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9 tiny countries with big appeal

By: Josh Lew on Nov. 21, 2013, 9 a.m.

Photo: ostill/Shutterstock

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Situated on France's Cote d'Azur only a few miles from the Italian border, Monaco is the second-smallest independent nation on Earth in terms of land area. Unlike all of the other tiny nations on this list, Monaco is almost completely urban, with a population of over 30,000 in an area of less than one square mile. Officially a principality, it is arguably the best-known small country in the world.

The main district, Monte Carlo, is known for its sports-car culture, glitzy casinos and exclusive hotels, while an older section features outdoor street markets and charming narrow streets. The principality is an architecture-lover's dreamland, with palatial, classic buildings everywhere, and views of the coastline and hilly terrain within easy reach. Museums, art galleries (including the famous Marlborough Gallery) and Jacques Cousteau's Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium are also on the agenda for visitors. The country is within day-trip distance of the more reasonably priced hostels and guesthouses of Nice, France.