Looking for a weekend getaway to one of the world's most glamorous destinations? Look no further than Monaco. Here you will find super-luxurious hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, world-famous nightclubs, mega-yachts filling the harbor, exotic sports cars on every corner and a glittering old-world casino that conjures images of James Bond playing high-stakes card games. Monaco is also host each year to one of the world’s most famous car races – the Monaco Grand Prix. A chic and glamorous playground, Monaco is ideal destination for a luxury weekend getaway.
For many years, our favorite Monaco hotel has been the famous and elegant Hotel de Paris, which sits in the heart of Monaco overlooking the Place du Casino (Casino Square). This Belle Époque hotel, built in 1864, has been undergoing a complete renovation since 2014 and, although the first new rooms and suites became available for the 2017 Grand Prix, we prefer to stay elsewhere until the renovation is completed in 2018, at which time we expect the hotel to regain its place as one of Europe’s most glamorous hotels.
Hotel de Paris // Place du Casino // website
For this luxury weekend getaway, we recommend the luxurious Hotel Métropole. As you arrive, your car will pass through an archway and along a long narrow tree-lined driveway that opens to the Belle Époque façade of the hotel. Redesigned by celebrity decorator Jacques Garcia to resemble a Mediterranean palazzo, the hotel successfully blends old-world charm with modern technology. The rooms are done in soft beiges and warm colors with lots of natural light. We particularly love the Deluxe Suites that offer sweeping views of Monte Carlo and the Mediterranean and feature king beds, a separate living area and Carrera marble bathrooms with an aromatherapy rain shower, separate soaking tub and double sinks stocked with Hermes bath products.
The hotel is home to three Joël Robuchon restaurants, including the extraordinary Michelin 2-star Restaurant Joël Robuchon and the 1-star Japanese restaurant, Yoshi. The hotel also offers a pool and lounge area designed by Karl Lagerfeld, a newly opened Spa by Givenchy and an excellent fitness facility with high-end Technogym and Kinesis equipment. With its luxurious rooms, excellent facilities and fabulous restaurants, you may never want to leave the hotel!
Hotel Metropole // 4, avenue de la Madone // website
Monaco is the world’s second smallest country (the Vatican City being the smallest) so it is easy to cover the entire country on foot. Just one block away from the Hotel Metropole is the Place du Casino (Casino Square), which is the center of much of the action in Monaco. The square is bordered by the famous Casino de Monte Carlo, with its ornate façade and luxury super cars parked in front, the famous Hotel de Paris, the Café de Paris, a large Belle Époque café with indoor and outdoor seating, and the Pavillions de Monte Carlo, a temporary village of luxury designer brands.
The Café de Paris is popular with both locals and tourists who come for the scene and a pricy espresso, beer or one of the many items from this Belle Époque brasserie’s bistro menu.
Designed in 1863 by Charles Garnier, the Casino de Monte Carlo is one of the iconic sights of Monaco with its Belle Époque façade. Adjacent to the Casino is the Opera de Monte-Carlo, a beautiful opera house also designed by Charles Garnier, who also built the Paris Opera.
From the Place du Casino, head down the hill to Port Hercules, which is a one of the most beautiful ports along the French Riviera. On your way down the hill from the Place de Casino, you will pass the Thermes Marin Monte Carlo, one of Europe's most beautiful spas, and the spectacular Yacht Club de Monaco, which was designed by the famous architectural firm of Foster + Partners.
Port Hercules is always lively and bustling. During the Formula 1 Grand Prix in May and the annual Yacht Show in September, almost all 700 berths are filled, including many hosting the world’s most biggest private yachts.
You could spend hours exploring the port and surrounding area’s picturesque narrow streets filled with excellent restaurants and bars, including the popular Quai des Artistes bistro and the American-style bar/café, Stars’n Bars. Whenever we visit the port area, we love to drop by the Marché de la Condamine, a covered market filled with restaurants, food stalls and shops, as well as an outdoor farmer’s market on weekends.
Marché de la Condamine // 15 Place d’Armes
We suggest finishing your afternoon of sightseeing with 30-minute helicopter tour of the French Riviera with Heli Air Monaco. From their seaside heliport, your Heli Air Monaco helicopter will give you bird’s-eye views of the French village of Roquebrune with its castle dating from 10th Century, Cap Martin, and the villages of Menton and Sainte Agnès. From there, you will head towards the glamorous towns of Cap Ferrat and Cannes before starting your return to Monaco. On your way back to Monaco, you will pass the village of Eze, a tiny village overhanging the Mediterranean.
