Happy Birthday to the SBM, Monaco’s Societé des Bains de Mer(www.montecarlosbm.com). The concern that’s home to many of the social epicentres in the toniest principality in the western world – among them the Grand Casino and the Hôtel de Paris – is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. And as the Formula One Grand Prix rolls once more into arguably its most storied host city, Monaco herself has never looked better, starting with the Hotel Metropole (www.metropole.com; from £450), whose already-grand public spaces have just been reinvented by no less a personage than Karl Lagerfeld. In the designer’s debut foray into hotel design, the pool terrace has been rendered vibrant with neoclassical-inspired photography superimposed onto glass walls in a chic, sleek new take on the fresco. Lagerfeld also designed the Metropole’s third restaurant, Odyssey, which – along with Joël Robuchon’s Asian-inspired Yoshi – is slated to give the hotel more Michelin stars than any other in the world.
Not that stellar cuisine is in short supply around town: recent openings include a new outpost of the Ciprianifranchise (www.ciprianimontecarlo.com), a grissini’s throw from the prestigious and always-buzzing casino square; stylish oyster bar Ostrega de Munegu, which spills over onto the Place d’Armes; and last month, an outpost of Moscow’s famed seafood restaurant-emporium La Marée (www.lamaree.ru) opened at the Port Palace hotel, overseen by Tunisian owner and adopted Muscovite-about-town Mehdi Douss.
But 2013 is also Monaco’s year of culture, and there will be plenty on show, not least British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan’s staging of L’Histoire de Manon, which comes to Monaco from June 27 to 29 in a co-production with the Grimaldi Forum (www.balletsdemontecarlo.com; tickets from €35). Also at the Forum, from July 12, is the knockout retrospective Monaco Celebrates Picasso, featuring 150 works (including several important and rarely seen ones from private Monégasque collections). And on July 5, the Societé des Bains de Mer will host Brazil’s design geniuses Humberto and Fernando Campana: Dangerous Luxury will feature the brothers’ signature natural-material furniture designs, precious jewels and a series of sketches – all of which will be for sale – displayed at SBM locations around the principality.
Easy access to France and the Côte d’Azur’s handful of exclusive hilltop villas has always been one of the draws here. New for this year, and just one hour from the France-Monaco border, is La Bergerie de Terre Blanche (www.sjvillas.co.uk; from £30,700 per week). With its three acres of landscaped gardens, 18m pool and cinema, it has serious wow factor, while offering the perfect redoubt for when the Grand Prix crush becomes oppressive. Those looking for a quick jaunt across the border can pass the aperitif hour at Cap d’Antibes’ newest and buzziest destination: the rooftop champagne bar at the Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc (www.hotel-du-cap-eden-roc.com; from £470), which opened its doors earlier this month.