https://www.flickr.com/photos/christianteillas/6795708752 Credit: Christian Teillas

Ah, Monaco. Where to begin? What to discuss? Monaco is the dream topic for a lifestyle section, yet partly because of this it has been giving me a bit of a headache. Perhaps it would be easier if I had actually visited… anyone have a spare few thousand Euros they could lend me?

It’s not just the challenging track or the history of the event that makes this Grand Prix a special one. It’s something about the glitz and glamour of the principality itself.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/christianteillas/6795708752 Credit: Christian Teillas
https://www.flickr.com/photos/christianteillas/6795708752
Credit: Christian Teillas

History

Firstly, a bit of history. How did Monaco come to be? It all starts on the Rock of Monaco. The name is possibly derived from the phrase ‘Herakles Monoïkos’ (Hercules alone). Apparently the Greek hero passed through the area, and the port is still called Port Hercules today.

Monaco fell under Roman rule before the fall of the empire, and there followed much fighting and recapturing and changing hands until June 10, 1215. Now a colony of Genoa, construction began on a fortress on the Rock of Monaco.

There was tension in Genoa between the Ghibellines, loyal to the Emperor, and the Guelphs, faithful to the Pope. Monaco was fought over by the two sides, until Francesco Grimaldi of the Guelph party captured the Rock of Monaco in 1297 dressed as a monk. Today the coat of arms depicts two armed Franciscan monks.

In 1861, Monaco exchanged part of its territory for cash and independence from France. Prince Charles III, ruler at the time, decided that tourism and gambling were the ways to kick-start the economy. He created the Société des Bains de Mer, and the company’s establishments developed into modern-day Monte Carlo. Monte Carlo actually means ‘Mount Charles’, after Charles III. Nowadays, the Société des Bains de Mer is Monaco’s largest employer.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/apbialek/395414839 Credit: apbialek
https://www.flickr.com/photos/apbialek/395414839
Credit: apbialek

Random Facts

Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world, roughly the size of New York’s Central Park.

As well as one of the first major casinos in the world, the main square of Monte Carlo, Place du Casino, is home to Loews Casino, Café de Paris, Hotel Metropole and Hôtel de Paris. The Hôtel de Paris has two Michelin-starred restaurants: Le Grill, and Louis XV, which has three Michelin stars.

Honoré II, Lord of Monaco, was the first to be called Prince.

Until 2002, if the reigning prince produced no heirs, he could either adopt – and break the Grimaldi line – or Monaco would revert to French control. Now the crown can pass to women – sisters of the Prince or their descendants.

The official language is French, but the national Monégasque language has many similarities with Italian.

Native Monégasques are actually in the minority living in the principality (19%). Many of the residents move to Monaco, at least temporarily, because of…

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cicciopizzettaro/12035651803 Credit: Stefano Bertolotti
https://www.flickr.com/photos/cicciopizzettaro/12035651803
Credit: Stefano Bertolotti

Money, Money, Money

Given that there is no income tax in Monaco, it is popular with wealthy Europeans. Back in 2002, it was estimated that the money leaving Britain for Monaco each year was a loss to the Treasury of £1 billion.

Monaco has an unemployment rate of 0% and the highest number of billionaires per capita in the world. The most expensive street in the world is Avenue Princesse Grace, named after film star Grace Kelly, who became part of the royal family when she married Prince Rainier III in 1956.

So how does it generate an income? Monaco was sustained by its casinos for years. (Although, interestingly, Monaco citizens cannot gamble in the casinos.) Tourism is still one of the main sources of income. However, if you’re planning a visit, make sure you take enough spending money – a glass of champagne can cost up to €40.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/carspotter/4935704188 Credit: CarSpotter
https://www.flickr.com/photos/carspotter/4935704188
Credit: CarSpotter

Formula One and Monaco

If you’re going for the Grand Prix (lucky you), you can check out the car collection of Prince Rainier III at the Prince’s Palace, which boasts several F1 cars.

You can also spot celebrities: Will Smith, George Lucas, David Hasselhoff, Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio have all previously been in Monte Carlo for this most prestigious of Grands Prix.

And of course, you’re bound to spot an F1 driver, past or present. A popular place for them to stay is the Columbus Hotel, formerly owned by David Coulthard, where Vettel, Webber and Alonso have all stayed. Outside of the GP week, you might even run into Hamilton, Button, Coulthard, Rosberg, or one of the many F1 drivers that call the principality home.

