The Hôtel de Paris in 1928, already a high place in Monte-Carlo.
The Hôtel de Paris in 1928, already a high place in Monte-Carlo. Image Credit: archives monte-carlo sbm

How Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer has helped construct an iconic luxury destination that sets new industry standards in gaming, hospitality, and real estate.

Art-de-vivre finds a home along the Riviera, imbued with luxury, heritage and idyllic coastlines. Nestled between France and Italy, Monaco, despite its small size, caters to every gusto. From breathtaking vistas of a pine tree-filled inland and azure Mediterranean waters to its discerning collection of exclusive shops, hotels, restaurants and year-round events, it has established itself as a seaside resort that finds reason for celebration. Since the 1920s it has toasted to summer, but the Principality is a discreet haven for those seeking respite, relaxation and sophisticated indulgence year-round.

Monte-Carlo—Monaco’s business and recreation district—has been under the savvy guidance of Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), which has nurtured a trio of business divisions: Gaming, Hospitality and Realty. SBM’s reimagined resort strategy elevated Monaco’s positioning by—as the group describes—“Inventer chaque jour un nouvel art-de-vivre”—using innovation to create the most exclusive art of living offerings in Europe. The approach synergises what is offered and what is experienced, and enhances Monte-Carlo’s unique ambiance that has continuously beckoned the international elite over SBM’s 150-year history.

SBM has long played an intimate role in the Monte-Carlo known today. Following the group’s founding in 1863 by Prince Charles III, it began in the form of a casino atop the Plateau des Spélugues, an arid land home to olive, citrus and orange trees. Strategic expansion in line with the art of living has both complemented modernity as well as predicted new trends in high-end tourism and lifestyle amenities. It is a palpable, ever--present energy: press at the time of its launch suggested that the Société des Bains de Mer Casino would have a monumental rise, surrounded by stunning hotels in dialogue with those in Paris, London and New York. It proved accurate, and by 1866, SBM’s diversity and finger on the pulse of luxury saw its district coined ‘Monte-Carlo’. Since then, its portfolio of hotels, casinos, gastronomy, wellness, entertainment and shopping outlets has formed partnerships with the likes of Rolex for the Rolex Masters Tennis Tournaments, AS Monaco Football Club, and sponsored prestigious events including the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, which it has done since 1929.

Inside the lobby Eiffel of the Hôtel de Paris
Inside the lobby Eiffel of the Hôtel de Paris Image Credit: archives monte-carlo sbm

At the forefront of the public awareness, however, is Monaco’s gaming industry. Forging an iconic district—Place de Casino—peppered with Belle Époque buildings, SBM’s Le Casino de Monte-Carlo, Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, and Café de Paris are testaments to Monaco’s values and heritage, embodying a -timeless, sophistication. Recently, it has embraced responsible gaming, in line with the group’s 2007 decision to work on ESG and ethical and responsible luxury. The Art of Gaming in Monte-Carlo re-envisioned land-based casinos and solidified them as SBM cornerstones through the creation of unique, memorable moments for its guests. This garnered the Casino de Monte-Carlo Casino of the Year at the Global Gaming Awards London in 2019 and 2020.

The distinct ambiance, culture and energy of Monaco and SBM’s portfolio underlines the question of whether a heritage brand focused on classic values ought to remain a stalwart, or if it should adapt with the times. In-between the two, SBM does not rest on its laurels—a glimpse at the evolution of its resort-like complex reveals it is at the forefront of translating traditional luxury into a contemporary lexicon. Two years after its inauguration, the casino underwent expansion; in 1909, the hotels embraced Belle Époque stylings, and, more recently, in 2014, the group embarked on a four-year refurbishment of its flagship 208-room Hôtel de Paris.

Its hospitality division comprises Hôtel de Paris and Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo—both attaining 5-star luxury noted for majestic atmospheres and refined service—Monte Carlo Beach (5-star Relais et Châteaux) and the 4-star Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. The properties maximise on their palatial environs, offering a wealth of ancillary activity befitting the open-air setting. An exclusive shopping promenade featuring more than 50 high-end boutiques is complemented by 25+ restaurants, including Michelin-starred Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse*** —where the chef says its haute couture menu “tastes like the sun”—Pavyllon Monte-Carlo by Chef Yannick Alléno*, Le Grill* by Chef Dominique Lory and Blue Bay** by Chef Marcel Ravin. SBM also thinks seasonally to abolish ennui, introducing global hotspots such as Buddha Bar, COYA—and come spring 2024—Amazonico, which will occupy 1000-square-meters on the rooftop of the legendary Café de Paris.

Respite is also a priority, both mental and physical. The commissioning of Opéra Garnier in the late 19th century—where sets were designed by Picasso, Matisse and Braque—speaks to SBM’s cultural and philanthropic endeavors, holding the Jazz Festival in late autumn. The group has supported film and photography events, and its Salle des Étoiles hosts the Summer Festival, Rose Ball and Red Cross Ball. The warmer months are also a time to experience the Art of Celebration, with 2023 seeing the launch of Moana, an al fresco cabaret that will celebrate the vitality of the 1960s and 1970s, live music and Monaco’s Italian-inspired culinary DNA. However, SBM has equally nurtured more technical pastimes: automobiles. For more corporeal experiences, the wellness offerings include the group’s flagship Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo Beach Spa and Spa Cinq Mondes at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort, the latter of which is positioned across the Sporting Club peninsula and has Jean Mus-designed gardens with Mediterranean and tropical species and a marble sand-bottomed lagoon—the only one of its kind in Europe.

SBM ensures Monte-Carlo endures in body and in mind. Within the last two decades, it has developed a property leasing leg, offering residential properties such as Résidence du Balmoral and One Monte-Carlo on Casino Square, providing hotel services, including the unique Diamond Suites found in its four hotels. SBM’s portfolio reveals intimate knowledge of the Principality’s districts, from the shopping-and-sea oriented Carré d’Or and Fontvieille’s quiet luxury and proximity to the heliport—a nod to business travelers—to the Condamine seafront with its prized views onto the Formula 1 Grand Prix’s start and finish lines.

In a competitive global market, the question is always what differentiates a group, its ethos, and what discerning visitors will leave with and return for. SBM’s answer may be its pioneering vision, creation of new industry standards with astute insight into the needs, wants and imaginations of its guests, and continuous pursuit of elevated levels and new definitions of luxury to envelop its patrons in ‘haute couture’ art-de-vivre.