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Holiday Guides for Europe - Monaco

Monaco Holiday

Glamorous, stylish, rich and tax-free, Monaco packs a lot of class into a tiny country.

Glamorous, stylish, rich and tax-free, Monaco packs a lot of class into a tiny country.

At just 485 acres, Monaco is more of a city than a country, but the old sayings ring true on the Mediterranean coast – good things certainly do come in small packages.

Located on the southern tip of France, the sovereign and independent Principality of Monaco shares its borders with the French from west to east, with its southern side embracing the Mediterranean.

This narrow coastal strip has been under the control of the Grimaldi since 1297, when Francois Grimaldi seized the fortress of Monaco from a rival Italian power.

In 1604, Lord Honore II came to the throne of Monaco and promptly re-titled himself Prince Honore II. His Grimaldi descendents have maintained the title of 'Prince' ever since.

By 1861, Monaco had relinquished over half of its territory to France in exchange for money and independence, but in 1863, Prince Charles III set up the Societe des Bains de Mer – a company holding the rights to a handful of hotels, a theatre and a casino which would eventually become the elaborate and wealthy centre of Monte Carlo.

In modern times, the Hollywood lifestyle of the country is exemplified in its leaders, as Prince Rainier III married actress Grace Kelly in 1949, with their son H.S.H. Prince Albert II the current reigning head of state.

Visitors to the country today will find it a perfect location for a romantic trip away, simple tourism, a business trip or for cultural enlightenment.

Monaco is a sea of Edwardian hotels, almost Manhattan-style in their concentration – even the nation's football stadium is built on top of a multi-storey car park.

Nevertheless, visitors who can afford to stay in the principality can expect nothing short of extreme indulgence.

The casinos at Monte Carlo are a real hub of social activity, with a never ending stream of the rich and famous sipping martinis around roulette wheels and betting chips.

However, one of the busiest times to visit is in May, when the rich and the famous are joined by the loud and the excited, as the world-famous Monte Carlo Formula One Grand Prix comes to town.

Expect to find very little else going on in the small town when the race is on, as the roads are shut off so the screeching cars can thrill the crowds and bring yet more glamour to the country.

Monaco enjoys over three hundred days of sunshine a year, with moderate temperatures, and celebrates the fact by laying on some of the best cuisine, theatre, art and dance to be found.

The glittering fairy-tale land of Monaco and Monte Carlo offers the average traveller a brief insight into the lifestyle of 'the other side', although those on a tighter budget can also enjoy the country's natural assets.

Nice-Cote d'Azur International Airport is a 30-minute drive from Monaco, with regular flights from most major European airports.

However, if you happen to have a helicopter, a spectacular arrival at Heli Air Monte Carlo might be more up your street.