After a few minutes walking, the street empties out into a large square. Facing you is the Prince's Palace. The Palace was originally a Genoese fortress built in 1192. A few years later, Francois Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk and persuaded a guard to let him into the fortress. He then overpowered the guard and opened the gates to let his followers in. They captured the fortress and from then on, the Grimaldi family have been the rulers of Monaco. Because their power depended upon shifting alliances with their often warring neighbors, the Grimaldi's stronghold remained fortress like even after other European rulers had moved into unfortified palaces. Indeed, the Prince's Palace still retains something of the look of a fortress.
This does not mean that the Palace is not luxurious. Unlike other European ruling families who built numerous residences. The Grimaldis concentrated on this palace. In the second half of the 20th century, Prince Rainer devoted considerable effort to restoring and re-building the Palace.
The Prince's Palace contains works by Bruegel and Holbein as well as Italian frescoes. It also has the state portrait of Princess Grace. The Musee du Palais du Prince displays historical artifacts.
Although he is a constitutional monarch, The Prince retains real power and is involved in the government of the country. As a result, the Palace is not only his family residence but a working part of the government.
During the summer months, visitors can tour some of the state rooms including the Throne Room. There is often a wait to enter.
Standing outside the front entrance to the Palace in crisp white uniforms are soldiers of the Compagne des Carabiners du Prince. They are the Prince's official escort. Each day at 11:55, they hold a changing of the guard ceremony in the square in front of the Palace. In addition, during the course of the day, there are smaller ceremonies as the sentries are changed.
On the right hand side of the square as you face the Palace is a tree shaded area with viewing points. From here, the city and Port Hercule unfold below you in panoramic fashion. From the other side of the square, there is a beautiful view of Port de Fontvieille.
Great views can also be had from St. Martin's Gardens, which run along the southwest ridge of the Rock leading back to the Oceanographic Museum. Paths wind in among specimen trees and flowers. Here and there are statues, ranging from very old to contemporary. The highlights, however, are the viewing locations from which you can see vistas of the sea and of the cliffs of the Rock.
Above: The view of the Palace from Monte Carlo underscores the strength of the site as a defensive position.
Above left: A statue of Francois Grimaldi disguised as a monk.
Above right: A Carabinier guarding the Place.
Above: A view of the city from the Palace square.
Below: Scenes from St. Martin's Gardens.
Cruise destination - Monaco - Exploring the Rock of Monaco - page two