Monaco first came into my consciousness during college when I read a story about the Grimaldi Family curse which doomed members to endure unhappy married lives. The Grimaldi Family, one of the oldest dynasties in the world, is the ruler of the Principality of Monaco.
It was supposed that an ancestor of the Grimaldis kidnapped and violated a beautiful maiden who was the source from whence the family curse came. Indeed, just by looking at the scandals that blemished the royal family’s name, one could presume that there was some truth to that curse.
However, I was not intrigued by the curse or any scandal that befell this royal family; I was fascinated about the Principality itself which was a tiny country, one of the smallest in the world. I just could not reconcile that such a small territory, no bigger than a large park, could be an independent country with its own government.
Principality – a country ruled by a Prince
Monaco the microstate
Severely interested with Monaco, I read about it whenever an opportunity presented itself – that was mostly in the UP Library via books and the internet. With my succeeding researches about Monaco, I found out that it was located off the coast of the French Riviera.
It was one of the top and most opulent tourist destinations in the world. It was a gambling hub, as well as a citadel of art, music, and sports. Monaco’s residents are also mostly rich and powerful personalities who drive around the ancient streets of the Principality in their luxury cars. Monaco was a haven for those who love, and can afford, the lavish lifestyle.
Monaco is divided into four districts: the old town of Monaco which sits atop a rocky cliff, the main business center of La Condamine, the gambling district of Monte-Carlo, and Frontvieille which is an area reclaimed from the sea.
The three largest ethnic groups living in Monaco are the French, Monegasque, and Italian.
Traveling around Monaco
Since Monaco is very small, the best way to go around is on foot. However, there are buses within the city state that go around shops, museums, and other tourist attractions.
Here are the top places to visit in Monaco:
The Old Town of Monaco
Also known as “The Rock,” the ancient town of Monaco dates back to the middle ages. Here, you can find the stunning Place Saint Nicolas and Placette Bosio, the Chapel of Mercy, Palais de Justice and the Cathedral, a Roman-Byzantine style building built in 1875.
Each day, the much-awaited changing of the guards happens in front of the Princely Palace, the official residence of the Grimaldi Family, at 11:55 AM so you might want to secure a good spot where you may watch this spectacle. I have read that parts of the Princely Palace are open to visitors so that is definitely worth checking.
Other sights to see at Monaco are the Saint Martin Gardens, the Oceanographic Museum, and the Museum of the Chapel of Visitation.
The town of Monte-Carlo is the site of the magnificent Place du Casino, frequented by those who love to try their hand with lady luck. However, there is much more to see at the casino. Watch an opera at the Salle Garnier, marvel at the artworks housed inside the casino, visit fine jewelry and antique shops, or take a stroll around the Casino Gardens and Terraces – the things that you can do seemed endless!
Other places to see at Monte-Carlo are the Grimaldi forum, an events center; the National Museum, the Japanese Garden, Trocadero Garden, Place des Moulins, and the Esplanade du Larvotto.
The reclaimed area of Frontvielle is home to the Stade Louis II, which is Monaco’s sports complex; the Scuplture Path, the Rose Garden, several notable museums such as the Exhibition of HSH The Prince of Monaco’s Vintage Car Collection, the Museum of Stamps and Coins, and Naval Museum.
If you want to experience what the daily life in Monaco is, then La Condamine is the place to go to. Here, you will see stalls with fresh produce on display. There are also small cafes where you can enjoy a quick or light bite.
Some of the places to see here are the breathtaking gardens one may admire exotic plants, the Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology, and the Observatory Prehistoric Cave.
Going to Monaco
France is the most convenient access point going to Monaco with Cote d’Azur Airport in nice being the nearest landing field. Although one may charter a helicopter ride or take a train going to Monaco, possibly the most recommended transportation if you want to enjoy the stunning countryside vista is via bus, not the express but the regular Bus #100.
Applying for visa (for Filipinos)
Filipinos are required to secure a visa in order to enter Monaco. Since Monaco (as well as France) is part of the Schengen Area, one needs to apply for a Schengen Visa.
For more information and other requirement, Filipinos may get in touch with the following:
Consulate General of the Principality of Monaco
Address: #1, Arguilla Street, San Lorenzo Village, Makati, 1200 Metro Manila
Phone: (02) 812 1169
Monegasque Consulate in Metro Manila, Philippines
Address: 2178 Paraiso Street, Dasmarinas Village, Makati, 1221 Metro Manila
Phone: (02) 810 9729
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