The independent principality of Monaco is famous as the playground of the Côte d'Azur. With sandy beaches, elegant hotels and a vibrant nightlife, this tiny domain is a favourite haunt of the jet set. In the possession of the Grimaldi family for more then 700 years, treaties with France guarantee Monaco's independence.
The population of the fashionable enclave is 32,000 citizens, for an area smaller than New York's Central Park, but it boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world. In addition to its luxury hotels and beautiful beaches, Monaco is noted for its mild climate and magnificent scenery.
Once an exclusive wintering stop for Europe's aristocracy and royalty, today there are more than 5 million visitors annually. Of the principality's four sections - La Condamine, Fontvieille, Monaco-Ville and Monte Carlo, the latter two rank highest on every visitor's must-see list. In Monte Carlo, the Grand Casino and Opera is perhaps Monaco's most outstanding attraction. For more than a century, the principality's livelihood was centred beneath the copper roof of this splendid establishment.
The resemblance to the Paris Opera House is less than accidental since they share the same architect, Charles Garnier. Also facing the square are the famed Hotel de Paris and the more modest Café de Paris. Monte Carlo spells sophistication; it is the epitome of elegance and glamour. Year after year, the rich and famous of business and entertainment gather here to bask in the sun, gamble at the world's most opulent casino and attend spectacular parties.
Nothing typifies more the elegant lifestyle of the Côte d'Azur than glamorous Monte Carlo. Situated on a rocky peninsula, Monaco-Ville comprises the old town and the seat of Monaco's government. Narrow streets lead to the Prince's Palace high above the sea. The 19th-century Romanesque cathedral contains impressive works of art and the tombs of Princess Grace and Prince Rainer III, while the Parliament building and the Oceanographic Museum offer additional points of interest.
As if Monaco's splendid attributes weren't enough, the surrounding areas with their incredibly beautiful scenery are additional attractions.