Heli Air Monaco // 2 Avenue des Ligures // website
At the end of a day of exploring Monaco, we’ll often drop by Les Perles de Monte-Carlo for a dozen freshly shucked oysters served on icy platters and a chilled glass of crisp organic wine. Located at the end of the pier of Port de Fontvieille (and not far from Heli Air Monaco’s heliport), this casual laid-back oyster bar is run by two marine biologists who started the area’s the first oyster farm using traditional oyster farming techniques. Sought by the top restaurants, their oysters, clams, and seafood are super fresh and always delicious.
Les Perles de Monte-Carlo // Quai Jean-Charles Rey // website
For dinner, we suggest Restaurant Joël Robuchon Monte Carlo at the Hotel Metropole, one of our favorite restaurants in Monaco. The dining room of this Michelin two-star stunner feels like an elegant club with well-spaced tables and various nooks that provide lots of privacy. At one end of the restaurant is an open kitchen and a chef’s counter where diners can watch the chefs at work. The service staff is very polished, yet quite personable, and the sommelier team, led by head sommelier Fredric Woelffle, will expertly suggest perfect wines to pair with Robuchon’s creative and flavorful dishes. Joël Robuchon, in partnership with Head Chef Christophe Cussac, has designed a menu that marries classic French dishes with the Mediterranean's lighter and vibrant style. Some recent standout dishes included Langoustine in a truffled ravioli and Milk-fed Lamb served with Robuchon’s famous buttery mashed potatoes.
Restaurant Joël Robuchon Monte Carlo // 4, avenue de la Madone // website
No visit to Monaco would be complete without trying your luck at the Casino de Monte Carlo. Designed in 1863 by Charles Garnier, this legendary Belle Époque casino has preserved its old-world character -- elegant gaming parlors with glamorous gilt-edged Rocco high ceilings, marble columns and ornate bronze candelabras. There are a small number of slots tucked away in one of the smaller rooms but the real draw are the elegant gaming rooms offering traditional European games, as well as Blackjack and Texas Hold'em. At the casino, you will find a well-dressed clientele playing very high-stake hands. It is not unusual to see players placing large stacks of hundred Euro chips on a spin of the roulette wheel or a single hand of cards. The Casino de Monte Carlo is one of the few remaining casinos in the world that has retained its old-world charm and has not been taken over by rows of slots and crowded tables.
Casino de Monte Carlo // Place du Casino // website
If the weather is warm, enjoy Joël Robuchon’s decadent breakfast on the terrace of the Metropole’s main restaurant.
After breakfast, we suggest spending the morning exploring Le Rocher (the “Rock”), which is the historical heart of Monaco and offers great views of the harbor and the entire principality. The top of the Rock is dominated by the Prince’s Palace, which is where the royal family resides and is open to the public.
Not far from the palace is the world-renowned Oceanographic Museum, which is perched on a cliff and features an extraordinary aquarium, the 19th century Monaco Cathedral, where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III are buried and the St. Martin Gardens, a small beautifully maintained garden clinging to the cliff. If you are a car lover, be sure to visit Prince Rainier’s Private Collection of Antique Cars, which includes everything from a 1903 De Dion Bouton to a 2013 Lotus F1 race car.
For lunch, we love Elsa at the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel, the first organic Michelin 1-star restaurant. Elsa is located on a spit of land overlooking the Mediterranean so, when the weather is nice, be sure to reserve a table on the restaurant’s outdoor terrace. Using local ingredients and produce from the restaurant’s own vegetable garden in the nearby hills of Saint Jeannet, Venice-born chef Paolo Sari’s contemporary cuisine leans heavily to seafood and vegetables. One of Sari’s signature dishes is called “Bio Sama,” a beautiful plate of local organic vegetables and herbs with olive oil flavored with Camargue salt. While it may sound simple, the dish is extraordinary as it really brings out the essence of the organic vegetables. Other standouts include Elsa’s ricotta gnocchi, as well as just about any fish dish. For dessert, don’t miss the caramelized lemon mille-feuille.
Elsa // Avenue Princesse Grace // website
After lunch at Elsa, head to the adjacent Monte Carlo Beach Club, where you can choose between lounging next to the club’s Olympic pool and its beautiful beach overlooking the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. Your hotel concierge can arrange for access to the Beach Club.
