Guide to Monaco: Interesting Facts
To introduce yourself as a resident of Monaco welcomes an association like no other place in the world. If you say you’re from New York, for example, or Paris, or even Hong Kong, people will not instantly assume you’re wealthier than most. But to utter “I live in Monaco” is a statement like no other because, indeed, Monaco is a place like no other.
In Monaco, the second-smallest country in the world, real estate prices are now as much as €53,000 per m2 — €5 million can buy you a small apartment of roughly 1000 square feet / 100m2 — making it the most expensive real estate on the planet. And if the sky-high real estate costs weren’t enough to convince you, one quick stroll down any one of its windy streets means pedestrians will be walking past a bevy of custom Lamborghinis, McLarens, and Ferraris (all driving the 31 miles per hour typical speed limit throughout Monaco).
Much of what makes Monaco such a desirable locale is well known: the legendary hotels, the Cote d’Azur climate, and –of course– its unique tax benefits for the ultrarich. But what it’s really known for is its wealth. It is so wealthy that it doesn’t even measure poverty rates. There are no homeless or poor people. In fact, to live comfortably in Monaco, you’ll either need a hefty trust fund or an income of at least €250,000 per adult.
With this Monaco and Monte-Carlo travel guide, Iconic Riviera will give you a sneak-peek of the opulent lifestyle the Principality offers, as told by a resident of Monaco. This is just one of several Monaco guides on Iconic Riviera.
Monaco: The Essentials
Location: Monaco is a unique sovereign city-state (“principality”) on the French Riviera that is only two square kilometers — about the size of New York’s Central Park. It is surrounded by France, but only 30 minutes by car from Italy on one side and the Nice airport on the other.
Size: With just 200 hectares and less than 40k population (plus 60k people who work, but don’t live, in Monaco), it is the second-smallest country in the world (only the Vatican is smaller). But what it lacks in size it makes up for in attitude.
Currency: The currency is the same as the rest of the European Union, the Euro €. Like the rest of Europe, Monaco also has robust social programs, including housing subsidies for the Monegasque citizens, free education, and affordable healthcare.
Language: French is the official language, but most people understand and speak English, many as native speakers — and many also speak Italian and Russian. It’s helpful to know French (especially if you need to visit the hospital, where many receptionists refuse to speak English), but you can get along without it.
Because of the lucrative subsidies and benefits that you get when you become a citizen, it’s extremely rare to be granted citizenship, even after living in Monaco for many decades. Monégasques were born Monégasques. It’s the blood line that matters. Of course, there are exceptions, for example, you can ask for Monégasque citizenship after 10 years of being married to a Monégasque (but you almost certainly won’t receive it, and you’ll need to give up your other citizenships if you do). Or if you’re a celebrity or you’ve done something very special for the principality, the Prince might consider offering it to you as a special favor.
That’s why most of the people who live in Monaco are citizens of other countries while also being residents of Monaco…
Who Lives in Monaco
To be a resident of Monaco, you must rent an apartment (rent starts at about €5000 per month for the smallest required) and prove that you have at least €500,000 (per resident) in a Monaco bank account. Most comfortable apartments start at around €10,000 per month, and some apartments rent for as much as €300,000 million per month. To buy, expect to pay around €50,000 per m2.
More ultra-high-net-worth individuals have chosen to make Monaco their home, by population density, than anywhere else on Earth, with one in 39 homeowners being classed as a UHNWI (“ultra high net worth” — meaning they have a minimum of $30 million in liquid money in a bank account).
The high cost of living is balanced out by the fact that residents save money by not paying any tax on their personal income. American and French citizens can’t benefit from this (unless they renounce their citizenship and have an alternate passport), as both countries tax their citizens even while residing in Monaco.
The population of Monaco in 2020 is about 38,000, and growing. Residents have moved here from 140 other countries. Within Monaco, roughly a quarter of the population are French (mostly French families who took up residence in Monaco before October 1957; new French residents are required to pay French income tax), just under a quarter are Italian, and almost 8% are British.
Despite there being a local Russian-language magazine and Russian being the predominant language you hear on the streets of Monaco, the census says that only 12.5% of the population are Russian passport holders. However, since most wealthy Russians swapped their Russian passport for that of Cyprus (or other countries) before moving to Monaco, the actual percentage of Russian-born residents is much higher.
The average life expectancy for the people of Monaco is 89.5 – the longest life expectancy in the world.
Only 22% percent of the population are Monagesque (Monaco citizens) and the remaining 78% are Monaco ‘residents’. The average age of Monegasques is 44.4 years, and almost 14% of nationals are 75+ years old. In 2021, the Principality had 9573 Monegasque, of which 8980 are living in Monaco and 593 live abroad.
Here is the data from the latest (2016) Monaco census:
Lack of Female Inclusivity in the Workplace
Despite its efforts to modernize, Monaco is still behind the times on the gender equality front. Monaco is still a deeply patriarchal place, and the laws reflect that — including an outdated, ages-old rule dictates that it is the Prince’s son (not his daughter) who must take the throne.
In Monaco, women make 20% less income than men do, for the same work. Regarding the 531 government roles filled in 2022, 158 went to women and 373 went to men.
