What’s New in Monaco

Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, a destination spa complex with 30 treatment rooms, was restored for its 50th anniversary in 2015. Seen here is the solarium at the resort.

Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, a destination spa complex with 30 treatment rooms, was restored for its 50th anniversary in 2015. Seen here is the solarium at the resort.

Just three miles long and half-a-mile wide, tiny Monaco is only the size of Manhattan’s Central Park — but this jetsetters’ playground is action packed. From the Formula 1 Grand Prix to concerts headlined by megastars, Monaco offers an exciting year-long calendar of events against a cinematic backdrop.

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A major port of call for luxury cruise ships, Monaco has something for every bon vivant: spa junkies get pampered and preened at the Thermes Marins, high rollers take their chances — James Bond-style — at the sumptuous Casino, and fashionistas shop at La Promenade, which has one of the highest concentrations of luxury boutiques in the world.

Luxury Travel Advisor recently jetted to the Riviera to scope out what’s new in the Principality, and we found that Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer doesn’t rest on its laurels. First established in 1863, Monte-Carlo SBM today manages 33 restaurants, four casinos, nightclubs like Jimmy’z, venues like the Sporting Monte-Carlo, not to mention a quartet of iconic hotels — each with their own personality. These properties are constantly lavished with attention, meaning: renovations that refresh every detail.

Few hotels can match the gilded grandeur of Hotel de Paris. A reigning queen among Monaco palace hotels since it opened in 1864, Hotel de Paris embarked on a major restoration project in October 2014, closing in phases prior to the anticipated unveiling in May 2018. Insiders tell us that the entire staff was kept on the payroll during this time because the hotel is committed to exceptional service, with some staff looking after generations of clients’ families.

Next year, the renovated seaview rooms will show off their new looks, while the Casino-facing rooms will get a makeover. The idea is not to overhaul the elegant Belle Epoque décor, but to increase the room size, add a higher percentage of suites and install all the latest, up-to-the-minute technology. Enhancements include the addition of a garden courtyard in the middle of the hotel with a new restaurant by Alain Ducasse, plus a dazzling new rooftop space with a pool, fitness center, spa and penthouse suites. During our visit, sister property Hotel Hermitage was fully booked.

To keep up a buzz during the renovation, Hotel de Paris is hosting a series of exclusive, themed pop-up suites in partnership with luxury brands. The in-house spotlight is trained on Room No. 321, which is already endowed with fabulous views of both the Mediterranean and the Casino. The first suite incarnation (March 11-May 30, 2016) was by Dom Pérignon. (A special Dom Pérignon wine cabinet was added to the living room, and guests were privy to a private, five-course dinner and a private tour of the hotel’s famous wine cellar.) The latest was the Maserati Suite (July 1- September 30, 2016), fashioned by Italian design duo L + R Palomba to reflect the style of the auto brand. Think grain leather arm chairs resembling the car interiors. Bien sûr, the hotel’s entrance witnesses a constant parade of supercars, and guests of the Maserati Suite get fun perks like an airport transfer in a Maserati, and access to a Maserati GranCabrio for the duration of their stay.

The hotel has stayed open with minimal disturbance to guests; well-heeled clients still revel in its heritage (stopping to touch the lobby’s equestrian statue of Louis XIV for good luck), and enjoy drinks with live music at the Bar Américain. Recently unveiled in early summer was the renovation of Le Louis XV, the Michelin three-star restaurant where Chef Alain Ducasse first established himself as one of the world’s top culinary talents. Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku — rock stars of the design world — created the new look. The Riviera-inspired menu was also revamped, though some signature dishes still have pride of place (“Primeurs des jardins de Provence à la truffe noire” has been offered since 1987).

The Salle Empire and terrace at Hotel de Paris is a gourmet restaurant that serves Mediterranean cuisine and overlooks the Place du Casino.Pictured: The Salle Empire and terrace at Hotel de Paris is a gourmet restaurant that serves Mediterranean cuisine and overlooks the Place du Casino.

Hotel de Paris isn’t the only property to go under the knife. Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo — the destination spa complex with 30 treatment rooms — was restored for its 50th anniversary in 2015. With an unrivaled setting overlooking the Yacht Club, the spa is home to an excellent terrace restaurant, L’Hirondelle, where you can indulge in delicious, healthy cuisine along with the postcard views. The renovation magnified the spa’s sea views (just check out the panoramas from the gym), and the historic pool sparkles with new mosaics.

