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Since the 12th century, the city-state of Monaco, perched on the Mediterranean bordering France's southernmost shores, has been an independent country.

What exactly is the difference between Monaco and the famed Monte Carlo? Let's start with a little background. Monaco is the principality and the Monaco has the royal family. The confusion comes from Monaco's four traditional quarters, the most well-known of which is certainly Monte Carlo. The other three quarters are the old town of Monaco, Monaco-Ville, Fontvieille and La Condamine.

The Monaco we know today has been home to the royal family - House of Grimaldi - since the 1200s, when Francesco Grimaldi seized Le Rocher and began the family's rule of Monaco. The country's old town, once the entire of Monaco, is today one of the four traditional quarters, containing the Prince's Palace, where the royal family still resides, and other stunning landmarks.

Some of Monaco's most iconic vistas are satisfied by the Monte Carlo quarter. The construction of this quarter on the elevated old Spelugues plateau began in 1870 and it now contains the biggest concentration of stores in Europe. The Monte Carlo Casino stands proudly at its heart. Around the Place du Casino is the equally famous Cercle-d'Or district, or Golden Square, as it's sometimes called, a hub of only a few streets that are full to the brim with designer brands and beautiful high-end stores. Descend from the dizzying heights of the casino and surrounding and you'll get to Monaco's Mediterranean edge.

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Additional Photos by Zbigniew Kalinowski (fotka) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 552 W: 9 N: 1453] (6583)
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