I’ve never been to Monte Carlo but because I work for one of the finest luxury travel magazines and my editor lived there for 15 years, it felt important to be knowledgeable about this luxury destination. After reading and hearing so much about it, I’d like to share five things I think you should know.
The Principality of Monaco is an independent microstate on France’s Mediterranean coastline between France and Italy known for its glitzy casinos, mega-yacht-lined harbour and the prestigious F1 Grand Prix motor race, which runs through Monaco’s streets once a year in May. Monte Carlo, its major district, has an elegant belle époque casino complex which houses the ornate opera house and five-star luxury hotels, luxury boutiques, one of the best nightclubs, Jimmy’z, and many French and Italian restaurants.
2. The centre of the world of luxury
Monaco may be smaller than London’s Hyde Park, but with 33,000 residents that hail from 125 nations, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The home of royalty and the playground of the rich and famous, the city-state is a millionaire and billionaire haven that consequently boasts some of the highest real estate prices in the world, up to $100,000 per square-metre.
Fashionable high society has been drawn to Monaco for centuries. If you are going to win big, this is the place to do it. If you want to experience luxury nirvana, Monaco delivers. This is where the wealthiest of the elite ‘beau mode’ flock from all over the world.
Monaco is the land of super yachts, super cars, super casinos and the super-rich. It is a place where you can expect to find a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano parked by the Marina at night, next to Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis. It has been a tax haven since the 1870s, and every individual citizen of Monaco enjoys a tax-free lifestyle (except those of French and American nationalities) if they live there at least six months and one day per year.
3. The Monegasque royal family
The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco for over 700 years. The first Lord of Monaco, a merchant-turned-pirate called Lanfranco Grimaldi, was Italian by birth and a member of the Genoan Guelphic family who invaded the area in 1297, following an economic dispute with rival clan, the Ghibellines.
Monaco became a principality when the then ruler Honor II assumed the title of prince in 1612. At that point the territory was still under the protection of Spain, with whom it had been linked since 1524, but the Treaty of Peronne in 1641 allied it instead with France. Subsequent Monegasque sovereigns upped their title count by marrying a string of French heiresses, which explains why, in addition to the title of Sovereign Prince of Monaco, the head of the principality can lay claim to 19 other titles.
Although the Grimaldi family was exiled from Monaco in 1793 following the French revolution – during which time the principality reverted to its ancient name of Fort d’Hercule – its members returned in 1815, following the Treaty of Paris, and have been its monarchs ever since.
4. The creation of Monte Carlo
In 1863, the Plateau des Spélugues on which the casino was built was used to cultivate traditional Mediterranean orange, lemon and olive trees.
It was Prince Charles III, successor to Prince Florestan I, who initiated the creation of a new kind of life for the principality. The press of the day noted the sovereign’s ambitions for the town: ‘The new casino launched by the Société des Bains de Mer will soon raise from the ground in monumental proportions. Around the casino, fine hotels will be built, having nothing to fear by comparisons with those that have been opened in Paris, London or New York’. Five years after the first stone was laid, the casino was inaugurated, in the spring of 1863. It was to be a brilliant success.
We owe the first achievement, the most famous of Monte-Carlo’s hotels, to François and Marie Blanc, the Hôtel de Paris. The most talented designers from France and indeed the entire world were carefully selected to ensure the very best amenities.
To satisfy an ever-growing clientele, François Blanc decided to build the hotel’s first extension only two years after it had opened.
The construction of Monte Carlo was well into its stride; the Café de Paris opened its doors in 1868, completing the ‘golden triangle’ of the Place du Casino. Although of modest size, the establishment then named Café-Divan soon became a favourite place for discussion, distraction or relaxation. Already at the time, the building was home to a café, a restaurant, a jewellery shop and a tobacconist, as it still is today but with a different name, Café de Paris.
5. The SBM Monte Carlo Resort
For over a century, Monte Carlo SBM has been responsible for delivering a unique lifestyle, an unparalleled tradition of hospitality and legendary savoir-faire et vivre, highly renowned and esteemed by a modern and demanding international clientele. With over 3000 employees, the Monte Carlo SBM Group ranks as the leading employer Monaco. Although everyone is aware of its core activities in hospitality, catering and casinos, few realise that the company offers some 500 jobs in sectors as diverse as entertainment, marketing, the environment, finance, construction and finishing works, well-being, and many more.
Monte-Carlo SBM is an exceptional resort, offering:
- Four casinos including the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo
- Four hotels which are ranked among the finest in the world and have won awards from east to west: the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, the Monte-Carlo Beach and the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort
- 32 distinguished restaurants
- Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, one of Europe’s most beautiful spas
- Fashionable and festive venues, including the legendary Jimmy’z, the Sea Lounge and the Blue Gin
- Hi-tech equipment for efficient and enjoyable business trips
- Events throughout the year. Especially famous is the Summer Festival, with the highlight the Red Cross Ball attended by aristocrats from all over the world.