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A visit to Monaco-Ville is essential in order to understand the history of the Principality better.

The Palace of the Prince

For several centuries, the citadel of Monaco was coveted by the enemies of the Grimaldi, resulting in many conflicts with the Genoese, the French and the Spanish. For this reason, for nearly 400 years, the Rock maintained its character as a fortress and was principally concerned to develop its defences. Towards the middle of the XVIIth century, Prince Honoré II (1597-1662) undertook the earliest steps to transform it into a palace. The military structures were retained, but the interior was totally altered so as to house the superb collections of paintings by master artists, tapestries and precious furniture. Towards 1690, Prince Louis I (1642-1700) had constructed the great gate which still exists today. This gate opens on to the Court of Honour, admirable in its proportions, with its double stairway in Carrara marble leading to the Gallery of Hercules and which, despite the modifications carried out, may be considered as the old central part of the fortress built at the beginning of the XIIIth century.

The Treaty of Paris of 1815 restored full and complete sovereignty to Monaco and Honoré IV (1758-1819) and Honoré V (1778-1841) undertook the restoration of the Palace robbed of its collections and damaged to a considerable extent during the French Revolution. Florestan I (1785-1856) pursued the work of restoration with success. Charles III (1818-1889) had the St Mary's Tower and the buildings surrounding it reconstructed in the style of Florentine palaces. He gave the Chapel of St Jean the Baptist, built in 1656, a new altar. Albert I (1848-1922) had the Clock Tower constructed using white stone from la Turbie. Louis II (1870-1949) directed his activities to large-scale maintenance work. Since his accession in 1949, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III has adopted as his goal the embellishment and modernization of the Palace. The old frescoes were restored. The Court of Honour was paved with three million white and coloured stones forming immense geometrical figures. The southern wing, destroyed during the Revolution, was rebuilt and now houses the private apartments of the Sovereign's family as well as the Museum of Souvenirs of Napoleon and the Archives of the Prince's Palace.

The great apartments are open to the public from June to October, while the Napoleonic Museum and the Archive collection may be visited throughout the year.

Every day, at midday, the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard is performed by the section of the carabiniers responsible for guarding the Prince's Palace. It takes place on the Palace Square, using a ceremonial involving a great deal of marching and counter-marching which evokes the admiration of the large number of tourists.

The Oceanographic Museum

This is one of main attractions for tourists in the Principality (it houses the collections made during the course of numerous cruises of this "Scientist Prince" whose work provides the basis of modern oceanography. One of the vocations of the Museum is to welcome scientists from all over the world who have 2,000 square metres of laboratories at their disposal. On the ground floor, the collections on show represent the complete range of marine and submarine fauna with the often gigantic skeletons of oceanic mammals. Also to be seen are the diving saucers and other equipment used during his researches by Commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Director of the Museum until 1988.

On the first floor there are models of the various ships used by Prince Albert I for his explorations and the laboratory, reconstructed full-scale, of "Hirondelle II", his favourite yacht. There is also a hall devoted to oceanographic research, considered to be one of the most complete in the world.

Finally, the aquarium, one of the most spectacular in Europe, with nearly 4,000 fish (around 350 different species) occupying 90 basins.

The Museum also houses a meteorological station and a seismological observatory.

Finally, the public terrace provides a magnificent panoramic view of the Italian Riviera and the Massif of the Esterel.

The Cathedral of Monaco

The first stone of the Cathedral was laid on 6th January 1875 in the reign of Charles III and construction was completed in 1884. Three years later, the Principality, which until then had come for religious affairs under the See of Nice, was raised to a Diocese attached directly to Rome. Under the terms of a Convention signed on 31st July 1981 between the Holy See and the Principality, its incumbent now has the rank of Archbishop.

The Cathedral of Monaco, entirely built, like the Clock Tower of the Prince's Palace, of white stone from la Turbie, is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It has three naves and an ambulatory where the sepultures of past Princes are to be found. The pillars are of granite and porphyry of various colours and the main altar of Carrara marble.

