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Monte Carlo History

It might not look like it, but Monte Carlo is one of the oldest cities in Europe, with evidence of occupation dating back to the Stone Age. The first real settlement came during the Iron Age, with the Ligurian Monoikos setting up home and giving Monaco its name.

In 122BC, the Romans arrived, defeating local tribes and incorporating the territory into the Maritime Alps. Julius Caesar is even said to have sailed from Monaco to fight in Greece. In 1162, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa granted dominion of Monaco to the Republic of Genoa, sparking street battles between the warring Genoese parties of Ghibelline (who were loyal to the emperor) and Guelph (who sided with the pope).

In 1215, the Ghibellines built a fortress on the Rock of Monaco to assert their authority on the region. However, in 1297 Guelph Francesco Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk, entered the castle and captured it, founding the ruling dynasty that continues to hold power to this day. The Grimaldis also acquired nearby Menton and Roquebrune, using them to begin a campaign of pirate-style raids on English towns, helped by the French.

But their plundered riches attracted invaders, with the Grimaldis forced to see off attacks from Genoa and Spain, most notably in 1612 when Honore II Lord of Monaco had to enlist the services of French troops to expel marauding Spaniards from the principality.

Since then Monaco has been under the protection of France, with the exception of the French Revolution when it was actually annexed by its neighbour. The royal family were arrested, their wealth disappeared and the Prince’s Palace was turned into a prison. Monaco was wiped off the map until the Treaty of Paris in 1814 re-established the principality and returned it to the Grimaldi family.

In 1918, the Treaty of Versailles strengthened relations with France, who agreed to defend the principality’s independence, sovereignty and territory. In return, Monaco agreed to exercise its rights in mind of French interests. A new constitution was signed in 1962 and forms the basis of Monaco’s monarchy today.

Did you know?
• James Bond makes the first of many visits to the glamorous Casino de Monte-Carlo the film Never Say Never Again (1983).
• The Romans built the surviving Trophy of Augustus in 6 BC to celebrate their victory over the tribes of the Alps.
• The actress Grace Kelly became Princess of Monaco in 1956 when she married Prince Rainier III.

Featured Hotels

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Hôtel Le Versailles

It isn't particularly inexpensive, but it's cheap for Monaco. Situated a few minutes of the Palais Princier, the Hôtel Le Versailles offers basic accommodation in a convenient location in La Condamine at the foot of Monaco-Ville. This 2-star also has a restaurant that serves French and Italian cuisine.

Hôtel Villa Boeri

Cross the road to Hôtel Villa Boeri and you also cross the border from Monaco to France. Yet despite being in a different country, the hotel is fairly centrally located with the Casino Square about 10 minutes away on foot. Some rooms have small terraces with partial sea views.

Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel

Away from the bustle of Monte Carlo's busy Casino Square is the Beach Hotel, a 5-star resort overlooking the Mediterranean. This luxury hotel was legendary in the 1930s, attracting high society from across the globe, and has retained its contemporary comforts. Guests can also benefit from a heated seawater swimming pool, stunning views and exceptional gastronomy.

Hôtel de Paris

Enviably situated in Casino Square, Hôtel de Paris opened in 1863 and is still the most glamorous place to stay in Monaco. Exquisitely decorated, the sumptuous rooms are decked out in antique furniture. Guests can also enjoy the luxury health spa, private beach and no fewer than three glittering restaurants.

Monte Carlo Bay

This refined resort opened in 2005 and has more than 300 rooms and suites, plus one palatial apartment. Guests can indulge themselves with the outdoor pool, lagoon and luxury spa, and take in views of the Mediterranean from the extensive grounds. Most rooms have striking sea views and the onsite restaurants are all fantastic too.

Hôtel Hermitage

Listed as a historic monument, the Hôtel Hermitage is an imposing belle époque hotel that remains one of the jewels in Monaco's architectural crown. Opulence abounds inside, with extravagant antiques and ornate décor, but also plenty of old-world style and elegance. Some rooms overlooking the harbour have their own terrace hot tubs.