Monaco forms an enclave into the French Département of the Alpes Maritimes. The narrow ribbon of coastline is backed by the mountains, which form a protective barrier. This area creates a natural amphitheatre. From the heights of the Tête de Chien or Mont Agel, or from lower down from the Moyenne-Corniche at the level of the entrance to the Jardin Exotique, there are a number of panoramic viewpoints looking out over exceptional scenery. The ancestral Rocher and the promontory of Spélugues border the harbour where pleasure boats are moored. The Rock of Monaco has a medieval air. It is a city of bright, clean streets which converge on the Prince’s Palace Square, where there are museums, boutiques and restaurants. Monaco is well located for exploring Provence and the French Riviera.
Perched on the famous Rock, the Old Town (Monaco-Ville) juts into the sea on Monaco’s western flank and offers excellent views of the harbour and its usual armada of luxury yachts below. The city’s architectural history, reflected in its medieval houses, palaces and vaulted passageways, is best experienced on foot – either alone or through one of the many organised tours available (which tend to make the city quite crowded during the summer months). The main tourist attraction is the Prince’s Palace and State Apartments – open daily, 9:30am-6:30pm (June to September), 10am-5pm (October). Built around 1215, the palace’s focal points are the Throne Room and the Main Courtyard with its horse-shaped marble staircase, adorned with millions of geometric patterns. The Changing of the Palace Guard takes place daily, just before noon, and admission is free. For a visit of the palace and apartments, an admission fee is charged. Also worth visiting are the serene and sea-facing Saint-Martin Gardens, which inspired the poet Guillaume Apollinaire between 1887 and 1889. There are a number of museums of varying degrees of interest located in the Old Town, including the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium, whose grandiose façade rises spectacularly out of the sea and houses a world-renowned collection of marine fauna and interactive exhibits. Other museums and attractions include the Museum of Napoleonic Souvenirs and Collection of the Palace’s Historic Archives, which exhibits thousands of objects relating to the First Empire (Napoleon I) and provides a colourful history of Monaco; the Wax Museum of the Princes of Monaco, Monaco’s answer to London’s Madame Tussaud’s; the Monte Carlo Story, a multivision show about Monaco’s history; and the Azur Express Tourist Train, which carries up to 54 visitors and offers commentaries in French, Italian, German and English.
For all tourist attractions and museums (except the Japanese Gardens), an admission fee is charged. Opening hours and prices are seasonal; ask for the relevant brochures from the Direction du Tourisme.
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