There's more to Monaco than race cars and a luxe casino. Read on for more about this tiny independent nation.
1. Since gaining its independence from the Republic of Genoa in 1297, Monaco has been ruled by the Grimaldi family, making that line the oldest ruling family in Europe. In 2002, the constitutional monarchy signed a treaty with France allowing it to remain an independent nation, even if the family should stop producing heirs.
2. At just 0.75 square miles, Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. (The smallest, of course, is Vatican City.) Monaco's total land area is about the size of New York City’s Central Park. It takes just under an hour (about 56 minutes, actually) to walk the width of Monaco.
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5. Despite its small size, there are several higher education institutions within the country, including the Rainier III Academy of Music and the Nursing School at the Princess Grace Hospital Complex.
6. Monaco’s red-and-white flag looks exactly like Indoensia’s except there’s one slight difference: Indonesia’s is wider. Yes, that’s it.
7. The city’s biggest attraction is the Casino de Monte Carlo. Citizens, however, are not allowed to gamble—or even enter!—the establishment. Its most notable, and perhaps most frequent, visitor: James Bond. The international spy hits the casino in Never Say Never Again, Golden Eye, and Casino Royale.
Hollywood has long had a love affair with the tiny principality. In fact, more than 50 films have taken place in Monaco, including Iron Man 2 and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.
9. Grace Kelly first met Prince Rainier III at a photoshoot during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. He proposed (with a 10.47 carat ring!) during a diplomatic trip to the States later that year.
10. …In keeping with tradition, however, Kelly's Philadelphia-based family had to pay the royal family a whopping $2 million dowry.
Kelly's 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier—watched by an estimated 30 million on television—was outdone by the birth of their first son, Albert II, who currently rules Monaco. The occasion was marked with a 21-gun salute and the day after was declared a national holiday. Gambling at the casino was put on hold, and everyone was treated to free champagne.
12. Prince Albert II attended Amherst College in the U.S. where he studied a number of subjects, including political science and economics. He has also played on Monaco's national soccer team and competed in three Olympic games as part of Monaco's bobsled team.
13. In 2011, Albert married Charlene Wittstock, an Olympic swimmer from South Africa. Three years later, the couple welcomed twins: daughter Gabriella and son Jacques. Although Gabriella was technically born first, Prince Jacques was declared next in line for the throne because priority is still given to male children. (Had both twins been girls, the eldest would have been declared the heir.)
14. Monaco's National Museum is the perfect stop for anyone with an appreciation of creepy dolls: the institution houses thousands of 19th century toys, as well as a number of automatons. Wind some of the dolls up, and they'll play the piano and even sigh.
15. Another must-see: The country's Musée Oceanographique, one of the largest oceanographic museums in the world. Its aquarium contains approximately 6000 specimens, and its collection underwent a recent renovation by artist Mark Dion, who modeled the new display after 19th century curio cabinets.
16. Last summer, visitors to Monaco's Grimaldi Forum were treated to a dining experience as gorgeous as delicious. Every item at the pop-up Pantone Cafe, from the napkins to the coffee, was labeled with its corresponding Pantone color code.
17. Monaco stopped collecting income tax back in 1869 because the country's casino raked in more than enough cash to sustain government operations.
19. The writer Somerset Maugham once described Monaco as a "sunny place for shady people," but its reputation may be undeserved. Contrary to popular belief, Monaco is not much of a tax haven for the wealthy; despite the lack of income tax, residents are charged a 19.6 percent value-added tax on goods and services, and corporations must pony up a third of their total profits.
20. Every September the city hosts the Monaco Yacht Show, where more than 500 companies exhibit the newest yachts on the market, including so-called super yachts. The super yachts on display have only gotten more, well, super over the years; the average length of the massive craft exhibited last year was 154 feet.
21. In the spring, there’s the Monaco Grand Prix, a Formula One race held every year since 1929. Drivers tackle the narrow course filled with elevation changes, tight corners and tunnels. If you're looking to catch the event, be forewarned that there are no cheap seats; Tickets can go for as much as $2750.
When the Grand Prix is in full swing, the Hotel de Paris sells close to 2000 bottles of champagne.
23. That bubbly is housed in the hotel's wine cellar, one of the most legendary in the world. The collection, which dates back to 1874, boasts 450,000 bottles, including 55 different kinds of champagne.
24. At night, tourists clamber into Jimmy’z nightclub. Known as the Temple of Clubbing, the spot draws in American, Italian, and Parisian jet-setters and international celebrities, including Bono and George Clooney.
25. The city’s beloved football team, AS Monaco, have won seven titles in the top French league. The players wear red and white uniforms and are often referred to as Les Rouge et Blanc (the red and whites).