A trip to the French and Italian Riviera would not be complete without visiting Casino De Monte-Carlo in Monaco, one of the oldest casinos in existence. The exterior is grandly opulent and the atrium adorned in gold with marble columns and sculptures. It feels more like going to the opera than a casino. It is tastefully accentuated with a huge decorated skylight. You can easily close your eyes and listen to the revving of the sleek European luxury cars parking outside and imagine James Bond swanning through the doors in search of his infamous Martini.
- Monaco is the second smallest country in the world with its area being only 2 square kilometers, just over a mile square, the smallest being the Vatican which is quarter of a mile square.
- This small country is home to the largest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita, great territory to find your daughter a husband, or if you’re a single woman like me, an eligible bachelor.
- Monaco has a population of over 36,000 people, making it the most densely populated country in the world. The Official Language is French, but you can hear many global languages spoken when browsing the shops.
- Princess Grace died in 1982 at the age of 52, after an accident driving in the hills behind the palace. She was originally from Philadelphia and the daughter of a builder. She started acting in 1951, until she met Prince Ranier at the Cannes film festival in 1955. Their 17 year old daughter Stephanie survived the crash with only concussion, and there was some conflicting reports about who had been driving.
- The Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix has been hosted here since 1929. It is held every two years in May, and is the premier race in the Formula 1 calendar. It takes the fastest cars about 75 seconds to complete the 2 mile lap.
Citizen Of Monaco? No Gambling For You
Citizens of Monaco are forbidden to enter the casino, so you must take your passport with you to brush shoulders with the world’s elite- Royalty, movie stars, Fortune 500 CEOs and speculators. It boasts a full range of games: European Roulette, Baccarat, Trente et Quarante (an Italian card game I had never heard of), Black Jack, Craps, European Roulette and Texas Hold’em tables, and of course slot machines and electronic games. Throughout the Societe des Bains de Mer casinos here, they have the largest collection of slot machines in Europe.
They also have outdoor gaming terraces where you can sit and play while enjoying the panoramic views across the Mediterranean Sea. From there you can take in the vistas of three countries, Italy, Monaco and France. These are only open May to October, but the Casino Cafe de Paris has two 24/7 outdoor terraces for the dedicated al fresco enthusiast.
The private gaming rooms are all under frescoed ceilings with lavish mouldings surrounded by tasteful paintings and more sculptures like the foyer and main rooms. Drink prices reflect the level of their expected clientele, 007 expensive, but we paid our way into one of the private rooms and while we were gambling they were complimentary.
Photographer? No Pictures Allowed
You are not allowed to take photographs of the interior of the casino. Given the clientele and Monaco’s respect for it’s well-heeled visitors this make complete sense. To get a feel of the opulence and style, be sure to visit their website www.casinomontecarlo.com. There is a 360 virtual tour to give you some idea of what you will encounter on a visit.
If you become a member of the Cercle Monte-Carlo Players Club, your entry fee is waived, otherwise it will cost you 10 euros to visit the casino. After 8pm the dress code is formal, however I would not visit in shorts or flip flops at anytime of the day. It’s a great excuse to dress up and play, no matter the time, day or night. The website boasts, “There’s always something going on at the Societe des Bains de Mer casinos!”
Monte Carlo IS Roulette (And Baccarat)
You cannot go to Monte Carlo and not play European roulette. My partners in crime adjusted the dresses we had hastily donned in the underground car park after a day at the beach in Nice, traded our flip-flops for heels and grabbed a few cocktails. I went with my favorite, a Cosmopolitan. The drinks helped us to prepare ourselves for some high-end gaming. I settled in at one of the tables and played my usual game. Nothing too exotic here. 18 chips down to keep the odds close to 50-50. That delivers a shock to the system when each chip is 5 euros, as compared to my usual 1. I did OK, with Lady Luck approving of my tried and true method. We were splashing out after all and how many times would this happen? No one managed to hook a movie star or an oil baron, so it was back to the real world. We drove our little Skoda to Lake Como the next day. Our one-night fairy tale over and no glass slippers left behind.
The Monte Carlo Beach Club features private tents or poolside deck chairs to soak up the Riviera sun with the elite. Their Olympic-sized pool is filled with seawater that is ozone sanitized and heated to 24 degrees celsius. You can also enjoy the Thermes Marins, which has a gym and indoor pool over looking the Med. If you relish privacy try the lagoon pools with waterfalls and sun terraces of the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort. These are a first for Europe and are open May to September. Of course, there are numerous day spas dotted throughout for spa and beauty treatments.
Monaco For The Budget Minded (Ha!)
There are other free or very inexpensive alternatives in Monaco if you don’t have your platinum or gold card handy. Some options are:
- Take the Hop on Hop off Azure Express for under $10US
- Visit the Cathedral where Princess Grace is buried
- Go window shopping in the lavish boutiques of the Carre d’Or
- Visit the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium
- Walk down to the harbor and marvel at the luxurious super yachts
The best time to visit is when the Cannes Film Festival and Grand Prix is on at the start of the summer season. My budgeting tip: stay in neighboring San Remo, Italy. It’s much more reasonable and you’ll be able to save your money for other glamorous locations around the world. It will also be less congested on the beaches and in the restaurants.