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A hearty little pin-prick on France's Mediterranean coast, Monaco measures up to be less than 2 square kilometres. But, with its primary industry being tourism, this has proven to have hardly any effect on the hordes of tourists who charge to Monaco's beaches and cultured night life. Owing much of its fame to Monte Carlo's casino, Monaco is a place geared towards people with lots of cash to burn. Of course, if you're not one of those people, there's still a heck of a lot of fun to be had. The country enjoys prime summer weather year-round (it is estimated that only 65 days a year see poor weather), so settling down on the beach is the most obvious activity. Don't expect seclusion - Monaco is a place for those who like a crowd.
Monaco is surrounded by the country of France on three sides and on the fourth the Mediterranean Sea.
The known history of habitation in Monaco dates back to the end of the Paleolithic period, approximately 300,000 BC, when the Rock of Monaco was used as a shelter for the area's early inhabitants. The area's first permanent settlers Ligures who emigrated from Genoa in Italy. In the 6th century BC, the Phocaeans of Massalia founded the colony of Monoikos, named after its Ligurian inhabitants. Monoikos was associated with Hercules and both Greeks and Ligurian people claimed that Hercules passed through the area. The port is still sometimes known as the "Port of Hercules".
In Roman times, it was known as Monoecus and was part of the Maritime Alps province in the Roman Empire. It remained under Roman control the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476. During the five centuries that followed, the area was ravaged by barbarian tribes until it was eventually populated again by Ligurians in the 11th century.
On June 10, 1215, the construction of a fortress on the Rock of Monaco was begun by Genoese Ghibellines. It is this date that is often considered the beginning of Monaco's modern history. In 1297, the Grimaldis, an ancient Genoese family, seized control of Monaco and it has remained under their control until the present day (excepting a period of French control from 1794 to 1814). It was designated as a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815 after Napoleon was defeated and its sovereignty confirmed by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. The Prince of Monaco was absolute ruler until 1911.
The Casino of Monte Carlo opened in 1863 and taxes raised from it have been directed into Monaco's infrastructure. In 1918, a treaty was signed which provided limited French protection over Monaco.
Monaco attempted to remain neutral during World War II, although it was torn between French connections and an Italian population. The Italian Army eventually invaded Monaco in 1943. When Mussolini fell in Italy, the German army occupied Monaco and set about deporting the Jewish population.
In 1993, Monaco joined the United Nations as an official member with full voting rights. In 2005, Prince Albert II acceded to the throne following on from his father Prince Rainier III.
Monaco takes up a mere 1.98 square kilometres, making it the world's second smallest independent state (after Vatican City). It is surrounded on three sides by France and on the fourth by the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 18 kilometres east of Nice, France and about 10 kilometres to the west of Italy. With a population of 36,371, Monaco is the the most densely populated country in the world. Having a land border of only 4.4 kilometres, a coastline of 4.1 kilometres, a maritime claim that extends 22.2 kilometres, and a width that varies between 1.7 kilometres and 349 metres, Monaco is unique.
The highest point in the country is a narrow pathway named Chemin des Révoires on the slopes of Mont Agel, in the Les Révoires district, it is 161 metres above sea level. While the lowest point in the country is the Mediterranean Sea, at sea level. Saint-Jean is the longest flowing body of water, around 190 metres in length, and Fontvieille is the largest lake, approximately 0.5 ha in size.
This stunning casino located in the Monte Carlo quarter is one the main tourist attractions in Monaco. The grand entrance and ballrooms can stun anyone. It is also the home to the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo, which is an opera and ballet house. Remember to look at the gardens are back and take in the sea view. Every year this casino hosts the European Poker tour Grand Final. The minimum bets at most of the tables in this casino are very high, therefore it might be best to take in the views and not gamble. Citizens of Monaco are forbidden from entering the gaming rooms.
Some of the most wealthy people in the world go Monaco on vacation and many of them by boat. They come in amazing yachts that cost more them most people in the world will make in a lifetime. Take a look at these amazing boats and stunning ships for some great photos. If your lucky you might be able to talk your way aboard one of them!
Relax and enjoy the surf of some fun beaches. Although not cheap and laid back like the beaches of South East Asia these beaches are great in their own right. Hang out and enjoy the sun and bring your own water to save some money. Remember some of the beaches charge money to enter and some are private. Therefore look out for free beaches and use them.
