The independent and sovereign Principality of Monaco has played a unique and colorful role throughout the history of the Mediterranean and Europe. During the turn of the last century, the elite and aristocracy traveled to Monaco’s thermal center to enjoy its curative climate while escaping the wintry cold of Northern Europe. Today, wellness—staying active and healthy while traveling—is one of Monaco’s major draws.
Points of Distinction
Half the size of New York City’s Central Park, the Principality of Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world, but big on experiences. Where else can one fly by helicopter à la James Bond to experience one of the many events or festivals offered in its robust year-long calendar? The destination boasts beautiful Belle Epoque buildings complete with a fairytale Princely Palace perched atop The Rock and overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Home to the ruling family of the Principality, the palace dates back to the 13th century and visitors can still see the daily 11:55 am changing of the guard.
Monaco is also known for its performing arts and museums. One of the most famous cultural landmarks in the world designed by Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris Opera, is the Monte-Carlo Opera House—a spectacular reminder of the gilded Belle Epoque age. The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, built in 1910 by the “Navigator Prince,” Prince Albert I of Monaco—a scientist and explorer and perhaps one of the world’s first environmentalists—is considered as one of the finest in the world with 4,500+ fish from every ocean on the planet. Jacques Cousteau was the museum’s director for 30 years, and rare maritime artifacts collected by Prince Albert I are still on exhibit.
Among the myriad of exceptional experiences the Principality offers, dining is one of its most celebrated. From Michelin-starred restaurants to quaint sidewalk cafes, there is no other location in the world where so much epicurean distinction can be found within one square mile. The destination also offers wellness experiences through the menus of its many restaurants incorporating the region’s famous Mediterranean diet—which has always been the backbone of Monaco’s cuisine using fresh local ingredients such as seafood, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains—to provide healthy menu options.
The Principality is one of the most sustainable places with all public transportation provided by electric, hybrid or bio-fuel vehicles. In addition, Monaco ranks high for life expectancy. According to the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), Monaco ranks first with a life expectancy at birth of 89.40 years old in 2017.
What type of visitors does the Principality attract? Why recommend this destination to your clients?
Monaco’s 38,000 residents, most of whom speak English, French and Italian, represent 140 nationalities and help make the country culturally diverse and welcoming; English is widely spoken by locals. In addition, Monaco attracts a wide variety of visitors of all ages and interests. It is also a welcoming destination and its many LGBTQ couples are among its year-long guests.
A traveler to Monaco seeks a luxury experience, whether it is one they are used to having, or one they have always aspired to have. Usually traveling as couples, they seek high-quality hotels and cuisine as well as a wide variety of experiences, including access to world-class events such as the Grand Prix, Monte Carlo Rolex Tennis Masters or the Monaco Yacht Show. Many visitors fall under the “bleisure” category—staying after traveling for business and/or attending a meeting or conference.
Monaco is also a great base from which to explore the Cote d’Azur, and visitors often do just that, staying an average of three nights. Visitors travel there for special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries or for a pre- or post- stay from one of the many high-end cruise lines that embark or disembark from there.
As a pioneer in the world of wellness and a long time leader on luxury spa offerings Monaco has been on the map as a destination for health – long before it became the trend it is today. The Principality offers a wide variety of spas, outdoor activities, culture, healthy food options, clean air, a temperate climate and sunny days, making it an ideal destination for clients looking for a reboot or active vacation in a more upscale destination.
What does the destination offer for the wellness-minded?
Spas and a Five-star Check-Up Unit
Monaco features a wide selection of spas and properties offering wellness programs. They can be best described by their different focuses and treatments including: the iconic Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, which was originally inaugurated in 1908 and known for its wellness and preventive health; it continues to reinvent the spa experience with a state-of-the-art facility and cutting-edge treatments. The 71,000 sq. ft. luxury spa combines ancestral know-how with innovative techniques, including cryotherapy (cold therapy). Already widely used by high-level athletes, the benefits of cold therapy include helping treat muscular problems, jet lag and sleeping disorders. The therapy is also championed in the Nordic countries for its anti-aging effects. Other hotels and resorts that cater to the wellness-minded traveler include the Spa Metropole by Givenchy, the Fairmont Spa Monte Carlo, the Cinq Mondes Spa, and the Monte-Carlo Beach Spa.
For proactive and preventative offerings, Monaco offers the Princess Grace Check-Up Unit—a five-star medical facility where patients from all over the world can check-in for a physical, a second opinion, or a variety of proactive tests and procedures all in one location. The experience has been compared to staying at a deluxe hotel with the latest technology and entertainment, a gourmet menu and stunning views. The doctors work closely with the University of Pennsylvania and offer the same standards of medical care, based on international up-to-date recommendations, but while offering prices that are not as high as in the U.S. for similar services.
Fitness and Relaxation Activities
Walking the entire Principality, running along the harbor, hiking the Via Alpina—whose entrance can be found just steps within the old city, Monaco-Ville, breathing in the fresh sea air while sailing the Mediterranean, scuba diving in the Pelagos Sanctuary, rowing in front of the Monaco Yacht Club, strolling the colorful Princess Grace Rose Garden, relaxing in the Japanese Garden, admiring the panoramic views from the Exotic Garden, or exploring the Observatory Cave are just a few of the activities that can be enjoyed in the destination.
Yoga is becoming more and more popular, and Monaco offers a variety of ways to enjoy this pursuit, including Yoga by the Sea classes held on the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort Terrace by Anette Shine, founder of Sunshine Yoga Monte-Carlo. Every Summer Solstice, yoga beginners and advanced practitioners can celebrate the International Yoga Day on the terraces of the famed Casino de Monte-Carlo, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The Culinary Scene
Among the many Michelin-starred restaurants, one in particular stands out for wellness-minded visitors. Executive Chef Marcel Ravin of the Michelin-starred Blue Bay restaurant at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort grows many of the vegetables used in the award-winning restaurant. The onsite garden—run by local urban farming company Terre de Monaco—is an innovative project created by micro-farmer Jessica Sbaraglia. The project promotes organic urban farming on roofs, terraces and around buildings in the Principality. Young plants, fruits and vegetables can be bought at the local open-air and covered Condamine Market.
- Some of the not-to-be-missed healthy restaurants include:
Elsa – the world’s first 100 percent organic Michelin-starred restaurant by Chef Paolo Sari at the Monte-Carlo Beach
- L’Hirondelle – located at the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo and offering a healthy cuisine and 500 kcal menus
- Eqvita – a vegan and gluten-free restaurant founded by tennis champion Novak Djokovic
- The American-style restaurant Stars’N’Bars launched “Meatless Mondays” to help its clients make positive dietary changes while reducing their carbon footprint.
Best Time to Travel
Really, anytime is good. There are about 300 days of sunshine per year in Monaco, and the Principality boasts a very mild Mediterranean climate, similar to the weather in Southern California.
For more information on Monaco: MonacoForAgents.com.
Recommend magazine has partnered with the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) to bring you monthly columns to help travel advisors sell wellness travel. Anne Dimon is president of WTA. For more information on WTA, visit wellnesstourismassociation.org.