Inside the $280 million facelift of Princess Grace's favorite hotel

Shivani Vora, CNNUpdated 21st January 2019
(CNN) — It's taken $280 million and more than four years, but in March 2019 the famed Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, regarded as one of the world's most luxurious hotels, will debut its dramatic renovation in full.
The makeover aims to bring the historic property into the 21st century while still maintaining its soul and signature features, both of which made the hotel an icon in the first place.
Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, situated in the heart of Monaco, started welcoming guests in 1864 and was the vision of François Blanc, a French entrepreneur who wanted to develop Monaco and create "a hotel that surpasses everything."
Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), a publicly traded company, owns the property today, along with the Monte-Carlo Casino and Opera House.
Hôtel de Paris remained open throughout the renovation, save for a few weeks when construction got underway.
Hôtel de Paris remained open throughout the renovation, save for a few weeks when construction got underway.
Courtesy Hotel de Paris

Famous fans

From the outset, Hôtel de Paris was a mainstay stomping ground for the glamor set and counted Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and Roger Moore among its regulars while Princess Grace regarded it as one of her favorite places in existence.
In recent years, Lady Gaga, Michael Jordan and Julia Roberts, along with a long lineup of other high-profile guests, have hung their hats for a night or two.
Located in the heart of Monaco, Hôtel de Paris opened in 1864 and lured the likes of Coco Chanel.
Located in the heart of Monaco, Hôtel de Paris opened in 1864 and lured the likes of Coco Chanel.
Roger Schall/Courtesy Ritz Paris
The hotel was last renovated in 1909, according to managing director Ivan Artolli, and a complete redo was a must to keep it relevant.
"Like every luxury hotel, there comes a time that, in spite of trying to maintain the infrastructure to the highest level, you become obsolete," he says. "Our air conditioning was noisy, our technology was outdated, and we were no longer the state of the art. Our guests are used to the best of the best."
Renowned architects Richard Martinet, from Paris, and Gabriel Viora, from Monaco, were tasked with renovating the property, built in a Belle Epoque style, and under the direction of SBM, sought to give it a lighter, more modern look. But they preserved original design touches such as the intricately carved façade.

The $280 million price tag

While other legendary luxury hotels in Europe including The Ritz and Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, both in Paris, closed their doors for several years while they were being renovated, Hôtel de Paris stayed open, save for a few weeks in 2014 when its refurbishment first began.
"We decided that Monaco couldn't do without the hotel and were okay with the transformation taking longer because we weren't closing," Artolli explains.
The renovation happened in stages: Initially, two of the hotel's four wings were demolished and reconstructed, allowing Martinet and Viora to add a more than 7,200-square-foot inner garden to the property.
The hotel's renovation places it firmly in the 21st century, replete with its iconic, beloved details and signature features.
The hotel's renovation places it firmly in the 21st century, replete with its iconic, beloved details and signature features.
Courtesy Hotel de Paris
Called Le Patio, this sanctuary is replete with plants and flowers such as palm trees and orchids and floods the main lobby with light, giving it an airier, brighter look (the lobby's trademark statue of Louis XIV on horseback stands where it always was). "Now, there is a lot more natural light everywhere," Artolli explains.
The white walls throughout the four buildings, interspersed with gold accents, add to the brighter feel as do the balconies, which are a standout feature in all of the 207 rooms following their redo -- previously, many rooms did not have terraces.
"Monaco has year-round mild temperatures and generally sunny days, and our idea was to give guests the chance to enjoy the outdoors without having to leave their rooms," says Artolli.
More natural light was a goal in the renovation, and a large portion of the rooms now include spacious terraces.
More natural light was a goal in the renovation, and a large portion of the rooms now include spacious terraces.
Courtesy Hotel de Paris