Thermes Marins has developed a new medical spa retreat experience, to complement traditional treatments like facials and massages. There are 28 specialists at the facility, including sports doctors, nutritionists and physiotherapists. Top Tip: The spa is now home to the only cryotherapy room in Europe. Professional athletes have long used the sessions for pain treatment and rehabilitation, and now the technology is available for spa guests. Don your bathing suit and get ready for a three-minute session in a chamber cooled to negative 166 degrees Fahrenheit — which stimulates cellular regeneration and improves sleep. The general manager of Thermes Marins is Christine Zoliec.

Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel is perched next to a pine forest with endless views of the sea and the sky.Pictured: Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel is perched next to a pine forest with endless views of the sea and the sky.

In the summer season, the best place to be in is the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel, which serves a seductive slice of vintage Riviera glamour right next to the Med in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. A member of Relais & Châteaux, the hotel was decorated by interior design star India Mahdavi to reflect its retro-chic history. This is a dream address for design devotees. When it originally opened in the late 1920s, the hotel embraced the new sun-centric beach culture, which American expats brought to the Riviera. To this day, the hotel is a heavenly summer playground with a famous Olympic-sized pool flanked by striped cabanas and a pontoon for water sports.

With only 40 rooms and suites, Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel is more akin to a luxury villa by the sea. Quite popular are the Exclusive Junior Suites which come with a separate living room, furnished terrace and two bathrooms. The crème de la crème is the two-bedroom suite equipped with a rooftop solarium and Jacuzzi. 

Perched next to a pine forest with endless views of the sea and the sky, the hotel is a self-contained universe that offers both a buzzy scene (just watch the Bentleys roll into the beach club’s valet parking), and also a restorative haven of calm. Start your day with a wake-up dip in the sea or famous pool, followed by lunch at the organic pizzeria. Then try waterskiing, before winding down with a massage at the hotel’s jewel box of a spa. Contact Spa Manager Laetitia Serres ([email protected]; 011-37-798-065-105). 

Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort has a sandy-bottom lagoon that’s unique in Europe.Meals are a real highlight at the Monte-Carlo Beach Club. Executive Chef Paolo Sari scored a Michelin star for his 100 percent organic restaurant, Elsa, where even the condiments and rosé champagnes are organic. He’s extended this green philosophy to all of the eateries, including the sumptuous breakfast buffet spread. Tip: In high season, don’t miss the grilled fish and lobster at La Vigie, the seasonal restaurant located on a rock promontory jutting out into the sea.

If you can tear yourself away from this Mediterranean dream, Clefs d’or Concierge Piera Maioli ([email protected]; 011-330-493-286-668) has a rolodex of insider connections to arrange day trips, restaurant reservations, wine tastings and more.

Pictured: Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort has a sandy-bottom lagoon that’s unique in Europe.

Nice Perk: Complimentary shuttles connect Monte-Carlo SBM’s hotels, so clients can get a free lift to the Casino or elsewhere in the Principality. There’s also a boat service between Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel and the four-star Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort — home to the Michelin-starred Blue Bay restaurant, a sandy-bottom lagoon that’s unique in Europe and the happening Blue Gin bar, which has its very own cocktail lab.

Booking Tips: Alice Gentils is the director of sales for the Société des Bains de Mer. For reservations, travel advisors can e-mail at [email protected]; or call 011-37-798-064-151; for groups, e-mail at [email protected]; or call 011-37-798-061-717.

Eating & Drinking in Monaco

The Principality boasts a number of Michelin-starred establishments, including Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse and Elsa. Another popular hang-out is the Buddha Bar, which is still going strong after all these years. As is Nobu. You can’t miss an evening at the Bar Américain, where a band plays nightly while dapper bartenders mix classic cocktails like the Corpse Reviver, Sazerac, Hemingway Daiquiri and “Lychee” Martini. With wood-paneled walls and leather armchairs, this legendary watering hole still draws a fashionable crowd. (Tip: Dress the part.) Cocktail connoisseurs should also check out Blue Gin at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort.

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