What do we know about Monaco?

Interesting facts about the life of the microstate


1. Monaco is a microstate. According to the classification of the United Nations and the World Bank, a state is a microstate if its population is less than 1 million. Reasoning from this classification, Monaco is a super-microstate, as it is inhabited by about 35,000 people only, or almost as much (or as less) as the population of neighboring Menton.

Each day, some 30,000 residents of France’s border areas come to Monaco and take its three entry roads by storm…

About seven million tourists take pictures of themselves near Monte Carlo Casino annually.

2. The Principality of Monaco is associated with France. It means a unification of two unequal states on a bilateral basis with the smaller state delegating a major part of its powers to the bigger state, while formally retaining its sovereignty and independence.

France agrees to defend the sovereignty and independence of Monaco, and the government of Monaco agrees to exercise its rights in concord with France’s interests.

3. Is a visa required? A Schengen visa is sufficient for entry into Monaco. The principality’s area is slightly less than that of the VDNKh exhibition centre in Moscow. Several hours are sufficient to walk about the whole country viewing unhurriedly its abundant places of interest.

4. Some historical background. The first settlements in Monaco date back to the 10th century B.C., while its contemporary history commenced in 1215, when a colony of the Republic of Genoa was founded on its territory and a castle was built (now it is the location of the palace of the Princes of Monaco and the old town). Up to 1861, Monaco had included the territories of Menton and Roquebrune.

5. Who is in power? Monaco has the world’s highest density of population (some 20,000 per square kilometer), while the average life expectancy of this population is almost 80 years. Monaco’s form of government is a constitutional monarchy. It is ruled by the Prince, all without any restrictions, currently by Albert II. He has been in power since 2005. His ancestors from the Grimaldi family have been ruling the Principality since as long as 1297.

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II is an ardent athlete. He is the head of a great number of national and international sports federations. He has personally participated in five Winter Olympic games as a member of the national bobsleigh team. He has a black belt in karate and the first dan in judo. In 2011, the Prince finally got married. He met his future wife at swimming competitions. According to Monaco’s constitution, as soon as the reigning Grimaldi dynasty is discontinued, the country will pass over to France’s jurisdiction.

6. About the railway terminal. Monaco’s railway terminal is situated underground, or, more precisely, in a rock. Since there is only one station in Monaco, the country has no railway company and its railways are operated by France’s SNCF. Monte Carlo terminal was opened and commissioned in 1867. The line runs along the sea coast up to the principality and goes into tunnels at the entrance to the city. The principality’s terminal is also under the ground. Its platform is of ample dimensions designed to accept very long trains, and a walk along it takes as much as fifteen minutes! 

6. About the casino. The Monte Carlo Casino, one of the world’s most respected gambling houses, is the main sightseeing attraction of the Principality of Monaco. It is this casino that Monaco owes its fame and wealth and even its second birth. Everything started in the same year of 1861, when Prince Carl III Grimaldi sold two towns of his state, Roquebrune and Menton, to France’s emperor Napoleon III. The territory of the tiny principality diminished by 12 times, but Carl III spent the proceeds of 4 million francs as best as he could.

Wishing to turn a rocky piece of land into a fashionable aristocratic resort, he suggested to François Blanc, a French financier and the owner of a gambling house in Bad Homburg, to open a casino in Monaco. Blanc, who was proficient in organizing gambling operations, arranged everything in grand style. The first casino was opened in 1863, but soon burnt down almost to the ground. Blanc invited Charles Garnier, one of France’s best architects, to construct a new building. The Gamble Palace, inspired by the then fashionable beaux-art style, soon turned into the center of social life of the Mediterranean. Its luxurious halls have been bestowed with their money and presence by Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, Winston Churchill, and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd. Russian grand princes would bring there safes with golden chervonets, and incomparable Sarah Bernhardt attempted a suicide having lost her last 100,000 francs.

Law prohibits Monaco citizens, the Prince and his family members from visiting the Monte Carlo Casino.

It is notable that the Monte Carlo Opera is on the back side of the casino!

7. About the Opera. The Monte Carlo Opera was built within record-breaking short time - six months only in 1878! Its architect was the same famous Charles Garnier, the author of Opéra de Paris.

A splendid 520-seat hall was designed to accept Monaco’s numerous foreign guests. A great number of prestigious concerts and performances of big-name opera singers and ballet dances have been held here.

It was here that Sergei Diaghilev founded in 1911 his world-renowned Russian Ballet, and the halls of the Monte Carlo Opera became the main venue for his troupe. Throughout the years, the stage of the Monte Carlo Opera has seen performances by Vaslav Nijinsky, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev, Feodor Chaliapin, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and Nellie Melba.

8. Monaco Oceanographic Museum

The Oceanographic Museum with an underground Aquarium is a true masterpiece of contemporary architecture as it is located on an almost sheer cliff. The Museum founded in 1910 by Prince Albert I has become the country’s research and cultural center. Prince Albert I was a seafarer and a pioneer of oceanography. Since his early years, he was fond of travelling and spent a major part of his life pursuing research of oceans as the head of 28 scientific expeditions. Since 1957, the museum was directed by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The Aquarium is unique, as it contains water from over 90 seas of our planet! This is one of the world’s few aquariums with live corals, which are known to be unable to live in captivity.

9. Monaco’s only higher educational establishment is the International University of Monaco.

10. The Principality’s army consists of 82 military men, while its military orchestra is bigger than the army itself! The country’s army and police was put on full combat alert in 1962, when France’s President General de Gaulle threatened to cut off power and water supplies to the Principality. The reasons were of economic nature. Happily, no war broke out, as the Monegasque came to terms with France. Monaco boats one of the world’s lowest crime rates and one of the highest numbers of police security cameras that enable surveillance of all recesses of the country.

11. About the races. One of the most prestigious races of the Formula One World Championship has been held in Monaco since 1950. The race runs along the city’s streets equipped in this period with stands, fencing and everything needed for such competitions. The greatest number of victories at Monaco Grand Prix has gone to Brazil’s Ayrton Senna. He has finished first for six times. All manholes on Monaco’s streets are fastened by bolted connections before the races, as a low pressure generated under the cars makes manholes pop out. 

12. Monaco’s ethnic composition is dominated by the French. They account for almost a half of the population. The second position is held by the Monegasque and Italians in somewhat equal proportions. The official language is French. English is spoken by many residents of Monaco as the country is focused on tourism and foreign capital.

13. There is a total of 2,259 hotel rooms in Monaco with 1,700 of them being rooms in 5-star hotels.

14. There is a widely spread opinion that Monaco and Monte Carlo are two different cities, or that Monaco is a state and Monte Carlo is its capital. No, it is not true! Monte Carlo is just a district of Monaco founded in 1866 during the reign of Prince Charles III. The district lies around the well-known Monte Carlo Casino.

15. For football fans. Since 1972, Monaco has hosted in its Louis II Stadium the UEFA Super Cup match between the winners of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League of the previous season.

The winner gets a prize of five million Euros, and the loser has to be content with three million “only”.

The local football club, which is also called Monaco, has since recently been owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. The team plays in the French championship and is a member of France’s football league.