Why Monte Carlo Is The Crown Jewel Of The French Riviera

Recent multimillion-dollar upgrades to Monaco’s most famous district have made it hotter than ever.

Courtesy Monte-Carlo SBM

While Monte Carlo, Monaco’s most prominent and important quarter, has long captured the collective imagination thanks to its famed hotels, casino and F1 race, the fabled district is now more alluring than ever thanks to recent, multimillion-dollar hospitality upgrades on the iconic Place du Casino: The storied Café de Paris reopened after an extensive 19-month renovation, while above it a brand new, exotic-themed restaurant, bar and lounge called Amazonico has also opened its doors.

Both are part of the Monte-Carlo SBM (Societé des Bains de Mer) group, which operates the Casino de Monte-Carlo and adjacent  Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo among various other high-profile properties. Café de Paris originally opened in 1868 and was the first-ever dining concept established by the Monte-Carlo SBM group, quickly becoming a legend in its own right. 

Courtesy Monte-Carlo SBM

The new Café de Paris, a stylish evocation of Le Belle Époque, is now spread across two levels and an upper terrace, offering priceless views of the Place du Casino,  the Casino itself, and Hôtel de Paris, while new luxury boutiques at ground level and Amazonico on the rooftop above all serve to entice both guests and residents and “enhance the enduring legacy” of Monte-Carlo SBM, “reinventing its legend” in the process.

Courtesy Hôtel de Paris / Monte-Carlo SBM

In addition, this year the Hôtel de Paris  Wine Cellars are celebrating their 150th anniversary with a series of festivities. Established in 1874 the celebration of the cellars, recognized as among the world’s largest, includes exclusive dinners, conferences, and masterclasses featuring renowned wine estates; the world famous house of Petrus kicked things off with a grand private dinner.

Courtesy Monte-Carlo SBM

Monte Carlo was already front of mind thanks to the recent publication of a beautiful book titled Monte Carlo from French luxury publisher Assouline, as part of its covetable Classics series. “Once upon a time, there was a country that was the second smallest in the world, yet everything was bigger there,” writes the book’s author Ségolène Cazenave Manar, a longtime Monaco resident. “Princesses were prettier, cars were faster, skies were bluer and skyscrapers much higher.”

Monaco Grand Prix / Courtesy Monte-Carlo SBM

She describes Monte Carlo as, “an exclusive private club to which everyone wants to belong [that] has been fueling dreams, fantasies and conversations for over 150 years, when it first became a magnet for moneyed heirs, gamblers, builders of empires, beautiful women, craftspeople and spectators galore: two square kilometers mingling promises, adventure, wealth and legends, jealously guarded for over seven centuries by the oldest dynasty in Europe.”

SYSPEO/SIPA/Shutterstock / Courtesy Assouline

Of course Monte-Carlo SBM, founded in 1863, has long been at the forefront of the district’s enchantment. Today its portfolio includes four different luxury hotels as well as a world-class spa, various nightclubs, and two casinos. SBM, which operates some 30 bars and restaurants in all, can also lay claim to several Michelin stars—all of which serve to further SBM’s mission to maintain Monte Carlo’s position as “the most exclusive destination to truly embrace the great art of living in Europe.”

Alamy / Courtesy Assouline

No wonder then, as Manara writes, that, “In the collective imagination, Monaco has long been synonymous with wealth, priceless cars, superyachts, and a stratospheric real estate market…. With its cliffs tumbling from the heavens into the sea, it is said that the tumultuous relief of what was once known as Monoïkos was traced by Hercules himself on his way to perform one of his labors, thereby throwing up a challenge to generations of architects, real estate developers and racing drivers to tame the rugged landscape…. Monaco exerts a fascination over the world that is inversely proportional to its size.”

Jeremy Jakubowicz / Courtesy Hotel Metropole

What other place on Earth, she notes, “can pride Itself on having enjoyed the favors of Winston Churchill, Coco Chanel, Maria Callas, Aristotle Onassis, Stavros Niarchos, Helmut Newton, Karl Lagerfeld—who moved between his villa and the magnificent Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo—Frank Sinatra, James Bond (twice), Lewis Hamilton or Alicia Keys, to name but a few? Coming to Monaco means wanting to touch the intangible, to join a club with membership, to be invited to an awesome party then leave at dawn the next morning”—save for those lucky few, like Grace Kelly, who made it their permanent residence. 

Amazonico / Courtesy Mote-Carlo SBM

Nor is Monaco merely stuck in its admittedly glorious past. “The Principality is also a cosmopolitan modern city shaping its future every day, striving to be at the cutting edge of digital and ecological fields,” Manara reports. “While it keeps tirelessly extending up to the sky and out to sea, since land is in such short supply. The greatest architects, from Renzo Piano, Valode & Pistre and Architectonica to Lord Norman Foster”—who designed the epic Monaco Yacht Club—“just to name a few, have left their mark on the landscape.”

Courtesy Assouline

Whether as an armchair traveler courtesy of the stunning Assouline book, or an actual visitor to the celebrated principality, perhaps best of all with a suite at Hôtel de Paris, there is no better time to experience the magic and magnificence of Monte Carlo, than right now.