One may admire an altar-piece and a pietà of the primitive master painter Louis Brea, two pictures of the XVIth century, a processional canopy bearing the arms of Prince Anoitne I (1661-1731), an altar of gilded wood of the Spanish Renaissance, the mosaic of the cupola and the windows designed for the most part in the style of XIIth century.

The Chapel of Mercy

Prince Honoré II (1597-1662) laid the first stone of this in 1639. It was not, however, finished until 1646 and immediately became the seat of the Fraternity of Black Penitents of whom Prince Honoré II was the first Prior.

To be seen is the main altar in coloured marble, which came from the Church of St Nicholas (the old Parish Church of Monaco from 1321 to 1874, the year in which it was demolished in order to make room for the present Cathedral) as well as a group in marble from the beginning of the XVIIIth century representing the Virgin and Angels.

It is from the Chapel of Mercy that every year on the evening of Good Friday there departs the Procession of the Dead Christ which, lit by torches, passes through the streets of Monaco-Ville ; a religious spectacle which displays with realism and fervour the 14 Stations of the Cross.

The Albert I Grammar School

This establishment, founded in 1910 by Prince Albert I, is located in the buildings of the old Convent of the Visitation founded in 1663 by Charlotte de Gramont, wife of Prince Louis I.

Government House










Facing the Albert I Grammar School, Government House was inaugurated in June 1894 by Prince Albert I. It is the residence of the Minister of State and the headquarters of the Monégasque high administration and is located on the site of the building called the Lonely House which Prince Antoine I had built in the first years of the XVIIIth century in order to allow his wife, Princess Marie de Lorraine, to escape from the frivolities of the Court.

St Martin's Gardens

Laid out in the 1830s, in the reign of Prince Honoré V, they lie on both sides of the Oceanographic Museum. Here Nature suffers no restraint. At one bend, unexpectedly, there is a terrace between the sky and the sea where there stands, sculpted in bronze, the monument erected to the memory of Prince Albert I. The gardens of St Martin and those of Fort Antoine, at the eastern end of the Rock, were a source of inspiration to Guillaume Apollinaire, who resided in the Principality from 1887 to 1899.

The Historical Museum of the Princes of Monaco

This is a small museum in which are reproduced in was 24 scenes from the History of the Principality since 1297. The figures and models are located in an astonishing series of vaulted rooms dating from the XIVth century.

One mounts to Monaco-Ville by the Rampe Major, a footpath paved in red brick, laid out between two gates erected respectively in 1533 and 1714, or by a road, built in 1839, the Avenue of the Porte Neuve, from the name of the gate which was formerly sited at the lower end of the Rampe Major.

The Fort Antoine Theatre

An old fortress constructed at the beginning of the XVIIIth century on the north-east point of the Rock, today an open-air theatre with 350 seats in stepped rows where high quality spectacles are given in the summer season.

The Old Monaco Museum

It contains a large number of souvenirs of the life of former times on the Rocks : pictures, books, pottery, old photographs, costumes and typical objects collected by the Monégasque Traditions Committee.

Monte Carlo Story

An astonishing spectacle showing the history of a dynasty in multivision. Shows every hour from 9.30 a.m. to 12.45 p.m. and 1.45 p.m. to 6.30 p.m., open all the year round, in the Pêcheurs car-park.

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The Exotic Garden

Inaugurated in 1933, after 20 years of work, it presents remarkable specimens of cacti of strange and sometimes amazing shapes, coming from Africa or Latin America, from aloes from the Cape to giant agaves from the Aztec plateaux. A series of favourable climatic features made possible the existence of this "extraordinary garden". With the influence of the Mediterranean, the slope of the cliff on which it is sited, which makes the runoff of rainwater much easier, the orientation of the site which provides the best angle for the rays of the sun and the favourable geographical situation, protected by the mountain screen formed by the Tête de Chien and Mont Agel, all the ideal conditions are united to enable some 7,000 varieties of succulent plants to develop. Thus it has been possible to adapt the flora of the deserts to the Principality, thanks to the work of a team of specialist technicians.

