Monaco is the second-smallest independent state in the world. It is a playground for tourists and a haven for the wealthy, the former drawn by its climate and the beauty of its setting and the latter by its advantageous tax regime.
The country - a constitutional monarchy - is surrounded on three sides by France and occupies just under two square kilometres (0.75 sq mile) of the Cote d'Azur, where the Alpes Maritimes meet the Mediterranean.
Tourism drives Monaco's economy; gamblers flock to the Place du Casino in Monte-Carlo and every May the principality hosts the Monaco Grand Prix.
The country is a major banking centre and closely guards the privacy of its clients.
Monaco does not levy income tax on its residents.
Monarch: Prince Albert II
Prince Albert took over as head of state following the death of his father, Prince Rainier, in 2005.
Prince Rainier was Europe's longest-reigning monarch. He worked to reduce Monaco's reliance on tourism and gambling by attracting business. He staunchly defended Monaco's banking and taxation systems in the face of criticism from France.
Prince Albert, who was 47 at the time of his father's death, is an accomplished sportsman.
His bachelorhood prompted a change to the constitution to allow the Grimaldi dynasty, which has ruled Monaco for seven centuries, to continue through the female line. Prince Albert is the 32nd ruler.
He married South African-born former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in July 2011.
Television's great and good gather in Monaco every year for the Monte-Carlo Television Festival, set up in 1961 by Prince Rainier.
The influence of Monaco's broadcast media extends far beyond the borders of the tiny state. From the 1960s Radio Monte-Carlo used powerful transmitters to reach listeners across much of France, and in the 1970s broadcasts to Italy began.
Some key dates in Monaco's history:
1297 - Reign of the Grimaldi family begins.
1793 - Grimaldis dispossessed by the French Revolutionary regime, and Monaco was briefly annexed to France.
1911 - Monaco's first constitution drafted.
1929 - First Monaco Grand Prix, won by Britain's William Williams.
1956 - Prince Rainier marries Hollywood actress Grace Kelly. The couple met at the Cannes film festival in 1955.
2004 - OECD places Monaco on blacklist of uncooperative tax havens until 2009.