Jardin Exotique & Grotte de l’Observatoire, Monaco

First view of Jardin Exotique, Fontvieille, Monaco

The first sight inside Jardin Exotique.

Visiting the Jardin Exotique

Driving to Monaco from Nice I decided to take the A8 for speed and chose the first exit via Cap d’ Ail to tackle the most out-of-the-way single attraction first, Monaco’s Exotic Gardens.
The route was easy as the main road simply became Rue du Jardin Exotique, with plenty of signs warning of the attraction and where to park – which was about 300m down the street as it happens, which was not especially good, but then it turned out to be quite a cheap park with an astonishing 10 underground levels, so I decided to leave to motor there all day and hop buses rather than tackle endless parking situations. Good decision!

Jardin Exotique cliff and cacti view, Fontvieille, Monaco

The gardens zig-zag down a steep slope so this is not a good place for those with walking disabilities.

The views were stunning, mainly over Fontvieille and Monaco-Ville, and arrangements and ambience were brilliant, but – at the end of the day – this was fundamentally a huge collection of cacti, so I’m not sure how vital a sight this is!

BUT! All was not over!

View of Monaco-Ville through Jardin Exotique cacti, Fontvieille, Monaco

Towards the end of the walk, a nicely framed view of Monaco-Ville.

Grotte de l’Observatoire

Arriving at the lowest terrace I discovered a number of tourists waiting for a tour of the ‘Grotto’ cave system (Grotte de l’Observatoire), which is guided and runs on the hour most hours through the day. The limestone caves were discovered in 1947 by a team building the gardens. The system was opened to the public in 1950.

When I arrived at the entrance on the lowest terrace of les Jardins, it was a) hot and b) 2 minutes before the hour, so I chose to join the free tour. The guide warned that there were a total of 600 steps down and up, some slippery, and temperature was a constant 18C down in the caves 65m below us, while it was about 27C outside.

Caves in Monaco, Cote d'Azur, France, Europe March

Claustrophobia can be a problem for some when underground but these spectacular limestone caves are large and well-lit so unlikely to trigger issues in all but the most sensitive. It is a brilliant walk, the tour was fantastic, the caves were extensive and stalactite/stalagmite formations weird and wonderful.