Monaco: Pure Indulgence

by Kristy Alpert

Jun 1, 2018
June 2018

MONACO IS THE LAND OF THE GLITTERATI, where helicopter transfers from the airport are equally as common (and affordable) as taxi rides. The principality’s sparkling shoreline and glamorous offerings make it an exciting place to bring the girlfriends while in town for business. The entire country is roughly half the size of New York’s Central Park, but it’s packed with opportunities for unwinding and indulging alongside your closest girls in the same fashion as Grace Kelley, the American actress-turned-princess who once called Monaco home.

The principality is the second-smallest country in the world, located along a sliver of the French Riviera where the sun shines 300 days each year and the year-round temperature averages around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite being tucked tightly between France and Italy — and being home to a diverse population of 38,000 representing more than 125 nationalities — the country maintains a distinct Monegasques identity where the same royal family, the Grimaldis, has ruled for more than 700 years.

Monaco’s status as a tax haven (zero income taxes and low business taxes) made it an attractive destination for businesses and individuals to work, play or live. The country regularly hosts some of the world’s leading events and summits, including the annual Monaco Yacht Show and the Monaco Grand Prix, drawing in businesses and tourists from around the world who expect nothing less than the best from this glitzy principality. The standard for excellence is exceedingly high in Monaco, so much so the poverty rate continues to chart in as the lowest in the world while the country regularly reports the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita each year.

The country has always been known for its glitz and glamour, with its most legendary landmarks setting the stage for cinematic masterpieces like Casino Royale and Grace of Monaco, but recently the monarchy expanded its luxurious offerings even more as its destination marketing organization became the first to join the Wellness Tourism Association. The new focus is fitting, as wellness has always been ingrained in the culture around Monaco, where locals can frequently be seen on foot, walking to and from work or the shops. The best way to get around while in town is actually by foot, as every part of the town is accessible within only a few minutes thanks to the city’s abundant escalators and public lifts.

Monaco also has a rich bathing culture that dates back to the 1860s, when people from all along the Mediterranean came to experience the healing waters of the city as well as its world-renowned thalassotherapy treatments. Today the principality offers a range of luxury spa treatments and healthy dining establishments that act as the sumptuous accoutrements to a relaxing weekend with girlfriends.

Start the trip by booking a suite at the Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo, the Belle Époque jewel once owned by Pope Leo XIII featuring more than 126 guestrooms and suites. The hotel underwent a complete renovation early in 2004 and now includes four restaurants boasting a total of three Michelin stars and a full-service spa by Givenchy offering a range of massages and body treatments. Architect Didier Gomez designed the spa space and gave it its sleek, nuanced look of sophistication and relaxation.

Heat Experience at Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo's Spa Metropole by Givenchy

Heat Experience at Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo’s Spa Metropole by Givenchy © HÔTEL MÉTROPOLE MONTE-CARLO

The spa is the perfect place to ensure any girlfriends or guests are well taken care of during business meetings or while attending to other obligations, and the spa’s Heat Experience acts as a warm welcome for anyone visiting the space. The package includes the use of the sauna, hammam, caldarium, ice fountain and sensory showers. The spa is famous for delivering an experience for all the senses; guests can select a signature scent to follow them around the spa (spa therapists place tissue in the pocket of guests’ robes or on their massage tables) and choose from a range of custom playlists from artist Béatrice Ardisson who created custom background music to enhance each treatment. Every session ends with a cryotherapy ritual that helps prolong the benefits.

The spa is famous for its massages — the Anti-Gravity and Divine Harmony are top picks for many guests — but for the ultimate girls’ trip treat, plan to spend time in the Pedi:Mani:Cure studio by Bastien Gonzalez. Gonzalez, better known as the foot specialist to the stars, has made a name for himself with his signature, unique approach to foot treatments.

Gonzalez uses his background in podiatry to create a fusion of wellbeing that begins with the feet and works its way to the entire body with no nail polish and no water. The treatment includes a relaxing massage that extends from the toes and legs to the fingertips and arms and ends with his signature natural buffing treatment, a technique passed down to him from his grandmother. The ultimate indulgence at the studio is “Bastien’s Duo,” in which four hands work in a synchronized manner to refresh the feet, legs, hands and arms.

