Monaco is the smallest nation in Europe, at least if you only look at the ones recognised by the United Stations. How small? Well, if you want to get from one end of the country to the other, you can do it on foot, in less than an hour.
Compare that to some of its neighbours. To the north, walking east-to-west in France would take you more than 10 days without any breaks. Similarly, trekking from Spain’s most easterly point to its furthest spot in the west would span more than 12 days of constant walking. The United States, on the other hand, is on another scale entirely. Walking the USA from East to West will take you over 50 days, or considerably longer if you want to do things like eat, sleep, and rest your blister-ridden feet.
There’s no doubt that Monaco is tiny. Yet, despite its petite proportions the principality is packed with professional sporting events. This makes it a mecca for fans of many of the world’s biggest and most prestigious competitions from poker to soccer.
There will be some of these sports that you know quite a bit about, but some you may be less familiar with. So if you fancy making a trip to the continent’s compact country and enjoying some world-class sport while you’re there, here are some of the best opportunities.
When you think of Monaco and sport, you probably think Formula 1. And for good reason, the principality has been welcoming the world’s most prestigious motorsports event to its twisty streets since the first FIA championship was organised in 1950. It is a unique fixture on the F1 calendar as the streets of Monte Carlo create the tightest, slowest, narrowest, shortest, and most challenging circuit of the season.
Being so small, the Formula 1 paddock and the fans that it attracts completely take over the country, as well as the nearby towns and cities of France. Monaco’s marinas are filled with some of the world’s biggest yachts, its hotels reach full capacity, and the streets themselves are closed off for large parts of the day.
If you’re in Monaco, there’s no escaping Formula 1 for the weekend of the event, but the preparation before the event also takes time, meaning you can see signs of F1 for weeks before and after.
Even if you’re not visiting Monaco in May, you can still walk the circuit since most of the corners retain their famous red and white curbs year-round, so you can get up close and personal with the places your heroes have driven.
In addition to the famous hairpin turn, the marina, and the tunnel, another famous part of Monaco’s F1 track is Casino Square. Named, unsurprisingly, after the Casino de Monte Carlo that has stood on the site for almost 160 years, this part of Monaco is one of the most beautiful. The building itself is majestic but it’s enhanced greatly by the beautiful gardens that make approaching the building an experience in itself.
The casino operates year-round, but once a year it becomes home to one of the most prestigious poker events in the world, the European Poker Tour. This is an event that attracts many of the continent’s and the planet’s most talented card players, as well as the eyes of the entire sport.
Similar to Formula 1, this multi-day event has a long period of build-up. Many online poker sites will run promotions based around the EPT, giving their players the opportunity to earn a spot in the tournament. One of the leaders in this area is PokerStars, an online card room that provides a platform for players to partake in a plethora of poker variants, as well as providing educational content to help them improve their skills.
You can find the EPT streamed online, but nothing beats watching in person in the opulent surroundings of the Monte Carlo Casino, so it’s a must for anyone who loves playing card games.
Despite being smaller than most cities, Monaco is home to its own football club. Naturally, there isn’t enough space for there to be an entire league, so AS Monaco FC compete it’s France’s Ligue 1 instead.
It’s, actually, one of the most successful clubs in the history of French league football, despite being located outside of the republic. Since its formation in 1918, AS Monaco has picked up eight league titles, five cup trophies, and a league cup trophy. It also came close to winning the UEFA Champions League in 2004, finishing second behind Porto.
The Ligue 1 season runs from fall to spring each year and you’ll find Monaco’s home games being played regularly at its Stade Louis II, which is located right on the border with France.