From the multi-million pound yachts glinting in Monte Carlo harbour, to the endless flow of golden champagne, Monaco oozes privilege. Celebrities flock to this Mediterranean members-only club, with its opulent lifestyle, discreet banking facilities and heavily policed streets.
There’s more to this 200-hectare principality than meets the eye, though, with some terrific restaurants and an interesting history that continues to beguile to this day. In this, the second smallest country after the Vatican, natives still speak the Monégasque dialect, which sits somewhere between French and Italian. Meanwhile, Monaco’s citizens famously don’t have to pay taxes, which has partly made it an attractive place to live for some of the world’s richest people.
For visitors wishing to bask in some Monaco glitz, there are big annual events such as the Tennis Masters Series in April and the Formula 1 Grand Prix in May. Other festivals include the Monaco International Non Violent Film Festival, the Monte Carlo Opera and the annual Spring Arts Festival.
In Monaco, you can expect plenty of luxury hotel towers, glamorous nightclubs and grand casinos. The latter attraction is tied up with the modern fate of Monaco. The tiny country’s history of gambling dates back to the 1850s when the head of state commissioned the building of a casino to provide him with income, without having to increase taxes on his citizens. At first, the casino remained bizarrely empty, until a railroad connected Monaco with the rest of the world. It was soon doing so well that the principality was able to do away with taxes altogether. Overnight, Monaco became popular for Europe’s most hedonistic elites, who came for the ever-flowing champagne and renowned opera productions.
Away from the glamour, Monaco’s balmy climate and seaside location make it a naturally beautiful place to visit. You can enjoy scenic walking routes along pretty costal bays, and stop for a drink at many al fresco cafés. For those with a couple of days to spare, Provence, the French Riviera and Italy are all within easy reach.
37,863 (UN estimate 2016).
Head of state:
Prince Albert II since 2005.
Head of government:
Minister of State Serge Telle since 2016.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Police have issued warnings that counterfeit Euro notes are in circulation. Check that notes you receive are genuine.
Street crime is rare, but you should take sensible precautions to safeguard your passport and valuables.
Thefts have occurred on trains to and from Monaco, and at Nice airport, particularly at the car rental parks where bags have been stolen while drivers are loading their cars.
To drive in Monaco you must have a valid UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. If you are driving a vehicle that does not belong to you then written permission from the registered owner may also be required.
The minimum age for driving a car is 18 years
Speed and alcohol limits are strictly enforced.
See the AA and RAC guides on driving in Monaco.
Follow local advice regarding swimming in the sea especially if jellyfish are present in the sea.