The Grand Prix Monaco is the annual Formula One race held in Monaco. It has run since 1929 and is considered the most prestigious tracks on the Formula One circuit. The race snakes through Monaco and goes by many of the famous sights. The race is always in late May.
Started in 1974 by Prince Rainier, he personally loved circuses and wanted to create a venue where everyone could enjoy a world class show. Since then, circus acts from all over the world come to Monaco in January to perform. Judged on technical difficulty and creativity, the best performances receive the Gold and Silver Clown Awards.
One of the most elegant and coveted fundraising events of the year is the Rose Ball, held annually in March. Started in 1954 by Grace Kelly, all proceeds goes to the Princess Grace Foundation. Each year the ball has a different theme and is known for the thousands of roses that are used to decorate the Salle des Etoiles venue.
Monaco’s annual Spring Arts Festival in April attracts artists from all around world. The festival showcases music, dance, arts, and theatre performances held in world-class venues throughout the principality. This is a popular event so tickets need to be purchased well in advance.
Outdoor concerts take place at the palace throughout the summer which were started by Prince Rainier III. Open to the public, visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. The venue is simply breathtaking and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra usually has a beautiful line-up of shows. Concerts begin at 9:30 p.m. and visitors are expected to be seated on time.
Considered one of the best fireworks festivals in the world, this late summer event has been taking place since 1966. Scheduled in July or August, the fireworks are shot from Fort Antoine over the water by pyrotechnics from all over the world competing to put on the best show.
Sailing enthusiasts should not miss the annual Monaco Yacht Show in September. Over 100 of the most beautiful and impressive yachts are on display at Port Hercules and 500 vendors come to showcase their wares, a sailing enthusiast’s dream.
Although this marathon is not on the major running curcuit, it is the only marathon in the world that traverses three countries: France, Italy and Monaco. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people participate in this marathon annually in November.
Monaco, like the southeastern coastline of France, has a Mediterranean climate with generally dry, sunny and warm summers and mild but wetter winters. Temperatures during summer (June to September) average around 28 °C with pleasantly warm nights. Winters (December to March) are around 15 °C during the day or slightly lower with chilly nights, though rarely really cold. Summers are dry, while most of the rain falls from November to March.
There are no regular scheduled international flights to and from Monaco. The airport nearest to Monaco is at Nice, some 22 kilometres away. Dozens of airlines serve Nice from other European cities and further away. Some of the main destinations include Moscow, Paris, Düsseldorf International Airport, Montreal, Marrakech, Rome, Vienna, London, Brussels, Dubai, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Beirut, Oslo, Casablanca, Lisbon, Istanbul, Kiev and Barcelona.
There is a direct bus service from Nice Airport (NCE) to Monaco, which stops at major hotels and journey time is around 45 minutes. However if you would like to arrive in class in Monaco you can use Heli Air Monaco which has helicopter flights connecting Nice airport and Monaco Heliport. Other connections are on request.
The Monaco Monte Carlo station was opened in 1867 and is the country's only train station. Services are run by French operator SNCF. Frequent services link the city to Nice, Menton, Cannes and Ventimiglia in Italy. The high-speed TGV train that runs from Nice to Paris stops in Monaco. From Paris, it is about 6 and a half hours by TGV to reach Monaco. Night train services are also available to Paris, Milan, Rome, Strasbourg and Venice.
Apart from the high speed TGV trains, the less expensive Regional Express trains connect with all the towns on the Riveria. Some of these trains stop at all the stations on the Cote d'Azur between Cannes and the Italian frontier, including Monaco.
There are no border restrictions between France and Monaco. Cannes and Nice are 50 kilometres and 18 kilometres west of Monaco. The French/Italian border and Menton are 12 kilometres and 9 kilometres east of Monaco. The European motorway network is 8 kilometres away from the city centre linking Monaco with France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Benelux, Austria and the United Kingdom. Between Monaco and Nice there are other options though , like the attractive roads Highway 98, Basse Corniche, Highway 7, Moyenne Corniche and the Great Coastal Road, Grande Corniche.
There are dozens of buses both east and west and inland. A seaside route to Nice with stops at Cap d’Ail, Eze-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer is a great route. There is also the Middle Corniche route with stops at Cap d’Ail, Eze-Village and Col de Villefranche. East to Menton there is a seaside route with stops in Roquebrune and Cap-Martin.
