A VISITORS GUIDE TO MONTE CARLO
Monte Carlo is the most famous district of Monaco, synonymous with the casino. But if you head further northeast you can enjoy magnificent promenades and exotic gardens. If you are interested in historic landmarks, check the WAWW Guide to Top Things to See in Monaco’s Old Town.
The Principality of Monaco is more than sand, yachts and shopping, so take some time to wander around Monaco’s beautiful streets and admire its historical landmarks, pretty cafes, cosy gardens and picturesque seascapes. If you are visiting in May, check where you can walk, because the streets of Monaco and Monte Carlo get turned into a Formula One track.
Start at Monaco’s iconic Place du Casino. The square has undergone a wonderful renovation that made it a safer place for pedestrians. Whether you come here for a cup coffee at the charming Café de Paris or a quick inspection of supercars parked in front of the Casino by The Société des Bains de Mer VIPs (or Monte-Carlo S.B.M., a company established to manage the casino), the square remains a central spot where you can feel the pulse of Monaco.
The Monte Carlo Casino, arguably the most famous casino in the world, was established in 1863 by Charles III Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco, back when Nice and Monaco were connected by a horse-drawn tram. It was redesigned in 1879 by Charles Garnier after he finished the Paris Opera. No money was spared and if you are into 10-tonne chandeliers, rows of gilded mirrors and polished marble, you will feel right at home. And gentlemen, don’t forget your jackets – a strict dress-code must be observed at this gambling institution.
Depending on your mood, a mandatory visit to the casino may be followed by a naughty dip in the rooftop pool at the Fairmont five-star luxury hotel, next door, or a tour of Opera de Monte Carlo at the adjoining Salle Garnier theatre – it is an epicentre of Monaco’s cultural life and an oasis of gilt and red velvet décor. On both sides of the casino, you can find the elegant Hôtel de Paris and the chic Café de Paris, which were built around the same time and delighted wealthy gamblers, who started pouring to Monaco from nearby Nice and later from all over Europe.
To take a good view over Port Hercules and Monaco’s Old Town, head to Les Spélugues – the roof of a congress hall built partly on stilts. If you are not staying at the Hermitage hotel, at least make a stop at its winter garden designed by the great Gustave Eiffel.
One of Monaco’s main attractions for football fans is the Promenade des Champions decorated with imprints of the world’s top footballers – Ronaldo, Zidane, Del Piero, and Maradona.
Monte Carlo is a green district, surrounded by luscious gardens. Jardin de la Petite Afrique in front of the casino is one of many lush gardens that provide visitors with much needed shade during hot summer months. A green path leads from the casino to Monte Carlo’s beach as well as the Japanese Garden (Jardin Japonais), an exceptional 7000 square metre park at the foot of the city. It was designed by a Japanese architect and it keeps a very particular harmonious Zen atmosphere that can rarely be found in city centres.
By Elena Leo