Dowager Queen of the Riviera
If you’re not staying with the Grimaldis (the royal family that has ruled Monaco since the 13th century), try the palatial Hotel de Paris. The regal stopping place of emirs and archdukes since its inception one year after the opening of the Grand Casino next door, the Hotel de Paris looms over the main square, a must-see for curious tourists and destination for the fabulously rich and very famous.
Much of the hotel’s acclaim owes to its highly rated restaurants, particularly the formal Le Louis XV, a dazzling jewel box that has been the domain since 1987 of Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s most celebrated chefs.
Here Ducasse prides himself on using humble Mediterranean ingredients of the finest quality and refining them into a superb, albeit simple, haute cuisine. The restaurant’s opulent Louis XV decor includes Baccarat crystal, damask linens, gold-rimmed china, and silver service.
The new Centre Thalassotherapie de Thermes Marins, wedged into a cliff adjacent to the hotel, is reached through an adjoining walkway beneath the hotel. Time spent at this state-of-the-art spa is—like an evening at Le Louis XV—sheer heaven.
A 19th-Century Landmark in a Fairy-Tale Principality
The tiny principality of Monaco, no bigger than London’s Hyde Park, has catered to gamblers and the idle rich for the last 100 years. Both types can be found with all their over-the-top idiosyncracies at the legendary Grand Casino, the world’s most renowned casino, and indisputably the most glamorous.
This is one of the last places on earth to witness chaffeur-driven Rolls-Royces disgorging wealthy exiles, sun-baked yacht owners, and celluloid divas weighed down by serious jewelry. The sedate, even discreet, Belle Epoque setting was designed in 1863 by Charles Gamier, grand architect of the Paris Opera.
Black tie is no longer required, but jackets and ties are a must in the inner sanctum of high rollers, and many women wear long dresses. No Monegasque gambler sets foot in the casino without first stopping by the lobby of the Hotel de Paris—a poker chip’s toss across the impeccably groomed Place du Casino—to rub the left knee of the bronze statue of Louis XIV’s horse for good luck.
Facing the hotel and alongside the casino, the Garnier-designed Cafe de Paris is a de rigueur stop for a pre -or apres-casino drink or a crepe Suzette, invented here in the early 1900s and named after a friend of the Prince of Wales.