Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco, is a micro-state in Western Europe.  Actually, this is the second smallest independent state in the world (after the Vatican) and is entirely urban.

Monaco is surrounded by France on three sides and the remaining part of the country is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea.

I arrived from the train station which I noticed was entirely in marble.

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Train station in Monte Carlo

Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state.

The official language is French, but Monégasque, Italian, and English are widely spoken and understood.

The state’s sovereignty was officially recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861, with Monaco becoming a full United Nations voting member in 1993. Despite Monaco’s independence and separate foreign policy, its defense is the responsibility of France. Yap, that’s true. Monaco does not have its own major defense force. The country’s defense is France’ responsibility.

In more recent years, Monaco has become a major banking centre and due to no income tax, low business taxes became a tax haven

It is also the host of the annual street circuit motor race Monaco Grand Prix, one of the original Grands Prix of Formula One.

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Start of Formula 1 Grand Prix 

Monaco Grand Prix is one of the main events that the country hosts every year. If you are curious about the winner of the event, note that Ayrton Senna has won the Grand Prix 6 times, more than any other race car driver.

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In 15th century, the Grimaldi family purchased Monaco from the Crown of Aragon and became the official and undisputed rulers of “the Rock of Monaco”. The story tells that Grimaldi was good in cheating with cards and gambling so he got the Rock of Monaco by scam and founded the country.

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 Rainier I of Grimaldi, victor of the naval battle at Zierikzee and first sovereign Grimaldi ruler of Monaco

 

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Monaco was founded on the Rock of Monaco

Unfortunately since then, the entire royal family has been cursed. The latest curse occurred in 1982 when beautiful Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly died in a car crash after marrying Prince Rainier III.

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Entire Monaco filled with photos of Princess of Monaco

She is buried in Saint Nicholas Cathedral which is also known as Monaco Cathedral which was built in 19th century.

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Cathédrale de Monaco
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Cathedral of Monaco – view from the west

Three of James Bond Films have been shot here in Monte-Carlo Casino. Why not? The casino is so classy that even the best of the James Bond films need to shoot a scene or two here. Unfortunately I was not allowed to enter, but the casino and the buildings around are stunning:

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Casino

Casino de Monte-Carlo was opened in Monaco in 1863. Inside are the gambling tables since 19th century.

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Do not be surprised to learn that the native of Monaco are not allowed to gamble here and visit the casino. The rule is imposed by the country’s government, which does not want its citizens to gamble away their money. The casino is a source of income for the country and provides employment to its residents.

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Although the current Princess Caroline is accredited with establishing gambling casinos in Monaco to support the House of Grimaldi (the ruling family of Monaco) from bankruptcy.

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For the rich and famous people from across the world, Monaco is a premier tourist destination and recreation center. So the view on the seaside is actually the view on rich and expensive yachts and streets are filled with luxurious cars.

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While wandering around I was bumping into many parks and gardens but the most popular one is the Rose garden of Princess Grace Kelly created in 1984 as a memorial to princess. The garden features more than 4,000 roses.

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Princess Grace Rose Garden

Climbing up the hill you will actually get to the Old Town of Monaco. This is also known as Monaco Ville or Le Rocher (eng. the Rock) and is the government and historical centre of the Principality, as well as being one of the two main tourist sites.

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Typical medieval alleyways of Monaco’s old town

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The Prince’s Palace, official residence of the Prince and Princess of Monaco, location of the Royal court, almost a city within the city is there as well, located at the Palace square.

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Prince’s Palace

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Since the end of the 13th century, it has been the stronghold and home of the mentioned Grimaldi family.

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During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the palace and its owners became symbols of the slightly risqué glamour and decadence that were associated with Monte Carlo and the French Riviera. Glamour and theatricality became reality when the American film star Grace Kelly became chatelaine of the palace in 1956. In the 21st century, the palace remains the residence of the current Prince of Monaco.

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Portrait of Princess Grace & Prince Rainier of Monaco with Family, 1981. The son Albert ll is current monarch
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