The Principality of Monaco is just 1.9 sq kms, making it second only to the Vatican as the smallest independent state in Europe. Its population of around 30,000 lives in four districts Monaco-Ville which is on a rocky promontory dominating the coast, la Condamine, Fontvieille and Monte Carlo.
The tax-free haven has the added benefits of sublime climate and natural beauty. Its residents have the world's highest per capita income and they own more sports cars than anyone else in the world.
The area which is Monaco has been inhabited since the Stone Age and the first serious building was undertaken by the Ligurians, a Ghibelline Genovese dynasty, who ruled Monaco in the 13th century.
In 1297, the first of the Grimaldis, François, literally got under the Ghibellines' guard and claimed 700 years of easy living for his heirs.
King Charles VIII of France recognised Monaco's independence in 1489, and despite Monaco's brief flirtation with Spain between 1524 and 1641, France and Monaco remained close, until 1793, when the Revolutionary regime annexed Monaco. An 1861 treaty reinstated Monaco's independence and any tension has been restricted to tax laws. Monaco refuses to tax French residents or French companies with Monaco headquarters.
Monaco Cathedral was built in 1875 using white stone from La Turbie. It is on the site of a 13th century church dedicated to St Nicolas and houses the modest tombstone of Princess Grace.
Prince Rainier III acceded to the throne in 1949 and his fairytale marriage to film star Grace Kelly produced Prince Albert, heir to the throne, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie. Despite the glamour, not without its dollops of tragedy, Prince Rainier was more than just a figurehead. He had a wide range of executive powers. With his death in April, 2005, he ranked amongst the longest-ruling monarchs of the 20th century. Prince Albert II is now head of the House of Grimaldi and ruler of the Principality of Monaco.
With all its history and culture, gambling and glitz, there's no doubt that Monaco's main claim to fame is the annual Grand Prix which takes over the streets of the Principality each May. Every driver dreams of winning the glamour race. The barrier-lined circuit leaves absolutely no margin for error and demands more concentration than any other Formula 1 circuit.
The Monte Carlo Grand Hotel really deserves its name. Like an elegant ship anchored to the shores of the Principality, it is close to the Grand Opera House, exclusive boutiques and sits on a hairpin curve of the Formula 1 circuit.
Everything about the hotel is elegant and accommodation ranges from VIP, Corner, Riviera and Junior Suites to Luxury, Superior and Standard rooms offering a variety of water, city and garden views.
You can enjoy Mediterranean cuisine in Le Pistou, South-American in L'Argentin or dine in the brasserie, Le Café de la Mer. There is a delightful patisserie Café Viennois with a tempting range of sweet things and beverages, and snacks are served in the charming Lobby Bar. Wherever you are in your own accommodation or the hotel's public areas you are always aware of the genteel surroundings.