Despite its ranking as the world’s second-smallest country, the Principality of Monaco—especially its glamorous capital, Monte Carlo—has plenty of treasures for visitors to behold. Whether you’re planning a day trip from the south of France or reveling in over-the-top luxury for a weekend, here are a few tips to help you hit the jackpot on your next Monaco getaway.
Tucked off a private cobblestone driveway in the centrally-located Carré d’Or, the 131-year-old Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo has a ultra-elegant Belle Époque facade that hints to the old-world splendor within. In 2004, celebrated French architect Jacques Garcia led an extensive renovation of the grand dame’s interiors, including the lobby and all 125 rooms, to be exemplar of understated Mediterranean opulence. Big names in design seemed to have touched every corner of the property, from the swanky Karl Lagerfeld-designed pool terrace to the heavenly Didier Gomez-designed Spa Metropole by Givenchy. With a quartet of some of Monaco’s best restaurants under the same roof, Hotel Metropole is just as much an epicure’s wonderland as it is an aesthete’s.
This posh Dubai transplant has been a sceney Monte Carlo hotspot since arriving in the Galerie Charles III in 2019. Gaia delivers a spectacular contemporary spin on traditional Aegean cuisine, with acclaimed chef Izu Ani at the kitchen’s helm. Deliciously fresh seafood is, as one would expect, the specialty. But in classic Greek fashion, be sure to order everything family style to try all the excellent mezze, salads, and more—while leaving ample room for dessert.
Monte Carlo’s dining scene isn’t all chi-chi fine dining. Located a stone’s throw from Larvotto Beach, La Piazza is part Italian trattoria, part wine bar, and one hundred percent phenomenal. Defer to the section on the menu that outlines all the in-season ingredients before ordering. And don’t be afraid to ask for help with the wine list, which reads like an encyclopedia.
When you need a switch-up from all-day every day Mediterranean, make a dinner booking at Yoshi. Since 2010, chef Takeo Yamazaki’s temple to Japanese fine dining has reigned as the only Japanese restaurant on the Côte d’Azur awarded with a Michelin star. Combine sushi delights with decadent plates of miso black cod or millefeuille of unagi and foie gras, and take advantage of expert suggestions from the head sommelier on which Japanese sake, whiskey, or tea will pair with your meal.
If there’s one place to sip the principality’s only homegrown beer, it’s at the Bière de Monaco microbrewery at Port Hercule’s La Brasserie de Monaco. The award-winning artisanal beer, first poured from the taps by brew master François Pichon in 2008, is all-natural, unpasteurized, unfiltered. Try all four of the variations, which include a pilsner and an IPA.
Sitting right off the penultimate bend of the Grand Prix circuit, portside bar La Rascasse is one of Monte Carlo’s most iconic discotheques. Each night of the week in the summertime (with the exception of Sundays and Mondays) features themed live entertainment, like fiery salsa and acoustic performances. Even in off-season months, you’ll be guaranteed raucous DJ-fueled revelry on the dancefloor.
While superb Japanese-Italian fare is one reason to visit Twiga, the venue’s infamous post-midnight debauchery is without a doubt the main draw. Expect to rub elbows with jetsetters that have a similar profile to Twiga’s founder, billionaire businessman Flavio Briatore—in other words, dressing to the nines is obligatory.
Sass Café has been one of Monte Carlo’s greatest spots for people-watching since it opened on Princesse Grace Avenue in 1993. On warm evenings, sit alfresco for after-dinner cocktails and light bites. But if it’s the full supper club experience you want, reserve a table inside the sultry Tina Green-designed dining room—and don’t expect to leave until the wee hours.
The most emblematic landmark in Monaco’s capital—if not the entire Riviera—is Monte Carlo’s fabled casino. Built in 1863, the stunning Beaux-Arts building is also home to Monte Carlo’s ballet and opera, which makes perfect sense when you learn that the complex was designed by Charles Garnier, the famed architect of Paris’ Palais Garnier opera house. Unless you present a key card from a select Monte Carlo hotel like the Metropole, expect to pay an entrance fee.
Prince Albert I, a fondly remembered Monegasque royal and pioneer of marine sciences, commissioned this imposing 1910 Beaux-Arts to house an array of scientific objects and recovered specimens related to his many undersea discoveries. Today, the museum hosts more than 90 pools of sea flora and fauna from around the world, each equipped with light and temperature adjusted to mimic their respective habitats. Fun fact: For over 30 years, world-famous ocean explorer and godfather of scuba diving Jacques Cousteau was the institution’s director.
A must-see for history buffs, the Palace of Monaco originated as an ancient Genoese fortress dating back to 1215. Over the next eight or so centuries, it was the official residence of the ruling House of Grimaldi, and is still filled with tons of opulent furnishings and regal portraiture to prove it. Today, it’s also the site of Prince Rainier’s famous collection of vintage automobiles and Formula 1 race cars.
Spanning the historic 19th-century Villas Paloma and Sauber, the New National Museum is Monaco’s premier contemporary arts destination with a calendar of rotating exhibitions worth checking out. It also doubles as a conservation center that restores relics of traditional craft like antique dolls and costumes.