The principality of Monaco is a bizarre little place. Situated to the east of the French Riviera, the country is very small and dominated by the city of Monte Carlo. Everything in the principality caters to the wealthy, so budget travelers beware.
Historically, the Grimaldi royal family has and continues to dominate Monaco. There influence is everywhere and, as you’ve probably noticed, one of them seems to be in tabloid news every day. Regardless, they have managed to stay in power for hundreds of years and turned Monaco into the expat haven of Europe through lax tax laws.
Monte Carlo is the only city of significance in Monaco. The city is perched above the ocean and fairly dramatic. There is an old Europe charm, but modern hotels, resorts and so on are blended in nicely. Instead of Ford or Toyota dealerships, Monaco is peppered with Ferrari and Porsche stores. This upgrade in cost occurs consistently throughout the city and it is the only place I’ve ever paid $75 for dinner in a Mexican restaurant.
No mention of Monte Carlo would be complete without mentioning Formula One racing. Every year, the city hosts the Monaco Grand Prix on the tiny streets of the city. The race is a bit boring because it is nearly impossible to pass, but attending the race is definitely something you should do at least once.
The Monaco Grand Prix is the coming out party for the extremely wealth. The harbor is full of yachts that make an oil tanker look small. There is more jewelry and glitz than you can possibly imagine. The decadence factor is through the roof and the people watching aspect is incredibly entertaining. Although you may come away a bit disgusted by the over indulgence, you’ll definitely come away with some good stories.