This tiny city-state on the south coast of France has a truly individual personality. Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world, but its staggering wealth and heady hedonism more than make up for its size. French and Italian influences shape its style, food and dialect and the glamorous Italian Riviera is just a few miles away.
Monaco is split into four areas; Monaco-Ville is the old city, Condamine is the port quarter, Fontvieille, and Monte Carlo. Playground of the rich and famous, your holiday to Monaco is not complete without exploring Monte Carlo. This area is home to legendary and lavish casinos and a plethora of smart restaurants. In summer, the streets of Monaco are taken over by the Grand Prix, and this event is also one of the highlights of the busy social calendar.
Monaco-Ville is a distinct corner of Monaco, its old town offering winding lanes perched atop a dramatic pistol-shaped rock. This area is best explored on foot, and for a great view of the rest of Monaco it is well worth walking up the 16th-century pedestrian walkway of the Rampe Major. At the top of Monaco-Ville is the palace, built as a fortress in the 13th century that is currently the private residence of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene. You can tour the state apartments or witness the changing of the guard at 11.55 am every morning.
A sumptuous structure of marble and gold, Monte Carlo’s casino is legendary and a visit there is one of the most memorable aspects of a Monaco holiday. It is open every morning for visitors to nose around and absorb the stunning belle époque architecture. From 2pm it is adults only, and you can try your hand in one of the many rooms or watch the Bond-esque professionals do their thing in the Salon Privés. Smart dress is recommended in the evening, when the full elegance of the casino puts on a dazzling display.
Monaco boasts one of the best aquariums in the world, and its precarious position on a cliff edge makes it all the more exciting. The star of the show is a lagoon where sharks and other marine predators are separated by a coral reef from a rainbow of tropical fish. You can trace the history of marine biology through the other rooms, complete with over 90 tanks and many interactive exhibits. Once you have reached fish saturation point, head to the rooftop terrace to relax in the café and admire the panoramic views over Monaco.
If the glamour and the conspicuous consumption of your holiday in Monaco get too much, take refuge in the peace of this beautiful garden. The Jardin Exotique is also home to the world’s largest collection of cacti. The walking tour takes in some of the world’s rarest species, and there is also a grotto which you can access via a guided tour.