Monte Carlo is perhaps the most well-known neighbourhood in all of Monaco, so much so that those unfamiliar with the Principality tend to mix the two names up. Let’s get to know the real Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo is so iconic that it is often interchangeable with Monaco to outsiders.
It is home to many of the most recognisable buildings and sites in the Principality as well as a slew of luxury brand boutiques and restaurants, making it a hugely desirable place to live. In fact, it has the highest population density in Monaco and is home to 7,482 or 20% of all people living in the Principality.
The Casino at the centre of it all
The reigning queen of Monte Carlo is the Casino, which has been a focus point of the Principality since its opening in July 1863.
Princess Caroline (1793 – 1879), the business-minded wife of Prince Florestan, was the brainchild of the Casino, and proposed the idea to bring Monaco’s financial woes under control.
Her son, Prince Charles, then took it upon himself to devise an entire redevelopment plan for the Plateau des Spélugues area, which until then had been little more than arid land used for growing citrus fruit and olives.
At the time, the local press remarked: “The new Société des Bains de Mer Casino will soon rise up on a monumental scale. Around the Casino, beautiful hotels will be built that will have nothing to fear from comparisons with those in Paris, London and New York.”
Parisian architect Gobineau de la Bretonnerie was brought in to design the establishment, and the project was completed in 1863. The architect was also responsible for the beautiful Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which was finished and inaugurated the following year.
By 1868, the Carré d’Or was almost complete, with the opening of a predecessor to the Café de Paris.
The original Casino building was torn down and replaced with a new design in 1878, which was complemented by a concert hall created with the vision of architect Charles Garnier, who is best known for building the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris. Today, it is known as the Salle Garnier.
The Casino has more than stood the test of time, and this gorgeous Belle-Epoque edifice has been the location for a long list of films, including the two James Bond thrillers of Golden Eye and Never Say Never Again, Ocean’s Twelve with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and the comedy mystery Once Upon a Crime starring John Candy and Jim Belushi to name but a few.
The Café de Paris and Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo
Either side of the iconic entertainment venue stand the Café de Paris, which will soon reopen with a new look, and the Hôtel de Paris, home to Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse restaurant, a three-Michelin star marvel that is the treat of a lifetime, and the biggest hotel wine cellar in the world. Some 350,000 bottles are stored here!
The trio of the Café de Paris, the Casino and the Hôtel de Paris dominate the Place du Casino, which recently got a facelift in 2020 that included an Anish Kapoor-designed fountain. It is the setting for an increasing number of large concerts and events, such as the F(ê)aites de la Danse festival that took place in early July.
So much to do
Step outside the Place du Casino in any direction and a plethora of haute cuisine experiences await. Monaco Life highly recommends a visit to Chef Yannick Alléno’s Pavyllon at the Hôtel Hermitage, La Table d’Antonio Salvatore at the Rampoldi, and Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac and Yoshi at the Hôtel Métropole.
For shoppers, Monte Carlo is, quite simply, heaven. Near the Place du Casino is One Monte-Carlo, a vast modern complex that is home to boutiques from some of the world’s top fashion houses, such as Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Fendi, Prada, Bulgari and Alexander McQueen. To get even more of a fix, clients can take a short walk through the Jardins des Boulingrins and the Jardins de la Petite Afrique to get to the Métropole Mall, featuring 80 shops and six restaurants.
Car spotting and people watching
But even a walk around the cars parked outside the Casino will be enough to thrill any car lover. This is where you’ll see some of the rarest – and priciest – vehicles in existence.
Celebrities of all genres are an equally common sight in this prestigious enclave of Monaco. Stop for a coffee or a cocktail and you’ll be sure to see a famous face walk by!
Nightlife in Monte Carlo
At two ends of the nightlife spectrum is the vibrant fusion vibe of Buddha Bar, which takes inspiration from both the Opera house and eclectic Asia, and the upmarket Le Bar Américain of the Hôtel de Paris with its thoroughly 1920s outlook, replete with signature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres of the age.
Next in the Monaco Life district series is the home of Monaco’s iconic port, La Condamine.
Make sure you’re never left out of the conversation.
Featured photo credit: Vent d’Autan / Monte-Carlo SBM