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Gilded Halls and Gorgeous Soufflés: A Guide to Living Large in Monaco

Vogue logo Vogue 9/12/2018 Elise Taylor
a large building © DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI

Let’s be honest: if you’re heading to Monaco, you probably aren’t searching for an idle trip of rest and relaxation. You want to see some 007-looking fellows at the Monte Carlo Casino, or a few 200-foot yachts that belong to an oil tycoon, or a prince, or oil tycoon prince. So, even in a country where over-the-top is the default, how do you make sure your wildest expectations are met?

Below, Vogue’s guide to living large in Monaco—or at least observing it, anyway.

The Hotel

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say there are two types of hotels in Monaco: four-star and five-star. The most famous property is the Hotel de Paris, which has been featured in not one, but two James Bond films (Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye) and, erm, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.

But also worth mentioning are the Hotel Metropole and the Hotel Hermitage. The latter is a 19th-century hotel built upon a hill, which gives it a 360-degree view of the entire principality. Like much of Monte Carlo, it’s built in a Belle Epoque style—think gilded, mirrored hallways and a sky-high stained glass ceiling in the breakfast room. Plus, the hotel car is a Maserati, which makes zooming back from the casino that much more fun.

The Casino

The Casino de Monte Carlo is often portrayed in pop culture as Monaco’s Bacchanalian heart. And, sure, some crazy stuff definitely goes down. But it’s also a major tourist hub, which means, at the wrong time, it can be less men in tuxes, more men in cargo shorts.

Here’s how you do it right: Avoid going on a weekend—a.k.a. peak visitor time–and visit on a weekday instead. Gambling is not necessary to enjoy; the decor is stunning in its own right, including the famous painting “Florentine Graces“ by Paul Gervais. If you want to indulge in your vices, by all means—any of the casino’s iconic rooms, such as the Salle Europe and Salle des Amériques, are open for public play (well, as long as you make the table’s buy-in cost). Tucked behind the massive ballrooms, however, are the Salon Super Privés—closed to only certain guests and high rollers. How to make it into those? Well, that’s up to you.

Casino de Monte-Carlo © Photo: Getty Images Casino de Monte-Carlo

The Activities

Sure, lots of hotels have spas. But the Hotel de Metropole has one by Givenchy. There’s a Givenchy Beauty Boutique, and all treatment rooms have “embossed walls that evoke the lace of haute couture gowns.” And whether you’ve selected a “makeover” beauty package, or their signature Le Soin Noir treatment, you can pick a signature Givenchy scent to “accompany” it.

The most famous shopping district in Monte Carlo is Cercle d’Or, which plays host to every luxury fashion house you can name. Most are located in the Pavillons Monte-Carlo, a group of space-age-looking shops in the park by the Casino. But Allée François Blanc and Rue de Monte Carlo have their fair share of name brands too.

History buffs should visit the the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, the stately, fortified home of the Montagues royal family. Much of it is still a private residence, but the Louis XIV-era state apartments are open for visitors.

If they’re in town, catch a performance by the Ballets de Monte Carlo. Not only are they world-renowned, but the elegance of the setting, the Salle Garnier at the Monte Carlo Opera, cannot be oversold.

If the night is warm, wander around the Porte de Monaco. The walkways will be less crowded, and the yachts will have their lights on, meaning you can get a peek into their extravagant interiors.

a castle like building with a mountain in the background: The Prince's Palace of Monaco © Photo: Getty Images The Prince's Palace of Monaco

The Restaurants

The most famous restaurant in Monaco is Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in the Hotel de Paris, which currently holds three Michelin stars. Also at the Hotel de Paris is the legendary Le Bar Américain and the newly-renovated Le Grill, which serves a decadent souffle in chocolate, raspberry, Grand Marnier, pistachio, vanilla, and whatever other flavor suits the chef that day.

a group of people sitting at a table: Le Louis XV Restaurant © Photo: Getty Images Le Louis XV Restaurant

Monaco isn’t known for their beach culture—there’s the neighboring south of France for that—but the seaside La Vigie has a luxurious yet laid back feel that’s reminiscent of a Mediterranean resort. Order the octopus and the spaghetti.

For a quick gourmet bite, head to the Marche de la Condamine, a food market which serves up regional delicacies all year long.

The soufflé at Le Grill. © Photo: Courtesy of Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer The soufflé at Le Grill.


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