Monaco, a country less than one square mile in area, has been under Grimaldi family rule for more than seven centuries. As it has long been considered a tax haven for an international crowd of wealthy expats, people tend to forget that Monaco was in fact the poorest country in Europe in the mid-19th century, with rocky soil and few natural resources. In 1863, however, Prince Charles III opened the Casino de Monte-Carlo, an ornate gambling house and the principality became home to the still all-powerful, state-owned, Société des Bains de Mer (SBM). Prince Rainier’s accession, in 1949, was when the real myth- and moneymaking began. Even today, the very mention of Monte-Carlo, the wealthiest of Monaco’s four quarters, conjures the dashing prince’s whirlwind courtship of and eventual marriage to American movie actress Grace Kelly. This fairy-tale romance fashioned the glittering image that continues to fascinate visitors.

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep…in the former home of Karl Lagerfeld at the Belle Epoque villa La Vigie
  • Experience…a day of spa treatments and sea therapies at Les Thermes Marins
  • Splurge…on a meal at Louis XV, Alain Ducasse’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant
  • Eat…with a view on the terrace of Elsa
  • Drink…coffee or cocktails on the terrace of Café de Paris
  • Savor…an afternoon in a private cabana at the Monte Carlo Beach Club
  • Visit…the Monte Carlo Casino, if only to see the Belle Epoque architecture
  • See…a performance by renowned dance group Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
  • Shop…for luxury watches at Zegg & Cerlati
  • Know…that as an Indagare member you can contact our Bookings Team for customized recommendations and itineraries.

Lay of the Land

The sovereign state of Monaco is a finger of land split into four districts. The best known of these is glittery Monte-Carlo. Perched on a hill to the east of the harbor, it is home to the Garnier-designed casino and opera house, old-world hotels and countless designer boutiques and jewelry shops radiating from the Place du Casino.

At sea level, the port area of La Condamine feels more like a residential neighborhood. Along the quay, the restaurants, art galleries and local Yacht Club are always buzzing, but you’ll also see simple wooden fishing boats unloading their catch of the day. The industrial lofts overlooking the harbor have been renovated to create a chic enclave, and the area is now home to Radio Monte-Carlo and to private ateliers for an international group of artists, including Fernando Botero, Sacha Sosno and Valerio Adami.

Above the harbor to the southwest is Monaco Ville, otherwise known as the Le Rocher—the Rock—a tiny medieval town of winding cobblestoned streets dominated by the Grimaldi Palais Princier. The inevitable tourist shops are designed for camera-toting royalty gawkers, but don’t miss out on the Rock’s spectacular gardens, the cathedral and an admirable oceanography museum.

Jutting into the Mediterranean, across the border from the French village Cap-d’Ail, Fontvieille is a residential and industrial sprawl of pricey modern concrete high-rises, along with a shopping mall and a pretty rose garden that was dedicated to the much-mourned Princess Grace. On the principality’s northeastern border is the Larvotto, known for its sandy beaches, boutiques and restaurants, as well as for the Sporting Club, where glittering galas and summer concerts are held.

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Beyond… Monaco

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