Monaco's latest crop of hotels, restaurants, museums, and shops are providing the 0.8-square-mile city-state in the French Riviera with what it's always needed most: cutting-edge cool to all that cash balance. And now with the new bio-pic "Grace of Monaco" debuting with Nicole Kidman in the lead, Monte Carlo has never felt more vital.
Breakfast: Marche de la Condamine – Considering its prime position in France — but close to Italy — Monaco is hardly short of enticing, breakfast-ready patisseries and boulangeries. But a tasty way to start your day is with a stroll through the daily market at the Place d’Armes esplanade. Formally known as the Marche de la Condamine, the market is set in the Condamine shopping area where Grimaldi meets Princess Caroline. There are both indoor and outdoor stalls — many with sit-down-style cafes — laden with fruit, vegetables, baked goods, and flowers, and prime with Monegasque people-watching.
Lunch: Café Llorca – You can’t get more central than this three-year-old cafe, which is set smack in Grimaldi Forum midway between the casino district and Monaco’s eastern border with France. Sleek and modern, with a clean-lined, sun-filled dining room designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Cafe Llorca features the culinary wizardry of Michelin-starred chef Alain Llorca, who turns out seasonal dishes such as risotto with artichokes and cod aioli, at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Dinner: La Trattoria – No chef has done more to put Monaco on the culinary map than Alain Ducasse, who is so beloved in town that he even created the feast for Prince Albert and Princess Charlene’s wedding. While Ducasse’s flagship Le Louis XV may be his best-known restaurant, his newest, La Trattoria, is far more accessible. Set just above the landmark club Jimmy’z in the Sporting complex, La Trattoria is Ducasse’s take on traditional Italian. And he does it very, very well. Expert service accompanies regional classics such as asparagus risotto, roasted sea bass, penne amatriciana, and a perfect veal scaloppine Milanese style — there’s even a chocolate pizza for dessert.
Dessert: Cafe de Paris – The Brasserie at the Cafe de Paris is located right in the historic, aristocratic, and glamorous heart of Monte Carlo, just in front of the iconic casino. Along with prime people-watching — celebrities, royalty, oligarchs, and anonymous billionaires — the restaurant serves every sort of sugary indulgence, from ice cream to crêpes to pastries, and is open to until 2 am daily.
Tip: Fancy a bit of action with your dinner or cocktails? Then head to Buddha-Bar. Tucked into the landmark Casino de Monte Carlo complex, and accessed via a series of alfresco terraces and lush gardens, Buddha-Bar is capped by frescoed ceilings and surrounded by heavily gilded splendor. Arrive late to enjoy the duplex lounge, whose novel design incorporates the building’s existing beaux arts aesthetic with splashes of red and gold.
For Everyone: Villa Paloma – Monaco’s contemporary art scene truly hit its stride with the arrival of Villa Paloma last year, a new museum in a former private villa close to the botanical garden overlooking the sea. Originally built in 1913 for the American Dickerson family, the four-story compound — part of the Musee National de Monaco — presents semiannual multimedia exhibitions inspired by Monaco’s relationship with the land and sea.
For Couples: Casino de Monte Carlo – While its craps tables and slot machines may still be the main draw, the 148-year-old Casino de Monte Carlo is upping the stakes in glamorous gambling. Inside, the new Cabaret de Monte Carlo is a Paris-in-the-20s-styled stage show marrying tastefully erotic dance and acrobatics with subtly sensual lighting effects. Outside, there’s outdoor gaming on a pair of Med-front terrace salons for Bond-style blackjack, baccarat, and roulette under the stars.
For Families: Ni Box – This massive gaming complex near the Grimaldi Forum includes something for all ages, ranging from a video game salon and bowling alley to a rooftop, all-season ice skating rink. The property is connected to the Monte Carlo Munchkins Club, a full-service facility aimed at toddlers and younger children, with arts and crafts facilities, music and dance salons, cooking classes, and storytelling areas. Both Ni Box and the Munchkins Club are fully supervised, allowing parents to enjoy the on-site restaurant or even the adjacent nightclub.
For the Adventurous: Musee Oceanographique – Explore your inner Jacques Cousteau with a visit to this museum, which was built in 1910 by Prince Albert I. An homage to the nearby sea, the museum includes Cousteau’s original diving bell, along with aquariums packed with sharks, crabs, scorpions, and jellyfish.
Want to really splurge? Pop into Monaco Luxury Rent and rent a sports car for a day of hairpin turns along the French Riviera. The fleet of Ferraris and Lamborghinis are world-class, but the tab — at least 1,500 euros for 24 hours — makes this a real indulgence.