The Principality of Monaco

Tuesday, 12th July 2011 by

When last we visited Monaco, well, we couldn't actually get right into the world's most densely populated country, as the Street View car was forced to stop as soon as it crossed over from France. And on our previous visit, we quickly glanced over the famed Monaco Grand Prix from above.

We celebrate today, however, for the principality has finally been added to the Street View roster, allowing us to get past the iconic gate posts and explore all 1.98 sq km (0.76 sq mi) of the entire country.

Being a principality, Monaco naturally has a Prince’s Palace, the official residence of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene which sits atop the Rock of Monaco. Dating back to 1191, the palace not only remains the centre of all monarchical business, but also serves as a living museum with many of its rooms open to the public. The courtyard is a popular gathering spots for open-air concerts.

Monaco is certainly known for its opulence (the nominal GDP per capita here is an astounding US$186,000), and perhaps nothing personifies that opulence more than the famed Casino Monte Carlo, which opened in 1863. The world-famous casino featured in multiple James Bond movies is primarily owned by the Monegasque government. Since then, numerous other casinos have opened up in Monaco, but this one remains the hallmark. Interestingly, citizens of Monaco are not allowed in the gaming rooms; only foreigners and non-citizen residents.

The casino is surrounded by large hotels, many of which are also government-owned. Right next door to the casino is the regal Hotel de Paris, which also opened in 1863.

One of the most iconic scenes in Monaco is the sight of the hundreds of boats in Port-Hercule, the country’s main harbour. Street View goes right onto the dock to give us an up-close look at some very pricey yachts and pleasure crafts. A turn back toward the shore shows off the skyline of the densely-packed waterfront with the Tête de Chien promontory rising above the city-state in the background.

The showcase event for the principality each year is the Monaco Grand Prix, the most prestigious of all Formula 1 auto races. Former world champion driver Nelson Piquet claimed driving the tight, twisting street circuit was like “riding a bicycle around your living room”. The twisty nature of Monaco’s street is personified by the infamous Mirabeau complex just north of the casino. Coming out of Mirabeau corner, drivers enter the hairpin turn at the Fairmont Monte Carlo Hotel, the tightest, slowest corner in all of Formula 1. It’s so tight that the rumble kerbs are left on the street year-round and permanently bear the marks of racing tyres.

The track then goes under the Fairmont through the famous tunnel on Louis II Boulevard known to millions of television viewers around the world (it’s the only F1 circuit with a tunnel directly on the racing line) before emerging onto the waterfront and the fastest part of the course, the Swimming Pool straight. Unfortunately, the pool it’s named for was empty when Street View came calling.

Speaking of tunnels, Monaco has numerous road tunnels underlying the city-state for nearly its entire length. The ground underneath Monaco is so densely packed with tunnels that there are even roundabouts joining different tunnels together!

That’s just scratching the surface (and a little bit below the surface) of Monaco. Get exploring and see what other goodies you can find!