How Monaco Became So Rich

It was called the “Wedding of the Century”…

After a whirlwind romance of just a year, Hollywood star Grace Kelly was set to marry the ruler of the fantastically wealthy city-state of Monaco, Prince Rainier III.

Their 1956 wedding became a global obsession…

Set on the French Riviera, the tiny city-state of Monaco is one of the wealthiest and most prestigious destinations in the world.

The ceremony was watched on live television by over 30 million viewers.

Entire articles were dedicated to Grace’s dress, which was made from 25 yards of silk fabric and took a team of 36 seamstresses at MGM six weeks to make (it was a gift from the film studio).

Journalists reported extensively on the lavish gifts, which ranged from the practical (a Rolls-Royce) to the bizarre (a gold and bone hatchet). So much wealth had gathered in one place for the wedding that it served as a magnet for Europe’s thieves. One of the bridesmaids lost $8,000 in gems, while $50,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from a friend of Grace’s father.

These hiccups aside, the wedding was a stunning triumph for Monaco.

It perfectly symbolized how this lavish city-state had evolved into the ideal playground for royalty and celebrities…bringing together the old, moneyed elites of European aristocracy with the impossibly glamorous jet-setters of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

But it could all have been so different…

Just a few generations before, tiny Monaco had been on the verge of bankruptcy.

Monaco sits on the eastern edge of the French Riviera, not far from the border with Italy.

Until the 19th century, the strip of coast that we now call the French Riviera was mostly rural and agricultural. Its rocky terrain and inaccessibility made it undesirable for development…its inhabitants were mostly humble fishermen.

Then a slow and subtle shift began in the late 1700s.

It was centered on the city of Nice and led by the British, who’s upper classes started to adopt the practice of winter vacationing in the “Midi,” as the South of France was then known. They stayed on this stretch of French coast for health reasons, making the most of the mild climate and sunshine when winters back home were too dreary.

Over the course of the 19th century, the French Riviera was gradually taken over by foreign aristocracy. First they went to Hyères, then Cannes, and by the 1860s, Monaco, Menton, and Golfe-Juan.

By the end of the century, the Riviera had become so thick with royalty that Queen Victoria of Britain, during a 1898 visit, idly bumped into her first cousin Leopold II, king of Belgium, on the roads between Nice and Monaco.

Monaco’s Port Hercules is now the most famous and exclusive harbor in the world for pleasure craft.

This sudden influx of the upper classes onto the French Riviera was to be Monaco’s salvation.

In the mid-19th century, the city-state was virtually bankrupt. In 1848, it had lost over 95% of its territory when the towns of Menton and Roquebrune declared independence and later joined France. Tiny Monaco was left with a footprint of just under 1 square mile, less space than New York’s Central Park. This drastically reduced its tax and agricultural base.

Monaco is a principality…it is ruled by a prince. But in the mid-1800s, it was not a prince that governed the city-state, but a princess.

Prince Florestan ascended to the throne in 1841, but he had little desire or aptitude for ruling the city. The real power during his reign lay in the hands of his wife, Princess Caroline, a shrewd, business-minded ruler who reportedly possessed great intelligence and excellent social skills.

She conceived of a plan to save the city…it would open a grand casino and lavish hotels to serve the royalty flocking to the French Riviera.

Unveiled in 1865, the Monte Carlo Casino quickly became the most famous in the world.

The world-renowned Monte Carlo Casino helped save Monaco from bankruptcy.

As the wealthy came, Monaco enacted policies to make sure they stayed.

It abolished personal income tax for residents in 1869. And in the 1920s, a modern port was completed, Port Hercules, to cater to the growing interest in luxury pleasure craft. The port underwent improvements in the 1970s and today is the most famous port for pleasure craft in the world, with enough berths for up to 700 vessels.

A stunning coastline…an incredible climate…a grand casino…a glistening port…luxury hotels…favorable tax policies…

Through a combination of luck and design, Monaco stumbled onto a perfect formula for attracting the ultra-rich.

In the post-war years, growing numbers of American celebrities started joining European royalty in Monaco. But the marriage of Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly really kicked the city-state into overdrive.

For the world’s elite, this “Wedding of the Century” made Monaco the place to be and to be seen.

Today, Monaco retains this allure. Here’s a video I found online that spotlights the city…

This video spotlights the history, development, and incredible modern wealth of Monaco. Click to view.

Monaco now has the most expensive real estate market in the world.

In 2023, Mansion Global reported that the average price per square foot for prime real estate in Monaco was a world-leading €4,776. By comparison, it was €2,350 in New York, €1,756 in London and €780 in Dubai.

Do the math and that means for a 1,000-square-foot condo in Monaco, you’ll looking at an average price tag of €4.77 million.

But even at that price, you’re unlikely to get an extensive sea or harbor view. For that, you’ll need to pay more still.

For instance, this renovated 1,399-square-foot condo with sea views is on the market for €8 million.

Want something larger still…say a penthouse? Be prepared to pay mind-bendingly astronomical sums. This four-bed, four-bath spans more than 4,500 square feet…and it has a sensational view (check it out below). But the price tag: €26 million.

An incredible view, but it would have to be…given the €26 million price tag.

Renting in Monaco is likewise mind-blowingly expensive…

As The Wall Street Journal reported, “With a budget of $30,000 a month, a Manhattan couple looking for a luxury rental apartment could afford a 3,100-square-foot Central Park West corner apartment, with three bedrooms, nine-foot beamed ceilings and picture windows overlooking the park.