Spend mornings at the Métropole poolside, overlooking the hotel’s Karl Lagerfeld-designed pool, as yoga instructors lead guests through early morning sun salutations before guests head to a healthy, gourmet breakfast at Odyssey restaurant to feast on light and healthy dishes designed by Michelinstarred chef Joël Robuchon.

During the day, most visitors head out to soak in the sun along the pebbled beaches lining the azure waters of the French Riviera. A favorite beach is La Note Bleue Monaco (a portion of the famous Larvotto Beach), and the incredible Villefranche-sur-Mer located a short train ride out of the city. The Monte Carlo Casino offers stunning views of the city and is a great place to stroll and people-watch before heading to the Café de Paris for lunch or an afternoon coffee. This iconic café was the birthplace of the crêpe Suzette, although it’s only available in the evening and in summer.

Coffee at Café de Paris

Coffee at Café de Paris © KRISTY ALPERT

The brasserie offers another fantastic spot for relaxing, surrounded by the glamorous Hôtel de Paris and the Monte Carlo Casino. The infamously ornate gambling environment at the Casino de Monte-Carlo has become the lifeblood of the principality, even though locals are not legally allowed to gamble there. The small cover charge to enter the museum is well worth it to give your luck a chance at one of the world’s most famous casinos.

Other must-see spots include the Palais du Prince (one of the few royal residences in Europe that actually allows guests to explore inside), the Princess Grace Rose Garden and the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, displaying Bacon’s memorabilia and art in an engaging way that gives insight into this enigmatic artist’s life.

After the group comes back together for a healthy dinner at Yoshi (the first Japanese restaurant in the world by Joël Robuchon) or Quai des Artistes, hit the town for a glamorous night spent mingling with Monaco’s elite at Buddha-Bar or Jimmy’z, Monaco’s two most iconic and exclusive clubs.

No matter whether the group has to spend time apart for work obligations or the girls’ trip begins once business duties cease, Monaco’s ample number of boutique and luxury shops and its wellness offerings set the stage for a memorable trip of wealth and well-being.

Monaco Info to Go

Although there is no airport in Monaco, the country is easily accessible via land, air or sea. Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport is the nearest airport to the principality, only 14 miles away. A helicopter gets you there in seven minutes, and a taxi usually runs around 30–45 minutes. Trains stop at the Monaco–Monte Carlo station, and boats from all over the world utilize the harbor for easy docking.

Where to Stay in Monaco

HÔTEL DE PARIS MONTE-CARLO This glitzy icon is home to a world-renowned bar and one of the largest hotel wine cellars in the world. Place du Casino, Monte Carlo $$$$$

HÔTEL HERMITAGE MONTE-CARLO Located just steps from the Casino de Monte Carlo and connected to the Thermes Marins Monte Carlo, this historic property remains one of Monaco’s most precious jewels. Square Beaumarchais, Monte Carlo $$$$

HÔTEL MÉTROPOLE MONTE-CARLO Pope Leo XIII once owned this Belle Époque building, now featuring more than 126 guestrooms and suites. 4 Ave. de la Madone, Monte Carlo $$$$$

Restaurants in Monaco

CAFÉ DE PARIS MONTE-CARLO This Belle Époque-style brasserie is centrally located in one of the best people-watching squares in Monaco and is the birthplace of the crêpe Suzette. Place du Casino, Monte Carlo $$$$

QUAI DES ARTISTES This French brasserie specializes in fresh seafood caught daily in the harbor of Monaco and offers an extensive wine list. 4 Quai Antoine 1er, Monte Carlo $$$

YOSHI The first Japanese restaurant from Joël Robuchon resides inside the Hôtel Métropole in an impossibly chic setting perfect for dining with Monaco’s elite. Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo, 4 Ave. de la Madone, Monte Carlo $$$$

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