Sweet dreams

The new rooms, 45% of which are suites, are a combination of contemporary and classic with such details as white marble floors, sleek wood furniture, Louis XVI-style pieces, bronze fabrics and Murano glass chandeliers and lamps.
Aesthetic updates were an important part of the famous hotel's renovation as were operational ones such as the air conditioning and technology.
Aesthetic updates were an important part of the famous hotel's renovation as were operational ones such as the air conditioning and technology.
Courtesy Hotel de Paris
With nightly rates starting at around $450, depending on the time of year, they have varied views, ranging from the port of Monaco to the ocean to the inner courtyard, and their gleaming white marble bathrooms are stocked with Guerlain toiletries.
High rollers can book either the Princess Grace or Prince Rainier III suites. At close to 11,000 square feet each suite boasts an extensive terrace and an outdoor pool and hot tub, making them two of the largest suites in the French Riviera, according to Artolli and also Alberta Herrera, the senior vice president of global product partnerships for the luxury travel network Virtuoso.
The Princess Grace suite was unveiled in November 2017 and has a nightly rate of about $45,000. A hefty price, yes, but cheaper than the $51,000 per night for the Prince Rainier III suite, which will be available beginning January 29. Overlooking Monaco's Casino Square, the suite is even decorated with the namesake prince's personal objects and ornaments.
The new rooms are a combination of contemporary and classic, outfitted with white marble floors and top-of-the-line bathroom fixtures.
The new rooms are a combination of contemporary and classic, outfitted with white marble floors and top-of-the-line bathroom fixtures.
Courtesy Hotel de Paris
Keeping in line with SBM's vision to update the hotel, the new air conditioning system is virtually noiseless, the WiFi is super speedy, and the rooms have touch button lighting and key cards.

King's table

Where will Hôtel de Paris guests dine?
There's Alain Ducasse's three Michelin-starred Le Louis XV, of course, a 50-seat restaurant where the period frescoes and wall hangings have been restored. A meal here is considered one of the French Riviera's hottest tickets, attracting food fiends from around the world who come for the haute Mediterranean cuisine and the hotel's cellar, Cave de l'Hôtel de Paris, which counts more than 350,000 bottles of wine among its collection.
Le Louis XV's executive chef, Dominique Lory, offers a menu of seafood-heavy dishes such as shrimp with rock fish jelly and caviar and loup de mer with cilantro and citron.
Ducasse also has a new restaurant at the hotel, Omer, which opened in early 2019. The space has views of the Mediterranean Sea and a menu with flavors from Greece, Lebanon, Turkey and Morocco. "For 10 years, I have traveled the Mediterranean," says Ducasse, when explaining his inspiration for Omer. "I fell in love with the culinary ingenuity I experienced and want to share it at Omer."
Hôtel de Paris guests will have an array of dining options to choose from, all in beatiful, picturesque settings.
Hôtel de Paris guests will have an array of dining options to choose from, all in beatiful, picturesque settings.
Courtesy Hotel de Paris
The refurbishment of the third restaurant in Hôtel de Paris, Le Grill, a popular spot for its eight-story setting with views of both Monaco and the Mediterranean, will debut in March and marks one of the final steps in the property's renovation.
When it comes to imbibing, guests can grab a seat at the sultry, dark wood-hued Le Bar Americain. Known for its live music program featuring bands who perform in a diverse range of genres including jazz, rock, the blues and pop, Le Bar Americain provides its regulars with a humidor to store their personal cigar boxes.
Le Bar Americain is a sultry, dark bar known for its live music.
Le Bar Americain is a sultry, dark bar known for its live music.
Courtesy hotel de paris
Like Le Grill, a new rooftop wellness center, complete with a swimming pool, gym, sauna and steam room, a bar and multiple lounges, will also be ready in March.
"Hôtel de Paris is essential to the fairytale story that Monaco has to tell," says Herrera, of Virtuoso. "This iconic property has been reimagined for generations to come who will be proud to say that they have spent the night there."
Hôtel de Paris, Place du Casino, 98000 Monaco; +377 98 06 30 00