Officially known as the Principality of Monaco, this small state perched between the mountains and the sea is a unique and captivating locale with more than a few memorable stories and notable accolades to its name. If you are travelling through Europe and ever find yourself on the French Mediterranean coast, known as the French Riviera or Côte d’Azur, a visit to this unique site should be at the top of your list. Below we’re going to be taking a look at some of the most spectacular facts about Monaco, all of which contribute to its prestige, mystique and enduring appeal among tourists and locals alike.
The Jewel in the Formula One Crown
When you ask the average person what they think of when they hear the word Monaco, many will respond with Formula 1. Motorsport races have been taking place inside the small city-state since 1929, and following its inclusion in the inaugural Formula One World Championship in 1950 the sport has returned to its streets every year since 1955. Some of the most historic races in the history of the sport took place here. Certainly, it’s one of the most exciting-looking tracks in the F1 calendar, with its changing elevation, tight hairpins, tunnel and marina backdrop. For this reason, Monaco is generally referred to as the Jewel in the F1 crown. Changes in car design over the years have made racing on its twisty streets more challenging than in the past, and this has led to some to criticize the course’s ongoing inclusion in the calendar, but Monaco is unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon.
The Home of Charles Wells’ Historic Run
Aside from its association with the top flight of motorsport, Monaco is perhaps best known for its casino, the Casino de Monte-Carlo. No gaming establishment in the world can match the elegance and glamour of this venue. It has been frequented by royalty and celebrities alike, with even the titular fictional spy, James Bond, known to pay a visit once or twice. Yet perhaps the most notorious patron ever to set foot inside its walls was a man named Charles Deville Wells. He was to become forever immortalized in 1891 by employing a roulette strategy developed by British casino manager John Henry Martingale, now remembered as the Martingale system, to sweep Monte-Carlo’s tables over a three-day period. Wells began with 4000 francs, and by the time was done he had made 1 million. This is equivalent to $5 million in today’s money. This caused such a sensation at the time that Fred Gilbert, the music-hall songwriter, penned the song “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” to commemorate the event. This song was made popular by singer Charles Coborn and became a well-known tune for much of the 20th century.
The Smallest Nation in the World (Technically!)
That Monaco is small is a well-known fact, but few who have ever visited and seen it for themselves understand just how small it really is. Of the ten smallest countries in the world, 6 are islands, with Nauru ranking as the smallest of these at just 20km². The remaining four nations that belong to a larger landmass are all in Europe, a peculiarity born out of the continent’s mediaeval feudal legacy. The largest, Liechtenstein, is 160km² and sits nestled between Austria and Switzerland. Next comes San Marino, located within the mountains of northern Italy, and measuring 60 km². Then comes Monaco, which is only 2 km² across — that’s 80 times smaller than Liechtenstein, and 347,831 times smaller than Texas. Monaco is also the second most densely populated country or territory in the world as a result of it being a city-state, second only to Macau. With just shy of 40,000 residents, Monaco has a population density of around 19,892/km². The only state smaller than Monaco is Vatican City, coming in at 0.49 km², though with its unique status it occupies a distinctive category all to its own.