Casino de Monte-Carlo: The Complete Guide
The construction of the Casino de Monte-Carlo and Hôtel de Paris was credited with inventing the “jet-set”; the biggest international stars rubbed shoulders with industry barons and powerful world leaders within the casino walls. It has welcomed everyone from Napoleon to Churchill. This mythic gambling mecca made headlines in the late 19th century when Russians lost entire fortunes there in a single night, and later via blockbuster films like Ocean’s Twelve and James Bond films GoldenEye and Never Say Never Again.
To protect the locals and ensure that Monégasques don’t fritter away their inheritance (Monaco’s rulers are far from stupid and long-ago realized that having a casino so close-by could be a constant temptation) proof of overseas identity is needed to enter the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Its ostentatiously beautiful exterior façade looks almost subtle when compared with the lavishly decorated salons, soaring columns, marble statues, and glittering chandeliers inside. Each room is marvelously decorated with stained glass windows, sculptures, and paintings dating back to the late 1800’s.
Anyone can enter the Monte-Carlo Casino building without showing ID to have a look in the atrium, which is admittedly grand in itself, with its paintings, marble floors, and 28 Ionic columns made of onyx. You can also have a look into the Salle Renaissance, a slot machine room, for free. In fact, you can tour them immediately using this interactive virtual tour of Monaco. It’s a fun way to virtually ‘walk’ around Monaco and tour inside the Monte Carlo Casino.
Want to play the games James Bond and Tony Stark (Iron Man) loved? In the Salon Europe, roulette and blackjack are played under gilded ceilings for maximum bets of €10,000 – to wager more, have a word with the croupier then stroll on to the Salons Privés (private rooms).
To access ‘Les Salons Super Privés’ it helps if you’re staying at the Hôtel de Paris across the street, as a top-secret tunnel connects these two establishments. High-rollers stay in one of the hotel’s €45,000-per-night ‘Diamond’ suites, sip €28 French 75 cocktails in its Bar Américain, and spend roughly €360 per person for lunch at its Michelin three-star restaurant Louis XV.
If you are feeling lucky (and rich), try a slot machine or game in the Casino. The highest jackpot took place on February 25th 2020, where one lucky winner received €402,900 in one go.
Not everyone is so lucky. In fact, there’s a room called “The Morgue”, where the casino parking valets rest; it was used in the past to hold the bodies of desperate gamblers, who lost their fortune and immediately killed themselves with a pistol shot, while still seated at the gaming tables.
If you fancy some fresh air, head up to the terrace; losing money is always a little less painful when gazing out at the sea.
James Bond’s Favorite Casino
Excessive amounts of wealth are on display even before you step foot on the casino’s red-carpet. Many tourists stop to take photos of the procession of finely-tuned Ferraris, Lamborghini’s, Bentleys, and Rolls Royce’s that the rich roll up in. But it was the Aston Martin – 007’s Aston Martin, to be specific – which enhanced Monaco’s already intriguing reputation.
The super-spy’s creator, Ian Fleming, envisioned Casino de Monte-Carlo when he authored his first James Bond book, Casino Royale, in 1953. Few places are so associated with James Bond as Monaco and the Casino de Monte Carlo. Although it was not until 1983 when Bond, in Never Say Never Again, went to Monaco for the first time.
Perhaps filmdom’s smoothest spy entrance to Casino de Monte-Carlo came when tuxedoed Pierce Brosnan, in his first 007 movie Goldeneye, wheeled down off of Monaco’s winding, cliff-side roads, and was recognized upon arrival as “Mr. Bond.” 007 then handed the keys of the DB5 to the valet, while being greeted –and responding– in French, before glided into the casino for a bout of Baccarat. Here’s the clip:
007 actor Roger Moore is among the many celebrities who lived in Monaco throughout parts of the year – as is Shirley Bassey, who sang a number of James Bond theme songs including ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever’.
Four films have been shot at the casino, including Bond films ‘Never Say Never Again’ and ‘GoldenEye’, as well as ‘Fast and Furious 5’.
Enjoy a Martini
When in Monte Carlo, do as James Bond would, and enjoy a martini.
Salle Europe Bar
The Casino’s first gaming room was inaugurated on January 1st, 1865. The room is lit by 8 monumental chandeliers of Bohemian crystal. With a plethora of gilding, paintings, sculptures, and bas-reliefs vie to hold the visitor’s gaze, Salle Europe’s bar is the epitome of Monegasque glamor and the beating heart of the Casino de Monte-Carlo. It offers direct access to the restaurants Le Train Bleu and the Salon Rose, a former boudoir where smokers would come to relax between games. This bar is also located right by the gaming tables and slot machines, which makes it a great place for people-watching. As you kick back in the lounge’s comfy armchairs or pull up a bar stool, there is nothing more sophisticated than savoring a James Bond-esque vodka martini or a vermouth as the pianist provides a soundtrack to the captivating frenzy of the gaming tables.
