© Ali Shayler
With the glittering Mediterranean waters, a glitzy city, picturesque harbour filled with superyachts and culinary delights, Monaco has plenty to offer its visitors. Yet just outside this tiny Principality lie some of the best day-trips in Europe, if not the whole world.
Here are just a few of our top picks.
Ride the Train of Marvels into the mountains
Hop on the train to Nice to connect with the Train des Merveilles, a modern train that winds up through utterly spectacular countryside to the Alpine village of Tende, located deep in the forest of the Mercantour National Park. The train trip truly is a marvel, running through no less than 107 tunnels, including four astonishing spiral tunnels, as you climb ever higher to 1000 feet above sea level. As you emerge from the dark tunnels and rattle across aqueducts high above the valley floor, you’ll have extraordinary views of ancient villages perched precariously atop sheer cliffs, and snow-melt rivers winding through the green forest far below. When you arrive in Tende you can hike, see the famous prehistoric carvings, have a leisurely lunch in town, or climb the Via Ferrata route before taking the afternoon train back to Nice. A great day out.
Take a drive into the impressive Gorges de la Vésubie
Just to the north-west of Monaco, the scenery changes dramatically from the calming shores of the Mediterranean to the gorges and valleys of the Alpes-Maritimes. Drive west and then follow the Var river north of Nice, taking the main road (M6202) to the town of Plan-du-Var, under an hours drive. Branch off onto the M2565 which will take you through the impressive ravines of the Gorges de la Vésubie. After around 10km you reach the village of Saint-Jean-la-Riviere, nestled amongst the trees and cliff faces of the gorge. From here a narrow and winding road takes you up to Utelle and to the church of Notre-Dame des Miracles which was founded in the 9th century. Along with a touch of history, you can also enjoy spectacular views over the mountains and back down to the Mediterranean coast.
Walk in the footsteps of Nietzsche
Or rather hike in the footsteps of the famous German philosopher. This is a walk that takes you high up away from the calming shores of the Mediterranean and into the hilltop village of Eze. A beautiful day trip, but certainly not for the faint hearted as this is one steep hike! The hike itself about a three hour round trip but you will probably want to take plenty of breaks to enjoy the amazing views (and catch your breath) and of course, a stop for lunch in Eze is a must. The Chevre d'Or is a Michelin-starred restaurant and it is worth the walk up for that alone. This trip is best enjoyed in the cooler months of spring, autumn and winter and remember to wear decent shoes and take plenty of water.
Head to Italy for a memorable mushroom lunch
One of the many, many lovely things about the French Riviera is its proximity to the Italian border, drive from Monaco and into Italy in just twenty minutes. A wonderfully memorable option for a day trip is to visit the famous mushroom restaurant in the hills behind San Remo, Restaurant Ca' Mea. Feast on a seemingly endless succession of platters of delicious meat, mushrooms, veggies and pasta, along with big carafes of local wine and followed up with strong coffee and an icy bottle of homemade limoncello. You can either sit at long wooden tables in the rustic dining room where ancient copper pans hang from the walls or take a terrace table in the garden overlooking the rushing snow-melt river that tumbles through the valley. This is truly the Dolce Vita.