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Sailing into luxury in Monaco

By Emily Smith, CNN
September 30, 2011 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Monaco is the world's second smallest country. Monaco is the world's second smallest country.
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Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
Sailing into luxury in Monaco
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The harbor is in the heart of the principality
  • There are more than 130 restaurants and bars to choose from
  • The harbor is a focal point of the Monaco Grand Prix

(CNN) -- Home to glamorous princesses and princes, opulent hotels and, of course, the resting place of some of the world's grandest yachts -- Monaco is the epitome of glamour, style and luxury.

Nestled between France and Italy, the world's second smallest nation has for decades intrigued visitors keen to get a glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Follow the trail of the renowned Monaco Yacht Show and explore this Mediterranean jewel.

Start in style

"The harbor is in the heart of the principality," says Michel Bouquier, president of the Monaco Government Tourism Authority. With the principality taking up an area of only around two squared kilometers, everywhere you need to go is within walking distance of the harbor. But if the idea of traipsing around to find the ideal places to eat and drink doesn't appeal to you, a concierge service is on hand as soon as you dock at the harbor. "The service is there to provide you with anything you need from opera tickets to dinner reservations," says Bouquier.

Exploring the sea

For those keener to go further afield, there are many beautiful spots between Monaco and Nice where you can drop your anchor and dive off your boat. But after a long day of sailing you may prefer to lounge by the water on more stable ground. It's only a short walk to the main beach area of Larvotto from the harbor, or ask the concierge to arrange a free electric bike to get you to the sand.

On dry land

To appreciate the Monaco culture, what better place to start than at the Prince's Palace. While the palace itself is a private residence, you can still feel like royalty by visiting the State Apartments which are open to the public. If you haven't had enough of your royal fix, it's only a short walk to the Oceanographic Museum, built by Prince Albert the first and now featuring an exhibition dedicated to the recent royal wedding between his great-grandson Prince Albert and Princess Charlene.

Between the palace and the museum is the Cathedral of St. Nicholas where Prince Albert's father married Hollywood actress Grace Kelly. It is also where her body was laid to rest.

For a change in gear, make sure you sail into Monaco for the Grand Prix. Every year the world's best Formula 1 drivers compete on the famous course with the glittering harbor as one of its focal points.

Dining in excellence

There is no shortage of places to dine with over 130 restaurants and bars to choose from in the tiny nation. For those wanting to gaze out onto the waters, there are rows of eateries for the hungry seafarer to peruse along the harbor and beach fronts. The cuisine is heavily influenced by the country's French and Italian neighbors, making it easy to pick up a slice of pizza in between swims from one of the many pizzerias.

For the fine diner, Monaco boasts several Michelin-rated restaurants, including royal wedding chef Alain Ducasse's three-starred Le Louis XV at the elegant Hôtel de Paris. Also at the hotel is Le Grill, which features a roof that can slide open on glorious summer evenings. "You have a fantastic view of the sea," enthuses Bouquier. "And when the ceiling opens up, it's like you're dining in the air."

Once dinner is complete, head for a nightcap at the Buddha Bar before retiring to your yacht for the evening. If it's too early to go to bed, why not wander over to the famed Monte Carlo Casino. "Even if you don't gamble you really must visit the casino, it's an astonishing sight," Bouquier says.

After a day, or days, of swimming, sightseeing and dining in Monaco you will be able to sail away from the tiny principality knowing that you've been immersed in the land of luxury.

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