The Principality of Monaco, like many other major European cities that draw tourists from all over, is a good mix of the old and the new. Stretched in a small, 2.05 km2 area, this independent Monegasque city state sports a contrast between vintage, centuries old structures and stylish modern high rises.
Monaco is divided into ten wards, or a collection of former municipalities. One of the most important, and most famous of these is the Monaco-ville. Perched on what is aptly called Le Rocher or the Rock of Monaco, this district is perhaps the most imposing sight in the Monacan cityscape.
The Palais Princier
Among the mix of old and new architecture perched on the Rock is one that’s very hard to miss. This is the Palais Princier – literally meaning the Prince’s Palace and also known as Monaco Palace – which, as the name suggests, is the residence of the Grimaldi Prince.
The Monaco Palace, contrary to what many would think, is not the seat of Monaco’s government but is merely the Prince of Monaco’s home. Nevertheless, the large edifice serves as the testimony of the wealth and power of the House of Grimaldi for over seven centuries now.
A Brief History of the Prince’s Palace
The Palace started as a Genoese fortress in 1191. It was first captured in 1297 by Francois Grimaldi, who, in the guise of a monk, took the fortress by surprise. The Grimaldi rule was solidified some time after Francois’ death, and fortification was slowly converted into a palace by the next succeeding princes . As there is no suitable land to build a new castle, the palace received various upgrades.
Each augmentation to the Palace reflects the Grimaldis’ and Monaco’s wealth, as well as the political climate of the time. For example, new towers are added for protection during wartime, or the whole place is renovated whenever certain princes get a need for and can afford better aesthetics.
External Characteristics of the Palace
The Prince’s Palace is known to be unique compared to other royal residences elsewhere in Europe. While most are famous for being pompous and lavishly constructed, the Grimaldi residence consistently reflects the appearance of the old fortress it used to be.
Outwardly, the Monaco Palace is, like Monaco itself, a combination of age old and modern architecture and aesthetics. The Renaissance style facade reflects the appearance of what could be a classy hotel, fronting its old medieval fortifications that seem to be left untouched by time.
The Monaco Palace Interiors
The interior meanwhile, contains many rooms, the most notable of which are the 16th century state apartments. Another section of note is the processional route, an enfilade – a series of rooms aligned with each other – and a ceremonial pathway to the throne room that starts from a U-shaped staircase from the court of honor, around which the Palace is built.
The Palace interior reflects plenty of French influences, which are best exemplified by the Gallery of Hercules, which is based on the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. This can also be seen in what remained of the 18th century upgrades to the state apartments.
If you are planning to go on a vacation to Monaco, you better drop by Monaco-ville and see the magnificent palace for yourself. This edifice is not only a reflection of the Grimaldis’ affluence, but also the history of Monaco itself.