By John O’Ceallaigh
I know the Principality has its detractors, but I’ve always found my visits to Monaco compelling. A lot of that has to do with the people-watching: the distillation of extreme wealth here almost defies comprehension and is fascinating to observe. I’ve seen its expression on board the various $100m-plus vessels I’ve toured during the Monaco Yacht Show and while chatting to punters at the Casino de Monte-Carlo; at one fundraising gala I attended, the man behind me casually bid over €1m for an electric speedboat. I was surrounded by megawatt celebrities and supermodels that night and almost literally bumped into Robert Redford on my way home (short, nice smile).
Given their audience, it’s unsurprising that the hotels housed within the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer portfolio go all out when it comes to offering extravagant signature suites. The collection includes a number of so-called ‘Diamond Suites’, which like the French ‘palace’ hotel categorisation that is reserved for properties that surpass the standards of bog-standard five-stars, is used to signify that guests have found themselves in an unsurpassed room category.
It’s not just a branding and marketing strategy: while plenty of European cities feature hotel suites that cost north of €10,000 per night, Monaco is one of the few places where they are likely to be booked out with relative frequency. When I stayed at the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo recently, I had the opportunity to again spend time in the jewel of the Diamond Suites’ crown: the Princess Grace Suite. It really is one of the world’s most beautiful and impressive hotel suites.
On the seventh and eighth floors of the hotel, the mammoth two-bedroom residence sprawls over 983 square metres and is next-level lavish. Bordering a mini courtyard garden, the primary bathroom incorporates a spa with steam-shower room and sauna; next door, the dressing room’s safe is in fact a mini bank vault with drawers specifically for guests’ watch collections. There are three lounges and a vast terrace with its own rooftop infinity pool and granite-lined Jacuzzi. The views are stellar, and stretch from Port Hercules harbour – always populated with superyachts – towards the west (expect spectacular sunsets) and back to the megabucks apartments and towering hillsides that ribbon the border of the principality.
What is particularly impressive about the space, however, is that it really has been imbued with character; its connection to its namesake is sincere and intimate. The suite’s development was approved by Prince Albert of Monaco and he has provided family heirlooms for its decoration. Most notably, pressed-flower collages created by the princess hang on the walls and family pictures can be seen in the office; bookshelves hold her favourite poetic and literary works.
Fittingly, the Princess Grace Suite is complemented by the nearby Prince Rainier III Suite, another two-bed residence set across 830 square metres and incorporating a bar, library-lounge, dining room and office.It too has a sauna and open-air infinity pool, with views this time looking out towards the Place du Casino and providing views of the F1 Grand Prix each May. The interiors feature some of the prince’s personal photos, paintings and heirlooms.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll need to pay handsomely if you want to reside in such regal surroundings, and it turns out a lot of privileged people are willing to do so. Accommodation at the Princess Grace Suite starts from €30,000 per night, while a sleepover in the Prince Rainier III Suite costs from €40,000; bookings must be for a minimum of five nights during the peak season. Amazingly, 23% of the total revenue Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo earned over summer 2021 was derived from these two suites alone.
For the duration of their stay, guests here are the property’s undisputed kings and queens. Fawned over by one and all, they can expect an approach to service that was surmised to me by a staff member as “if you ask for it, you get it”. Though there’s no chance of residents’ identities being shared, I was told past guests have included a 30-something tech entrepreneur, Middle Eastern royals and immensely wealthy Americans and Russians. Before their arrival, every new guest can expect a consultation with staff to ensure every aspect of their stay has been customised. Want the chandeliers temporarily changed to precisely suit your taste? One previous occupant did, and of course it was no problem (though you can be sure they paid extra for it).
Of course, Diamond Suite guests will also have expedited VIP access to all of the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer’s venues and amenities. At the Hotel de Paris they include Le Bar Américain, which frequently hosts live musical performances and again offers top-class people-watching; perennially popular Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse is the hotel’s three-Michelin-star restaurant. Shared by guests of the neighbouring sister property Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo is a sprawling spa with a sun-trap terrace again overlooking Port Hercules.
That latter hotel is also home to a promising new Michelin-starred Yannick Alléno restaurant. I enjoyed the dishes I tried there (a lunch that included sea scallop quenelles with mushrooms, a baklava-style Lebanese dessert with orange-blossom ice cream and a miniature, treacly Guinness-infused pie as a petit four) though the dining space felt a bit too conservative for Alléno’s colourful, unpredictable dishes. A new interior is due to be unveiled in April.
Though not a match for the Prince and Princess Suites, the Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo’s three-bedroom Princiere Diamond Suite is another palatial (albeit relatively petit) retreat. Set over 286 square metres, all of its three terraces and multiple Belle Époque rooms face the sea. Inside await home comforts including Louis XVI bergere armchairs with cane backs, fancy lacquered furniture and considered artworks. It starts from €25,000 per night.
Other Diamond Suites await at the Société’s Monte-Carlo Beach (where the Sunshine Diamond Suite costs from €3,400 per night) and the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort (where the Diamond Suite Eleven begins at €5,500 per night), though guests who demand even more privacy than one of the Diamond Suites affords can also rent out the collection’s Villa La Vigie. A century-old private villa that was previously one of Karl Lagerfeld’s homes, it’s as refined as you’d expect. Featuring six bedrooms, various lounges, a billiards room, massive terrace and beautiful sea views, it is offered on an exclusive-use basis with prices only available on request.
For more on the hotel collection, see www.montecarlosbm.com
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