Nestled just inside the borders of France and on the Mediterranean Sea, Monte Carlo is a picturesque and unique destination. One of its main attractions is the main harbor of Monaco with its multi-million-pound yachts bobbing happily in the blue Mediterranean sea. From the higher-level city streets, you get an impressive view of the sea below.
Monaco owes its importance to the rocky promontory which became a protective fortress in the Roman Empire. Strategically placed, it continued to be a prize worth seizing. Remarkably for a continent so riven by wars between rival families and states, it became the property of the Grimaldi family in the early 15th century and except for a brief period, has remained so up to today.
In the early 19th century, the principality lost Menton and Roquebrune and the revenue from the lemons, oranges, and olives that kept the little state wealthy. Looking around for some other form of income, the then ruler, Charles III came up with the idea of a casino. It had a rocky start and wasn't a money-making machine until the railway brought the rich and the reckless to the principality in 1868.
The over-the-top casino is an evocative place, much loved by movie makers. Most famously Monaco was the setting for To Catch a Thief by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly who became Princess Grace of Monaco. It's been featured in the James Bond films, Never Say Never Again (1983) and Golden Eye (1955), plus Iron Man 2 (2010) and several others.
Monte Carlo at Night
Monte Carlo is even more impressive at night when the shore and city sparkle with lights. It's an apt image; many people come to Monte Carlo to gamble the night away at one of the most famous casinos in the world.
There are numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy until the small hours, with the added hope of catching a glimpse, or even sitting near, your favorite Formula I racing driver, or the odd millionaire who lives here at least for part of the year to avoid the heavy taxes elsewhere in Europe.
Monaco Prince's Palace
As one of the rare principalities in Europe, a visit to Monaco is a chance to see the stately Prince's Palace with its stunning architecture and mountain backdrop. The Palace is still the official residence of the Prince of Monaco. The Grimaldi family have ruled the tiny state since the 13th century.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Monaco became glamorous. The marriage between the Prince Ranier and glamorous American film star Grace Kelly just put the icing on the cake.
Monaco Changing of the Guard
Witness the changing of the guard at the Monaco Prince's Palace. It takes place daily at 11.55 am on the square in front of the Palace.
Formula 1 Grand Prix
The world-famous Formula 1 Grand Prix race in Monte Carlo, Monaco pits the world's top drivers against each other for a race through the city's curving streets. It may be the slowest Formula I Grand Prix, but it has pizzazz and style.
Monte Carlo Casino
This luxurious Monte Carlo Casino is an attraction unto itself, and is a centerpiece of the upscale city. It's become the stuff of legends particularly after the song The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo featured in the popular 19th century British music hall song, written in 1892 by Fred Gilbert.
Two men actually broke the bank in the late 19th century. Joseph Jagger was an engineer who used his knowledge to work out the way the roulette wheel span. The second lucky, or clever gambler was Charles Wells, a far more interesting character. Wells was a con artist who defrauded the rich in England and spent the ill-gotten gains at the Casino playing roulette and breaking the bank in 1891. In 1892 he tried again, only to lose and then be arrested at Le Havre. He stood trial in the UK, served 8 years and returned to France to die a pauper in 1926 in Paris.