Monaco

Monaco is tiny: just 430 acres, or less than a square mile in size. Only 5,070 of its 29,972 residents are Monégasque citizens; the rest are French, Italian, and other foreigners who have come to Monaco for sun, fun, and tax breaks.

Although banking and industry are important to the local economy, tourism has been the most obvious source of foreign exchange since Prince Charles III gave an exclusive charter to the "Sea Bathing and Circle of Foreigners Company" in 1863. The construction of a railway line from Nice, a casino, an opera house, and expensive villas on the plateau of the Spélugues (renamed "Monte Carlo" in honor of the prince) turned a pint-sized Mediterranean backwater into a mecca for the idle rich.

Today, the Monte Carlo Congress Center and Auditorium may be as important to the economy as the Casino, although the latter remains the principality's symbolic and spiritual center. Some 1,400 hotel rooms are within 200 meters of the convention center, and visitors collectively spend nearly 200,000 nights in the principality's hotels every year--more than five times the number of sleepovers 30 years ago.

By air. Nice Airport is 37 km (22 miles) away. From there, you can reach Monaco by taxi, bus, or helicopter.

By train. The SNCF (French Railways) stops at Monaco on the coastal route between Italy and Marseille. Nice is the nearest major station. If you're traveling from Paris, you can choose between high-speed TGV trains to Nice or Marseille, conventional trains, or the overnight vehicle train from Paris Bercy to Nice.

By bus. Nice, Cannes, Menton, and smaller towns in the area offer public bus service to Monaco. Check the local tourist office or bus stop for a timetable.

By car. Monaco is on the N7 coastal route between Nice and the Italian border, so it's hard to miss.