If it weren't for the pint-sized Vatican City, Monaco would be the world's smallest country. At 1.95 sq km, tiny Monaco is a mountainous wedge carved into the French Mediterranean coast, nine miles east of Nice, France. It's a sovereign state carrying its own flag, national holiday (November 19th), country telephone code, and traditional dialect learned by all school children. The official langue is French but you still see street signs in the Monegasque dialect, especially in the old Monaco Ville quarter. When people think of Monaco, images of Grace Kelly and the royal family are conjured up like a fairy tale, as is the famously glamorous Monte Carlo casino featured in countless movies, along with the sensational Grand Prix where Formula One race cars whizz through the winding streets.
And with the city/country's manicured streets, cliff-top palaces, lushly green parks, and old-world charm, Monaco really does look like something out of a story book.
It was the Genoese who, in 1215, built a fortress on the present site of Monaco. The current royal family (the Grimaldis) secured control of the land later in that century, and seven hundred years later, they still control the land today. The country's striking scenery, Mediterranean climate, and penchant for gambling have made Monaco famous through the centuries.
Other than the obvious sites that are hard to miss anyway in such a little place — such as the royal family's castle and the Monte Carlo casino — there are lots of little-known treasures to explore where you can dodge the crowds. For nightlife, try Blue Gin, a local favorite cocktail bar with a champagne terrace with a view to die for. For a more casual hangout, try Flashman's, an English-run disco bar and pub where you can drink beer or sip wine while watching the locals. Jimmy'z is the most famous nightclub in all of Monaco, full of jetsetters who enjoy it for its DJs, celebrities, and Cuban cigar smoking room. If you're a film buff, from the end of June to the end of July, you can watch films in English at the Cinema d'été, all screened at the open air cinema starting at 9:15 pm.
For anyone interested in car racing, Monaco is the place to be. Every year, Monaco's streets host the famous Formula 1 Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco. The circuit is 78 laps around narrow winding streets, speeding right through La Conamine, where Monaco's famous harbor is located. Truly, the Grand Prix is one of the most exciting car races in the world.