Stylish and sustainable, Monaco knows how to impress even the most discerning of travellers, with experiences that range from high-end shopping to pampering in day spas like no other on the planet. Here are our reasons to visit as soon as possible.
Small and mighty
At a time when crowds are discouraged and safety is a priority, the travel industry’s greatest luxury is exclusivity. And that’s exactly what you get when you visit the world’s second-smallest country. A petite principality on the Mediterranean, Monaco is a social distancer’s dream, home to just 38,000 people who enjoy a ravishing stretch of coastline alongside some 270,000 square metres of green space – you will never feel cramped or overwhelmed by crowds here.
Reinvented luxury hotels
French interior architect Jacques Garcia is behind the renovation of Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo. By April 2022, the famous five-star property will be transformed with a makeover of all guest rooms, the addition of suites and a redesigned restaurant and bar. Meanwhile, the legendary Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo is fresh out of its own transformation, with enhancements including new luxury suites, a garden courtyard and a rooftop wellness area. This remains a special place in Monaco’s history, with Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco choosing it as the destination for their 20-year wedding anniversary.
Long live Monaco
Did you know that on average the Monégasque live until 89.5 years old? That’s the longest life expectancy in the world. Blissful setting on the Med aside, there are a number of factors contributing to this longevity: an emphasis on organic urban farming and healthy eating (the principality is home to the world’s only Michelin-starred organic restaurant); plenty of leafy and watery spaces to exercise and connect with nature; cutting-edge wellness centres offering therapeutic treatments; and one of the planet’s best healthcare systems, which locals and visitors alike benefit from.
See the new-look Place du Casino (Casino Square)
Monaco’s landmark Casino Square has always been one of the principality’s most popular sites. The square is a fairytale union of Belle Époque architecture, its sides lined with the grand Opera Garnier and glam Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo.
It’s the gateway to prime attractions including shopping malls and urban gardens. The 2.5-million-euro renovation included soaring palms, a new water fountain and a dramatic artwork by Anish Kapoor. The new-look Place du Casino is now more pedestrian-friendly than ever. It not only gives visitors more space to stroll but also preserves the principality’s famed F1 racecourse.
VIP Monte-Carlo Société de Bains de Mer customers receive valet parking in the middle of the square.
The Opéra Garnier Monte-Carlo
The prestigious Opéra Garnier Monte-Carlo hosts world-class concerts and ballets in a space almost as scene-stealing as the shows themselves.
This is the home of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo Company, created as a result of the commitment of H.R.H. the Princess of Hanover, who wanted to continue the long tradition of dance in Monaco. On tour for more than 200 days a year, the Ballets de Monte-Carlo has become a major cultural ambassador for the principality – catching a performance here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Wine and dine in style
Whether you’re dining at the edge of the sparkling ocean or sipping Cristal at Monaco’s bars and clubs, you’ll quickly learn this principality lives by wining and dining.
Three-Michelin-starred Louis XV by legendary Monegasque chef Alain Ducasse is an eternal favourite, as is Le Vistamar at Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. Meanwhile, Elsa lures diners with impeccable farm-to-table food, and is the world’s only Michelin-starred restaurant that is 100 per cent organic. Don’t miss newcomers Gaia Monte-Carlo and Izakaya Cozza.
From extravagant day spas to wellness centres that utilise gold and caviar in treatments, Monaco knows a thing or two about pampering. Top of your indulgence list should be Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo’s freshly minted Wellness Sky Club: the 500-square-metre rooftop space offers 360-degree views of the Prince’s Palace and the Place du Casino. Nearby, Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo takes designer spa treatments to new heights with Spa Metropole by Givenchy, designed to perfection by architect Didier Gomez. The principality is also home to Europe’s largest spa, Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo.
Brand-new One Monte-Carlo
The One Monte-Carlo eco-precinct, Monaco’s newest district of chic, combines vertical gardens, cutting-edge architecture and high-end luxury shopping. Alongside the Place du Casino, the quartier is focused around car-free Promenade Princess Charlène. Expect to find a who’s who of luxe boutiques: Balenciaga, Fendi, Chanel et al among the precinct’s 24 lavish stores.
