Monaco is an independent microstate, situated on the French Riviera in Western Europe. It has borders with France on three sides and washed by the Mediterranean Sea from the fourth side. The area of Monaco is a bit more than 2 square kilometers; it is the second smallest country in the world. Because of its small size there is no geographical distinction between the State and City of Monaco, where there are about 3 thousand residents. The capital is picturesquely situated on the rocky ridge of the Maritime Alps, and consists of historic buildings. Its location is truly breathtaking - on the one hand there are mountains and rocks, and on the other hand there is gorgeous azure sea!
The official language of the country is French.
Monaco has a warm Mediterranean climate.
There is no airport in Monaco. The nearest one is Nice International Airport (NCE), located 22km from Monaco. There is a direct bus service from Nice Airport to Monaco, and a helicopter service.
Monaco is a popular tourist destination and word famous recreation center. According to statistics about 5 million tourists come to this country every year. Despite its dime-size, it suggests many attractions.
One of the main tourist destinations is the Prince's Palace, built in the twelth century as a Genoese fortress guarding the new ownership of the republic. When Monaco got independence, it became the residence of princely family. Century after century, the fortress was rebuilt to meet changing defensive and aesthetic needs, which gave her a unique architectural character. The prince's family has been still living in the palace for more than 700 years already.
Another popular attraction of the country is the white-stone Monaco Cathedral (Cathedrale de Monaco), built in 1875. The cathedral is located on the site of the old church of the XIII century. The Princes of Monaco, their wives and daughters are buried here.
Near the cathedral there is the Oceanographic Museum - pride of Monaco. The museum is one of the largest centers of ocean study in Europe. Here you will see perfect specimens of marine shells and corals, a collection of navigational instruments, ship models and nautical charts.
On the ground floors of the museum there are numerous aquariums with interesting underwater inhabitants. Marinarium, with 90 sea water pools inhabited by nearly 4 thousands of fish and marine animals from almost all the seas and oceans, impresses everyone.
Connoisseurs of architecture will also like the Monte Carlo Opera Theatre - a gorgeous building, designed by architect Charles Gagne, the founder of the Paris Opera. The repertoire of the theatre consists of six operas per season.
Those who are fond of cars can visit the classic cars exhibition of personal collection of His Highness the Prince of Monaco. This impressive exhibition includes more than a hundred of cars.
One of the most popular attractions of Monaco is its Casino - a kind of European Las Vegas. During its long history the casino was visited by the English King Edward VII and Sir Winston Churchill, the Egyptian king and hundreds of other celebrities.
You can also bask on clean and safe Lavartto Beach; enjoy beautiful flowers at the Princess Grace Rose Garden, which contains more than 180 varieties of roses; relax at the serene Saint-Martin Gardens; take a panoramic flight over the country and watch the world-famous Monaco Grand Prix Formula One race (which is held right in the streets of Monte Carlo).
Diving in Monaco
The most famous diving center of Monaco is Ecole Bleue, which offers scuba diving to people from all ages and skill levels. It is open from May till September for children, and open the whole year for adults.
The favourite local diving spot is Cap Ferrat, which is only around 10 minutes by boat from Monaco. It is a small, rocky peninsula on Villefranche Bay. It is an ideal place for beginners, as it is protected from the wind and waves of the open sea.
Away from the shore you can take up good deep diving, with steep walls and drop-offs. The marine life in these warm and clear waters is diverse and prolific. Here you can meet sunfish, octopus, barracuda, eels and lobster, and watch colorful corals.
Conoiseours of wreck diving can explore the Robuste II, a steam tug boat sunk just off the coast in World War Two.