Inside the legendary Monaco hotel. The Past & The Present
The beating heart of the grande dame
The lobby of the Hôtel de Paris has welcomed royalty, socialites, politicians and many a deep-pocketed gambler for more than 150 years.
French entrepreneur François Blanc took a huge gamble himself in 1864, transforming a plot covered in olive and lemon trees into the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
The paparazzi lurking on the hotel’s marble steps outside may be armed with digital cameras rather than flashbulbs, but the grand lobby remains a classic show-stopper.
It’s still home to gold pillars and ornate stucco, but the entire space now has a lighter feel because it offers direct access to an adjoining open-air courtyard.
No request has ever been too extravagant for residents of the hotel’s suites. Beams were added to one of the rooms for Empress Elizabeth “Sissi” of Russia so that she could practise the trapeze before bed, and Winston Churchill used to book out the sixth-floor suite for the summer season so that his faithful budgerigar Toby could fly freely.
The Churchill suite was given the heave-ho as part of the renovations to make way for the splendid Princess Grace Suite – one of two new penthouse suites created.
Alongside its companion, the Prince Rainier III, the double-storey space commands some of the highest room rates in the world (from £28,000 a night).
A drinking hole that runs to its own rhythm
For decades, the hotel’s Bar Américain has been the go-to destination for those who will only drink a Bellini if it is made with fresh white peaches.
Lying to the left of the grand lobby, the space was first home to a restaurant called Café Divan, opened by François Blanc to replenish peckish gamblers.
Regular patrons of this establishment are so attached to its charms that the revamp in this corner of the hotel was handled with a light touch.
New interiors were created by David Collins Studio but only the most devoted customer would be able to spot the differences.
Culinary calling card
For the past three decades, the best bottles from the cellar have been served at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse.
In 1987 Prince Rainier III challenged Ducasse to create a restaurant and menu that would secure three Michelin stars within four years.
Not one to be daunted by a task, Ducasse secured the status in just 33 months at the age of 33.
Ducasse now uses Le Louis XV as a “nursery” for his young chefs and the reins are currently in the hands of chef de cuisine Dominique Lory.
The restaurant had to set up temporary shop on the ground floor of the new Rotonde wing during rennovation works completed in 2019. It’s now back in its original location
A hidden labyrinth of treasures
François Blanc may have been the driving force behind the hotel’s lavish appearance above ground, but it was his wife, Marie, who ensured that there was a wine cellar worthy of such a grand establishment.
She is thought to have overseen the construction of this subterranean maze, which took 100 workers 18 months to dig, 10 metres into the rock that lay between the Hôtel de Paris and Hôtel Hermitage.
With an estimated 900 bottles uncorked a day across the Société des Bains de Mer de Monaco group (the group manages and owns the Monte-Carlo Casino, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, and the Hôtel de Paris), guests certainly haven’t got any less thirsty, but there have been some minor changes for the cellar.