The Principality of Monaco is one of the smallest states in Europe and is composed of various districts which you need to be familiar with to find your way around. Fontvieille and its small port are in the west next to Monaco-Ville, where the Prince's Palace stands on the famous "Rock", followed by La Condamine, then Larvotto? Perched on the heights facing the sea, Monte Carlo is the heart of the principality.
A must-see for every visitor, this is where the famous Golden Square is located. This small area, where it is good to see and be seen, groups together the Hotel of Paris (Monaco's premier hotel) and the Café de Paris, where you go to dig up the gossip of the day, around the Casino Square. It should go without saying that this is also where you'll find the Casino, in front of which owners of luxurious sports cars rev their engines, making tourists drool and cameras flash.
Every year, fans of the Formula 1 gather on the descent leading to the tightest turn in the Monaco Grand Prix. Renamed the "Fairmont turn" (the eponymous hotel stands overlooking it), the luckiest - and richest - benefit from an unobstructed view of the braking cars from the various rooms set up for the occasion. Once you have the sea before you, on one side there is Port Hercules showing off its luxurious floating palaces, and on the other is the Grimaldi Forum, where a good part of the events that mark the dynamic cultural life of the city are held. In addition, don't miss out on visiting the nicely arranged Japanese Garden, which is right next to it.
A visit to the Oceanographic Museum (website in French only) is a cultural must: inaugurated in 1910 by Prince Albert 1st, it overlooks the sea. The collections exhibited present a variety of marine fauna from various places around the world. Its aquarium is home to a mini representation of Mediterranean and tropical sea life with 4,000 fish species and 200 families of invertebrates. Lastly, the museum was recently used as the site for a contemporary art exhibition by English artist Damien Hirst; perhaps there will be more like it to come.
Those who like unique things from nature will surely go to the Exotic Garden. This "extraordinary garden" planted on the side of the Rock, brings together several thousands of plant species known as "succulents", meaning plants resulting from dry climates such as cacti. These plants come from several remote arid zones, like in the north-west of the United States, Mexico, and Central America? and compete to be noticed with their extravagant shapes.
The first thing to see is the Casino Square, with its Belle Epoque architectural style. If you feel like going for a stroll, you can walk around in the lanes of the "old town" (which you'll see is really quite tiny) and visit the Chapelle de La Paix and the Rampe Major.
Fans of flora will be able to visit the Roseraie Princesse Grace, which boasts 4,000 blooming roses (during the right season, of course).
For those passionate about cars, Prince Rainier III collected a large collection of old cars which can now be viewed by the public. More than 100 vehicles carefully restored over a period of 30 years are gathered in the Monaco Top Cars Collection located in the district of Fontvieille. You will find a pretty good selection of the models produced by the largest European and American manufacturers from the last century.
Back in the Monaco-Ville district, the cultural tour can be completed by climbing the Rock and visiting the Prince's Palace.
If you are a devoted fan of cars and wish to attend the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, make sure you make your bookings a long time in advance. In the principality itself, prices can skyrocket. Nevertheless, if you are intent on staying near the track, you just have to book your hotel before all of the establishments display a "no vacancies" sign in their windows.
If you are driving, pay attention to police checks, don't exceed the speed limits, and don't park in a no-parking zone: the Monegasque police are extremely active. You risk receiving an on-the-spot fine!
The cuisine is Mediterranean with Italian and French specialities, and features many recipes from Provençal-Niçoise cuisine. As in any seaside town, don't hesitate to taste the fish specialities.
All of the famous luxury brands are showcased in the principality. On the other hand, unfortunately there are no local handicrafts to be found.
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