Four months ago, I set out on a journey that many would deem unfathomable. I threw caution to the wind, hopped a red eye flight to Rome with my wife and two young children, and spent the next 6 weeks traveling through Europe, mainly by high speed rail, but with an occasional bus, boat and taxi thrown in. No cars, no pre-advanced travel plans on how to get from one city to the next – only a list of pre-defined places I needed to be on a particular day, and that was it.
Aside from a couple Italian railway strikes that rendered two of my planned train rides inoperable, it went without a hitch. The total distance travelled: roughly 2,400 miles (not including the plane rides to/from Europe), with the southernmost point of the journey being the stunning Amalfi Coast in Italy and the journey concluding in the fantastic city of Dublin, Ireland.
It was without question the most epic journey of my life, as it allowed me to see what are unquestionably some of the most gorgeous places on Earth. And I did it for one very simple purpose: to give you the most in-depth look at travel destinations eMercedesBenz has ever offered.
In the coming months, I’m going to be detailing where we stayed, what you can expect from each place, and whether or not each destination is right for you. And because I did it with kids, I’m going to do it both from the perspective of a couple’s vacation and a family vacation. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the ride as much I did, and along the way you’ll gain some valuable insight as to where to spend your next holiday.
Kicking things off, we’ve got a look at the sensational Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Why should you visit Monaco?
Think of Monaco, and images of gambling and a phenomenal amount of luxury undoubtedly spring to mind. It’s one of the places recognized the world over for its unapologetic display of wealth, and in truth, it’s an image well deserved. The architecture is grandiose; the mega yachts are even bigger in person; and Ferrari’s appear to be the most common form of transportation.
With an area of roughly 485 acres and 2.5 miles of shoreline, Monaco is a shining example of how less is more.
But for those visiting, this translates into a remarkably unique vacation experience. Don’t think of Monaco as imposing or uncomfortable – it’s exactly the opposite. It’s like stepping into an alternate, utopian universe where everything bad has been eradicated and only luxury remains. It’s the cleanest place I’ve ever been; the roads are perfect; the crime rate is among the lowest of the world’s developed countries; and the seediness common to gambling in America is nowhere to be found.
What is present, however, is an elegance and coolness equatable to what you’d find in a Bond film. If you’ve ever dreamt of being Bond, pack a tux and head to the Casino de Monte Carlo – it’s as close as you’ll ever get. For families, Monaco is one of the safest, cleanest cities in the world, with the added bonus of being situated directly on the Mediterranean. And for those looking to be pampered, Monaco is home to one of the world’s top 10 spas as well as a host of incredible shopping.
Irregardless of who you are, if you’re looking for a luxurious vacation, you’ll find it in Monaco.
The Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo Overview
Understanding hotels in Monte Carlo is a bit like understanding your family unit. Picking your favorite child is impossible, but knowing that your children are better than everyone else’s is quite easy.
In Monaco, think of the Monte Carlo SMB resort’s four hotels like your family. While it’s impossible to say that one is the best, know that as a whole, they’re the best Monaco has to offer.
There’s the Hotel de Paris – the grand dame of Monaco whose luxury and exquisite architecture is matched only by its incredibly illustrious history. There’s the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort, a new, more modern and relaxed option with an incredible lagoon area and numerous activities. There’s Monte Carlo Beach, an intimate hotel dating back to the ’30’s situated directly on the Mediterranean. And there’s my choice – the Hotel Hermitage – which manages to combine an incredible amount of luxury and a storied history in a genuinely relaxing and comfortable environment.
Pick any and you’ll be happy.
In my case, I picked the Hotel Hermitage because I wanted to experience the luxury Monte Carlo is synonymous with, but in traveling with kids, I wanted a slightly more relaxed environment. In this respect, the Hotel Hermitage is absolutely perfect. It’s grand, it’s luxurious, and yet it’s incredibly welcoming and inviting. For families, it’s absolutely perfect, in that there’s a wealth of family activities and a staff that goes out of there way to make children of all ages feel welcome.
Even if you’re not traveling with your family, however, the Hotel Hermitage still caters to virtually everyone visiting Monaco. Located directly next to the Hotel de Paris and steps from the Casino de Monte Carlo and fantastic shopping, you’re quite literally in the heart of Monte Carlo. Many of Monaco’s key attractions are just steps away or easily accessible via the hotel’s shuttle, making it ideally located for virtually anything you want to do. Inside the Hotel Hermitage are numerous delectable dining and drink options, including Vistamar and the Crystalbar. And for a bit of pampering, the Hotel Hermitage boasts private access to the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, highly regarded as one of the top 10 spas in the world.
The Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo Rooms & Suites
The Hotel Hermitage is a constantly evolving collection of spaces that manage to seamlessly blend the old and the new. There’s a total of 280 bedrooms with 20 Suites, 15 Junior Suites and 8 Diamond Suites, all of which are separated into individual wings. Each wing notes a distinct color style, while as a whole the design is incredibly beautiful and coherent.
In defining the style, the Hotel Hermitage is remarkable, it manages to convey a feeling of incredible grandeur and glamour of the Belle Époque era, but it does so in a way that feels new. Unlike many other European destinations, where the architecture is beautiful but decaying, the Hotel Hermitage is like stepping into a grand palace whose construction was completed yesterday. It’s grand and magnificent, but it feels fresh and unblemished.
Complimenting this modernity, the rooms features classic architecture and moldings, but with contemporary touches and art pieces. During my time at the Hotel Hermitage, I had the pleasure of staying in a Junior Suite with views and balcony overlooking the Marina. The room was large, even by American standards – a feat even more impressive considering real estate in Monaco is the most expensive in the world. The bathroom was spa-like, featuring ornate stonework and a large window that again overlooked the marina. And the style, as is the case with all of the Hotel Hermitage, was a blend of classic and modern – not overly contemporary, but enough to give the room a vibrant, energetic feel.
The Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo for the Family
If you’re traveling with your family, the Hotel Hermitage is impeccable at making your entire family feel incredibly comfortable. The staff was warm and welcoming, and my kids absolutely adored their time in Monaco.
At the heart of the Hotel Hermitage’s family services is what’s called the V.I.K. program (Very Important Kids). In short, everything you need for your family and a host of wonderful extras, are all present upon check-in. There’s a welcome kit, which includes chocolate lollipops, fruit juice and a coloring kit. In the suites (which I recommend if you’re traveling with children), there’s also a bathrobe and bib for kids up to 3 years old personalized with his or her first name, a Gustav teddy bear, and if you visit in the summer, suncare and other beach accessories. My kids were in heaven – they loved their Gustav bear, and they adored the chocolate lollipops. If you’re traveling with kids, in short, everything you need is already in place, down to the bottle warmers and baby food, if you desire.
As for sleeping arrangements, for kids up to 3 years old, a baby cot is installed free of charge, and for ages 3-12, an additional bed is installed free of charge in all Junior Suites and up. For larger families, you also have the option of adjoining bedrooms for additional space.
Depending on when you visit, there’s a host of activities for kids to enjoy during their visit. At Christmas, for example, there’s a remarkable holiday event where the one of the Hotel Hermitage’s most beautiful spaces – the salle Belle Époque – first welcomes children for a Christmas tea and activities, and later, for a Christmas Eve dinner. Kids even get the chance to ride Santa’s horse-drawn carriage around Place du Casino, while at night, Santa slips into the kids’ rooms to leave presents for the guests.
In warmer months (mid-April through mid-October), kids can enjoy numerous water adventures, ranging from the children’s and Olympic-sized pools up to water sports at the private beach (accessible via the Hotel Hermitage’s free shuttle). In July and August, kids can also take part in the Marmorata Kid’s Club on the private beach (free for kids’ ages 3-8), which offers a wide range of activities run by qualified childcare assistants.
All of this adds up to a hotel that offers not only world-class amenities for adults, but also world-class amenities and services for even the youngest of guests.
The Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo Dining
The Hotel Hermitage offers four culinary venues – Le Vistamar, the Crystalbar, the Crystal Terrace, and Le Limún – as well as the stunning Winter Garden with Gustave Eiffel dome, where breakfast is served.
For an absolutely sensational lunch or dinner, the Michelin-starred Le Vistamar is a must visit during your stay at the Hotel Hermitage. Led by chef Joël Garault, the menu focuses on the ideal of “take a fish, a vegetable, and cook it to perfection.” And they do so with remarkable precision. Every dish on the tasting menu was beautifully prepared, elegant, inventive, but never overdone. The restaurant itself is intimate and cozy, and in warmer months, the views are absolutely sensational, as you can enjoy your dining experience on the terrace overlooking the harbor. And the service was exceptional. Not overbearing or stuffy, the service was relaxed and friendly with just the right amount of attentiveness thrown in.
