Monaco is a tiny principality on the Côte d’Azur about half-way between Nice and the Italian border. It epitomises the Riviera with its palm trees, lush gardens, luxury hôtels and glamorous lifestyles.
Monaco is ruled by the Grimaldi family – the present Prince, Albert II is a well known environmentalist. His father and predecessor Prince Rainier, famously married the film star Grace Kelly in 1956. The first Grimaldi, François, is renowned for taking Monaco by stealth in 1297 while dressed as a monk. However, he lost it soon after only for his family to buy it back a few years later.
The citizens known as Monégasques are exempt from taxes as the state receives its income from its famous Casinos. Strangely enough, the State does not allow those same citizens to gamble in them! The Casino everyone is familiar with is actually in Monte Carlo on the north side of the harbour. An impressive building designed by Charles Garnier of Paris Opera House fame who constructed this one at the end of the 19th Century.
Monaco Ville is on the south side of the harbour and known as ‘The Rock‘ or ‘La Rocher‘ has a great deal to offer the visitor. Head first for the Place du Palais, a cobbled square surrounded on three sides by buildings with salmon-pink façades. Moreover, on the north west side is the impressive Palais Princier, the home of the royal family. Above all, on the north east side there is a wonderful panorama of the harbour and the mountains beyond (see images above).
Don’t miss: the Musée Océanograhique whose director for many years was the legendary Jaques Cousteau, the amazing Jardin Exotique with nearly 1000 species of cacti or the neo-Romanesque Cathedral built using stone from La Turbie.
In late January Monaco is the finishing point for the fantastic Monte Carlo Rally and of course the Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place every year towards the end of May.
Market days: La Condamine – fresh produce daily 6am – 2pm. There is also a farmer’s market daily on Ave St Charles.