Guide to Monaco: Interesting Facts

To introduce yourself as a resident of Monaco welcomes an association like no other place in the world. If you say you’re from New York, for example, or Paris, or even Hong Kong, people will not instantly assume you’re wealthier than most. But to utter “I live in Monaco” is a statement like no other because, indeed, Monaco is a place like no other.

In Monaco, the second-smallest country in the world, €1 million can buy you roughly 90 square feet, making it arguably the most expensive real estate on the planet. And if the sky-high real estate costs weren’t enough to convince you, one quick stroll down any one of its windy streets means pedestrians will be walking past a bevy of Lamborghinis, McLarens, and Ferraris (all driving the 31 miles per hour that is the typical speed limit throughout Monaco).

Much of what makes Monaco such a desirable locale is well known: the legendary hotels, the Cote d’Azur climate, and –of course– its unique tax benefits for the ultrarich. But what it’s really known for is its wealth. It is so wealthy that it doesn’t even measure poverty rates. There are no homeless or poor people. In fact, to live comfortably in Monaco, you’ll either need a hefty trust fund or an income of at least €250,000 per adult.

Monte Carlo, Monaco’s glitziest and most famous district, is filled with five-star uber-luxury hotels, exotic supercars, high-end designer boutiques, and the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo.

With this Monaco and Monte-Carlo travel guide, Iconic Riviera will give you a sneak-peek of the opulent lifestyle the Principality offers, as told by a resident of Monaco. This is just one of several Monaco guides on Iconic Riviera.

Monaco: The Essentials

With just 200 hectares and less than 40k population, it is the second-smallest country in the world (only the Vatican is smaller). But what it lacks in size it makes up for in attitude.

Monaco is a unique sovereign city-state (“principality”) on the French Riviera that is only two square kilometers — about the size of New York’s Central Park. It is surrounded by France, but only 30 minutes by car from Italy on one side and the Nice airport on the other.

The currency is the same as the rest of the European Union, the Euro €. Like the rest of Europe, Monaco also has robust social programs, including housing subsidies for the Monegasque citizens, free education, and affordable healthcare.

French is the official language, but most people understand and speak English, many as native speakers — and many also speak Italian and Russian. It’s helpful to know French (especially if you need to visit the hospital, where many secretaries refuse to speak English), but you can get along without it.

a suite at hotel metropole, in monte carlo, overlooking the casino

Who Lives in Monaco

To be a resident of Monaco, you must rent an apartment (rent starts at about €5000 per month for the smallest required) and prove that you have at least €500,000 (per resident) in a Monaco bank account. Most comfortable apartments start at around €10,000 per month, and some apartments rent for as much as €300,000 million per month. To buy, expect to pay around €50,000 per m2.

The high cost of living is balanced out by the fact that residents save money by not paying any income tax. American and French citizens can’t benefit from this (unless they renounce their citizenship and have an alternate passport), as both countries tax their citizens even while residing in Monaco.

The population of Monaco in 2020 is about 38,000, and growing. Within it, roughly a quarter are French (mostly French families who took up residence in Monaco before October 1957; new French residents are required to pay French income tax), and just under a quarter are Italian. Only 22% percent of the population are Monagesque citizens (because of the subsidies and benefits of becoming a citizen, it’s extremely rare to be granted citizenship, even after living in Monaco for decades) and the rest are Monaco ‘residents’. Residents have moved here from 140 other countries.

Here is the data from the last census:

Monaco’s Neighborhoods

Before we go any further in this travel guide, we will explain the difference between Monaco and Monte-Carlo. Many seem to confuse one with the other. Consequently, several hotels that are not in Monte-Carlo still use the words ‘Monte Carlo’ in their name, so be careful to check a map before booking, or you may end up walking 30 minutes to Monte-Carlo from your ‘Monte Carlo’ hotel!

Monaco is the country or city-state. Whereas, Monte-Carlo is one of the neighborhoods within. There are nine other neighborhoods within the city-state. The most well-known is Monte Carlo, where the casino is located. Also famous is Monaco-Ville with its other name Le Rocher (The Rock) which is the oldest area and houses the Palace and Monaco’s jail. La Condamine is a popular area known for the main port (Port Hercule), which has a large event space used for the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monaco Yacht Show. Larvotto is where the beach and many fantastic restaurants are located. Then there is Fontvieille (where you’ll land if you arrive by helicopter), which is the newest area partially reclaimed from the sea — and where the local police and firefighters live. The other areas are mostly just residential and not attractive to tourists.

