When you think of a city break in Monaco, the word “expensive” is probably in the same sentence. Not necessary. I believe that most locations can be done on a budget, Monaco as well. Depends on what’s your purpose.
I decided to have a long weekend break in the area. August. Bank holiday in the UK. It was very difficult to find a not overpriced flight/train to get there. Not a good example. I would recommend going either at very beginning or end of the season. And not during school/public holidays.
Nice airport is probably the closest one. Apart from helicopters landing there, you have a few low-cost flight options as well. You can take a bus to the train station, then in another 30 min, you are in Monaco. Buses and trains in French Riviera are quite cheap, reliable and well connected.
Where to stay
At the upper border with Monaco, you find Beausoleil commune. There is no physical border, you start walking in Beausoleil, and some steps later, you check the GPS again and you are in Monaco. Beausoleil is not as pretty as Monaco, of course, but it’s cozy and walking distance from it. All pavements have the sun (soleil) on them. There are lots of stairs and road curbs. So it’s not only cheaper but also good for exercising.
What to do
You would be surprised, but many beautiful places are free to enjoy. I wondered the streets of the old city (Vieux Monaco). The streets are narrow, with pastel colored houses. Looks all very clean and freshly painted. Right next to the old city, there is the Prince’s Palace and a big square. From the sides, you can admire the view over the ports. During the day is usually packed with tourists, but in the evening is almost empty.
Another major attraction is the Casino de Monte-Carlo. You are allowed to enter in the lobby area for free.
Here is a useful list of free activities in Monaco. Haven’t done them all, but I found it when I was planning my trip.
Day trip to Eze village
It was one of my favorite things to do. Eze is a medieval village on top of the mountain. From Monaco, you get there by taking bus 112, or a combination of train and bus 82/83. Either way, it’s less than 1h with all the waiting in between. When you get there, right by the station it’s Parfumerie Galimard. They offer free tours, if you wait, because it’s quite demanded. If not, at least you can sniff around.
The village is well preserved and if you love art, there are quite a few shops selling paintings and other art objects and jewelry. To get to the highest point, you need to pay a fee of €6, which I believe it’s worth. You walk through an exotic garden, nicely decorated with statues, find a small waterfall on the way and enjoy the beautiful views from the top.