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Links:

http://www.visitmonaco.com

http://www.monte-carlo.mc/en/general/history-of-monaco/

http://www.monaco-consulate.com/index.php/about/history/

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Berkley Myers
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Berkley Myers

Ah Monaco, I still have found memories of my day visit, unfortunately, Thursday before the 2000 GP. Just being there makes you kinda feel like part of the “in crowd”, even if you are on a Euro trip in college. Prices didn’t seem outrageous if you found the right places. You can actually go into, at least part of, the casino. Although there are no penny slots… For F1, at that time, EVERYTHING, was open to the public (or I just didn’t get caught?). I touched the McLaren car as it was in line for tech. inspection and sat on… Read more »

Negative Camber
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Negative Camber

Where did you sit for the race?

Berkley Myers
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Berkley Myers

I was only able to stay for the day that Thursday :( train to catch. I sat in a number of grand stands just to see what the views were. Best viewing is probably from the hill/cliff Rocher. I like the seats at turn one, which if you are high enough you could see part of the swimming pool. At that time anyway. My first choice would be the stands coming out of the tunnel. Good view of an action spot, yachts and a nice harbor breeze. …no expense spot would be the rooftop hotel pool since you can see… Read more »

NeilM
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NeilM

I’ve been there a number of times, and even driven round some portions of the track after they’d started setting it up the week before the race. You can’t drive it all because of the one way streets, which is probably just as well. The Monagasques aren’t looking for a rental car grand prix.

Monte Carlo is actually a rather quiet and boring place other than while the F1 circus is in town. Of course if the megayacht you sailed in on is moored in the harbor, then I guess you brought your own entertainment.

adaptable1
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adaptable1

So my buddy went to Monaco a few years ago (not for the Grand Prix), and he text me from the hotel because he couldn’t figure out how to use the toilet in his hotel room. Apparently it was so small, it was impossible to sit on it. He ended up going to the lobby every time he need to drop the kids off at the pool.

Of the city states on the calendar, I think I prefer Singapore as a destination a little more. It has the highest concentration of millionaires per capita in the world.

jeff
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jeff

Lauren, thank you for the tip re: Museum of Antique Automobiles; I didn’t know and would have lamented missing it. We’re literally on the tarmac waiting on the for departure; so excited. If only he gave a hoot about F1, we could have left in time for FP’s 1 and 2. Current generation hyper cars are blah, but it’ll be exciting seeing some vintage beauties on the road, no doubt helmed by distinguished, grey-templed yet somehow-still-boyish playboys flaunting this season’s arm candy; perhaps a 250 Lusso/Cal Spyder, or a 328 Roadster, 550 Spyder? Going to take the rental Opel Astra… Read more »

jeff
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jeff

Greetings from a mostly pleasant Monaco! I realize this blog isn’t an audience travelog, but thought since Lauren’s done such a nice job introducing grands prix venues, some personal observations might be interesting to those contemplating a future trip. I personally feared Monaco’s damage to the bank account, and wanted to share my experience: In a phrase: Don’t Worry! Spending the day out, it’s clear Monaco caters to a broad demographic; upwardly-mobile, true, but a far cry from solely a tax haven for the absurdly wealthy. I’ve seen numerous cafe’s/pizzerieas where one can snag a meal for less than $10… Read more »

jeff
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jeff

Being allowed to walk a 2-lane road where hours before F1 cars were Qualifying, and in several hours time F1 cars will be racing, is a unique experience. As is seeing a drunk dude puking on the tarmac near a Hotel de Paris fountain in Casino Square. Poor traction indeed!

Rik
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Rik

I was in Monaco this past January. It’s a 20 minute drive from the Nice airport provided there’s no road construction. I was smart/stupid and stay’d in Monaco at the Fairmont Hotel. Nice place with a casino in the lobby. Rooms were nice sized and clean. For the prices they’d better be. In the non GP weekend’s you can drive the entire course as I took the rental car around and around and around. After about 10pm the one’s with excess monies seem to want to stage their own mini Ferrari/ Lamborghini GP on the same course. Guess the police… Read more »

Frank Rapisardi
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Frank Rapisardi

I was at Monaco this year as a member of the press .You can visit the museum which holds Rainier’s collection . My friend , Serge Dermanian of Nice was the curator of the Rainier Collection for years . Monaco was GREAT this year , 2014 .

ViroFLY
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ViroFLY

Nice article Lauren. Monaco is also my ultimate favorite destination. Can’t go wrong during the Film Festival or summer.