Q: What is it? A: A non-stuffy, not overly exciting hotel in the Fontvieille district of Monaco. An alternative to the over-priced palaces near the casino? For sure! An alternative if you want the quintessential Monaco? No.
Q: Does it look like a very special hotel? A: No.
Is it a special hotel? Well, yes. Anything located within the Principality of Monaco that isn’t an over-the-top, magnifique and polished Belle Époque palace must be considered unique. I have some mixed emotions when it comes to this little hub of wealth. Most things are mindboggingly expensive and the Monegasque level of service has often proved to be almost Soviet-like. But I happen to be a sucker for fast cars, so when I heard about this hotel being taken over by F1-driver David Coulthard, I wanted to check it out.
It’s like a breath of fresh air.
Columbus is located in the mainly residential area of Fontvieille and it sure doesn’t look great from the outside. On the inside, lobby area, bar and restaurant look like you would expect arriving in any another modern hotel. The Amanda Rosa design means that rooms are functional and… contemporary boring, meaning certainly not unpleasant but they sure as hell don’t stand out.
But it is a breath of fresh air when it comes to service. Door men, front desk, concierge… They do take care of you and they rarely fail to deliver. And to enjoy this you pay a price that’s not necessarily low, but still humane considering the fact that the Principality is a place where price tags reflect the spending habits of the country’s citizens. This itsy-bitsy state has no income tax for individuals. Then you figure the rest out.
And finally; a better breakfast on the Côte d’Azur!
The Columbus offer a pleasant surprise: A breakfast buffet that is not just a bowl of croissants and three scared little pieces of cheese wrapped in aluminium foil. I was surprised. No, erase that. Amazed is a better word. Breakfast at the Columbus is better than good. I’m finally having a breakfast on the Riviera and not leaving it hungry. Later I learned that the General Manager of this hotel is Swedish. Ah, so there was an explanation.
Two things to keep in mind when staying at the Columbus:
1) It’s located less than two minutes away from the port if you go by taxi. This is not a problem until when you hear what the driver is charging you. Take a walk if you don’t want to lose your temper.
2) It’s located right near the heliport. Q: What’s the problem? A: This is Monaco. Expect a lot of helicopters.
Had the Columbus been located in London, it wouldn’t even have made it to this page. But this isn’t London, so I’m glad to recommend this hotel to anybody who has a night or two to spend in Monaco. No, it’s certainly not the Hermitage but since you’re probably not Nasser al-Rashid, you will probably not whine about it.
23 avenue des Papalins
NOTE: Yes, it was owned by former Formula One racing car driver David Coulthard and Ken McCulloch until Coulthard sold out to London and Regional in May 2010. If this has affected the atmosphere? I’ll let you know if I find out.