Monaco © Hampus Cullin
An independent city-state west of the French Côte d'Azur, the Principality of Monaco is the playground of Europe's celebrities and idle rich. Most people are drawn by the sun, glamorous lifestyle, and tax-free income.
There are more millionaires per capita in Monaco than anywhere else on the planet. But true Monacans make up only about 15% of the population in country packed with wealth, opulence, and the world's most expensive real estate.
The sweeping roads of its unofficial capital Monte Carlo serve as the course for the legendary Monaco Grand Prix. The buildings which line the streets are themselves unattractive monstrosities, huge tiered blocks that belie the fabulous lives of its residents.
However, Monaco does have a suitably glamorous history. Disguised as a Franciscan monk, Francois Grimaldi reclaimed a fortress on the Rock of Monaco from a rival Italian bloc in 1297. This gave the principality its name, deriving from the word 'monk'.
Soon becoming a major prosperous port, Lord Honore II took power in 1604 and declared himself prince. France later annexed Monaco, with the Grimaldis regaining power. In the late 1800s, Prince Charles created the Societe des Bains de Mer in order to restore wealth. It consisted of a casino, hotels, and a theatre, from which sprung the glittering Monte Carlo area.
Monaco isn't good for those who love the great outdoors, apart from a few ornate parks. Those with light wallets should also stay away, unless they want to try their luck filling it up in Monaco's famous Casino de Monte Carlo. If one wants to rub cloaks with royalty and high society, then Monaco is the place to be.
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