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Monaco

Monaco is unabashedly opulent, a modern expression of feudal days when European power was concentrated into influential city states ruled by royal families. Squeezed into two square kilometers between the French and Italian Rivieras, this is the second-smallest country in the world, the Vatican being the smallest. But more than anything, Monaco is a playground and tax-free haven for wealthy and connected people from around the world. In fact, more than 100 nationalities are represented among the 33,000 people that live here.

The Monte Carlo Grand Casino is the central attraction and reason locals don't have to pay taxes. Its roulette tables, private rooms and glamorous cabaret attract some the world's biggest celebrities. Hotels in Monaco are palatial and luxurious, though there are a few mid-range options on the fringes of this micro-country.

By day, Monaco's vacationers gather on a thin slice of the French Riviera, lining up in deck chairs to celebrate the sun or escaping to the harbor where a fleet of mega-yachts are moored. Luxurious spa treatments and trips to the Monte Carlo Golf Club are also favorite activities. In the evening, exclusive clubs and lounges spring to life.

The best-known annual event in Monaco is the Formula 1 Grand Prix. This is easily one of Europe's most exclusive events. All the city streets are closed down, and roughly 3,000 spectators pack in for the year's premier racing event. There are countless more attractions in Monaco, including museums, rooftop botanical gardens and the entire gamut of water sports.

Accommodation in Monaco books up during July and August, so early reservations are a must. The nearest airport is in Nice, but most visitors arrive by train from either France or Italy.

For more information on hotels and landmarks in the different areas of Monaco, click on the interactive Monaco map on the left-hand side of the page.