Monte Carlo Beach Club // Avenue Princesse Grace // website
After a day at the beach, if you are planning to enjoy Monaco’s famous nightlife, you may want to grab an espresso at the Café de Paris or a cup of coffee at one the most impressive Starbucks locations in the world. The Café de Paris’ large outdoor terrace is one of the best places in Monaco for people watching and admiring the Bugatti’s, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Ferraris that cruise around the Place du Casino. While we do not normally spotlight Starbucks, the Starbucks coffee shop next to the Fairmont Hotel is worth visiting for the views alone. The open-air coffee shop is located on the top of the Ni Box entertainment center next to the Fairmont and has stunning views of Monaco and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. No wonder it is frequently named as one of the top-ten Starbucks locations!
Starbucks // 35 Boulevard Louis II
For a very special evening, we recommend Le Louis XV by Alain Ducasse, a spectacular Michelin 3-star restaurant located in the Hotel de Paris. The restaurant recently completed a restoration that has incorporated many modern touches into the formal space to create a beautiful dining room that is sophisticated and elegant, without being overly formal or staid. In the center of the dining room is a beautiful circular chandelier that floats over a whimsical metal and wood kiosk that the restaurant calls “the Office.” The restaurant has elevated the basic service station to play a central role in the progression of the evening – diners watch the progress from the bread service at the beginning of the meal, to the preparation of salads to accompany the cheese course by a special salad chef to the preparation of ice cream, plates of chocolates and coffees at the end of the meal.
Overseen by superstar chef Alain Ducasse and led by Dominique Lory, the restaurant offers a refined Riviera-inspired cuisine that emphasizes the quality of the local ingredients. Chefs Ducasse and Lory use the best fish from the Mediterranean and local produce and then apply refined cooking techniques to concentrate the flavors of these ingredients. Some standout dishes include Ducasse’s famous Gamberoni from San Remo served in a rock ﬁsh gelée and topped with caviar, a beautiful plate of Provence garden vegetables cooked with black trufﬂe and, for Rum Baba served with lightly whipped cream.
Monaco has no shortage of nightlife options. For a relaxed evening, we love the ultra-sophisticated Bar Americain at the Hotel de Paris. Here you will find an elegant clientele enjoying great service, excellent cocktails and a live jazz band and singer.
Catering to both locals and a jet setter crowd, Sass Café Monaco offers a middle ground between an intimate bar and a nightclub. Founded in 1993 by father and son team Sassa and Samy Sass, Sass Café has been a staple of Monaco nightlife for decades. After their dinner service, the piano dinner music is replaced by an excellent DJ who transforms the place into an intimate dance party.
For serious late-night partying, the world renowned high-octane nightclub Jimmy'z (re-opening in time for the 2017 Grand Prix) is still the place to go after four decades. Jimmy’z, which doesn’t open until almost midnight and closes as the sun comes up, draws a celebrity-studded clientele. Here you will find A-list celebrities, models and jet-setters ordering Methuselahs of champagne while dancing to the music of some of the world’s best DJs, including Robin Schulz and Mark Ronson. Dress to impress and be prepared for a very expensive evening.
For this morning, we suggest an excursion to the medieval village of Eze, a beautiful village of ancient stone houses perched high above the Mediterranean.
This well-preserved village, with its uneven stone streets, narrow passages and low archways, feels like it has changed little over the centuries (other than, perhaps, the gift shops that have sprouted up in recent years).
Make sure to visit the Jardin Exotique d’Eze, an attractive garden featuring plants and cacti indigenous to the Cote d’Azur’s semi-arid climate and offering spectacular panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the hills below.
For lunch, we suggest Les Remparts, one of four restaurants at the Chateau de La Chevre d'Or (the "Chateau of the Golden Goat"). At Les Remparts, you will be treated to an exceptional Riviera-inspired lunch while enjoying jaw-dropping views of the Cote d'Azur. For a truly extraordinary dining experience, consider the hotel's Michelin 2-star La Chevre d'Or.
Les Remparts // Rue du Barri, Eze Village// website
After returning from Eze, depending upon your mood and energy levels, Monaco offers many different activities for the afternoon.
Boating along the French Riviera
If you are looking for adventure, we suggest exploring the beautiful Riviera coastline by boat. For a truly unique experience, have your hotel arrange for the charter of a beautiful teak Riva powerboat – either a Rivamare or traditional Aquarama – from Monaco Boat Service. The Riva headquarters is in Monaco and their teak boats were a favorite of Prince Rainier. In fact, the Yacht Club de Monaco’s Aquarama Lounge bears the distinctive logos of both the builder and its famous runabout.
