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Monaco has two ports that are home to some of the largest and most luxurious yachts in the world. The westernmost is called Fontvieille Port and, despite appearances, was built quite recently, in 1973. The other port, by contrast, has centuries of history. It is located slightly further east and is the port of Condamine, better known as Port Hercules.
Port Hercules is one of the few deep water ports on the Côte d’Azur and is situated in a natural bay that was used by the Greeks and Romans as a trading port. In 1901, Prince Albert I decided that Monaco should have a marina to accommodate the yachts of the rich and famous who visited the Côte d’Azur. As the port was open to the sea and exposed to harsh wind and waves, it was necessary to undertake major works to adapt it to receive the large cruise ships and other pleasure craft that it welcomes today. Breakwaters, docks, jetties and other structures have been added over the years to meet the needs of the day.
Around the port, you will also find all kinds restaurants, the most exclusive boutiques and a host of activities to enjoy.
According to the Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily and the geographer Strabo in their writings of 2,000 years ago, the Phoenicians and Greeks believed that Hercules had passed through here. Because of this, in ancient times, this was the location of a Phoenician temple dedicated to Melqart and, later, the Greeks built the port and the city, which they called Monoikos, a reference to Heracles. And finally, the Romans built a large port which they called Portus Herculis Monoeci.
Evidently, Melqart, Heracles and Hercules were the same personage and, according to the experts of the time, he had to pass through during one of his journeys to complete the twelve labours of Heracles, which included capturing the Cretan Bull, stealing the Belt of Hippolyta, killing the Lernaean Hydra and another 9 more, according to an ancient text from 2,600 years ago, even earlier than Greek literature.
Beyond the myth though, spending an afternoon wandering through this port is a simply brilliant idea. Our suggestion would be to enjoy a cool drink in one of its terrace bars while you admire one of the best views of the Mediterranean and watch the comings and goings of the yachts of the international jet set and the celebrities that gather here. Make sure that your camera is ready to start taking pictures.
Among the most photographed yachts are those belonging to some of the richest people in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East. For example, take a look to see if the yacht designed by Philippe Starck, which many say looks more like a submarine than a boat, is moored here. Another one that you are almost sure to find moored is the vast and luxurious Atlantis II, which is 115 metres in length and rarely goes out to sea. Another sight not to be missed is the mega yacht Lady Moura, which, despite not being from here, usually spends about 9 or 10 months a year on the Côte d’Azur. Its size is so impressive that even the helicopter on top of it looks small. Another one to look out for is an old yacht belonging to Princess Caroline of Monaco, Pacha III. In short, there are as many stories as there are yachts. The SS Delphine, for example, was where Churchill and Eisenhower met to discuss the Yalta Conference and Sokar was where Dodi Fayed courted Princess Diana.
Currently, you will see that some major works are being carried out. These include the new Yacht Club designed by Sir Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners.
And if you like the port by day, make sure you come back at night. Dress up and come and enjoy a drink in one of the most luxurious ports in the world.