If you’re seeking the most glamorous getaway, let it be in Monaco. Cars, casinos and champagne are all ready for the visitor seeking a decadent break from life’s daily drudgery.
From feasting like a king to partying with a real prince, fairytales come true in this luxurious Mediterranean enclave. Here are the seven things to do to ensure your own storybook vacation.
Hit the beach
Monaco has a long beach season — May through October — and the usually fabulous weather means lots of sun and little rain. The country’s exquisite seascapes are perched on the navy-blue Mediterranean Sea with silky white sand that has been added to the naturally rocky coastline for extra comfort (it makes for excellent sandcastles).
Larvotto Beach is open to the public with deck chairs and parasols for hire. After you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll find plenty of fine Monégasque and Italian restaurants close by on the tony Avenue Princesse Grace.
Feast like a king
The celebrated Le Vistamar in Hôtel Hermitage will serve you an unforgettable lunch or dinner on a beautiful terrace. It’s easy to see why the restaurant is considered one of the finest in the culinary haven of Monaco’s most well-known region, Monte Carlo.
Inspired by the theme “one fish, one vegetable, once cooked,” Le Vistamar prides itself on its original dishes. Although remarkable meats are on the menu, locally caught fish and seafood steal the spotlight.
Try the spectacular tasting menu or a few of the simple, delicious à la carte selections. The menu is seasonal, so indulge in the lobster salad, handmade ravioli, grilled turbot, fresh fish bouillabaisse or the rack of lamb while it’s still available.
No matter which direction you go for starters and mains, all meals should end with one of the decadent, sweet delicacies, especially one of the famous sweet soufflés with untraditional flavors like cognac and strawberry.
In summer, the port views from the terrace will spark your interest, while in the colder months, you’ll get cozy in the warm wooden interior. Reservations are recommended.
Discover the shops
Naturally, Monaco is host to all the usual suspects. For something a little different but equally as elegant, have a look in Le Metropole Shopping Center. This palatial underground shopping haven, fitted with chandeliers and marble floors, is very Monaco with its high-end boutiques and antique stores.
In addition to that complex’s luxury brands, you’ll also find smaller companies making a big impression: exquisite jewelers Bijoux Burma and Pomellato show off ropes of pearls and enormous emeralds in the window displays; the Paraphamarcy sells deluxe health and beauty products.
The lovely, orange-tree-lined Rue Grimaldi offers various small shops peddling everything from home goods and tableware to leather leggings and the latest shoes.
Fancy cafés and patisseries dot the area, too, in the event you need a post-purchase pick-me-up.
Sleep like a baby
A hard day’s spending demands a good night’s sleep. Treat yourself at Hotel De Paris Monte-Carlo, an exclusive delight on the Place du Casino. This beautifully preserved 19th-century treasure is elegantly presented through rooms adorned with butter-colored walls, fresh flowers and crisp white sheets on plump beds.
Favored by the likes Winston Churchill, Cary Grant and Princess Grace of Monaco, the hotel sets the scene for a luxurious nap.
Make your fortune
What’s the point in coming all this way if you can’t break the bank at the world-famous Casino de Monte Carlo? Opened in 1863, the casino is elaborately fitted with rococo ceilings, marble columns and antique chandeliers.
If you’re dreaming of riding around in one of the Ferraris like you see parked out front, try your luck on the European roulette wheel, slot machines and blackjack table.
Breakfast with movie stars
Though you can’t experience it until it reopens in spring 2017, the most memorable breakfast in Monte Carlo is at the Horizon Deck, Restaurant and Champagne Bar atop Fairmont Monte Carlo. An enormous buffet of the best ham and bacon, crepes, local vegetables, eggs and piles of fresh pastries awaits with a view of Monaco that stretches to the Italian border (which is only a few miles away).
Try the fine coffee and San Pellegrino, or turn it up a notch with a glass of champagne. Dress codes are more relaxed at breakfast, but the glitterati turns up in designer sunglasses and the latest leisurewear, even in the mornings.
Visit the royals
Seize the opportunity to visit the home of a glamorous European royal family. Make your first stop the Prince’s Palace of Monaco’s spectacular cathedral, the final resting place of Monaco’s beloved Princess Grace.
The nearby palace is still the official residence of the prince and his family. Built in 1215 and renovated several times (extensively by Princess Grace), the structure is a fantastic piece of European history: it’s been occupied by the Grimaldi family since the 13th century.
The palace is small but ornate in the Louis XIV style. Original tapestries and priceless furniture bedeck the staterooms, royal bed chambers and living areas of past Monaco rulers and their guests.
As this is a royal residence, sentries are constantly on duty. If possible, time your visit to watch the changing of the guard.
A private collection of cars is also available for viewing, and the regal roster is as splendid as the palace.