Monaco is the smallest principality in the world, a famous tax haven and playground of the rich and famous. Its location is stunning, tucked inside the Maritime Alps overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea between the French and Italian Rivieras. Monte Carlo is the central quarter of the principality of Monaco, probably best known for hosting the annual Grand Prix at the end of May.
Many visitors to Monaco will probably want to try to visit some of the locations on the famous Grand Prix circuit, and to imagine the atmosphere on race day – Saint Devote corner, the tunnel exit, the port and pool area and the famous Rascasse corner can all be seen on a walk around Monaco-Ville. There are a number of other sights which are well worth a visit during a stay in Monaco.
The Royal Palace, seat of the Grimaldi family, is unprepossessing from the outside but is grandly Renaissance within. With its perfect setting overlooking the city and sea, the Prince’s Palace is one of Monaco’s top sights. It was built in 1215 by the Genoese and has many fine aspects, including the Throne Room, the Palatine Chapel and the SaintMarieTower. The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place daily in the courtyard just before noon.
Leaving the Palace, take in the all-round views from the square, the glorious rock-side St Martin gardens and the cathedral, dedicated to Saint Nicolas. Monaco’s royal family have been in the spotlight since the former 1950’s film star Grace Kelly married the country’s sovereign Prince Rainier III in 1956. It is in this neo-Byzantine cathedral that past sovereigns, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, are buried.
The Oceanographic Museum is considered my many to be the principality’s best museum. The museum which was built in 1910 is an architectural work of art with an impressive façade towering over a sheer cliff face. The museum is packed with marine fascination, notably a fine aquarium and a 90ft whale skeleton. The museum’s holdings also include a great variety of sea related objects, including model ships, sea animal skeletons, tools, weapons, etc.
Standing in the Place du Casino, or better still enjoying a drink on the terrace of the Café de Paris, you are right in the heart of the principality and can while away a very entertaining hour or so people and car watching. (Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys of course). If you enter inside the Casino you’ll find you need your passport as residents of Monaco are not allowed to gamble in their own casinos and passports are checked to enforce this law. Even if you’re not a gambler, you should go in to the Grand Casino to see the beautiful frescoes and bas reliefs. (Many can be seen from the lobby of the casino without having to pay the entrance fee.). The gaming rooms are spectacular, with stained glass, paintings, and sculptures everywhere.