Capital: Monaco Government: Monarchy Population: 37,800 (2014) Currency: Euro Continent: Europe Official languages: French, Monégasque Area: 2.02 km2
Monaco is a tiny independent city-state on France’s Mediterranean coastline known for its upscale casinos, yacht-lined harbor and prestigious Grand Prix motor race, which runs through Monaco’s streets once a year. Monte-Carlo, its major district, is home to an elegant belle-époque casino complex and ornate Salle Garnier opera house. It also has many luxe hotels, boutiques, nightclubs and restaurants.
Squeezed into just 200 hectares, this principality might be the world’s second-smallest country (the Vatican is smaller), but what it lacks in size it makes up for in attitude. A magnet for high-rollers and hedonists since the early 20th century, it's also one of the world's most notorious tax havens (residents pay no income tax). It's also famous for its annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, held every year in May since 1929. Despite its prodigious wealth, Monaco itself is a long way from the prettiest town on the French Riviera: it's basically an ode to concrete and glass, dominated by high-rise hotels and apartment blocks that rise into the hills like ranks of dominos, not to mention an utterly bewildering street layout that seems solely designed to confound lowly pedestrians. It's a rather different story on the rocky outcrop known as Le Rocher, which juts out on the south side of the port and is home to the royal palace, as well as a rather charming little old town which feels a world away from Monte Carlo's skyscrapers and super yachts.