The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco (Monaco Aquarium) is a fun activity for kids when visiting Monaco.
Dating back to 1910, the Museum Aquarium is one of the oldest in the world. Prince Albert I created the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco to study the collections brought back from his expeditions. It has evolved into an aquarium for visitors to interact with live fish and invertebrate specimens as well as a museum to learn about early oceanographic research.
Entering the Monaco Aquarium, you are immediately standing in a massive foyer with regal staircases on each side. Keep walking forward and enter a room enclosed in a huge metal net. You kind of feel like a little fish trapped inside a fishing net.
Don’t miss the presentation on Mediterranean and tropical marine ecosystems to the right on the main floor. It’s a nice video with vivid depictions of underwater ecosystems on a huge screen. We were lucky enough to walk in near the beginning of the English presentation. You know, understanding what they are saying is pretty important if you want to actually learn something 😉 It was a nice way to start the tour of the museum and to rest for a bit after having spent the morning wandering around the village.
The room itself is an incredible example of architecture. It feels more in line with a room you’d see in a palace than in a museum. Gorgeous chandeliers, an ornate ceiling and lavish woodwork make you stop and say “wow” upon entering. I did so many circles I started to feel dizzy!
Don’t stick your hand in the shark tank while the sharks are being fed. That’s not allowed. You don’t have to speak French to know they want you to take your hand out NOW!
The highlight of the visit for my kids was the Shark Touch Tank – across from the presentation room. Here you can actually touch sharks as they swim by. Wash your hands then grab a spot next to the edge of the tank. Keep your hand flat and allow it to glide over the top of the shark as it swims along, being careful of the fin. Monkey loved this part so much that we had to visit the tank again before leaving!
Walk up the stairs (or take the elevator) to the 2nd level. The middle of the massive space houses an impressive collection of marine tools and equipment. Off to the side is a small sub that the kids can sit inside to get an idea of what it was like to man the submarine. Imagine spinning all those handles to move propel along under the oceans surface. It’s pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.
Browse the Prince Albert room to find specimens, photographs and library documents of early expeditions. You can see the laboratory from L’Hirondelle, the first of Prince Albert I research expeditions. As well as models of the Prince’s boats and a life-size reproduction of a sperm whale suspended from the ceiling.
There are 2 floors in both of the main side rooms to give visitors a glimpse into Oceanographic research. As a biology major, I felt right at home amongst the specimens floating timelessly in their glass jars.
Let kids play on The Liquid Galaxy located in Albert I room. It’s a screen with access to Google Earth to explore the depths of the sea. Interestingly, these are mainly in the United States. The Monaco Aquarium is the only one in Europe with content devoted to the ocean.
Next, head over to the Whale Room to see sea mammal skeletons looming overhead. Some of the shark exhibits on the ground floor are presented to view only, but off to the side of the room are tables allowing you to really “get a feel” for the animals. The opposite side of the room features a large screen that will display the sharks skeletons as you step on each image. It’s a cool way to teach kids more about the inner workings of mammals.
There is also a display depicting the number of deaths by sharks compared to other animals. It’s a visual way to teach kids (and adults) that sharks aren’t as deadly as movies would have you believe.
Hang around for the start of the light show, Spectacle en lumière des squelettes, every hour. The room darkens and colored lights shine on the whale skeletons in tune to music and commentary. It’s a neat way to learn more about these magnificent creatures.
The basement houses the aquarium with thousands of fish, 200 species of invertebrates, and 100 species of hard and soft corals. Take your time gazing into each of the tanks to see fish, crabs, sharks and more!
One of the most notable exhibits is Shark Lagoon. This giant aquarium features reef sharks, a nurse shark, a sea turtle, eels and countless species of tropical fish. The aquarium can be viewed from all 4 sides and gives visitors a peek into the world of the majestic shark.
My kids spend a lot of time examining the sharks as they swam past which makes a nice break for parents. The kids are glued to the glass, so you get to take a seat and enjoy a few minutes of downtime.
If you happen to visit during school holidays, you can go behind the scenes for a glimpse into the fish’s feeding time. While this would be an awesome experience, I can’t even imagine how crowded it would be.
Spend an additional 5€ to experience the Touch Tank. You’ll get to touch fifteen different species including a star fish, sea urchin & baby shark. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize this was available during our visit.
Last, head outside to the Museum’s terrace to Turtle Island. You’ll find seven turtles from Mali living in this area. Make sure to take in the panoramic views of the Mediterranean while enjoying the terrace. It really is breathtaking!
We are working on adding videos (and learning how to make them better). Here is a glimpse at a bit of the aquarium.
Can’t see the video? Click HERE.
I will say that personally, it’s a bit expensive for a family. Add the cost of admission, plus Touch Tank admission AND 0.50€ per adult to use the restroom and you’ve dropped 50€. Can you tell paying to use the potty AFTER I’ve paid to enter the museum irritates me?
However, my kids did enjoy the experience & I’m glad we decided to visit. Not only did the kids have fun, they learned an incredible amount about oceanography and sea life. Since we are homeschooling, my kids each picked a place in Monaco to write a short paper. Monkey decided to write his paper on the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco featuring the history as well as the exhibits. He even said he would like to adopt a fish if we decided to move to Nice, France permanently.
Location: Avenue Saint-Martin in Monaco Village, near the Prince’s Palace.
Rates: 14€ adult, 10€ teens (13-18), 7€ child (4-12), and Free for children under 4. Purchase a combination ticket for the museum and Prince’s palace to save money on both attractions.
The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is a great place to visit even if you don’t have kids. We saw countless couples (and a few individuals) wandering the Museum and taking in the sites. If I didn’t have the kid with me, I probably would have spent more time in the Prince Albert room examining the artifacts.
Have you been to the Monaco Aquarium? What was your favorite part?
You might also like Eze, France travel ideas. Eze is about 30 minutes from Monaco & is a lovely village to visit, with or without kids.