European Micro States – Monaco

There are six countries in Europe that are labeled micro states because of their size. They are  – from smallest (.17 sq. miles) to largest (181 sq. miles) – the Vatican City, Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Malta, and Andorra.  Monaco is .78 square miles.

Monaco is located on the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by France but less than ten miles from the Italian border. It is the most densely populated country in the world, with a population of around 37,000 people.

View from the Train on the Way from Italy to France

My daughter and I stopped in Monaco a couple years ago on our way from Cinque Terre, Italy, to Nice, France. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but even on our short visit, we could see how rich the country is. No income tax is collected in Monaco and the wealthy often use the country as a tax haven. Monaco claims as citizens a large percentage of millionaires and billionaires and has one of the highest GDP (gross domestic product) in the world.

The train ride from Cinque Terre to Nice is about six hours long, so the stop in Monaco gave us a nice break – although it is much closer to the Nice end of the trip.  When we planned the stop, we wondered how it would work out because there were a couple problems we had to deal with.

Lockers at the Train Station

Actually, our research told us there might not be lockers at the train station. We couldn’t find a definitive answer, but we had to be prepared to take our luggage with us if we were not going to stay overnight in Monaco. When we arrived at the station, we found the information desk and were told that as we suspected, there were no lockers. The country is small, though, so we just brought our luggage with us as we toured.  (Glad we packed light).

If you plan to spend time in Monaco, there are a couple options for your luggage. If you come in time for lunch and eat at a restaurant in a hotel, the concierge may be willing to hold your bags for a couple hours. The Casino will also store your bags if you want to leave some of your money in the country. Another option is to travel from Nice for the day or afternoon and return to Nice for the evening and overnight. You can leave your bags at the Nice hotel. Even with our bags, we thought it was worth it to stop.

The Grand Prix
Driving the Route that will be Used by the Race Cars, Monaco

The Monaco Grand Prix Formula One car race was scheduled for the end of the week that we were visiting. We did not plan to see the race, but wondered if we would be restricted in our visit to the city.

Looking at the Track from the Viewing Platform

 

Luckily, we were able to access a viewing platform that would likely be closed a day or two later. We saw parts of the road that were already being prepared for the race. The bleachers were already set up for those affluent enough to book hotel rooms and purchase tickets for the event. We could sense the excitement in the air.

The Harbor
The Harbor Full of Yachts, Monaco

Just a short walk from the train station, we were able to see the harbor filled with majestic yachts. We had heard that the harbor was a “must-see” and we agreed.

Three-Story Yachts

 

 

I have never before seen yachts that were three stories high. Many were finished with luxurious polished wood and other amenities that cost more than I could even imagine.

Other Possibilities

Since we were only in Monaco for a couple hours in the afternoon, we did not have time to explore the entire country. It might have been fun to play in the casino for a bit – or at least to visit the Beaux Arts style building that is now over 150 years old.

Beautiful City Architecture with a Backdrop of the French Alps, Monaco

We could have challenged ourselves to walk from one end of the country to the other – a little over two miles – or from the coast inland – just over a mile at the widest part. The country sits between the Mediterranean Sea and Mont Agel of the French Alps – the elevation change makes the landscape interesting and beautiful.

Monaco has a ballet company, an opera house, a symphony orchestra and an art museum. In addition to the car race, rugby, soccer, and other sports are played.

Our Thoughts

Monaco was worth the visit. If we were interested in the car race, gambling, or yachting, we would have wanted to spend more time there. Even without those interests, it would be a great place to spend an afternoon if you are in the area.

We are looking forward to visiting another micro state, Andorra, on our next trip to Europe.

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