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Monaco: Old Town (Monaco-Ville, Le Rocher)

Monaco-Ville, the oldest district of Monaco, is situated on a high promontory and is popularly known as Le Rocher (rock). In 1297 the cape has been invaded by François Grimaldi, whose family has since this ruled the principality of Monaco. Grimaldi used deceit to conquer the cape: he was dressed in the attire of the Franciscan monks together with his cousin, Rainer I, lord of Cagnes, so that current owners have trusted them and opened the gates. After the capture of the cape Grimaldi made this place a fortress, which later evolved into the palace, now the place of residence of Prince of Monaco.

Parking in Monaco. How to get to the centre of old town

The interior of the rock, on which the Monaco-Ville is built, is now hollow and contains seven levels of Parking des Pecheurs (P; GPS: 43.731765, 7.427453). After arriving, you should use the escalators and elevators to get to the surface near the Oceanographic Museum. We propose to move down the street of Saint-Martin in the direction of the center of old town. Along the way, you can see the Cathedral of Monaco (A; GPS: 43.730065, 7.422681). After entering the Rue de l'Eglise street you are in the center of old town and can admire colorful houses and lots of souvenir shops. To get to the Place du Palais, go left down the Emile de Loth street. Anyway, the area is so small so there is no possibility of getting lost - see the Monaco Ville map below.

Place de Palais

The biggest building in the Place de Palais is the palace itself. The entrance is guarded by the guards (Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince). On the right there is the famous statue of François Grimaldi (B; GPS: 43.731226, 7.421030) dressed as a Franciscan monk. However, under the monk's habit you can see a piece of the sword. Since the old town was built on the rock, you have the opportunity to admire the great views of Monaco, both the eastern (C; GPS: 43.731480, 7.421364) (La Condamine with the main harbor of Monaco and Monte Carlo) and western districts (D; GPS: 43.730619, 7.419991) (Fontvieille - Monaco's newest quarter, which was built on land reclaimed from the sea).

If you are on the Place de Palais in the morning, you might want to wait until twelve o'clock and watch the spectacular changing of the guard. However to keep the best place, from which you can freely see the details of the ceremony, you must come at least half to twelve.

The Oceanographic Museum

When you return to the Parking des Pecheurs, you should absolutely visit the Oceanographic Museum (E; GPS: 43.730619, 7.425556). It has one of the most impressive aquariums in Europe, presenting to visitors more than 4000 species of fishes and 200 families of invertebrates. The museum keeps also various objects related to the sea, like the skeletons of animals, ship models, weapons and tools.

Museum is open from 9:30 to 19:00 in the spring and summer months (July and August: to 19:30). Adult tickets cost 14 €; children 4-12 years: 7 €; students (13-18 years): 10 €; people with disabilities: 7 €; children under 4 enter for free.

The St Martin Gardens

We also suggest you to take a nice walk from the Palace to the Oceanographic Museum through St Martin Gardens and admire not only the breathtaking views of the water, but the varied and amazingly well-tended landscaping. Many different kinds of plants are abundant among the mini gardens and beautiful sculptures. The path is very well marked and pretty easy to follow. The entrance to the gardens is located opposite to the cathedral (F; GPS: 43.729873, 7.422245).

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