Usually reached from Cannes, Villefranche or Nice, France
Southern coast of France, 10 miles east of Nice
Key AttractionsMonaco, the second smallest principality in the world, manages to squeeze more glamour and richesse into its tiny 486 acres than any other European port. The world's most famous casino, glittering nightlife, first-class dining and shopping, and the annual Grand Prix make Monte Carlo, its central resort area, one of the world's premier destinations for jet-setters and thrill-seekers.
Built around a natural sheltered harbor, Monaco can be viewed at a glance from Cape Martin. The compact country divides into four quarters. To the south lies the picturesque old town of Monaco Ville, where the Palace is located. Across the harbor is the newer quarter, Monte Carlo, crammed with hotels, high-rises and glittering nightspots. Between them is La Condamine, a commercial and residential district directly in front of the port. Nestled behind the old town is Fontvieille, where industry flourishes discreetly on reclaimed land.
The centerpiece of Monte Carlo is its casino, a must-see even for those who do not gamble. Capped by four towers and a copper-tin roof, this elaborate Italianate structure was designed in 1878 by Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris Opera. The ornate frescoes and bas-reliefs complement the finery of its wealthy patrons.
With its vaulted passageways and medieval charm, Monaco Ville offers a glimpse of Monaco in days gone by. The chief attraction is the magnificent Prince's Palace, an ornate Italianate structure with a Moorish tower, where the Grimaldi family has lived and ruled since the 13th century. Prince Ranier III, its current occupant, permits tours when he is away from the residence, usually July through mid-October. Make sure to time your visit with the Changing of the Guard, a daily spectacle that takes place at 11:55 a.m. Only a short stroll away is one of Monaco's most renowned attractions, the Oceanography Museum and Aquarium. The most recent director until his death was the well known undersea explorer, Jacques Cousteau, who overseed its extensive research facilities.
More natural wonders await at the Jardin Exotique, easily accessible by bus or taxi. Here, from the garden's height above the cliffs of Monaco Ville, thousands of cacti--over 600 varieties--cascade 300 feet to the sea.
The cathedral in Monaco Ville, built from the casino's profits during its heyday, is today the burial place of Monaco's beloved princess, Grace Kelly, who was killed in an auto crash in 1982 at the age of 51.
For a relaxing retreat, make your way to the plage du Larvotto, a stretch of artificial beach just off the avenue Princess Grace.
Great BuysMonte Carlo is an ideal place for shopping in grand style, with exquisite boutiques, impeccable service, and a surplus of banks eager to provide currency exchanges. All the big names are here--Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany--with prices commensurate with the lavish surroundings.
For a listing of possible SHORE EXCURSIONS which may be offered to Monte Carlo during your Mediterranean Cruise, check out the article Princess Cannes Excursions.
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