Situated between France and Italy, the principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, with an area of just 2 sq km (0.78 sq miles). It has long been known for its high-flying lifestyle and tradition of motor racing, in particular the Formula One Grand Prix. A half-day guided tour offers an insight into the history of the principality, its many famous residents and its ruling family. You also gain an introduction to the medieval hilltop village of Èze nearby.
Your private driver-guide collects you at your hotel for the tour and begins by taking you to the district of Monte Carlo to visit its casino. Built in the 19th century and replete with chandeliers and frescoes, the casino is set in a Belle Époque building with flamboyant flourishes inside and out. Although there won't be time to place any bets during the tour, you do get a sense of just how sumptuous this legendary gambling den is.
Next, you walk with your guide to the old town, Le Rocher (The Rock), where you can explore the winding cobbled streets lined with haute couture (high fashion) boutiques, before making your way to the Palace Princier, home of the royal Grimaldi family.
Built as a fortress in the 13th century, the palace is guarded by the prince's Carabiniers, who change guard at 11.55am each morning. If you’re particularly interested in seeing the spectacle, let your specialist know in advance so that your tour can be planned around it.
Finally, you walk through the terraced botanical gardens toward Saint-Nicholas Cathedral. The gardens are set on a hillside and renowned not only for their plants, but also the views of the principality and coastline that they command. The grand Romanesque-Byzantine-style Saint-Nicholas Cathedral dates from the 18th century and is the final resting place of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace (Grace Kelly).
You then drive out of Monaco along roads used in the Formula One Grand Prix. The race is known in part for the fact that the course runs along the city streets, which are only closed for the race weekend in May.
You'll travel to nearby hilltop Èze. The heart of this medieval village can only be accessed by pedestrians. It wraps itself around the rock in a spiral that culminates at the very top in the Jardin Éxotique (Exotic Garden), which boasts sweeping views along the coastline.
Your driver-guide drops you off here to have some lunch and give you some free time to explore the cobbled streets lined with local boutiques and restaurants before taking you back to your hotel.
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