Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world. It is one of only three principalities, a monarchy where the ruler holds the title of Prince or Princess rather than King or Queen. Monaco is therefore a constitutional monarchy and is currently ruled by Prince Albert II of the Grimaldi family that has governed Monaco since 1297. While Monaco has been an independent state since 1861, it’s defense force is provided by France.
At only 2 square kilometers, Monaco is the second smallest country after The Vatican and is entirely engulfed by France giving it its most widely spoken language. Other than French, Monegasque, English and Italian are also widely spoken. Despite its tiny size, there are 37,800 people living in it making it the world’s most densely populated country. Its capital city is Monte-Carlo, synonymous with James Bond, Casinos, F1 and the rich and famous.
Its tax status makes Monaco an appealing place for the rich and famous who set their residence in the Principality but don’t actually live there. About 30% of the population is made up of millionaires, similar to Zurich or Geneva.
The country is situated on the French Riviera and many large beautiful yachts are docked in the port of Monaco. It is a great place for tourists who want to play rich and famous around beautiful boats and good-looking people.
Monaco used to be called Monoikos, which means “single house” in Ancient Greek. The name most likely referred to the fact that its people settled in a “single habitation” or that they were “living apart” from others.
At the time, it was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans gave Monoikos to the Genovese. The Grimaldi family, an ousted branch of the Genovese family, took control over the country in 1297. The Republic of Genoa and both Spain and France allowed the Grimaldi family to keep control of Monaco. However, France annexed it during the French Revolution. Later, the country was ruled by the Kingdom of Sardinia, Italy and then Nazi Germany. After WWII it regained independence.
In the 19th century, Monaco began building up its infrastructure. The casino as well as a rail system that connected the country to France were built during that time. Soon after, Monaco became a major tourist destination for casino lovers and a recreation center for the rich. In 1869 the principality stopped collecting taxes from its residents because it collected enough revenue from the casinos. Because of this, Monaco started to attract the wealthiest from all over the world. Today Monaco serves as a banking center and it is a tax haven for companies as well as individuals.
Best Time to Visit
The climate is warm and sunny during the Summer, but fairly cold during the Winter. The best time to visit is between May and October. There are several events in Monaco that attract lots of tourists, such as the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May, the Monte-Carlo Open in March and the Bal d’Ete (Summer Ball) organised by Prince Albert in June. The Monaco Boat Show also attracts lots of visitors.
Monaco is an easy taxi ride or train ride away from Nice airport. The journey takes about 30 minutes and trains run frequently. Once visitors reach Monaco, it is very easy to get around on foot.
Monaco is part of the Schengen region, so most people who hold a European or American passport will not need a visa to enter. There is no passport control on the border with France. Euro is the main currency.
Things To Do
Visit the Royal Palace
A visit to the Royal Palace up on the top of the hill is recommended. The palace district is a beautiful historical part of the city and offers a magnificent view of the entire port below from the top of the hill.
Take a walk along the coast and have lunch at the Yacht Club
Walk along the beach towards the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Next to the country club, you will find the Monaco Yacht Club, where visitors can enjoy lunch. If you keep your eyes open, you might see members of the royal family or a celebrity.
Enjoy one of the Beach Bars at the Port
Several beach bars are open at the port during the Summer. The port becomes very vibrant at night when the music starts pumping in the early evenings. Lots of good-looking people gather at these beach bars and the parties are wonderful.
Gamble at the Casino
There are four casinos in Monte-Carlo for those who love gambling. The most famous one is the Monte Carlo Casino, located in the center of the town. The casino opened in the mid-19th century to save the Grimaldi family from bankruptcy. Today Monaco is one of the major casino destinations of Europe and people from all over the world come here to gamble.
Monaco Grand Prix
The best time to go to Monaco is during the Grand Prix at the end of May. Many celebrities and wealthy people arrive in Monaco for this special weekend. Some of the biggest yachts dock at the port of Monaco and many throw fabulous yacht parties in the evenings. The nightlife is rocking over Grand Prix weekend. The two nightclubs, The Billionaire and Jimmy’z throw insane champagne parties with famous DJs like Bob Sinclair.
Where To Stay
Monaco is full of historical, heritage rich and fabulous hotels. Here are some of the best.
A traditional, elegant hotel that was built in the early 1900s, The Hermitage is located in the middle of Monte-Carlo, within walking distance from the casino.
The Hotel de Paris
A classic hotel and one of the oldest in Monaco, The Hotel de Paris is being renovated until 2020.
The Fairmont Hotel
The Fairmont Hotel is a modern place with trendy restaurants, stores and clubs on the ground floor. Here you can find the famous Japanese restaurant Nobu, the Billionaires nightclub and some designer shops.
Where to Eat
You can have really delicious French and Mediterranean food in Monaco. The restaurants are pricey, but they offer very tasty options.
Le Louis XV by Alian Ducasse at the Hotel de Paris
The restaurant is listed as one of the best 100 restaurants in the world. It is also the first hotel restaurant that was awarded 3 Michelin stars. The interior makes you feel like you are in the Palace of Versailles. It is decorated with grand chandeliers, precious fabrics and large curtains. The wine list has over 950 different wines.
Monte Carlo by Joël Robuchon
This is a two Michelin starred restaurant by the world’s most ‘starred’ chef Joël Robuchon. The restaurant offers wonderful Mediterranean dishes, a mix of French and Italian cuisine.
Buddha Bar in Monte Carlo
Buddha Bar is a trendy restaurant that serves Thai, Chinese and Japanese food. Trendy DJs entertain guests and a giant Buddha overlooks visitors while they are dining. The lounge is a good spot for celebrity spotting and enjoying a vibrant cocktail and music until late at night.
Monaco is an ideal destination for those who enjoy the finer things in life. If you want to mingle with beautiful people at trendy nightclubs or dine at Michelin starred restaurants, this is your country.