The Principality of Monaco is a country, as well as a city state, located on the beautiful Côte d’Azur (French Riviera). Its total land area is a .76 square mile which earns it the title of the second smallest country in the world. Only Vatican City is smaller, which coincidentally is also a country as well as a city state.
Monaco is surrounded on three sides by France and is a short 9.9 mile boat ride to the eastern coast of Italy. The country is divided into four areas: Monaco-Ville (the old city), the Condamine (port quarter), Monte-Carlo (business and recreation), and Fontvieille (recreation and light industry).
Monaco has no natural resources other than its gorgeous location and climate. The principality has become a resort for tourists and a tax haven for businesses and offers no personal income tax for its residents.
For this reason it has earned a reputation as a playground for the rich. Indeed one look at the harbor filled with yachts and one might consider a move here. However, there is a high social insurance tax with employers paying 28% to 40% of an employee’s contributions. So you may want to keep your staff or crew to a minimum.
For high class Formula One racing enthusiasts the Monaco Grand Prix is held annually. The racing circuit is incredibly narrow, features several tight corners, many elevation changes and a tunnel, making it one of the most challenging tracks in the world.
Gambling was legalized in 1846 to help alleviate the massive debts the royal family had incurred due to economic interference by Sardinia. They had lost two towns, Menton and Roquebrune, which had provided most of the principality’s revenues with their citrus and olive crops. François and Louis Blanc purchased a royal concession to construct a casino for 1.7 million francs. It was built in a depressed seaside area known as “Les Spelegures” (Den of Thieves) but renamed “Monte Carlo” (Mount Charles) in honor of Charles III.
Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo was began in 1863 and the projecting façade was completed in 1890. It was designed by Jules Touzet in the Beaux Arts Style and features rococo towers and a copper cupola. The casino was (and is) a marvel. It features gaming rooms that contain exquisite stained glass, beautiful allegorical paintings, and lovely sculptures made possible with the help of several notable architects and artists.
It should be noted that there is a strict dress code. Men must wear coats and ties, and tennis shoes are forbidden. An interesting side note, the residents of Monaco are prohibited from gambling. So bring your passport and be willing to pay an entrance fee.
The Salle Garnier (Monaco Opera House) was designed by the famous architect Charles Garnier in 1878. The Salle Garnier is an exact replica in miniature of the Paris Opera House, which Garnier also built. The Opera House was built in the Belle Époque style, which was known as Art Nouveau in architecture and design.
The interior has an elaborate red and gold color scheme and features bas-relief (a raised sculptural technique). The painted ceiling will take your breath away.
The Palais Princier (Prince’s Palace) is located in old Monaco-Ville. It was built in 1191 as a Genoese fortress. It has been the home of the Grimaldi family since 1297 who first ruled as feudal lords, then as sovereign princes (17th century~1910) and is now a constitutional monarchy.
The Palace is also known as the Pink Palace. Due to its age the palace is a blend of architectural styles as it has been added onto in various centuries. Due to numerous wars and revolutions the palace was in disrepair and upon his accession to the throne in 1949 Prince Rainier III immediately began a program of renovation and restoration.
The public can now see the state rooms, including the throne room, which are open during the summer.
At 11:55 in the morning visitors can watch the changing of the guard ceremony performed by the “Carabiniers” (French for cavalry soldier) in front of the main entrance. The Carabiniers are in charge of Prince Albert’s security and also act as his escorts.
Saint Nicholas Cathedral was built 1875 on the site of the first parish church in Monaco built in 1252 . The church was built in the Roman-Byzantine-style.
This was of course the church that Grace Kelly entered into as a commoner and emerged as Her Serene Highness.
The interior features an altarpiece painted by Louis Bréa which dates from the 1500’s. The Episcopal throne is made of Carrara white marble. It is also the final resting place for past sovereigns, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.
The Exotic Garden or Jardin Exotique Monaco is a lovely cliff side garden that contains over 1000 varieties of succulent plants and cacti. It also has an anthropology museum and an observatory cave featuring stalactites and stalagmites.
The Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium of Monaco was famously run by Jacques Cousteau for over 30 years. It sits on a cliff overlooking the sea from the rock of Monaco. The museum was built by Prince Albert I (known as the Scientist Prince) in 1910. It is considered to be the best aquarium in Europe. There are approximately 4,000 fish from 350 different species occupying 90 seawater tanks.
As to where to stay, you can’t go wrong with the Hôtel Hermitage. This historic Belle Époque Palace, facing the Mediterranean Sea, was built in 1900.
The structure of the glass roof in the Winter Garden was designed by the renowned Gustave Eiffel, who of course also built the Eiffel tower in Paris.
The dining room was created by Gabriel Ferrier. It features lovely frescoes in the style of Fragonard and Boucher.
There is also the Hôtel de Paris established in 1864 by Charles III which is adjacent to the casino.
How I would love to have dinner at the hotels famed restaurant, Le Louis XV. The chefs are Alain Ducasse and Franck Cerutti. It has been awarded three Michelin stars.
If something a bit more modern is your style try the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel built in 2005.
Oh and if you need a luggage handler? I am your gal.
School is now out for the summer and I am faced with the challenge of happy home keeping, project creating and blog writing, all while trying to earn the title of “The Best Mom Ever”. To qualify I must spend a lot less time at the computer. I tried turning off my comments but a few of you asked that I leave them on.
For questions please email me at: décortoadore@hotmail.com