sunny place for shady people,” is how Somerset Maugham
once described Monaco. Throughout its glamorous history the
dazzling Riviera principality has been many things to many
people – an inspiring retreat to expatriates such as
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton, a royal home to iconic
Grace Kelly and a year-round temptation to roulette addicts.
But one thing it never ceases to be is a decadent playground
for the international glitterati. Whether settling into their
own private villa carved into the cliffs, occupying a suite
at the Hotel de Paris or avoiding the mainland hoi polloi
entirely by not deigning to leave the comfort of their docked
yacht, the world's elite have long sought comfort in
the jewel in the Côte d'Azur's crown. But
do not be fooled by Monaco's position as a mainstay
in the social elite's seasonal calendar – this
long-standing refuge for the rich and famous is far from staid.
The undeniable appeal of the Belle Époque classics
has been made all the more irresistible in recent years by
a sizzling new crop of hotels, restaurants, nightspots, shops
and, of course, social events.
Grimaldi Forum Monaco, the Principality's convention
elegant interior of Le Louis XV restaurant.
view of the Oceanographic Museum.
Hotel de Paris, place
du Casino. 188.8.131.52. $451 to $6,629
Hotel Metropole, 4 avenue
de la Madone. 184.108.40.206. $506 to $1,913
Le Louis XV, Hotel de Paris,
place du Casino. 92.16.30.01. Average
dinner, $197 to $272.
Le Café de Paris,
place du Casino. 220.127.116.11. Average
dinner, $37 to $86.
Tiffany, 3 avenue des
Spelugues. 18.104.22.168. Entrance, $19.
Boutique du Rocher, 1
avenue de la Madone. 22.214.171.124.
Fred Paris Jeweler, 6
avenue des Beaux-Arts. 93.30.79.00
Rive Gauche Boutique,
39 avenue Princesse Grace. 126.96.36.199.
Yveline Garnier, 57 rue
La Manufacture de Monaco,
4 avenue de la Madone. 188.8.131.52.
Les Thermes Marins de Monte-Carlo,
2 avenue de Monte-Carlo. 184.108.40.206.
Monaco's social season traditionally begins in May,
reaching its crescendo with the Monaco Yacht Show in late
September, an ideal time to visit. True nautical enthusiasts
arrive in early September to pop over to nearby Cannes for
the international boat show, the Festival International de
la Plaisance, on from September 8th through the 13th, but
all who are serious about the Riviera's primary sport
– that would be socializing – make sure to settle
into their Monaco pieds-à-terre with plenty of time
to secure invitations to the Inauguration Party and the formal
Captain's Party to be held this year on September 22
and 24, respectively. Rubbing elbows with Prince Albert (still
the world's most eligible bachelor), Princess Caroline
and Princess Stephanie may be difficult to top, but a flurry
of private invitations give prominent visitors plenty of rival
And for those who have the good sense to book ahead for the
Golden Square Suite at the newly redesigned Hotel Metropole
opening just in time for the end of summer apex, hosting one's
own private gaming nights would be the sporting thing to do.
Even the locals are anxious to get a personal view of the
suite. Months of anticipation await the hotel's reopening
with its new look designed by Jacques Garcia of Paris's
epitome of chic Hotel Costes – promising to give a nod
to its Belle Époque architecture while painstakingly
updating the 1889 structure to the 21st century. And, not
to be outdone by Monaco's previously uncontested celebrity
chef Alain Ducasse, the Metropole has brought in Joel Robuchon
to lead diners on culinary adventures.
Alain Ducasse's Louis XV in the stately Hotel de Paris
will no doubt still hold court over the Principality's
haute cuisine – not to mention its haute se-and-be-seen.
Celebrities can't seem to get enough of Le Louis XV.
The same could be said of Hotel de Paris whose splendorous
visage has reflected Monaco's opulence since the late
19th century. And for those who know, the hotel also offers
direct access to Les Thermes Marins de Monte-Carlo, known
to anyone who has enjoyed its four pools, fitness center,
beauty center and private treatments as spa heaven. True,
the latest trendy beauty treatments will be available at the
Hotel Metropole's ESPA spa, but Les Thermes Marins has
been pampering the satisfied A-list for decades.
After a full morning in Les Thermes Marins' Turkish
hammam or sunbathing at the perennially trendy Monte-Carlo
Beach Club, the Monaco cognoscenti enjoy a leisurely late
lunch at the conveniently located Restaurant L'Hirondelle
and then make their way to Le Café de Paris for pre-dinner
aperitifs – and a front-row view of the who's
who parade through Monaco's central plaza. This season,
the young and trendy set's rendezvous points of choice
are the nearby Sea Lounge and La Reserve, the wine bar at
the hip new Port Palace Hotel. After dark, dazzling casinos
still rule the nightlife scene, and a visit to the Monte-Carlo
Casino to spin the roulette generations of international royalty
have before you is simply requisite. These days, though, the
casino is only one stop on the nightlife circuit. The beautiful
people are flocking to Tiffany, a nightclub on Avenue des
Spelugues, on Saturday nights for glamming it up and dancing
the night away. A few doors down at Le Living Room, locals
and visitors dance till dawn every night of the week. Crowded
onto the same block is a Davidoff cigar shop perfect for picking
up a late-night Havana and Le Sass-Café, where socialites
and playboys get a bite to eat to wash down all of the evening's
If Avenue des Spelugues is synonymous with Monaco's
emerging nightlife scene this season, then Avenue des Beaux-Arts
defines its luxury shopping. And who can leave Monaco without
perusing the couture and picking up some baubles along the
way? Alongside a laundry list of French and Italian designer
shops, Fred Paris Jeweler offers many of the innovative designs
that have made their way into the Royal Family's private
collections. Veer off onto the side streets for some out-of-the-way
shopping finds, like Boutique du Rocher, opened in 1966 by
Princess Grace herself. Locals and visitors alike pick up
Monegasque and Provençal designs for the home, and
all proceeds go to charity. Other hidden gems for locally
designed home and tabletop objects are the Genevieve Lethu
shop and the Manufacture de Monaco. Even the prominent women
and men's design houses are opening up shop off the
main drag for a quieter shopping experience. Those in the
know drop into the new Lanvin store on Avenue Princesse Alice
and Ichthys on Avenue de la Costa. Careful selections of the
best from Ungaro, Chanel, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent
make boutiques Yveline Garnier and the Rive Gauche Boutique
favorites among locals.
The shimmering Mediterranean, gleaming yachts, opulent hotels,
haute cuisine, steamy nightlife and, bien sur, le shopping
– what more could anyone ask for?