Monaco: All that glitters

Monaco glamour

Welcome to shiny, glittering Monaco glamour

That’s what the Monaco – Monte Carlo railway station says, don’t you think?

A quick peek at the boats in the harbour confirms that Monaco does indeed exude glamour.

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Microstates vs micronations – and a few Monegasque oddities

I’ve written about micronations before. Monaco is not one of those. It is, however, a microstate. And what is the difference, you ask?

A microstate is a recognized sovereign nation, while a micronation is well, not.

Microstates tend to have an area of less than 1,000 km2 and fewer than half a million inhabitants. By land area, Monaco is the world’s second smallest country (only the Vatican is smaller). Counted by number of people, however, Monaco is only the 6th smallest. This tiny principality, you see, has the world’s highest population density.

It would be nice to think it’s the balmy Mediterranean climate that attracts the hordes of immigrants. I fear, however, that Monaco’s status as a tax haven is an even bigger draw.

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Looks right crowded, doesn’t it? But don’t let this rather drab-looking colony of high-rises fool you. These are not exactly budget flats. Monaco has more billionaires pr capita than anywhere else on earth. And with real-estate prices as high as GBP 40 000 (about USD 60 000) pr square metre, it’s also the most expensive place to live in the world.

Monaco seen from the mouth of the cannon

Monaco views, from the cannon’s mouth

 

Monaco isn’t only glamorous. It’s also a quite peculiar state. Surrounded by La France on three sides (and the Mediterranean on the fourth), treaties have been signed with the big sister through the years, severely limiting Monaco’s independence. About 100 years ago, the then prince signed a treaty where

… le Gouvernement de Son Altesse Sérénissime le Prince de Monaco s’engage a exercer ses droits de souveraineté en parfaite conformité avec les intérêts politiques, militaires, navals et économiques de la France.

That’s right. The prince agreed to exercise his sovereignty in perfect conformity with the political, military, naval and economic interests of France. Furthermore, there’s a stipulation about Monaco reverting to the status of a French protectorate, should there be no heir apparent. All this makes Monaco the least independent of the microstates.

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When I was growing up, the Monegasque royal family made the headlines practically every week. The children of Prince Rainier and cinema princess Grace Kelly were involved in one scandal after another. In contrast, I don’t hear much about the present royal children. (But then, competition for scandal headlines seems to be fiercer these days.)

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What do you think of when you hear Monaco? I’ll wager many of you would say Monte Carlo, James Bond, the casino…

But what else can you see and do in Monaco?

Here are a few suggestions:

See the Prince’s Palace

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…and his guards

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Have a look at Monaco Cathedral

where the Royal family, including Grace, is buried and Prince Albert, the current ruler, was married a few years ago…
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Wander around in Monaco ville – the old city

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Follow Parcourse Princesse Grace

Along the Princess Grace Walk, you can catch 25 scenes from her life through mobile technology and a more old-fashioned series of signs and photographs. I was oddly touched by this photo of Grace walking little Stephanie to school in 1970.
B/W photo of Princesses Grace and Stephanie, 1970

Visit the Musée Océanographique

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My favourite. The building housing the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is a work of art in itself, and the contents even better. Keen scientist and explorer Prince Albert I founded this magnificent museum in 1901. I’ve enjoyed strolling through it many times. Often, you’ll find interesting artwork outside as well.

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Practicals:

  • Getting to Monaco: The bus that plies the Mediterranean coastline from Nice to Menton cost only 1 euro. Or you can take the more expensive (but still quite reasonable) train. If you want to splurge a bit and feel you’re part of the Monaco glamour for 15 minutes, the helicopter ride from Nice airport to Monaco costs 125 EUR (discounts for children and seniors).
  • Staying in Monaco: Luxurious hotels and resorts abound in Monte Carlo. How about the 150-year-old Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, location of a few James Bond films? There are also a few hostels – or you can stay in lively Nice or any of numerous picturesque villages along the riviera.

Have you been in Monaco? Did you enjoy it?

