Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
While Monaco is famous the world over for its luxurious hotels, which we covered in our Nov/Dec 2012 issue, there are also many non-hotel spaces with a local flair. To begin, the National Museum of Monaco consists of two special buildings. The Villa Sauber is one of the last Belle Epoque mansions in the Principality, located on the harbor where we browsed through the exhibit: Princess Grace: More Than An Image. Part of the show examined her fashion taste, like a glass wardrobe filled with her iconic white V-neck knitwear. Other exhibits included original video footage of her family and her own photography that captured the Princess on a human level. Groups can also go behind the scenes upstairs to see what the museum curators are preparing next.
A mile up the mountainside, the National Museum’s Villa Paloma was once one of the finest patrician residences in the region, built in 1913 with a large terrace looking over all of Monte Carlo. Breathtaking, to say the least. This half of the museum focuses more on contemporary art, but the thing we remember most is that view.
Speaking of views, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco juts dramatically almost 250 feet straight up a cliffside promontory fronting the Mediterranean Sea. The exhibit rooms are amazing, including giant whale skeletons, the first wood submarine and a giant octopus hanging from the ceiling stretching 100 feet across.
Book receptions up to 500 pax in the sumptuous Salle de Conferences with richly detailed paneling and tall arch windows facing out to sea. The museum can provide marine biologists to educate groups about the Med and the legacy of long-time museum director, Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
The Oceanographic Museum anchors the historic old city known as the Rock of Monaco, with the Prince’s Palace of Monaco bookending the other. So you can walk from the front doors of the museum about 50 steps into the charming town filled with tiny cafes and shops. Give attendees a few hours to wander the narrow streets. This was one of the best days during our trip, where you can sip a cappuccino and experience Monaco in a quiet, unassuming manner without an endless parade of Ferraris passing by.
Granted, however, that’s exactly the parade everyone wants to see here. For that, book lunch on the harbor at the new 105-seat Bouchon restaurant—the very epitome of the perfect little French bistrot. Chef Thierry Paludetto has worked side by side with chefs like Joel Robuchon and it shows. We would eat here everyday if we lived in Monaco.
Lastly, the Monte-Carlo Opera House is located inside the world famous Monte Carlo Casino, next to one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, Hôtel de Paris. Groups can book the opulent 525-seat Opera House (except for the Royal Box) for opening and closing gala events. It was restored in 2006 to its original glamour; the rest of the casino completed its comprehensive renovation last year.