Monaco may be the second smallest state in the world, but it’s perfectly formed! Long considered the playground of the rich and famous, Monaco is best known for those huge yachts in the harbour, the glamorous casinos in Monte-Carlo, the royal heritage of the Grimaldi family and its position on the annual Formula 1 race circuit.
Time for a few facts about Monaco. It’s the second smallest independent city-state on earth, after the Vatican and is made up of 4 districts; Monaco-Ville (old city), Condamine (port quarter), Monte-Carlo and Fontvieille. The local language is French and although it a separate city-state, there are no border restrictions when passing in and out of France. Yes it is expensive so base yourself outside of Monaco and visit on a day trip. There’s plenty to see and do in Monaco with a good blend of historical sights and modern culture. And you never know, you may spot a celeb wandering the town!
Head to the world famous harbour area of Monte-Carlo to witness the sheer opulence of the yachts for yourself. Many are bigger than most people’s houses and come Formula 1 race day, the rich and famous watch the race from their moored yachts.
The small yet pristine Japanese Gardens are in traditional style with a koi carp pond and teahouse. Ying between the soaring Alps and the azure blue Mediterranean Sea, the gardens are a welcome retreat from the bustle of Monte-Carlo.
The Prince’s Palace has housed the Grimaldi family since the 13th century, with each making alterations and leaving their mark on this impressively opulent castle. Fifteen of the rooms are open to the public including the Throne Room and the palace offers breathtaking views over the harbour and Monte-Carlo. Catch the traditional changing of the guard ritual at 11.58am each day where the guard wear traditional white in the summer and black in the winter.
St Nicholas Cathedral
Built in 1875 in Romanesque and Byzantine style, Monaco Cathedral is dedicated to St Nicholas and is pictured above. The cathedral is also home to the remains of Princess Grace Kelly and the princes of Monaco, including Prince Rainier III. Traditional mass is held here each Sunday at 10am except during the peak summer months. Many famous weddings have also been held at the St Nicholas cathedral over the years.
Monaco Grand Prix
The annual Formula One race calendar has featured the Monaco Grand Prix since 1929 on the Circuit de Monaco. Considered the most prestigious race on earth, the Monaco Grand Prix epitomises prestige and glamour. The cars screech their way around a challenging street circuit which includes tunnels, steep elevations and sharp bends. The royal family watch the 78 lap race from their royal box in the port.
And if cars are your thing, check out the Princes’ personal Car Collection which includes a Bugatti that won the first Monaco Grand Prix, a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud and a traditional black London cab.
Regarded as the place to be seen, Casino Square is a great spot to people watch and more importantly, spot celebrities. Watch the endless parade of supercars, see people that have won (and lost) in the casinos and drink possibly the most expensive drinks on earth!
Monaco Opera House
If you want an excuse to get dressed up, there is not better excuse than taking in a show at the Salle Garnier Opera Houses. Designed by legendary architect Charles Garnier, the exterior is as bold and handsome as the rich gold and red interior. Highly detailed frescoes, paintings and sculptures adorn the auditorium. Save this for your last night as this is a budget-buster!