The lounge is open every day from 2pm to midnight.
Café de la Rotonde
Tucked in the Casino de Monte-Carlo Atrium, Café de la Rotonde is an exquisite mix of sophistication and casual fun, ideal for a leisurely visit and for soaking up the charming setting.
Open every day from 2pm to 2am, from April until the end of October.
VIP: Salle Blanche Lounge
If you’re a VIP, head over to the Salle Blanche Lounge Bar for live music and an even more exclusive experience. It was originally designed in 1903 as a conversation parlor. With its gaming tables on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean and the warm glow of its chandeliers inside and out, this private gaming room offers a truly exceptional experience. This is a bar with a rich history… The Salle Blanche lounge was once a literary salon, and the principal protagonists can be seen in the Belle Époque decor. It’s easy to imagine Otero here, revelling in the passion of the game. The painting of the Florentine Graces, the gilded clock, the winged angel sculptures, the gaming tables, and of course, in the middle, the finest bar in the Principality.
The lounge is open every day from 2pm to 2am. Every Friday and Saturday, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm and from 10pm to 1am, you can enjoy “musical moments” (international pop, folk, rock, soul, jazz, bossa nova, etc.) with live bands. Whether you prefer a quick bite or to take your time, you can eat at the Bar Salle Blanche from 2pm to 7pm.
Note: you must be a ‘My Monte-Carlo‘ Gold, Platinum or ‘Private Monte-Carlo’ cardholder to enter.
Attend a Special Event
The Casino de Monte Carlo holds many special events. To get on the list for these events, your best bet (no pun intended!) is to become a ‘My Monte-Carlo‘ Platinum member.
The History of the Monte Carlo Casino
Back in the 1850s, Monaco was in dire straits. The ruling family’s persistent financial problems became especially acute after the loss of tax revenue from two breakaway towns, Menton and Roquebrune, which declared independence from Monaco in 1848 and refused to pay taxes on olive oil and fruit imposed by the Grimaldis.
Princess Caroline, the shrewd, business-minded spouse of Prince Florestan I had the idea that saved Monaco. Worried about the future of Monaco, she devised a plan to attract visitors and make money through a new casino. Revenues from the proposed venture were supposed to save the House of Grimaldi from bankruptcy.
In 1854, Charles III, Florestan’s son and future Prince of Monaco, recruited a team to devise a development plan and write a prospectus to attract the 4 million francs needed to build a spa for the treatment of various diseases, a gambling casino, and English-styled villas. The casino was opened in a mansion, but was not run or promoted well enough and thus became a money-losing venture.
During this initial period, several versions of the casino were built and failed due to incompetence under Charles III’s direction, and the casino had been moved several times, until it finally ended up in the area called Les Spelugues (The Caves). This is where the new casino and the Hotel de Paris were finally built on their permanent site, with construction beginning in 1858. However, the people in charge, like their predecessors, were incompetent and lacked the ability to bring the gambling enterprise to the scale envisioned by Princess Caroline.
Frustrated, Princess Caroline took over and recruited François Blanc, a famous French casino entrepreneur and, at the time, the operator of the Bad Homburg casino. Blanc initially declined the offer. It took a lot of time and persuasion on the part of Princess Caroline to convince the Blancs to move to Monaco. Princess Caroline even appealed to Madame Blanc, whom she befriended during her first visit to Bad Homburg, with a suggestion that Monaco’s mild climate would be good for Madame Blanc’s ill health.
Finally, François Blanc agreed to take over Monaco’s casino business. On Blanc’s insistence, the Spelugues (which translates to ‘Caves’, in English) area where the gambling complex was located was renamed to make it sound more attractive to casino visitors. A few suggestions were considered, and the name Monte Carlo (which means “Mount of Charles”) was chosen in Prince Charles’ honor.
François Blanc founded a company called Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers (known as ‘SBM’) that is now a publicly-held company which manages the casino, hotels, restaurants, and other important places in Monaco. He hired Paris Opera House architect Charles Garnier to design the gaming halls and to build an opera house, attached to the casino.
The principality had to raise money for development – including the construction of the casino – and Prince Charles did that by selling 80% of its area to France. He sold the areas of today’s villages of Roquebrune and Menton to France in return for 4 million francs and the promise that France would build a road and rail-line from Nice to Monaco.
In 1863, the Casino of Monaco opened its doors to the public. A large flow of visitors, for the most part the aristocracy, came to the Principality, as the gambling houses had been banned in France 30 years earlier. Princess Caroline’s plan worked, and the Monte Carlo Casino quickly began to bring the principality so much money in profits (even though the Principality only received 15% of the profits from the casino) that the prince abolished income tax for residents of Monaco. This attracted many more wealthy people to the area, not just to visit, but to stay.
