Monaco's Tourism Industry

Monaco is a small independent city-state on the French Riviera, being around two square miles in size. Despites its diminutive stature, it has a population of around 36,000 people, making it the second most densely populated country in the world after Vatican City.

Bordered by France on three sides, its fourth side is open to the Mediterranean sea on the French Riviera, one of the most glamorous and beautiful places in Europe. It is a principality under the rule of Prince Albert II, a constitutional monarch who nonetheless wields enormous political power.

Monaco's most popular assets are without doubt its spectacular scenery, mild climate and four casinos, the most famous of which, the Monte Carlo, first opened its doors in the late nineteenth century. For over a hundred years royalty and the rich and famous have arrived by train or private yacht to enjoy the Riviera, gamble, and be seen.

The association with the glitterati continued when, in 1956, Prince Rainier III married Hollywood actress Grace Kelly.

The Monte Carlo casino was integral to the development of Monaco as it is today. It was so popular, and made the ruling family, the Grimaldis, so wealthy that in 1869 they could afford to stop collecting income tax from the citizens of the principality. This attracted a high number of wealthy individuals known as tax refugees to the city. It still has no income tax to this day.

The very nature of Monaco and its history makes it an expensive place to stay and play, but price tags (expect to pay around €10 for a bottle of Heineken) are more than made up for by the quality of service and luxury tourists can expect wherever they go.

For a small city-state, Monaco certainly packs a lot in. Depending on the time of year you visit, there are a wide variety of entertainments available, over and above the museums, restaurants, casinos, art galleries and leisure activities. For four days in May, Monaco hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix, one of only two street circuits raced each season. Hotels with rooms fronting onto the circuit are reserved quickly, so if you are a motorsport lover, ensure you book early.

Summer brings the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra out to play a series of concerts in the open air of the Main Courtyard at the Princely Palace.

The autumn sees the start of the opera season, which runs through until May. Some of the finest operas and performers grace the stages of Monaco. Why not attend a Verdi or a Haydn and then retreat to one of the four Michelin-starred restaurants for a late supper overlooking the harbour? And after that, of course, a trip to a casino. Winter is also the season for the International Circus Festival, which performs at the Fonteville Big Top.

For the more active, all year round, a visit to one of Monaco's many gardens is a must. The Japanese Garden and the Exotic Garden - planted into the face of a cliff - are particularly worth visiting, as are the beautiful terraces surrounding the casinos. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Monaco boasts a wealth of flora amongst its beautiful streets and buildings.

But if all that just sounds a bit too much like hard work, then tourists can simply retreat to the Larvotto public beach and rent a sunbed and parasol, and watch the yachts come and go to the Hercule harbour further down the coast.

Every trip to Monaco should include a visit to at least one of the four casinos. The oldest, grandest and most well-known is, of course, the Casino Monte Carlo. Even before stepping inside, the incredible architecture of the building is worth pausing to admire. Once within its walls, tourists, amateurs and professional gamblers can experience a little bit of 'Casino Royale' treatment. As befitting a great place, the casino operates a dress code, but also hosts the most complete range of table games in Europe and is open from 2pm daily. Private rooms open at different times on different days, so it is worth enquiring beforehand to ensure you arrive on time.

And of course, no trip is complete without a hotel. Monaco hosts fourteen luxury and regular hotels within its borders. From the famous and luxurious Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo and the Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo to a simpler Novotel or a Miramar, Monaco has facilities to suit all budgets.

Whatever your interests, Monaco and Monte-Carlo can cater to them. Lovers of museums, architecture, art and opera can rub shoulders with Hollywood stars whiling away an evening at the blackjack tables, gastronomes can sit opposite entrepreneurs and people-watchers can be watched in their turn by members of royal houses.

Monaco is certainly the jewel in Europe's crown and should be on everybody's list of places to visit.