The Palais de Monaco, home of the Monegasque monarch, is perched high on a headland overlooking the Mediterranean, in an old part of the original fortified city known as Monaco-Ville. Also known as the Palais du Prince, the building began life in 1215 as a Genoese fortress. It was used primarily for military purposes until the 17th century when Prince HonorÚ II began to transform it into a royal palace by expanding the structure and installing an extensive art collection.
In 1793, the principality was incorporated into France and the Grimaldis were removed from power. The palace was converted into a hospital and home for the poor and many of its valuable artworks were sold. After the family were reinstated following the Treaty of Paris of 1815, Honore IV began to restore the building, which had been damaged during the French Revolution, to its former grandeur. Work which has continued to the present day.
When the ruling prince is not in residence, some areas of the palace are open to the public for part of the year. Highlights include a sumptuous Italian-style gallery dating from the 16th century which features frescos painted by Genoese artists, and an interior patio paved with three million pebbles which has as its centrepiece a magnificent Carrara marble staircase.
The palace also contains 15 other state rooms, including the elegant Throne Room and Florentine-style St. Mary's Tower. Its south wing has been converted into a museum housing various Napoleonic paraphernalia.
Perhaps the palace's main attraction is the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard, which takes place daily in the Palace Square just before noon.
The official royal website can be found at www.monaco.gouv.mc/