The main harbours are at Condamine and Fontvieille, which are well equipped to handles yachts of all varieties and even international liners can anchor in the bay of Monaco.
Walking is by far the best way to get around Monaco and all the main sights can be reached by foot. Some parts are steep though, so if your physical condition is not how it should be, than using a bus or taxi now and then gives some relief. Also, there are elevators and public lifts in some parts taking you up or down.
Bikes or scooters can be rented and it is fairly easy to get around Monaco this way, especially by motorscooter because of the hilly parts.
Although rental cars are available in Moncao, they are pretty useless in Monaco itself and only of use if you are planning on driving along the coastal route towards Italy or Nice or other places in France. In Monaco, taxis are a better option if you are dying to sit in a car. Observing expensive cars is an even better activity though.
The Compagnie des Autobus Monaco operates a number of bus lines in Monaco. There are 5 lines, numbered 1,2,4,5 and 6 and buses start running at around 6am until around 9pm.
If you don't have your own (expensive) yacht, getting around the territorial waters of Monaco is not possible.
Many nationalities do not need visas for a stay of up to three months, although some might need a visa (South African national for example) but again a Schengen visa is valid if endorsed 'also valid for French territories'.
Things regarding visa requirements are liable to change, so check your embassy or consulate to have the latest details.
See also Money Matters
Monaco has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
Monaco Euros are rarely used in everyday life, as they are quite valuable and generally only coin collectors have them.
Monaco's official language is French, but several other languages are also spoken, including Monégasque. It is the language of the Monegasque people, who represent only 16% of the total population, and is a dialect of Ligurian, somewhat similar to Italian. Italian is also a significant language in Monaco. Roughly 16% of Monaco's population is Italian.
How to go wrong? Food in Monaco is universally excellent. There are many fine restaurants, beginning with the Cafe de Paris across the street from the casino, to the waterfront restaurants along the Port de Fontvieille.
There are a huge variety of other restaurants and cafés in the city with a moderate price tag and excellent food. There are a few simple cafés along the marina-side, more like beach bars than anything else, that serve simple meals such as pizza, salads and hotdogs throughout the day. These can be excellent for simply sitting back during the hot midday with a cold beer or glass of wine, a snack to recharge your batteries from exploring the city, and the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean (and often the roar of supercars) in your ears.
If you're on a budget, Monaco is not the best place to be. For example, a two star hotel without breakfast and bathroom will cost around €60 per person. Nice is only 1/2 hour away from Monaco and it's very cheap to use the frequent trains.
|Le Méridien Beach Plaza||22, Avenue Princesse Grace||Hotel|
|De Paris Hotel||Place Du Casino||Hotel|
|Hotel Columbus||23, Avenue Des Papalins||Hotel|
|Novotel Monte Carlo 3||16, Boulevard Princesse-Charlotte||Hotel|
|Fairmont Monte Carlo||12, Avenue des Spelugues||Hotel|
|Hotel Alexandra||Boulevard Princesse-Charlotte 35||Hotel|
|Appart' Valley Porte De Monaco||108, Avenue du 3 Septembre Cap d'Ail||Hotel|
|Monte Carlo Beach Hotel||Avenue Princesse Grace||Hotel|
|Hotel Ambassador||10, Avenue Prince Pierre||Hotel|
|Port Palace||7, Avenue John F Kennedy||Hotel|
|Monte Carlo Bay||40, Avenue Princesse Grace||Hotel|
|Hermitage Hotel||Square Beaumarchais Bp No 277||Hotel|
|Hotel Tulip Inn Monaco Terminus||9, Avenue Prince Pierre||Hotel|
|Metropole||4, Avenue De La Madone||Hotel|
|Hotel Mirabeau||1, Avenue Princesse Grace||Hotel|
|Balmoral Hotel||12, Avenue de la Costa||Hotel|
|Hotel le Versailles||4, Avenue Prince Pierre||Hotel|
|Hotel Miramar||1, Avenue President J F Kennedy||Hotel|
Champagne has the status of a national beverage in Monaco. A single glass can cost as much as €40 at a fashionable restaurant!
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Monaco.
See also Travel Safety
Monaco is a safe, crime-free location, with a strong police presence. It has the lowest homicide rate of any country in the world, and among the lowest in terms of overall crime rate, having also maintained. Because of their wealthy state, every public space is blanketed with cameras and any kind of disorder may produce an immediate reaction and the attendance of several officers.
See also International Telephone Calls
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