According to IMSEE, only 28% of Monaco’s corporate governors are female, only 29% of senior roles at limited liability companies are held by women, and at public limited companies, only 1 in 5 (22%) people in charge is female. Women represent only 19% of those employed in the financial and insurance industries, and 21% in information and communication jobs.
Before we go any further in this travel guide, we will explain the difference between Monaco and Monte-Carlo. Many seem to confuse one with the other. Consequently, several hotels that are not in Monte-Carlo still use the words ‘Monte Carlo’ in their name, so be careful to check a map before booking, or you may end up walking 30 minutes to Monte-Carlo from your ‘Monte Carlo’ hotel!
Monaco is the country or city-state. Whereas, Monte-Carlo is one of the neighborhoods within. There are nine other neighborhoods within the city-state. The most well-known is Monte Carlo, where the casino is located. Also famous is Monaco-Ville with its other name Le Rocher (The Rock) which is the oldest area and houses the Palace and Monaco’s jail. La Condamine is a popular area known for the main port (Port Hercule), which has a large event space used for the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monaco Yacht Show. Larvotto is where the beach and many fantastic restaurants are located. Then there is Fontvieille (where you’ll land if you arrive by helicopter), which is the newest residential area partially reclaimed from the sea — and where the local police and firefighters live. The other areas are mostly just residential and not attractive to tourists.
Getting Around in Monaco
Monaco is at the foot of the Alps mountain range and is very steep. Getting around inside Monaco can be a frustrating experience because of the lack of Uber (yes, I know — it’s a frustration to many tourists and residents). Fortunately, there are a lot of parking garages that are clearly marked. But watch out — if you have a large vehicle, you may not be able to fit into some of them.
Locals know where all the (somewhat hidden) elevators are, so they can walk places quickly, but if you don’t, then you’ll likely be getting some good uphill exercise in order to get to your destination by foot. Here’s a guide to getting around in Monaco (and where the elevators are!)
How Monaco is Governed
The Monaco government is what’s called a ‘Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy’. It is an independent City-State (Monaco is not part of France). A hereditary constitutional monarchy sets the Head of the State, and the Sovereign Prince is the head of the government. The Consultative Constitutional Assemblies assist in governing. H.S.H. Prince Albert II reigns as the current monarch.
Monaco is a full voting member of the United Nations and part of thirteen UN organizations, such as UNESCO and WHO. The Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861 officially recognized Monaco as a sovereign state.
Despite Monaco’s independence and separate foreign policy, its defense is the responsibility of France. However, Monaco does maintain two small military units.
Monaco is predominantly Roman Catholic. It is also the state religion. Still, the Constitution guarantees freedom of worship. The motto is ‘Deo Juvante’. In English, it means “With God’s Help.”
Safety and the Monaco Police
Monaco has the largest police force and police presence in the world, on both a per-capita and per-area basis. With nation-wide video surveillance, three police stations, and one police officer per 73 residents, Monaco has safety standards so strict that it is known as the safest square mile in the world. Compare that to NYC, one of the USA’s most policed and safest cities, which has one officer per 233 residents.
The 519 police officers are carefully selected from the French police force and must go through an additional two-year intensive training program to serve in Monaco. It’s a very desirable position as they get a high salary and a free seaside apartment in Fontvieille, Monaco.
The Monaco police don’t mess around: the rules are extremely strict and the court system in Monaco almost always pronounces maximum sentences. So behave yourself!
Monaco has a system of 24-hour video surveillance spanning the entire surface area of the Principality, including the majority of residential building lobbies, a transmitting system worthy of the best armies in the world, the possibility of blocking all access in and out of the Principality in several minutes. And we mustn’t forget the surveillance teams inside of the Casino and in all of the gambling establishments and hotels.
This works well for residents and tourists, as you won’t need to worry about your diamond bracelet or designer bag being stolen, or your child going missing. If your child wanders off, the police will be able to track him/her with facial-recognition video tracking and find your child in a matter of minutes.
Check out our guide to Monaco’s jail!
Documentary: An Insider Look at Monaco
For one year, the cameras for this documentary followed the Prince in his daily head of state and family, behind the scenes of princely palaces and abroad. You’ll see his personal office atop one of the towers of the palace to the most private rooms where he always meets with the family, sports events in charitable prestigious galas, political obligations very personal passion, Monaco or abroad, the ruler of Monaco sharing for the first time his public and private life.
A Visual Overview of Monaco
SBM has created an interactive virtual tour of Monaco. It’s a fun way to virtually ‘walk’ around Monaco and tour inside some of the landmark buildings, hotels and casinos.
More Travel Guides to Monaco and Monte-Carlo
Like art? To find the art in the Principality, check out this travel guide to Monaco’s art scene.
The Principality has many beautiful parks and gardens perfect with picturesque and Instagram-worthy views. See this guide to Monaco’s parks for more.
And, are you curious how billionaires live a life of luxury in Monte Carlo? Take a look at this billionaire-life travel guide.
For the best shopping experiences, see this guide to Monaco’s shopping centers.
Wondering about the royal family? Check out our guide to the history of Monaco.
This is a really useful map of Monaco. You can filter the map to show the nearest public toilets, bike stations, water fountains, dog parks, gel dispensers and much more! The parking section allows you to check real time availability of parking spaces by car park.
And check Iconic Riviera regularly as we add more travel guides every week!