Gorgeous and glittering Monaco is a tiny royal principality on the French Riviera. Less than two square kilometers in size, it is perhaps the most glamorous little stretch of land on the planet. There is a seductive quality to the scenery, with its deep blue sea, graceful palm trees, and vibrant flowers. The most dramatic feature is the steep, rocky promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean, called “Le Rocher” (“The Rock”), which contains historic Monaco, also known as Monaco-Ville. Full of charming, narrow streets, Monaco-Ville dates back to the 13th century when the principality was founded.
Indulge in the extravagant world of Monaco where decadence and luxury are a way of life. Despite its small size, Monaco packs an enormous amount of glitz. Monte Carlo is the district with the most glamorous atmosphere, in a setting of stunning natural beauty. Monte-Carlo stands on a rocky promontory to the north of the Port of Monaco. There are breathtaking seaside views from the gorgeous terrace of Place du Casino. As Monaco’s wealthiest district, Monte-Carlo attracts the rich and famous. Ferraris and “beautiful people” fit right into this neighborhood. For tourists, Monte-Carlo is a great place for people-watching or to enjoy fine dining. Gourmands can choose from three Michelin-starred restaurants as well as other excellent options. Monte-Carlo is intersected by two elegant boulevards, the Boulevard Princesse Charlotte in the west and the Boulevard des Moulins at its southwestern end. There are many fashionable shopping streets, such as the Avenue de la Costa with its luxury boutiques. The Opera House is also in this district.
Palais du Prince
In a unique position high above the sea on the picturesque peninsula of Le Rocher, the Palais du Prince is home to the oldest monarchy in the world. The Genoese noble family of Grimaldi established Monaco in 1297 after they captured the land from the Republic of Genoa. Originally built in the 13th century as a Genoese fortress, the site affords panoramic views, which provided defensive purposes in the Middle Ages. The fortress was renovated throughout the centuries and transformed into a luxurious Louis-XIV-style palace.
The State Apartments of the Palais du Prince is a private residence but is open to the public at certain times of the year. (Check the official website for opening times.) Visitors can see the sumptuous Italianate gallery adorned with 16th- and 17th-century frescoes; the gilded “Blue Room” featuring a resplendent decor of blue and gold; the wood-paneled Mazarin Room; and the Empire-style Throne Room, which has an impressive Renaissance fireplace. Be sure to admire the 17th-century Palatine Chapel and the Main Courtyard, with its monumental 17th-century Carrara marble double staircase. In July and August on some Sundays and Thursdays, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra performs classical music concerts in the main courtyard. Another tradition of the Sovereign House, the Changing of the Guard takes place every day at 11.55am in front of the palace. This ceremony called the Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince is conducted by the highly trained Palace Guards and accompanied by the Orchestre des Carabiniers du Prince military brass band musicians.
Formula One Monaco Grand Prix
The famous Formula One Monaco Grand Prix race takes place in Monte-Carlo every year on the last weekend in May. This is the only car race in the world that is held on city streets. The course runs from the Boulevard Albert 1 up toward Place du Casino and around the harrowing turn in front of the Monte-Carlo Fairmont Hotel. Organized by the Automobile Club of Monaco, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the world’s most popular sporting events. The narrow streets are not ideal for the race cars, but the race continues for the sake of tradition (it has been going since the early 20th century). Because of the crowds, it’s difficult to get a good view, but the atmosphere is worth it. Another big event in May on the French Riviera is the Cannes Film Festival.