Last Summer's wedding of Monaco's Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock may have been modest compared with its Windsor counterpart. But the two-day fete injected the tiny principality with a renewed feeling of style. Long known, perhaps unfairly so, as a "sunny place for shady people," Monaco still offers old-school gaming glamour, but more recent diversions, from art museums to kid-friendly amusement centers, are finally providing some real life to balance all that bling.
1. Casino de Monte Carlo
Its craps and roulette tables may still be the main draw, but the 148-year-old Casino de Monte Carlo isn't resting on its laurels. Its new Cabaret de Monte Carlo, reopening in February after a winter hiatus, features a separate entrance to the main casino and offers a Paris-in-the-'20s-styled stage show of tasteful burlesque and subtly sensual lighting, set in a clublike environment. Outside, there's gaming available in a pair of seafront salons. Enjoy Bond-style blackjack and baccarat under the stars. See casinomontecarlo.com for more.
2. Buddha Bar
Tucked into the sprawling Casino de Monte Carlo complex, and accessed via a series of terraces and lush gardens, this 18-month-old duplex is one of the latest additions to the pseudo-Asian drinking-and-dining franchise that now stretches from Cairo to Kiev. Awash in gilded splendor, the lounge's design incorporates some of the building's original Beaux Arts architecture and features that signature Buddha statue as its centerpiece (oddly so, given that Buddhists forswear alcohol). An extensive East-meets-East menu ranges from Sichuanese to sushi. For more information, see buddhabar.com.
3. Monte Carlo Beach Hotel
Set along Monaco's eastern front, this jazz-age classic has had a stylish head-to-toe makeover courtesy of Parisian interiors ace India Mahdavi. Inspired by the azure Mediterranean, each of the hotel's 40 rooms includes neo-Deco furnishings in vibrant blues and subtle beiges. A new Provençal-inspired restaurant, Elsa, takes its name and raffish vibe from legendary American gossip columnist (and one of the hotel's greatest advocates) Elsa Maxwell. She would have been kept busy chronicling the Who's Who of European moguls and aristocrats who still pack out the hotel's beach club. Details at monte-carlo-beach.com.
4. Villa Paloma
Monaco's contemporary-art scene hit its stride with the opening of the revamped Villa Paloma in 2010. Originally built in 1913 for the American Dickerson family, the four-story villa compound is now along with the Belle Epoque Villa Sauber part of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, and stages multimedia exhibitions inspired by Monaco's relationship with land and sea. The current show, curated by German artist Thomas Demand, takes a surreal look at the "domesticated nature" in Monaco's gardens and parks. Visit nmnm.mc.
5. Ni box
The description "kid friendly" hardly ever gets applied to this exorbitantly expensive, nightlife-crazy principality, but NI Box, a huge waterfront amusement complex, will give parents some much needed relief with its video-games area, bowling alleys and rooftop skating rink. Prepaid charge cards mean that kids won't have to keep bugging parents for change, leaving Mom and Dad to enjoy the on-site nightclub (this being Monaco, you couldn't have a family leisure center without one). See nibox.mc for more.