When retail therapy ends, linger over chef Marcel Ravin’s culinary creations at Mada One restaurant.
The Monaco Formula One Grand Prix has been the principality’s most thrilling sporting event since 1929. But did you know there’s also an all-electric ePrix (held every two years in May) to promote clean mobility tech using 100 per cent electric single-seater cars? And Moncao also hosts the Historic Grand Prix, showcasing an eye-popping array of expertly preserved cars on the same hair-raising street circuit as the F1 Grand Prix. Held every two years, the event takes you back to the golden days of motorsports racing.
A multimedia experience to take you under the reef at the Oceanographic Museum
It’s a long way from home, but well worth the experience. Immersion at the Oceanographic Museum is a multimedia exhibition that offers visitors the chance to experience a dive below the surface of the sea on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Guests will meet the marine species that inhabit the planet’s largest coral ecosystem and learn how humans can better protect the marine world in the future.
Founded by Prince Albert II’s great-great-grandfather Prince Albert I more than a century ago, the Oceanographic Museum also offers mind-boggling insights into the world’s waterways. There are more than 6,000 sea creatures and countless artefacts on display and other roving exhibitions.
Dreamy luxury suites
The Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo recently revealed its freshly renovated Suite Carré d’Or. The 150-square-metre penthouse is as lavish as they come, with spacious living areas and a marble-and-gold bathroom.
Meanwhile, the revamped Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo comes with two extravagant suites: the Diamond Suite Princess Grace and the Diamond Suite Prince Rainier III, with sweeping views and private pools.
Finally, sleep at Suite Eleven at Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort for luxury living that spans the top floor of this resort.
A coast with the most
Monaco makes the most of its coastline, which dazzles with sandy palm-lined bays beside protected pockets of ocean.The principality’s presence along the Med is about to get even more impressive, thanks to a two-billion-euro project to extend the country’s natural contour by a further six hectares. Portier Cove, as it’s known, is set to welcome 1,000 residents in flashy villas and apartments come 2025; travellers, meanwhile, will be able to make the most of landscaped parkland, a seafront promenade and marina. Because this is Monaco, and the environment is top priority, extra steps have been taken to ensure the health of the floral and faunal species potentially impacted by development.
Communities of the future
Monaco has always been a leader in green transportation – travellers can currently zip around in an extensive fleet of Mobee electric cars and shared ebikes, while the testing of self-driving electric shuttles is also underway. But the principality is thinking even bigger for the future, creating a ‘smart city’ that takes environmentally sensitive urban planning seriously. Among the initiatives to ensure a smooth visitor experience is the expansion of connected bus shelters. Waiting for your ride? You can utilise Wi-Fi hotspots or play around on multimedia screens that offer real-time updates, tourist news and practical information. There’s also an app so you can get from A to B easily, and using all available modes of transport.
A green shift
The country’s pioneering leader established his namesake Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation more than 14 years ago. Since then, the charitable organisation has been responsible for everything from funding climate change studies in Antarctica to establishing renewable energy projects across Africa, in addition to a multitude of ventures on home soil – not in the least instituting strict guidelines that will likely see Monaco hit carbon neutrality by 2050. The Prince has been savvy in enlisting experts and personalities with global knowledge and influence, many of whom share their views on the link between the environment and the current pandemic in A Green Shift: a series of short video interviews with the likes of Australia’s own Tim Flannery and influential marine biologist Laurent Ballesta.
From the hotel world’s largest wine cellars to some of its glitziest suites, Monaco’s accommodation offerings don’t disappoint. But they do surprise – in the best possible way. Recently awarded prestigious Forbes Travel Guide 2020 ‘Five Star’ status, the grande dame Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo (home to those cellars) is just one of the country’s accommodations making an impact when it comes to sustainability. In fact, more than 80 per cent of the principality’s luxury lodgings have achieved environmental certification of some kind, with most now employing ‘Green Teams’ to facilitate eco-friendly projects. Among trendsetters are the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort and Monte-Carlo Beach, both of which have Green Globe certification for initiatives to improve biodiversity and reduce CO2 emissions.
This article originally appeared in volume 37 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
Main image: Aerial view of Monaco © Monte Carlo Société des Bains de Mer