Introduction to Monaco
Welcome to the world’s second-smallest independent state, just pipped at the post by teeny-tiny Vatican City. But while Monaco is only 2 square kilometres in area, it sure packs in a lot of awesome as a renowned resort destination and tax haven. Its main district and attraction, Monte Carlo, is a glitz and glamour capital with sparkling sports cars, casinos and bling flaunted everywhere you look. It’s most famous for its epic (and tourist only) casino and, of course, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo Rally.
Bound by France, the principality of Monaco is on the French Riviera so everything about this place says holiday. It’s a fairytale country made of hedonistic dreams (hello James Bond and ‘Dr. No’!) where everything in the country is within walking distance. Without breaking a sweat, you can swan from the beaches of Monte Carlo over to the old city of Monaco-Ville to see the Monaco Cathedral where Grace Kelly was married.
Married to Prince Rainier III of Monaco, screen goddess Grace Kelly lived in Monaco until her death in 1982. Today, the hospital where she passed away and named in her honour, Centre Hospitalier Princesse Grace, still stands. Monaco is still a constitutional monarchy with Rainer and Kelly’s son, Prince Albert II, the head of the ancient principality. Its history dates back to 1297 when the country was taking back from the Italians by Francois Grimaldi.
If you can drag yourself from the casinos and beaches of Monte Carlo, there’s a whole lot of history to explore, particularly in the Palais du Prince where the Grimaldi family has lived for over 700 years. Other noteworthy historic attractions include Fort Antoine, Museum of "Vieux Monaco" and Sainte-Dévote Church. Of course, the Monte Carlo Casino and Opera House is a significant piece of history too – it was this brilliant establishment that saved Monaco from its economic woes in 1863.