Take that same rental budget to tiny, glamorous Monaco, and they could expect to spend that much on a modest two-bedroom apartment of less than 1,200 square feet, with a small kitchen and windowless bathroom but a nice waterfront location near the Casino de Monte-Carlo.”

Even for the ultra-wealthy, these price tags are getting out of control…

In fact, as far back as the 1970s critics were already complaining that the French Riviera had lost its charm. Today the coast is truly under pressure. Last year 14 million people passed through Nice airport. That doesn’t account for overland visitors, nor people arriving by yacht or private jet. That’s 14 times the number of annual visitors in the 1960s.

This coast is not the preserve of the ultra-rich any longer.

Much of what made the French Riviera so stylish and special is buried in concrete.

That’s why many ultra-wealthy are now looking beyond Monaco, to Europe’s new “Hidden Riviera…”

Montenegro’s glittering coastline has made it a new playground of the ultra-rich…

Located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, tiny Montenegro is one of the world’s youngest countries. Since achieving independence in 2006, it has studiously and unapologetically adopted many aspects of the “Monaco model.”

It has built the glittering marinas…it has developed the lavish hotels and resorts…it has enacted the favorable tax policies…all to attract the ultra-rich.

Of course, none of this would work if it wasn’t beautiful.

Fortunately for Montenegro, it has a coastline even more dazzling than the French Riviera.

Running for 183 miles along the Adriatic Sea, this glittering coast is liberally sprinkled with historic towns, lively beach resorts, secluded coves and white-stone fishing villages, all punctuated by strips of fine sand and pebbled beaches.

And the world’s elite are already here.

A-listers, oligarchs, and Gulf state billionaires are flocking to this “hidden” coast to berth their superyachts in the new, modern marinas. Luxury penthouses there sell for millions.

Tatler called it a “new Monte Carlo.”

French weekly magazine La Parisien has described it as “an Eldorado for the ultra-rich and a new Monaco.”

And yet to a certain extent, it’s continuing to fly under the radar…for now.

I’ve previously scouted this destination and several of my most senior scouts had boots-on-the-ground here in just the past several months. Now I’m getting ready to unveil an incredible new members-only deal here for my Real Estate Trend Alert group.

This will be a chance to own best-in-class real estate here at mind-blowing off-market prices…a tiny fraction of what you’d pay in a place like Monaco. In fact, this deal is so strong that I expect gains of €201,643 five years after delivery. (That’s $215,587.)

More details on this soon. Stay tuned…


Ronan McMahon, Founder, Overseas Dream Home & Real Estate Trend Alert

P.S. Right now, I’m preparing a special report for my RETA members on the incredible transformation taking place in Montenegro. That will drop in RETA members inboxes tomorrow. (Not a RETA member? Learn how you can join here.)

Questions and Feedback

Have a question or comment about Montenegro or another of Europe’s Rivieras? A destination you’d like us to scout? Share it here. Here’s a question I got from an Overseas Dream Home reader…

Ken K. asks: Would you ever consider exploring cities on the coast of Morocco?

Ronan says: Hi Ken, this is a great question. And yes, absolutely. Morocco is a place that holds a lot of potential…and a place that my team and I have been interested in scouting for some time.

Contrary to what some people might assume about Morocco, it isn’t all desert and sand dunes. The country has 1,200 miles of coastline that runs along the Atlantic, all the way up to the Mediterranean. And along that coast you’ll find charming harbors, busy fishing ports, and beautiful beach towns.

It’s also politically stable, and just nine miles from Spain at its closest point.

The city beach in Tangier, in northern Morocco. Tangier is a one-hour ferry ride from Spain.

Morocco has been a popular vacation destination for northern Europeans for decades. But in recent years, it’s been growing in popularity. In 2023, Morocco set a new tourist record, reaching 13.2 million, breaking the previous record of 12.9 million that was set in 2019.

Morocco is now firmly on our radar. I’m planning to send one of my scouts. Stay tuned to Overseas Dream Home in the coming months to learn what we uncover…

Your Daily Dream Home

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador


This spacious three-bed house spans more than 2,350 square feet and is located just two minutes from the nearest school. The house features three bedrooms, a patio, living room, kitchen, dining room, and access to communal green spaces.

Additional amenities include an attic, patio, two garages, a domestic service room with its own bathroom, and a laundry room. The complex is secured with 24-hour security.

The house is located within Quito, which in 1978 became one of the first cities to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved historic center. Quito is a beautiful city that benefits from a mild climate throughout the year, sometimes described as “eternal spring”.

Click here to find out more

Remember, we don’t make money from any listing shared here in the Your Daily Dream Home section. We have no dog in the fight. We’re just sharing cool properties we’ve found.

I haven’t visited this property or done due diligence on it. If you’re interested in the listing, you should hire an attorney and do your own due diligence.

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Transparency is important to us, so you should know that properties and development projects detailed here may be clients of Pangaea Limited, a real estate advertising company managed by Ronan McMahon and Margaret Summerfield. Should you purchase one of the properties, Pangaea may receive a fee from the property owners, real estate developers and/or real estate agents. International Living Publishing Limited along with certain marketing companies who work with Pangaea may receive a portion of that fee.

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