The second smallest country in the world after the Vatican, Monaco dazzles travelers with its opulent lifestyle, multi-million dollar yachts, and rivers of champagne that flow endlessly in select nightclubs. The principality stretches across 200 hectares but has plenty of space to house the world’s richest people, especially since it has enforced the “no income tax” policy. Nevertheless, those who are curious enough to explore Monaco will discover more than just high-end boutiques, decadent villas, and a sea of privilege.
The principality has a rich history and culture and makes for a great summer destination…almost all year long! Situated at the border with France, Monaco seamlessly connects with the French Riviera and enjoys the azure of the Mediterranean Sea. Home to around 38,000 people, the principality has its own stories to tell, many of them in the Monegasque dialect, an interesting mix of French and Italian.
It all started with a rock – Monaco’s Old Town
The story of the magnificent Principality of Monaco started on a massive rock surrounded on three sides by the sea. This is where you will find the Prince’s Palace, home to the current prince of Monaco, Albert II of Grimaldi House, but also one of the most fascinating attractions in the country.
The hill houses Monaco’s Old Town adorned with cobblestone streets and architectural jewels, as well as the Museum of Old Monaco and the imposing St Nicholas Cathedral where Grace Kelly is buried alongside her husband, Prince Rainier III.
In front of the cathedral, await the exotic St Martin Gardens, rich in beautiful plants and an excellent destination for long walks along the sea. From here, you’ll capture superb views of Fontvieille, one of Monaco’s seven districts, and you’ll easily reach the fantastic Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium.
The home of the most famous casino in the world – Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo gravitates around its famous and luxurious casino that contributed significantly to the country’s development and success. Due to its presence, Monaco managed to evolve from a poorly managed establishment that grew lemon and olive trees for a living into the phenomenon it is today. The richly embellished building of the Monte Carlo Casino was built in the 19th century and is a must-see even if you are not keen on gambling. Connected to the casino is the splendid Monte Carlo Opera House built in 1878 by Charles Garnier, the architect who also built the famous Paris Opera.
In the Place du Casino, you’ll find the decadent Belle Époque Hotel de Paris and stylish Café de Paris, a posh brasserie, where the menu abounds in fine French specialities. Despite its small size, Monte Carlo impresses with extraordinary gardens decorated with lush and exotic vegetation. The Boulingrins Gardens are located right in front of the casino and provide the much-needed shade on hot summer days. On your way to Larvotto Beach, Monaco’s only public beach, you’ll also discover the Japanese Garden designed at the request of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace.
Whether you are on top of the Rock of Monaco or in Monte Carlo, it’s impossible to miss the grandiose Port of Hercule. The port is framed by impetuous mountains and contemporary apartment buildings and has gathered in one place some of the most extravagant yachts in the world.
Where trees grow on the roofs – Fontvieille
The youngest district of Monaco, Fontvieille was built on reclaimed land from the sea. It has its own gorgeous harbor, as well as numerous parks adorned with fountains and sculptures. The largest garden is the Princess Grace Rose Garden opened in 1984 by Prince Rainier III, in memory of his late wife. The garden is home to no less than 4,000 roses from 150 different species. Fontvieille strives to be a green district but because of the lack of spaces, many of its trees are situated atop the roofs of the buildings. Also, don’t be surprised to find yachts parked in front of the apartments.
Tourists who want to spend more time in Fontvieille should not miss a visit to the Fontvieille Terraces. The terraces are disposed on four levels where you will find museums, a shopping center, as well as elegant cafes and stores. The Naval Museum exhibits a collection of model ships, while the Museum of Stamps and Coins houses collections owned by Rainier III. L’Exposition de la Collection de Voitures Anciennes de SAS Le Prince Souverain de Monaco or, in simpler words, the Collection of Cars of the Prince of Monaco, is a delight for car lovers.
For superb views of Fontvieille, the Rock of Monaco, Port Hercule, and Monte Carlo, visit the splendid Jardin Exotique, one of Monaco’s most beautiful attractions. The Exotic Garden of Monaco abounds in cacti and succulents and covers 3 acres on the edge of a cliff.