After the Prince’s Palace can you guess which is the most visited place in the Principality? It is the Casino, this jewel of the Belle Époque, inaugurated on February 18, 1863. Visits, paused during the pandemic, are once again taking place. The Casino tours, have been resuming from April and are available until September 30th. They are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Price: 17 euros with audioguide.
It’s not surprising that visitors flock to visit this, the most opulent gambling house in Europe, with its decoration, the work of the most renowned engravers and goldsmiths on the continent. And there is no better showcase of the art of living from a bygone era.
Home to James Bond
La Salle Médecin was originally a chamber of exclusivity protecting a private circle of high-flying players from prying eyes. The most Illustrious film character to have walked the floor of this room is, of course, the most famous secret agent of all, James Bond. Two movies filmed Bond’s escapades here “Never Say Never Again” in 1983, and “GoldenEye” in 1995. James Bond, played by Sean Connery then Pierce Brosnan, with all eyes upon them stylishly stride across the Salle Médecin to get to the gaming table.
So vivid are our memories of these scenes that sometimes we forget the many other films that have chosen the Monte-Carlo casino as a setting: La Paix des Anges with Jeanne Moreau in 1963; Oceans Twelve with Brad Pitt and George Clooney in 2004, where Baron François Toulour skillfully plays a card game with his arm around a beautiful leggy lady. And where is the Night Fox gambling? None other than Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco, the iconic and extraordinarily extravagant casino.
Then there is Coco in 2008 with Gad Elmaleh, the cartoon Madagascar 3 in 2009 and then Turf in 2011.
A Damsel in Distress
Not only famous male heartthrobs but the most alluring seductresses of all-time courted the Casino and particularly its magnificent Salle Blanche, originally designed as a conversation room.
On the wall of the Salle Blanche, is a painting by Paul Gervais of the three buxom Florentine Graces of the Belle Époque. The faces are of the three most courted women of the time: Émilienne d’Alençon, Liane de Pougy and Belle Otero. They were in many ways the pioneers of female emancipation, though their roles were as eccentric courtesans. Their beauty attracted crowned heads who with wealthy businessmen maintained their scandalous lifestyle.
The most famous is Belle Otéro, an exotic Spanish dancer who turned the heads of the King of England Edward VII, the King of Belgium Leopold II and the Emperor of Japan. She was 18 when she entered the Casino for the first time winning short of a million francs that day. But later in a single evening she would also lose 1 million gold Francs.
Life has its highs and then its lows. Deprived of money, and at 100 years old the Belle Otéro will escape poverty thanks to the Société du Casino de Monte-Carlo, which will provide for her rent in Nice until her death.
The Salle Blanche room is now very much the heart of the Casino with its lounge bar. It is said that it owes its name of “White Room”because of the colour of the sand that was poured on the ground by Arab princes who came to play roulette.
Take the full Casino Tour where there is almost an infinite amount of history in which to be immersed and glorious architecture throughout including:
- The Atrium with its sumptuous marble, gold and bronze decor and 28 Ionic-style columns.
- The Renaissance Room and then the Salon Europe with its columns, vast canopy ceilings, profuse gilding, monumental crystal chandeliers and ironically now hosts to American games of chance.
- The Salles Touzet built by a Monegasque containing the most beautiful crystal chandeliers of the Casino.
- The Garnier gaming room, the Salle des Amériques designed by Charles Garnier owing its current name to the installation of American games such as Craps and Black Jack.
- The Salle Rose, now a dining room originally intended for players who could not do without smoking since it was then forbidden to smoke at the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
The Prince of Games: Roulette
Roulette made the reputation of the Casino de Monte-Carlo, once banned in France. The incredible success of Charles Deville Wells is historic. During the summer of 1891 in Monaco, he broke the bank at roulette by pocketing one million, then three million gold francs.
Crowned heads, businessmen, celebrities and courtesans, but also artists and writers will win fortunes and lose their shirts too. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his novel The Gambler describes the addiction and despairing behaviour of those who become addicts and gamble away their money.
All the highs and lows in life can be experienced as you enjoy one of the gifts of visiting Monaco – a tour of the Casino – not to be missed.