When in Monte Carlo

Nicola Monteath takes a trip to the land of Michelin-starred restaurants, high-end spas, chic beach clubs and vibrant villas along the French Riviera

Monte Carlo has long been hailed as one of Europe’s leading luxury getaways. The tax-free principality, nestled snuggly on the coast of southern France overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is synonymous with glamour. With Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury hotels, designer stores, and one of the most stunning harbours heaving with mega-yachts, the world’s second-smallest country continues to be a prominent playground.

The Casino de Monte-Carlo, Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo yacht show are top highlights discerning travellers look forward to year after year. Personally, my return trip will be for some of the finest, most decadent soufflés I’ve ever tasted. The show-stopping dessert is served at nearly every restaurant, so whether you choose to sip coffee at the Casino Square or indulge in a degustation menu at one of the seven Michelin-starred restaurants, make sure you tuck into a glorious, fluffy soufflé.

Monte Carlo is unquestionably a fantastic destination for travellers as it combines the best of luxury, relaxation and thrill-seeking experiences with delectable culinary pleasures. One prime example of a five-star hotel that offers an amalgam of all, is the stunning Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, built in the 19th century.


Perched on a hill, Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo showcases 360-degree views of the entire principality and is one of the most beautiful hotels you will come across in Monaco. Preserved Belle Époque architecture meets the eye as you pull up into the driveway, and indoors, the décor oozes elegance with a French country chateau-style lobby and gilded, mirrored walkways that lead to the magnificent wrought iron and glass sky-lit cupola, built by none other than Gustave Eiffel.

The rooms and suites feature classic furnishing with plush beds, ample space and hues of red, blue or beige, depending on the room type. Our sea-view suite boasted glittering views of the marina, with the Old Town and The Prince’s Palace of Monaco in the distance. Enjoy breakfast on the terrace, and a cuppa in the evening, as you take in the uninterrupted views of your surroundings. Acqua di Parma toiletries add a lavish touch, and a stay at this hotel also grants you free access to shuttle services for transfers within the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer collection, as well as complimentary access to Casino de Monte Carlo, Monte-Carlo Beach Club, and the resplendent Thermes Marins Monte Carlo wellness complex. Make the most out of your stay with a visit to Thermes Marins. The state-of-the-art wellness and preventive health spa, which can be accessed by the marina and via the hotel, sprawls over 6,600 square metres.

The ultimate hub for relaxation and rejuvenation, it features a heated indoor pool, outdoor jacuzzi facing the port and the Rock, hammam, sauna and a panoramic fitness room. If lacklustre, dehydrated skin is an issue after your flight, head to the spa for The Platinum Rare Haute Rejuvenation facial that tends to all skin layers, activating collagen production while strengthening the skin’s barrier. Using La Prairie products, your therapist will thoroughly cleanse your skin before applying the Cellular hydra lift firming mask. The facial ends with the application of La Prairie’s famed Cellular serum platinum rare, followed by eye cream and moisturizer.

While you’re there, squeeze in a customised body treatment. Choose from a range of hydrotherapy options and step into a bath with jets while breathing in the aroma of a relaxing blend of essential oils. To ease water retention and cleanse the pores by drawing out impurities, mud is applied all over the body before you’re cocooned in cling film, sheets and towels to let the mud mask work its magic. Ten minutes later, wash away the mud and get back onto the bed to slough off dead skin cells with a salt scrub. For the finale, the masseuse applies a hydrating oil for a body massage that alleviates all tension in your neck, back and shoulders.


L’Hirondelle, sited beside the indoor pool and outdoor terrace, offers wholesome Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in keeping with the spa’s theme. Taste fresh, sustainable ingredients in dishes such as tomato soup with burrata, fish mousse with nori seaweed, sea bream with vegetables and grilled squid with garlic cream. Breakfast takes place under the gorgeous glass cupola, where you walk the red carpet-paved staircase to either dine al fresco or indoors, where you can admire the intricate details on the dome from the balcony. The extensive buffet spread features croissants, cold cuts, fruit, cheese, parfaits, French toast, waffles and pancakes, alongside eggs from the hot station.


An architectural masterpiece, the Oceanographic Museum is an impressive, iconic hilltop building overlooking the sea. Renowned for its aquarium, and ninety pools that provide a home to more than 6,000 specimens and 350 species of fish, the museum houses a Marine Animal Rescue Centre where injured sea turtles are taken care of before being released back into the Mediterranean. Spend a day at the museum to learn about the various species, and the Oceanographic Institute’s contribution to Monaco’s commitment on the oceans, and marvel at the sights that offer a glimpse of the past and a peek into the future.


Things to do in Monte Carlo

An enchanting setting on the shores of the Mediterranean, this sprawling Beach Club with a private beach, is decked with striped cabanas by the shore and an Olympic-size temperature-controlled seawater pool. A slice of paradise, it’s the perfect spot to soak up the sun as you while away with a good read.

When the hunger pangs strike, walk over to neighbouring Le Deck’s sweeping terrace for a refined, seaside brasserie experience. Sharing-style plates feature Barbajuans Monégasques; a fritter-like pastry typical to Monaco, stuffed with Swiss chard and ricotta, and Pissaladière d’Aqui; a delectable caramelised onion tart with anchovies – if you love the combination of sweet and salty, this is one that’s not to be missed.


Created in 1984 as a memorial to Grace Kelly (wife of Prince Rainier III), the garden is adorned with over 4,000 roses, where Princess Grace is commemorated in a statue by artist and sculptor Kees Verkade. Walk around Jardin Exotique de Monaco, a botanical garden on the cliffside of Monaco, boasting succulent plants brought in from Mexico in the late 1860s. The Japanese Garden is another worthwhile attraction. Built in 1994, this rich oasis features a waterfall, lanterns, bridges, a tea house and a Zen Garden. Take a moment by the pond and watch koi carp swimming amongst the lotus flowers.