22 Responses to “Monaco: All that glitters”

  1. Monica 10 March 2013 2216 #

    Monaco looks absolutely beautiful. I’ve wanted to go there for such a long time and it seems like such an interesting place. One day…
    Monica recently posted..Petting leopards at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Park in South Africa

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 0956 #

      Hope you get a chance to soon, Monica :)

  2. Natalie 11 March 2013 0556 #

    I want to do Monaco but when I have enough money that I don’t need to penny pitch. It doesn’t strike me as one of those destination that deserves to be on a budget travel list
    Natalie recently posted..My Five Favourite Beaches in Turkey

    • Abi 11 March 2013 1237 #

      You can visit for the day by train from Nice…and take a good walk around, one splashy lunch and entrance into the casino. Then vow to come back once you’ve made your millions…!
      Abi recently posted..Mama Shelter Paris – Just Too Cool

      • Anne-Sophie Redisch
        Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 0950 #

        Good plan, Abi :)

  3. Turtle 11 March 2013 0717 #

    I just love the train station! But with real estate costs that high, I guess a bit of fancy lighting is the least of their worries!! :)
    Turtle recently posted..The fields of death

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 0951 #

      Quite a unique train station, I thought.

  4. Cj Thapa 11 March 2013 1115 #

    Wow , that station looks like of gold. The most attractive one.
    Cj Thapa recently posted..Announcement: Trekking Package for 2013 Spring (March, April & May)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 0951 #

      It makes quite a first impression.

  5. Andrea 11 March 2013 1606 #

    We drove through briefly back in 2000 but didn’t stop – I’m guessing the billionaires just buy apartments for the tax free residency status? I know if I had that kind of money I’d sooner build a palace in the surrounding countryside…
    Andrea recently posted..Seeking Orangutans On a Sumatran Jungle Trek

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 0954 #

      The whole area, both along the coast and inland in Provence, is full of gorgeous places to stop – and stay. Monaco is quite different from the rest, though – in so many ways. Worth having a look around, I think.

  6. Mette - Italian Notes 11 March 2013 1828 #

    The old town and the Oceanographic Museum look lovely. Enough to make me want to stop next time I’m driving from Ventimiglia to Nice
    Mette – Italian Notes recently posted..10 interesting gondola facts

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 0955 #

      I’ve been meaning to do a Provence – Cote d’Azur road trip, including the Italian riviera, too.

  7. InsideJourneys 12 March 2013 1647 #

    So what residents save in taxes, they pay over in real estate prices. I guess another way to look at it is if you have to pay that much to live, you shouldn’t have to pay taxes. Still a beautiful place to visit. Was all that display of wealth intimidating?
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Street Food, Jamaican Style

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 March 2013 0758 #

      I didn’t think so. Apart from the yachts in the harbour, it really wasn’t that obvious. And I love boats anyway.

  8. Leigh 12 March 2013 2105 #

    I haven’t been but I’d like to go for 24 hours – if nothing else but to see that lovely sculpture of the baby. When I think of Monaco I instantly think gambling, Princess Grace, tragic lives.
    Leigh recently posted..Snowshoeing to Lake Agnes Teahouse Above Lake Louise

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 March 2013 0759 #

      Hm, tragic lives, yes. Seems to be part of royalty in many places that…

  9. SaritaAgerman 13 March 2013 0218 #

    Loved this post! I’m so intrigued by microstates and I’d love to visit Monaco to see how people live and the mix of people there. thanks for sharing – I learned a lot. Sarita

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 March 2013 0800 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Sarita.

  10. The giant floating baby is a bit odd.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..A celebration for the foodies of Columbus

  11. Abby 24 March 2013 1740 #

    I’ve been to Monaco a few times, but I don’t think I ever saw that train station wow.
    Abby recently posted..My Ode to Foldable Flats

  12. Adri 17 April 2013 1601 #

    What a wonderful post. Thanks for the info! I came to you from Mette Cjristensen.

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