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Built on a cliff side, the Exotic Garden offers a breathtaking view over the Principality of Monaco. It is home to a thousand cacti and other succulent plants that come in all manner of strange-looking shapes.

The history of the Exotic Garden in Monaco dates back to the early nineteenth century, when a Monegasque gardener, Augustin Gastaud, planted succulents in the Saint-Martin gardens on the Rocher, not far from the Oceanographic Museum. Prince Albert I then decided to create a garden devoted to these succulents, which were little known at the time.

Reputed to be “the largest succulent rock garden in the world”, the Exotic Garden in Monaco opened in 1933 and has since offered visitors the chance to explore a winding path of contrasts amid the rocks.

Covering an area of approximately 15,000 square meters, it presents some one thousand species from several distant (exotic) and dry parts of the world: the south-western United States, Mexico, and Central and South America for cacti and agaves; southern and eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula for the other succulents.

© Direction de la Communication
© Jardin Exotique

In the 1960s, a Botanic Centre was added to the Exotic Garden. The centre’s greenhouses are home to the most significant collections of cacti and succulent plants in the world. The centre was moved in October 2017, into a glass and iron building conceived by renowned international architect Rudy Ricciotti. The new building sits opposite the Exotic Garden.

Constructed over three levels, with 900 square metres of greenhouses and 1,000 square metres of sheds, the building houses some 10,500 plants. It has two objectives: to preserve a reference collection of rare and endangered cacti and other succulents (85% of the plants preserved by the Botanic Centre are protected species), and to cultivate the plants destined to be replanted in the Exotic Garden.

Within the Exotic Garden, visitors can also discover the Observatory Cave (named as such because it formerly accommodated a small astronomical observatory). This underground chamber, at an altitude of 100 metres, is dotted with caverns adorned with stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, columns, spaghetti-like helictites…

The presence of prehistoric humans in the region of the cave is confirmed by the bones of the animals that they ate. These remains also illustrate the climate variations that have taken place over the last 250,000 years. Close to visits for “renovation and security works”, the Exotic Gardien was ranked in the “150 most beautiful gardens of the world” in 2021’s edition of Ulysse touristic guide.

© Jardin Exotique
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