When I realised that I had a couple of days free before my annual Saint-Tropez trip, one thought sprung to mind: embrace my inner Grace Kelly and pop over to Monte-Carlo.
With just over 48 hours (3 days, 2 nights), it would be just enough time to get a good taste of the Monte-Carlo life and see for myself the allure of this place.
The small but mighty Monaco still remains a bit of a mystery to some. The tiny Côte d’Azur country is a mere two square kilometres (that’s smaller than New York’s Central Park) and word is that nearly a third of the residents are millionaires. This coastal strip is surrounded by France on three sides, and the border of Italy is just 30 minutes away.
I landed at the Nice-Côte d’Azur airport and spent the next 40 minutes gazing out the window as we drove along a beautiful sweeping coastal road into Monaco.
Of course, if you truly want to make an entrance in style (this is Monaco, after all!), pull out the credit card and hop into a helicopter, which will get you there in 10 minutes or so.
I stayed at the Fairmont Monte-Carlo for the two nights and can 100% recommend it. It’s the grande dame of hotels here and I promise you will not be disappointed. The Fairmont Monte-Carlo is classically elegant, has spacious rooms with private terraces, the service is fab, and you really can’t beat the central location (right on the famous hairpin curve) that will put you within walking distance of bars, restaurants, the casino, and the water.
You can read our full hotel review here.
Located right within the hotel itself is the famous Nobu restaurant, where you can experience traditional Japanese dishes with a South American twist whilst having access to some of the best ocean views around. It’s wonderfully buzzy with fresh, delicious dishes like the legendary miso black cod, premium wagyu beef, Nobu-style tacos, and a wide selection of sushi and sashimi.
From the hotel, a 2-minute walk up some steps will get you to the always-pumping Buddha Bar. This lounge-like restaurant has an Asian-fusion menu where you can dive into flavours from China, Japan, Thailand, and Southeast Asia, with a French touch. Or just order a drink and soak up the lounge-y vibes and trendy crowd.
A little farther away (about 1.5 km, which is a 20-25 minute stroll or a 6-minute drive) is Coya. We love the ones in London and Dubai, and it was at their Miami restaurant (which has since closed) where we were first introduced to one of our original #rebellebosses, the talented singer Keba!
So it goes without saying that I wanted to make sure to pay a visit to the newly opened Monte-Carlo location, which is generously sized with over 250 covers. The Peruvian restaurant didn’t disappoint, with excellent food and service, and the vibrant Latin American flair that Coya is known for. The kitchen is run by Chef Fabrizio Fossati, with Chef Sanjay Dwivedi (you can read more about him and Coya Dubai here) overseeing the menu.
End the day with a cocktail at the fabulous Pisco Bar, have some light nibbles like their guacamole or signature tiradito (Peruvian sashimi), and just soak up the lively vibe and sweeping Mediterranean views.
(Good to know: Coya Monte-Carlo is open May through October and closes for the winter season.)
Since I was only in Monte-Carlo for a few days, I knew I had to choose wisely when it came to where and how to spend my downtime. When I found out that Nikki Beach, the popular beach club, was located on the rooftop of Fairmont Monte-Carlo, my decision was made for me. I slipped on my Evarae swimsuit and kaftan and headed straight to the roof to spend an afternoon lounging under the hot sun. The DJ set up the perfect summer soundtrack as people splashed around in the pool and worked on their golden tans in between sips of frosty cocktails.
If you want to try your luck at gambling, the legendary Casino de Monte-Carlo is a few minutes’ walk from Buddha Bar. This Belle Epoque building is sophisticated and glamorous and drips with luxury. You’ll half expect to see James Bond rolling up in his Aston Martin as you approach the grand entrance. Just be sure to take your passport with you as you’ll need it to get in!
Nikki Beach may seem like a glittering club full of the see-and-be-seen crowd but at its core, it is a symbol of love and the celebration of life. Jack Penrod opened the first Nikki Beach in 1998 in Miami, after he lost his 18-year old daughter Nicole in a car accident.
Rather than mourn the loss of her life, he wanted to celebrate her. He and his wife Lucia created a small garden sanctuary by the sea and this celebration of life has grown into the global Nikki Beach brand that we all know and love today.
Jack and Lucia Penrod also have their non-profit organisation Nikki Cares, a fundraising partner for several different charities. A couple of the charities they’ve supported extensively is Fabretto Children’s Foundation in Nicaragua (where Lucia is from) and The Heart Fund.
Nikki Beach also regularly hosts events. During my stay, they were putting on the brand’s signature fashion series, What Women Want, a spectacular event featuring must-know designers, beauty treatments, cocktails, and of course, shopping. (I unknowingly stumbled into the fashion show and nearly ended up joining the models – luckily I realised my faux pas in time!)
Monaco is currently undergoing an extensive offshore urban extension project, which began in 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in 2025. Given the country’s already small size and the scarcity of available real estate, the goal of this project is to expand Monaco by six hectares whilst keeping the development sustainable and protecting the environment.
It’s an admirable project, albeit a very ambitious one, and you’ll see rigs out on the water and notice some construction noise. But don’t let that deter you from visiting – these kinds of projects are just par for the course with any populated locale, whether Dubai or NYC. The only difference is that instead of building up, Monaco is building out.
And there you have it! How to make the most of your time in Monte-Carlo when you only have 48 hours to experience the Monegasque vibes. If you happen to already be planning some time in France or Italy, try to make a plan to hop over to Monaco for a couple of days – it’s a fabulous mini-getaway spot.