Trivia question: What is the second smallest country in the world? You guessed it…. Monaco…. only second to The Vatican, which is THE smallest country in the world. Many think Monaco is part of France, but it is its own principality. Monaco is bordered by France on the North, South, and West with the Mediterranean Sea to its East. It is very difficult to tell when you cross over from Monaco into France, as the border is in the middle of this little country/city. It is only a short drive from Nice, France.
Monaco came into the spotlight when more than 20,000 people lined the streets of Monaco for the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier on April 19, 1956. When visiting, you can expect to see many famous people mooring their yachts and residing for at least six months of the year in this tax-free country. Monaco has the largest police force in the world per capita. It is not a dangerous country, but the people who visit and live there, are so wealthy and powerful that they need protection.
The city of Monaco has neighborhoods, and Monte-Carlo is one of these. It is the district on the hill, overlooking the main harbor, where you will find the casino and many luxury hotels. Monte Carlo is not the capital of the country. The official capital is the neighborhood known as “Monaco-Ville,” also known as “Le Rocher,” which is the large promontory where the medieval Old Town, the Oceanographic Museum, and the Prince’s Palace, as well as several government institutions, are located.
Monaco is best known for its casino’s, The Grand Prix, its celebrities, big yachts, and Grace Kelly who realized every girl’s dream by marrying a Prince. The official language is French, though Italian and English are widely spoken, so you needn’t worry too much about being
The Monte Carlo Casino is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in the area. There have been three James Bond films which feature the casino. Never Say Never Again, Golden Eye, and Casino Royale. Roger Moore, a previous James Bond has a house there. The Casino is much smaller than expected but it’s still glamourous and worth a visit. There is an entry fee and you must take your passport with you. An interesting fact is that the citizens of Monte Carlo are forbidden to enter the gaming rooms of the casino.
Since 1929, the Monaco Grand Prix has been held annually in the streets of Monaco. It is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. The circuit is incredibly narrow and tight and its tunnel, tight corners and many elevation changes make it perhaps the most demanding and has been compared to "riding a bicycle around your living room".
The Prince’s palace is at the heart of the Principality. It is so large that is said that Grace Kelly didn’t even see all the rooms. In fact, the family preferred to stay in a smaller house in a local village, ironically in France. You can see the changing of the guards precisely at 11.55am.
The country’s Oceanography museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Its aquarium contains approximately 6000 specimens. Jacques Cousteau was the director from 1957 to 1988.
A short drive from Monaco is where there are several perfume factories. You can take a car or a shuttle to visit these and perhaps name your own perfume! You can also continue driving to nearby Nice, where you can enjoy their world-famous market!
It is no wonder that Grace Kelly gave up her stardom in Hollywood to become a princess of this little principality on the French Riviera. Monaco is such a place of glitz and glamour in the Mediterranean. Whether you come to try your luck at the roulette table, are hoping to meet your own prince, want to speed around its hairpin curves at 200 km/h, dream of owning your very own yacht, or simply just feel like strolling around a sophisticated city, in tiny Monaco anything is possible.
Visiting Monaco is your chance to feel like Grace Kelly or James Bond even if it is only for one day!
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