The Observatory Cave

This is located inside the Exotic Garden itself. Large-scale work has made it possible to adapt this cave so that visitors may admire, 60 metres under the ground, a prehistoric dwelling and magnificent limestone concretions with peculiar shapes, shown to advantage by the effects of the lighting.

The Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology

Founded by Prince Albert I and inaugurated in 1902, the Museum has been moved into a modern building near the Exotic Garden. It houses the collections resulting from the digs in the Grimaldi Caves located on the Franco-Italian border at the St Louis Bridge and those carried out in the Principality itself. There one may find numerous vestiges of prehistoric eras and in particular skeletons of the Negroid and Cro-Magnon type, flints and the bones of animals species which have today disappeared.

The Zoological Gardens

These were founded in 1954 by H.S.H. Prince Rainier III after his return from a journey to Africa. It is not a zoo in the traditional sense of the term, but an authentic acclimatation centre where the natural conditions of life of the animals who live there are recreated. It houses many varieties of monkeys, but also reptiles, tigers, lions, panthers, llamas, a hippopotamus and a rare assortment of exotic birds. It has recently completely modernized.

The Louis II Stadium

Inaugurated on 25th January 1985, this gigantic sports complex, located on the Fontvieille platform, provides exceptionally comfortable conditions for nearly every individual and team sport. High level international competitions are held here.

The Fontvieille Landscape Garden and the Princess Grace Rose Garden

They cover an area of 40 hectares and contain a host of species of decorative plants from all over the world. The Rose Garden, dedicated to Princess Grace, holds 4,000 rose trees representing more than 180 varieties. It is place of meditation and rest which is open every day from sunrise to sunset.

St Dévote's Church

This votive chapel, dedicated to the Patron Saint of the Principality and the Prince's Family was built in the XIth century in a hollow in the small valley of the Gaumattes where in the IVth century there landed the frail boat in which St Dévote lay. It was restored and enlarged in 1870. Each year on 26th January, a boat is burnt on its square at nightfall in the presence of the Sovereign's Family within the framework of the always lively ceremonies of the traditional cult.

H.S.H. Prince Rainier III's Collection of Antique Automobiles

An automobile enthusiast, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III has put together, over the course of the past thirty years, an expansive collection of automobiles. It was his wish that these cars be displayed for the public's appreciation.

This wish has been realised, we can now admire over 100 magnificently restored vehicles brought together in an exhibition hall in Fontvieille (inaugurated on 19th September 1993). These splendid automobiles herald the mechanical development of our past century.

Navy Museum

Opened October 1993 in Fontvieille, the Navy Museum fills 600 square meters with a collection of model boats and objects from all corners of the world, and covers man's history with the sea from the beginning of time. Many of the pieces on display are part of the private collection of H.S.H. Prince Rainier III.

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The Casino

Famous the world over, its fabulous history was linked from the very beginning with that of the Belle Epoque. Its foundations were laid in 1861, in the reign of Charles III, on the isolated plateau of the Spélugues which was to become, five years later, the new town of Monte Carlo. Today it is the main building, the work of the architect Charles Garnier, surmounted by two pinnacles over a glass roof, with a neo-classical facade, opening on the Monte Carlo side on to a vast staircase leading to the entrance hall which lies in front of the Opera hall.

The main building is connected on its left (when seen from the front) to a series of other buildings which house the gaming rooms which are open every day (except 1st May) from midday onwards.

(See also the work by Philippe Saint-Germain and Francis Rosset "La Grande Dame de Monte-Carlo").

The Gardens and Terraces of the Casino

Facing the famous Casino, magnificent beds of flowers and plants with the most diverse scents are harmoniously presented against a background of impeccably maintained green lawns. The central garden, which has recently been completely remodelled, conceals a carpark with several floors.