Hands down, my dinner at Le Vistamar ranked as my favorite dinner in Monte Carlo. Add in the fact that pricing at Le Vistamar was among the most economical of any I visited in Monaco (two course lunch w/ drink €39, 4-course seasonal menu €65, Menu Gourmand autour du produit d’exception €120), and you have yet another reason to make Le Vistamar a must on your Monaco to-do list.
For a less casual fare, be sure to check out the Crystalbar – an intimate lounge perfect for an aperitif or after dinner liqueur. My wife and I stopped in before our dinner at Le Vistamar to enjoy a glass of wine, and were greeted to an extensive list of wines (served by the glass), champagnes, liquors and cocktails as well as numerous lighter food options and deserts. And speaking of wine, wines options change frequently, hand picked by sommeliers from what’s called the Central Cellar – a space of more than 16,000 sq. ft. hewn out in 1874 beneath the Hotel du Paris and Hotel Hermitage that’s now home to some 600,000 bottles.
Another exquisite dining space is the the Crystal Terrace, where you can pick from a selection of cigars or ice cream in addition to the aforementioned drink and food options, all while taking views of the Mediterranean Sea, Port Hercule and the Rock of Monaco. And for an intimate gathering with you friends, there’s Le Limún. You can enjoy a light breakfast or lunch, afternoon tea with pastries, or an evening cocktail with amuse-bouches.
Lastly, to get your day in Monaco started off on a delicious path, be sure to enjoy a breakfast in the Winter Garden, which is home to one of the hotel’s most stunning architectural features – the Gustave Eiffel dome (named for the its architect, who also happened to design the Eiffel Tower). The breakfast is sensational, offering a huge assortment of breakfast offerings and treats, while the Winter Garden’s staff again went out of their way to offer exemplary service throughout our stay – even packing our kids to-go treats for our mornings adventures.
The Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo Spa
If you’re visiting Monaco, there’s a very good chance you’re going to enjoy a bit of relaxation and pampering, and there’s no better way to experience this pampering than with a visit to the Thermes Marins de Monte Carlo spa, widely considered to be one of the top 10 spas in the world. Easily accessible via a private walkway from the Hotel Hermitage, everything you’re looking for in a spa is present at the Thermes Marins, including a seawater pool, 37 treatment booths, a cardio-fitness area and two saunas.
While I typically tend to avoid spas, even I couldn’t resist a visit to Thermes Marins, and it was an incredibly relaxing experience. The spa centers around the concept of personalized treatments, where you meet with team to determine which treatment is right for you. I opted for a treatment that included a wrap, rub with scented salts, soak in the whirlpool bath and massage, all centered around the idea of increasing my energy level. It was a fantastic experience, and I left feeling invigorated and revitalized, which is exactly what I was hoping for.
Depending on your needs, there’s a tremendous diversity of programs at the Thermes Marins, whether its specific massages, one of numerous treatments, sports coaching or nutrition analysis. If your visit to Monaco wouldn’t be complete without a day at the spa, you won’t leave disappointed, as there’s truly something for everyone.
The Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo Special Events
Although I didn’t visit the Hotel Hermitage for a special event, it’s easy to see how it would excel for virtually any special event you can think of. As part of Monte Carlo SBM, the special events team can cater to your specific needs, meaning you can utilize all of their venues in a cohesive plan. Or you can center your activities in the Hotel Hermitage itself.
For banquets, cocktail parties, or anything else requiring and absolutely stunning setting, the Salle Belle Époque is unquestionably one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever seen. It is absolutely jaw-dropping, and if you’ve ever dreamed of a fairy tale wedding, you won’t find a more perfect reception spot. For a more contemporary option, the Salon Eiffel (completed in 2010) offers seating for up to 500, a fresco by Suzanne Cole, and a huge projector system, if needed.
From there, there’s a variety of smaller spaces that can be utilized for your specific needs, whether you’re looking for an intimate outdoor setting, a private table in Le Vistamar, and much more.
The Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo Conclusion
As a first time visitor to Monte Carlo and the Hotel Hermitage, I wasn’t sure of what to expect, as luxury can oftentimes be uncomfortably uptight and uninviting. But after visiting the Hotel Hermitage, I can tell you firsthand that this isn’t the case whatsoever. The staff was incredibly professional, warm and courteous, the hotel itself was stunning, and as a whole, my entire family thoroughly enjoyed every second of their time in Monte Carlo.
If you’re looking for an incredibly luxurious and yet incredibly comfortable vacation, you’ll find it at the Hotel Hermitage. It truly is the epitome of what Monaco has to offer.