Monaco invariably conjures up images of fast cars, roulette wheels and Grace Kelly.
But beyond the glitz, glamour and tax dodgers there is a more subtle and elegant side to this tiny principality, encapsulated by the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo.
A five minute walk from Monaco’s world famous Casino, the Metropole is one of the few independently owned five-star hotels in the principality, and this gives it the freedom to experiment and push the envelope perhaps more than some of its other high-end rivals.
Built the same year as the Eiffel Tower on land once owned by the pope, the hotel is located in the very heart of Monte Carlo, but its secluded setting surrounded by trees and gardens make it a veritable oasis of understated opulence.
Restored to its former glory following a major two-year refurbishment back in 2004, a host of celebrity tie-ups have brought the likes of Jo?l Robuchon, Karl Lagerfeld and Givenchy to the hotel in recent years.
It also boasts the only outdoor pool within the ‘Golden Square’. There guests can relax in surroundings designed by Chanel’s legendary creative director Karl Lagerfeld, or sample its superb outdoor restaurant, Odyssey, which unlike other dining spots in the hotel is open only to guests, residents and the hotel’s exclusive membership.
Odyssey at Hotel Metropole / photo by StudioPhenix
Carrying on a tradition started last year, this July and August sees one of the world’s most Michelin-starred female chefs, Carme Ruscalleda, take over the reins at Odyssey, to serve up her modern take on traditional Catalan dishes.
In fact, Hotel Metropole boasts not one but three outstanding restaurants, which cater for a variety of tastes and occasions – from the formal to the casual.
The two Michelin starred Restaurant Jo?l Robuchon has long established itself as one of the city’s premier dining spots, with a string of celebrity regulars.
Stand-out dishes include an apple duo entree with avocado, bitter salad and green mustard sorbet, mains of caramelised quail stuffed with foie gras and the French maestro’s world-famous truffle potato puree.
As you would expect from one of the world’s foremost chefs, dishes are not cheap, but evening bookings, even for weekends, can usually be made less than a week in advance. In the summer months, guests should request a table on the restaurant’s outdoor terrace with views of the Casino and Mediterranean.
Restaurant Jo?l Robuchon / photo by B.Touillon
Also, unusually for a Michelin-starred restaurant, the kitchen is open to the dining room, with visitors able to specially request a seat facing the cooking area to watch dishes being prepared and converse with the chefs.
The kitchen also services the lobby bar, where Robuchon’s signature ‘spicy lobster and French fries’ can be enjoyed in more laid-back but nevertheless spectacular surroundings.
If Restaurant Jo?l Robuchon is one of Monaco’s star spots, then the one Michelin-starred Yoshi, a collaboration between Robuchon and award-winning Japanese chef Takeo Yamazaki and reportedly Lagerfeld’s favourite outside of Asia, is its hidden gem.
Set in the grounds of the hotel, it is a far-more understated affair than its sister restaurant and combines classic French Riviera style with a minimal Japanese design aesthetic, opening up to a secluded Asian garden.
Offering up a contemporary take on some traditional Japanese classics, an absolute must-try is the stand-out signature ghindara no saiko yaki - grilled marinated black cod - while the restaurant’s excellent selection of cocktails and Japanese wines should also not be missed.
Spa Metropole by Givenchy
The newest addition to the list of high-end partnerships is the recently opened Spa Metropole by Givenchy.
Housing ten treatment rooms, the spa also includes a sauna, hammam caldarium, ice fountain and sensory showers, as well as a gym and dedicated Givenchy beauty boutique bringing together the best of the brand’s products; from make-up and skincare to exclusive fragrances.
There are also double and single suites equipped with a bath and private hammam.
Upon entering, visitors are asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire so the spa experience can be better personalised to suit their specific needs. This extends so far as to selecting a mood fragrance which will company you throughout your treatment.
Boutique Givenchy at Spa Metropole / photo by Charly HEL
Givenchy offers a number of specially designed treatments unique to Hotel Metropole, including: Le Soin Noir Renaissance face and body ritual; L’intemporel anti-ageing treatment; and the Hydra Sparkling moisturising treatment, all of which rely on the latest scientific advancements for targeted skincare solutions. The spa also offers a series of bespoke Givenchy massage and body treatments, as well as the Givenchy Interludes series which combines body and facial treatments tailored to guests specific needs.
All treatments end with a ritual using new cryotherapy technology with guests able to sample the exclusive Givenchy make-up salon before winding down with a cocktail at the Odyssey pool.
Other luxury experiences
The hotel also offers bespoke guest packages that will let you experience Monaco in style.
The “Just for You” programme is a series of specially-tailored leisure activities designed to appeal to a wide-range of interests.
These include: a private tour of the winery at Chateau Roubine in Provence with the head sommelier of the Hotel Metropole; ‘Pick Up You Stick’, a culinary lesson in Japanese cooking from Michelin-starred head of chef of Yoshi, and the Goldeneye Experience which includes a private visit to the Monte Carlo casino accompanied by a helicopter ride over the city and trip town the French Riviera in a vintage Aston Martin.
Goldeneye Experience at Hotel Metropole / photo by?Jérémy Jakubowicz
Hotel Metropole has also teamed up with the Venturi Formula E Grand Prix team, the world’s first ecological racing team co-founded by Leonardo Di Caprio, to offer guests the chance to experience a day in the life of a Formula E driver. The ‘You are the Pilot’ package sees guests suited and booted in bespoke ‘Metropole & Venturi’ driving gear, as they take a seat in the cockpit of a simulator used by F1 drivers in their training where they will be guided around the famous Monaco track by the Venturi team.
If even that is not special enough, Metropole has recently launched the ‘Million dollar marriage proposal’. This includes a private helicopter flight from the airport, followed by personalised shopping trip around some of the city’s most exclusive boutiques and stay in the hotel’s top suite, the Carre d’Or, where 1,000 candles will decorate the private terrace and the couple will be waited on by a private butler. The proposal itself takes the form of message carried by a plane flying overhead or projected on the floor of the Odyssey pool, followed by a flight over the Riviera and a champagne picnic before returning home on a private jet.
If all that does the trick, then there is even the option of coming back to have an underwater wedding organised by the hotel.
Of course Monaco may not be to everyone’s taste, but for those wanting an unashamedly high-end and pampered weekend away in the sun; whether you are staying, or just passing through to sample the spa or various restaurants, Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo should not be missed.
When to go and rates
The busiest time of the year is, of course, Grand Prix week, when the top suites with views of the track will go for as much as $80,000 for four nights, and the hotel reportedly makes 13% of its entire annual turnover.
For those on a slightly tighter budget, rates and availability will vary depending on the season with deluxe double rooms in June starting from 442, with superior suites from 1,230.
While March-October is considered the best time to visit weather-wise, with sun an estimated 325 days of the year, Monaco really is an all-year round destination.
The hotel also offers a number of seasonal deals which can be found at?metropole.com/en/home
How to get there
Flights from London to Nice start from ￡124 return on BA. A group taxi from the airport will take around 30 minutes and set you back as much as $100 – but for just 30 euros more you could arrive in style in just seven minutes in your own private helicopter with MonacAir.