These gardens are embellished with pools and fountains.

On the opposite side of the Casino, the sea side, lie terraces bathed by the sun where one may contemplate an astonishing multicoloured geometric work, "Hexagrace", by Vasarely decorating the roof of the Congress Centre Auditorium.

The Café de Paris

Renovated throughout, the new Café de Paris was inaugurated on 21st July 1988.

This operation made it possible to obtain another 2,000 square metres, bringing the total surface area of the Café de Paris to 10,000 square metres. The interior fittings are spectacular : in fact, if the décor of the brasserie, fitted with magnificent windows designed by Garnier, is deliciously old-fashioned in style, the new gaming rooms which occupy 1,300 square metres are determinedly modern. An unexpected development but one desired by Prince Rainier himself to bring the brand image of Monte Carlo fully up to date.

The entrance hall, the drugstore and the huge bistro-style terrace pleasantly complement the rest of the building, enabling the Café de Paris, established in 1868, to retain its place in the first rank of Monégasque tourist facilities.

St Charles' Church

In the French Renaissance style, this building, whose belfry rises to 30 metres, was inaugurated in 1883.

Nineteen windows light its nave whose gilded candelabras came from the old Armoury of the Prince's Palace (the present Throne Room).

The National Museum

This museum has, since 1972, occupied the vast rooms of the Villa Sauber, built in the last century by Charles Garnier. It houses one of the world's finest collections of automatons and dolls of the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries. This fabulous collection was built up, throughout her life, by Madeleine de Galéa. Her son made a gift of it to the Principality.

A visit should also be made to the gardens, laid out in terraces, where grow some forty species of roses, some specially created for H.S.H. Princess Grace and H.S.H. Princess Stéphanie.

In addition to all these facilities for leisure, the many artistic, cultural and sporting events of note which are staged between January and December add to the high reputation of the Principality.

The Japanese Garden

During her life-time , Princesse Grace had expressed her wish for the creation of a Japanese Garden in the Principality. After three years of construction, Monaco now has a 7,000 square meter Japanese Garden which was built over an underground parking on Avenue Princesse Grace. This creation, inaugurated on 7th May 1994, is the work of architect Yasuo Beppu, first-place winner at the Osaka Exhibition in 1990.

To the visitor's delight, he will discover a pond, waterfall, a stream, tea house and Zen garden while walking in Monaco's own little corner of Japan.

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January Feast of St Dévote, Patron Saint of the Principality
Monte Carlo Automobile Rally
Lyric Season
February Monte Carlo International Circus Festival
Monte Carlo Television Festival
Lyric Season
March Monte Carlo Grand Magic Prizes
Ball of the Rose
Lyric Season
April International Open Tennis Championships
Springtime of the Arts
(Concerts, Ballets, Theatre, Recitals)
May International Dog Show (April or May)
Monaco Formula 1 and Formula 3 Automobile Grand Prix
International Bouquet Competition (April or May)
June St John's Feast - Folk music and dancing
Opening of the Monte Carlo Sporting Club Summer Season
International Swimming Meeting
July-August Symphony Concerts in the Court of Honour of the Prince's Palace
International Firework Festival
Gala Evenings at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club
Variety shows
Evenings of entertainment in the Fort Antoine Theatre
World Backgammon Championship and International
Kalooki championship
International Biennal Antique Dealers', Jewellers' and Art Galleries'Fair
Monégasque Red Cross Gala (generally the first Friday of August)
Theatre and variety shows organized by Monaco Town Hall
Choreographic shows
International Athletic Meeting
September Start of the great conventions (which continue until July) with the World Insurers' Meeting
October Concerts
Week of Baroque Music
November The Principality's National Day, 18th and 19th November, with official events (Thanksgiving Mass and singing of the Te Deum in the Cathedral, parade of the Palace Square, Gala Evening in Monte Carlo Opera House) and popular events (fireworks, variety shows, dances, afternoon entertainments for children, fairs and so on)
December New Year's Eve Celebrations

In addition to this schematic calendar of the great artistic, cultural and sporting events organized in the Principality between January and December, there also, in the realm of sport, the football and basketball matches counting for the French First Division Championships, golf tournaments, tennis and squash tournaments, cycle races, the Larvotto cross-country race, the International Rhythmic and Sports Gymnastics competitions, water-polo matches, regattas and sailing races, athletic competitions, boxing matches and so on.