Since then, the Casino de Monte-Carlo has been welcoming the international elite in its gold-decorated Baroque rooms. From the great femme fatale, La Belle Otero in 1868, whose great lovers paid for her sometimes huge losses, to the actress Sarah Bernhardt, a regular at the casino who one night, famously came into Casino de Monte-Carlo with nothing but 100,000 gold francs in her bag.
At the end of the 1860’s, the social elite flocked to the gaming rooms, royalty and titles such as the Duke of Hamilton, the future Edward VII, the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Napoleon Bonaparte came to play, even writers and artists such as Jacques Offenbach, Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, Saint-Saëns, Massenet took the pleasure in a game. Socialites such as Liane de Pougy, Emilienne d’Alençon or La Belle Otero were seen to rub shoulders at a table – all three represented in a painting “Les Grâces Florentines” by Gervais which still hangs inside the casino.
Queen Victoria contrived – and failed – to keep her pleasure-loving son Prince Bertie (later King Edward VII) from the roulette table. Vladimir Lenin also stopped by and fumed that the general public were gambling money on a mere “game of chance” – which, if you’re not a Bolshevik, is terribly good fun.
It was in 1911 that the first racing cars whizzed by Le Casino de Monte-Carlo, during the Monte-Carlo Rally. In the same period, Sir Winston Churchill was another prolific gambler at the Casino de Monte-Carlo. Although the Second World War took him away from Monaco, he came back in 1945 to the shout of “Gentlemen, let’s pick up where we left off”, and thus that night winning 2 million francs. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Information for Visiting the Monte-Carlo Casino
Open Times: Both individual and guided visits and group tours to the casino (including the opera hall, but excluding the salons privés) are available from 10am to 1pm. The Salon Rose Restaurant opens at 12pm. The bars and gaming rooms open at 2pm daily (until 4am), at which time visitors to the casino must be 18 years of age, meet the dress code, and present ID.
Cost: It’s free to enter the atrium and the area with slot machines. It costs €17 for entry into the table gambling areas of the casino, which gets you a €30 voucher to use at the restaurants or for gambling. My Monte-Carlo cardholders get free entry for 2 people.
Important Requirement: Remember your passport! It is mandatory to present a valid national identity card or passport with a photograph (driving licenses are not accepted). No other items of proof can be accepted to access the gaming rooms.
Children & Teenagers: Minors are allowed in until 2pm to visit the Atrium (with no time limits) or to have lunch at the Salon Rose Restaurant, but they can not access the Salle Renaissance or any of the private rooms. Those aged between 6 and 18 are able to do the audio guide tour (which is available before the gambling starts). Access to the gaming rooms to play on the gaming tables and slot machines is strictly regulated and reserved for those having reached 18 years old.
Prices vary between seasons, but throughout the year it is €17 for adults to complete the audio guide tour of the casino. Included in this price is a drink, restaurant, or game token available to choose. So, whether you want to try your hand at the blackjack table or sit and guess the tell of a high roller with a glass of wine in hand, the choice is yours. Each tour takes place between 9am and 1pm, with last entry at 12:15pm.
The Casino de Monte Carlo is divided into salons ordinaires (ordinary rooms), salons privés (private rooms) and salons super-privés (the exclusive domain of serious gamblers). Anyone (including children) can visit the salons ordinaires and salons privés on a self-guided audio tour during the morning hours when dress codes are relaxed and no gambling is taking place. After 2pm any adult who is suitably dressed is also welcome to gamble in the salons ordinaires, including the Salle Europe (gaming tables) and the Salles Renaissance and Amérique (slot machines only).
Note: Access to the salons privés is restricted to Gold and Platinum level My Monte-Carlo cardholders. Meanwhile, the salons super-privés remain permanently off limits to all but the most extravagant high-rollers.
Afternoon: Make sure to dress up. While ‘appropriate’ casual attire is technically permitted in the Atrium and Salle Renaissance rooms from 9am and 2pm respectively, expect to get turned away if you’re too casual. Between 2pm and 7pm, the Salle Europe room permits upscale casual wear, but sneakers / trainers (even if they’re Gucci!), casual or men’s sandals, and flip flops are not permitted, neither are ripped or stonewashed jeans and sportswear. You will get turned away if you’re dressed too casually. For the table games area, casual shoes like sneakers are always strictly forbidden and a jacket and tie is strongly recommended for men in the evening (and is compulsory for the salons privés).
Evening: From 7pm, shorts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts of all types are prohibited. Gentlemen must wear a blazer / suit jacket. Dark jeans and smart casual shoes (like loafers) are tolerated. Evening gowns are recommended for women.
As a side note, many of Monaco’s restaurants will also turn you away at dinnertime if you’re wearing shorts or casual shoes.