The rock (old town), facing the port of fontvieille
THE PUBLIC heated SALTWATER POOL IN PORT HERCULE, MONACO. THE SEA IS TO THE LEFT, AND THE ROCK / OLD TOWN IS VISIBLE ON TOP OF THE GREEN HILL.

Getting Around in Monaco

Monaco is at the foot of the Alps mountain range and is very steep. Getting around inside Monaco can be a frustrating experience because of the lack of Uber (yes, I know — it’s a frustration to many tourists and residents). Fortunately, there are a lot of parking garages that are clearly marked. But watch out — if you have a large vehicle, you may not be able to fit into some of them.

Locals know where all the (somewhat hidden) elevators are, so they can walk places quickly, but if you don’t, then you’ll likely be getting some good uphill exercise in order to get to your destination by foot. Here’s a guide to getting around in Monaco (and where the elevators are!)

How Monaco is Governed

The Prince’s Palace
H.S.H. Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene

The Monaco government is what’s called a ‘Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy’. It is an independent City-State (Monaco is not part of France). A hereditary constitutional monarchy sets the Head of the State, and the Sovereign Prince is the head of the government. The Consultative Constitutional Assemblies assist in governing. H.S.H. Prince Albert II reigns as the current monarch.

Monaco is a full voting member of the United Nations and part of thirteen UN organizations, such as UNESCO and WHO. The Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861 officially recognized Monaco as a sovereign state.

Despite Monaco’s independence and separate foreign policy, its defense is the responsibility of France. However, Monaco does maintain two small military units.

Monaco is predominantly Roman Catholic. It is also the state religion. Still, the Constitution guarantees freedom of worship. The motto is ‘Deo Juvante’. In English, it means “With God’s Help.”

Safety and the Monaco Police

Monaco has the largest police force and police presence in the world, on both a per-capita and per-area basis. With nation-wide video surveillance, three police stations, and one police officer per 73 residents, Monaco has safety standards so strict that it is known as the safest square mile in the world. Compare that to NYC, one of the USA’s most policed and safest cities, which has one officer per 233 residents.

the main police station, in port Hercule(the Condamine), Monaco

The 519 police officers are carefully selected from the French police force and must go through an additional two-year intensive training program to serve in Monaco. It’s a very desirable position as they get a high salary and a free seaside apartment in Fontvieille, Monaco.

The Monaco police don’t mess around: the rules are extremely strict and the court system in Monaco almost always pronounces maximum sentences. So behave yourself!

Monaco has a system of 24-hour video surveillance spanning the entire surface area of the Principality, including the majority of residential building lobbies, a transmitting system worthy of the best armies in the world, the possibility of blocking all access in and out of the Principality in several minutes. And we mustn’t forget the surveillance teams inside of the Casino and in all of the gambling establishments and hotels.

This works well for residents and tourists, as you won’t need to worry about your diamond bracelet or designer bag being stolen, or your child going missing. If your child wanders off, the police will be able to track him/her with facial-recognition video tracking and find your child in a matter of minutes.

Check out our guide to Monaco’s jail!

Documentary: An Insider Look at Monaco

For one year, the cameras for this documentary followed the Prince in his daily head of state and family, behind the scenes of princely palaces and abroad. You’ll see his personal office atop one of the towers of the palace to the most private rooms where he always meets with the family, sports events in charitable prestigious galas, political obligations very personal passion, Monaco or abroad, the ruler of Monaco sharing for the first time his public and private life.

A Visual Overview of Monaco

More Travel Guides to Monaco and Monte-Carlo

Like art? To find the art in the Principality, check out this travel guide to Monaco’s art scene.

The Principality has many beautiful parks and gardens perfect with picturesque and Instagram-worthy views. See this guide to Monaco’s parks for more.

And, are you curious how billionaires live a life of luxury in Monte Carlo? Take a look at this billionaire-life travel guide.

For the best shopping experiences, see this guide to Monaco’s shopping centers.

Wondering about the royal family? Check out our guide to the history of Monaco.

And check Iconic Riviera regularly as we add more travel guides every week!

Important Numbers

European emergency number:
112 (from a mobile phone)
Healthcare:
Princesse Grace Hospital
Standard : +377 97 98 99 00
Urgent : +377 97 98 97 69
Doctor and pharmacy on duty:
116 or 117
Poison control center (in Marseille):
+33 4 91 75 25 25
Lost and found:
+377 93 15 30 18
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