On the cultural plane, the public lectures given under the auspices of the Prince Pierre of Monaco Foundation, the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, the Academy of Dialectal Languages, the Prehistory and Speleology Association, the Connaissance du Monde (Knowledge of the World) Association, the Dante Alighieri Association and others.

Also to be noted are the Summer Carnavals in Monaco-Ville and the "Jazz on the Rock" concerts in September on one of the breakwaters of Monaco harbour.

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Thanks to its sports facilities, its climate and the proximity of the sea and mountains, many sports may be practised in Monaco in the best conditions :

  • Tennis, at the Monte Carlo Country Club where the International Open Championships take place in a framework which is unique in the world, and also on the courts of the Tennis Club (Boulevard de Belgique, Moyenne Corniche and the Terrain de l'Abbé);
  • Squash at the Monte Carlo Country Club and the Louis II Stadium;
  • Golf at the Monte Carlo Golf Club, located on the lower slopes of Mont Agel, at height above sealevel of 810 metres. There is a panoramic view of the Principality, the Côte d'Azur and the Italian Riviera;
  • Sailing and Big Game Fishing at the Monaco Yacht Club;
  • Swimming and seaside amusements at Monte Carlo Beach, Larvotto Beach, the Sea Club, the Rainier III Swimming Pool, the Prince Albert Swimming Pool in the Louis II Stadium in Fontvieille, as well as in the swimming pools of the grand hotels of the Principality;
  • Automobile Sport with the Ecurie Monaco; Miniature Golf in Princess Antoinette Park; Exercises in the VITA Health Park, Boulevard du Jardin Exotique ;
  • At the Monaco Sports Association, an omnisports group which provides all the standard sports (athletics, basketball, boxing, football, handball, judo, shooting, swimming, volleyball, weight-lifting and so on) at the Louis II Stadium, the Monéghetti Stadium and the Rainier III Swimming Pool;
  • Boules at the Rainier III Boules Stadium in Fontvieille or Anthony Noghès in Monaco-Ville.
  • There are also several bridge, chess and backgammon clubs in the Principality.

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  • Attracted by the brand image and the clientele of the Principality, many luxury shops have opened their doors here, particularly in Monte Carlo.
  • Ready-to-wear shops with the label of the greatest couturiers are located one after another along the Boulevard des Moulins, Avenue des Beaux-Arts, in the splendid new Gallery of the Allées-Lumière, in the Park Palace or the Avenue Princess Grace beside the sea in Monte Carlo as well as in the Gallery of the Metropole.
  • The Rue Grimaldi and the Rue Caroline in the Condamine are favoured spots for all sorts of purchases as are too the pedestrian alleyways of the Rock where the specialities are essentially local souvenirs.
  • The Casino Square and neighbouring thoroughfares provide a vast shop-window for jewellers (Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Gérard, Bulgari, Piaget, Albuquerque), luxury shops (Hermès, Céline, Christian Dior, Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Louis Vuitton, Per Spook, Burburry's, Chanel, Hanae Mori ...) or antique dealers and decorators (Fersen, Adriano Ribolzi ...).
  • The large range of retail outlets in the Principality makes it possible to meet a demand as diverse as it is eclectic, from the exceptional jewel to the souvenir that everybody can buy, through purchases of the usual consumer goods, particularly in the marvellous markets of the Condamine and Monte Carlo.
  • The fontvieille complexe is a nice shopping center where you can find almost everything from restaurants to supermarkets.

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Published by GALE FORCE of Monaco