Monaco Boat Service // 8, quai Antoine 1er // website
If you are looking for stunning jewelry or the latest fashions fresh from the runways of Paris, Monaco will not disappoint. For serious shopping, start at the Place de Casino where you will find Les Pavillions de Monte Carlo, a temporary village of luxury designer brands including Alexander Mc Queen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Chopard, Lanvin, Sonia Rykiel and YSL. You will find other luxury designer boutiques, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget and Rolex, adjacent to the Casino, as well as in the Hotel de Paris, the Hotel Hermitage and the Metropole Shopping Center.
For tennis lovers, your hotel can arrange for access to the Monte-Carlo Country Club, a beautiful club with 21 clay courts and 2 hard courts. The club is perched on a hillside surrounded by fragrant pines and offers spectacular views of the glittering Mediterranean Sea below. Each spring, the club hosts the Rolex Masters, which brings in the top male tennis players to this spectacular venue. If you happen to be in Monaco during the Masters, this is an event not to be missed!
If you want an afternoon of relaxation, we suggest a massage or other body treatment at the Thermes Marin Monte Carlo. The recently renovated spa facility, perched on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, is one of Europe's most beautiful spas. Spread across four floors, the spa features an enormous heated indoor seawater pool overlooking the harbor, a state-of-the-art fitness area, a hammam, a sauna and dozens of treatment rooms. The spa’s treatment options range from seaweed wraps and Dead Sea mud packs to diverse massage techniques, including Shiatsu, Thai and traditional Swedish. For something completely different, consider a cryotherapy session, which involves two super chilled rooms set at -60℃ and - 110℃. The Thermes Marin was the first spa in Europe to offer this treatment, which is reported to reduce stress, improve sleep and reduce jet lag symptoms. If you are staying at the Hôtel de Paris or the Hôtel Hermitage, you can access the spa directly through an underground passageway.
After a full day of activities, the Hotel Metropole’s Lobby Bar is a perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink or glass of champagne. The warm and lively bar, located just off the hotel’s lobby, feels like an elegant, but lived-in, library/sitting room of a European aristocrat’s country estate. The bar features a beautiful wooden bar with a handful of comfortable bar stools and the lounge area is lined with rich wooden bookcases filled with leather-bound classics and offers well-spaced richly upholstered sofas and chairs, soft lighting and an excellent playlist curated by Béatrice Ardisson. The bar, designed by celebrity decorator Jacques Garcia, is elegant and sophisticated without feeling stuffy or formal.
For your last night’s dinner, we recommend Le Grill, one of our favorite restaurants in Monaco. The restaurant, which reopens in time for the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix after an extensive renovation, is located on the top floor of the Hotel de Paris. The restaurant offers a magnificent panoramic view of the Mediterranean and, on warm days, the roof opens entirely, so you can enjoy dinner under a starry sky. The room is beautifully designed with a nautical theme of deep blues that match the azure waters of the Mediterranean below. In the center of the room is a dramatic open kitchen with a giant rotisserie filled with bronzed chickens, mahogany duck and rack of lamb turning on spits. Supervised by superstar chef Alain Ducasse, the restaurant’s Mediterranean inspired cuisine is well known for its grilled and roasted meats and fish. We particularly love the restaurant’s famous rack of lamb and roast chicken. After dinner, request to have your dessert, coffee and after-drinks served on the wrap-around terrace overlooking the twinkling lights of the harbor. A fitting way to end a glamorous luxury weekend getaway.
Final Thoughts - Monaco Grand Prix
The Grand Prix de Monaco is the premier event of the Formula 1 season. During the last weekend of May, thousands of racing fans and celebrities descend upon Monaco for four days of parties and racing on the challenging track that weaves through the streets of Monaco. Hotels jack up their prices and typically require a four-night minimum stay. If you a dedicated race fan, you can purchase a race-weekend package with Senate Grand Prix that includes rooms at the top hotels, access to parties and viewing from the deck of a yacht in the harbor or a suite in one of the hotels overlooking the track with a fully catered with a gourmet lunch and free flowing champagne. Our favorite viewing locations are the Winston Churchill Suite (currently being renovated) and the Garnier Suite at the Hotel de Paris overlooking the harbor and the Place du Casino. After the race, the best party is at the Amber Lounge, which will be filled with A-list celebrities, models, and many of the drivers. For race fans, the experience is unforgettable.
Senate Grand Prix // website