Famous for its royal family, Hollywood connections, hotels, casinos, fast cars, super yachts, celebrity sightings, and all the trimmings of a super-rich lifestyle, what Monaco lacks in size, at under two square kilometres it is the second smallest country in the world, it more than makes up for in glamour. There is no doubt that Monaco holidays are second to none for luxury.
This tiny slither of land wedged between the Alps and the Mediterranean has had very few options to expand, explaining a preponderance of skyscrapers to the north and properties built on land reclaimed from the sea to the south. Somerset Maugham described Monaco as ‘a sunny place for shady people’ but much has changed since his epithet became famous in the 1930’s. With no natural resources to exploit other than its location and climate, the principality has become a popular resort for tourists and a tax haven for businesses. Although not a member of the European Union, there are no border formalities crossing from France to Monaco, and the principality uses the Euro as its currency.
The House of Grimaldi is the longest ruling monarchy in Europe, dating back to 1297, when Francois Grimaldi seized the fortress protecting Monaco. Legend has it that he dressed as a monk to overcome opposing troops: an event that is depicted on the royal coat of arms. During the 20th century international interest and Hollywood glamour was brought to the principality with the marriage of Prince Rainier to American actress Grace Kelly. As much a part of Monaco as the rock on which their palace is built, the royal family enjoys a close relationship with their citizens, the Monegasques.
Divided into five districts, on Monaco holidays there are fantastic areas to visit. Two of the most famous being Monaco Ville, home to the Princes’ Palace, and Monte Carlo, Monaco is best discovered on foot. There are some areas, such as the Exotic Gardens, which require a large change in elevation and there are public escalators and elevators, all free which help visitors to negotiate the city’s steep slopes. Although holidays to Monte Carlo are predominantly the most popular, we recommend exploring the neighbouring districts. To reach the opposite bank of Port Hercule, which is exceptionally beautiful and offers moorings for many large elegant yachts, look for the small pedestrian-only ferry that runs every 20 minutes or so during daylight hours at minimal cost.
There are numerous events and festivities throughout the year, which always allows for great entertainment on Monaco holidays. January welcomes clowns and acrobats at the International Festival of the Circus. The Tennis Masters Series in April, a key fixture on the professional circuit, is swiftly followed by the Formula One Grand Prix towards the end of May. Midsummer celebrations see folk dancers and bonfires in June at the Fete de la St Jean. July and August bring a pyrotechnic showdown with the International Fireworks Festival.
Dining on holidays in Monaco is a truly fabulous affair. There are many fine restaurants (jacket and tie often required), from the Cafe de Paris across the street from the casino, and the jewel-like three star Michelin Louis XV in the Hotel du Paris, home to the world’s largest wine cellar, to the delightful waterfront rest urants along the Port de Fontvieille where bouillabaisse is universally excellent.