While eyebrow-raising rumours persist around last month’s royal wedding of Princess Charlene and Prince Albert of Monaco, there are still plenty of reasons to pay their hometown a visit. Although Monaco has much in common with our locale – tax haven, seaside location, celeb getaway – there is a certain European-ness that is impossible to replicate, and of course there’s a fair bit of history to the place.
Monte Carlo is the most famous of Monaco’s 11 wards. For starters, it’s the host of the Grand Prix, the casino nestled against the super-swanky Hôtel de Paris that has featured in two 007 flicks and, more recently, it was the setting for several scenes in Iron Man 2.
However, it’s the city’s romance with classic-era Hollywood, fostered by the likes of Cary Grant and, of course, Grace Kelly that most people envision.
Attracting such an A-list crowd, Monaco is the place to people watch, and your observing is likely to be rewarded with one or two familiar faces. Once you’re tired of star-spotting there are always the shooting stars of the Monaco International Fireworks Festival. The next show in the impressive series is on the evening of August 12 and promises to illuminate the bay for 25 explosive minutes.
At the end of a long day there’s one place everyone recommends for a spot of pampering – Les Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo is the number one spa in town. Many of their packages use sea-water or products of the sea for therapeutic effect, and conclude with a healthy lunch.
While you’re there...
Catch a concert
If hotel lounges and the tinkly noodlings of piano players have become a bit, well… meh, there’s more lively fare in the shape of Man In The Mirror, a Jacko tribute show arriving in town that’s already met with enthusiastic plaudits in the States and UK. The showstopper unveils 12-year-old Dylan Allen as a Jackson-5-era MJ act.
Make the credit card weep
If it’s chic, understated and classy you’ll find it here. Start a shopping trip on Boulevard des Moulins, specifically Work In Progress for its Christopher Kane and Erdem goodies. Around the corner (and most things in Monaco are just that: it’s the smallest country in the world after Vatican City) in Galerie Du Park Palace you’ll find Atmosphère, which is choc-full of all the big names including D&G, Chloé and Jimmy Choo.
Wander Port Hercule and admire the super-yachts that will have berthed to afford their occupants a spot of R&R for the weekend, before continuing on to Larvotto Beach. From there you can top up the tan while alternately looking out over the stunning Med, or looking back at the town and snow-capped Alps beyond.
Where to stay
Hôtel de Paris (+377 9 806 3000, www.hoteldeparismontecarlo.com)
The quintessential Monte Carlo hotel. Opulence comes as standard with a range of rooms and suites offering differing views and levels of luxury. Hôtel de Paris nuzzles dangerously against the casino, accessible via the elegant lobby. Head down to Le Bar Américain afterwards for cocktails. concocted with vintage liqueurs, as live jazz floats on the air.
Novotel Monte Carlo (+377 9 999 8300, www.novotel.com)
It might be a budget option but, as this is Monaco, the Novotel still houses its own hammam and outdoor heated pool. Book early and request a room with sea views. Situated in the centre of town, everything you need from eateries to shopping to the beach is just a hop, skip and jump away.
Columbus Monte-Carlo (+ 377 9205 9222, www.columbushotels.com)
Part-owned by F1 driver David Coulthard, the Columbus is all about leather, marble, wood and stone. More importantly, it’s about relaxation and “barefoot Riviera chic”. The outdoor pool offers views out over the Mediterranean and the friendly staff are happy to help!
Naomi Campbell is a frequent visitor to Monaco. Then again how many A-listers haven’t been! there?