Casinos, history and romance

MONACO is famous for the glamorous Monte-Carlo Casino, the F1 Grand Prix and its princely family. The Principality is the second smallest country in the world and while it may be small, about half the size of New York's Central Park, it's a destination with remarkable heritage and wealth.

Situated on a rocky promontory, the Prince's Palace of Monaco is perhaps the most famous building in the Principality. The palace has been the home of the Grimaldi dynasty since the end of the 13th century. In Place du Palais, sentries and cannons guard the entrance to the palace. The white-uniformed guards are changed outside the palace at 11.55am each day. This event called 'la relève de la garde' (the changing of the guard) is a tradition that has been passed down through the centuries

Adjacent to the palace the Old Town is full of picturesque spots with houses packed side by side which provides a sharp contrast to Monte Carlo's skyscrapers and super yachts. On the opposite side of Palace Square are fabulous views of the new harbour and the residential neighbourhood of Fontvielle which was built entirely on reclaimed land. The winding path of the cliff top park that sits between the Marine Museum and Old Town has sweeping views of the Mediterranean and is well worth the effort.

Monte-Carlo is home to the elegant belle-époque casino complex and ornate Salle Garnier opera house. It also has many luxe hotels, boutiques, nightclubs and restaurants. A magnet for high-rollers and hedonists since the early 20th century, it was once one of the world's most notorious tax havens. The super yachts are a spectacle on their own; some have helicopters while all have runabouts that you and I would be proud to own.

Precious as a collector's postage stamp, as safe as a medieval fortress and as romantic as Prince Rainier's marriage to the glamorous Hollywood legend Grace Kelly, Monaco is surprising at every turn. 



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