. From little-known libraries and local markets to heritage walks and museums, here we pick the five best alternative things to do in Monaco. 


1. Walk the Heritage Tree Trails

Spot heritage trees in St Martins Garden, Monaco (Shutterstock)

Did you that Monaco’s gardens and parks take up more than 20% of its total land? It’s easy to be swept away by all the glitz and the glam of the principality, but Monaco wants to stay in touch with its natural side too. Its Heritage Tree Trail, created in 2013, is still relatively unknown, but it should be shouted about more as it’s part of Monaco’s initiative to tackle deforestation and protect its green spaces. These walking routes offers visitors a chance to stroll through Monaco’s fabulous floral spaces including St Martins Garden, Japanese Garden, Princess Grace Garden, and discover the microstate’s most beautiful heritage trees, all marked with their names. Expect to see an extension to the trail very soon.

2. Explore the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco 

Villa Paloma site (Shuterstock)

The National Museum of Monaco is situated across two sites; Villa Paloma and Villa Sauber. These two beautiful buildings are both worth visiting and have a little history of their own; Paloma being one of the principality’s most stunning aristocratic homes, and Sauber, once belonging to the Blanc family who played a key part in creating the Monte Carlo Casino, is the last remaining Belle Époque property in Monaco. Both venues showcase the microstate’s heritage and display annual exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the year, featuring paintings and photography. Plus, the gardens at both villas are also open to visitors who want to take a peek.

3. Get page turning at the Princess Grace Irish Library

The Princess Grace Irish Library has a superb collection of Irish writer (Alamy)

The name may confuse you. An Irish library in Monaco? And yes, that is exactly what it is. But it is one of the best, yet little-known, Irish libraries in the world. The hidden cultural gem opened in Monaco’s old town near the Prince’s Palace in 1984, two years after the famed actress, wife of Prince Rainier III and mother of the current King Albert, Grace Kelly died. If you know Grace Kelly, you will know she was deeply connected to her Irish roots, and her collection of Irish literature makes up the basis of this library today. Expect shelves of leather-bound books and even some first editions from iconic Irish authors and poets; Johnathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett to name a few. The Princess Grace Irish Library is the ideal escape, when needed, from the lavish and fast-paced life of Monaco.

4. Meet the locals at La Condamine market

La Candamine market was first introduced in 1880 (Alamy)

Head to La Condamine to experience a truly authentic piece of Monaco. The little market square of Place d’Armes is where the still-French speaking population gather, as the market here is an important part to Monaco’s heritage and the local’s way of life. La Condamine market first opened back in 1880, and still runs everyday, all year round. Walk among the stalls to pick up some local produce of fruit and vegetables, and you can even tuck into some Monegasque street food specialities such as socca (a chickpea pancake), barbagiuans (fritter stuffed with Swiss chard and ricotta) and fougasse (pastry with nuts). Another perk? The prices here are much kinder than much of Monaco.

5. Visit the secret beach of Crique des Pêcheurs

Crique des Pêcheurs has step-only access (Shutterstock)

Most people will know Larvotto as Monaco’s main and only beach, and this large man-made stretch of sand provides the microstate with a safe, activity-filled site perfect for all ages. After all, it’s miniature 3.8km coastline can’t offer too much. But there is a secret spot known by the locals where you can trade in the hustle and bustle for some peace and quiet. Crique des Pêcheurs can only be accessed by steps, but once you reach the bottom you will met by a tiny tropical-esque cove. Completely natural and covered in shingle, it’s best to view this beach from above and watch the waves crash against the gravel. Please do be aware that access can be prohibited depending on the bad weather which can make it a dangerous spot to visit.

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