Meeting the moneyed in Monaco

Here are some interesting facts about the Principality of Monaco that you may not have known: it is the second smallest country in the world by size; its symphony orchestra is bigger than its army; its flag is identical to the flag of Indonesia and it is surrounded on three sides by France.

For its size, Monaco is something of a sporting behemoth, playing host to the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, The Monte Carlo Rally, Tour de France, Monaco Marathon, the Monaco Ironman Triathlon Event and the Global Champions Tour, an International Show Jumping Event.

The present head of State is Prince Albert II, a member of the Grimaldi dynasty who has ruled Monaco since 1297.  Prince Albert’s father was Prince Rainier who became famous when he married Hollywood movie star Grace Kelly in 1956, thus putting Monaco on the tourist map.

One of Monaco’s main sources of income is from tourism, and the Monte Carlo Casino is something of a magnet which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.  The original casino, Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo is still there, but has now been joined by five other casinos.  Interestingly, although visitors are encouraged to gamble, citizens of Monaco are banned from gambling in the casinos.  If you’ve heard about the man who broke the bank in Monte Carlo, his name was Joseph Jagger who won 2 million Francs in 1873, almost busting the Casino, and, yes, he was a relative of Mick Jagger.

Because Monaco does not levy income tax on any of its residents it has become home to many wealthy expatriates from around the world. Many of these residents live relatively ostentatious lives and don’t mind displaying their wealth in the form of luxury vessels which are kept moored at Port Hercule in the La Condamine area of Monte Carlo.    

Apart from the gambling, Monaco is worth visiting because of its history, which is interestingly explained in its museums, but also because of the glimpse it gives you of an almost perfect Mediterranean lifestyle.  Given its dependence on tourism Monaco has plenty of good restaurants, nightclubs, and activities to keep you occupied.  Monaco is a place where leisure is celebrated, and where there is much to keep anyone amused.

A couple of things that you should do are: the Aquavision boat tour, Aquavision is a catamaran-type boat equipped with two windows in the hull for underwater vision, thus allowing the passengers to explore the natural seabed of the coast in an unusual way. The boat can take up to 120 people per journey. The cost for adults is 11€, while the cost for children and students ages 3-18 is 8€.

And the Azur Express Tourist Trains which visit the Monaco Port, Monte-Carlo and its Palaces, the famous Casino and its gardens, the Old Town for City Hall and finally the Royal Prince’s Palace. Commentaries are in English, Italian, German and French. This enjoyable tour runs about 30 minutes long and cost is 6€, children under age 5 ride free.

There are several ways to reach Monaco. The nearest airport is 22kms away in Nice and runs regular buses to the principality and major hotels. An extensive train service also runs through Monaco on its way to other destinations, with daily and overnight trains. A number of buses run to Monaco from Nice and Cannes, from where you can get connections to larger cities.  The European motorway network is only eight kilometres away, which links Monaco with the rest of Europe.

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