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Despite being such a small place, or perhaps because of it, Monaco has become an exclusive destination where the greatest of luxuries can be found. And many ways to spend money on them: from enjoying the marina to having a flutter in its famous casino, the most important in Europe, located in the district of Monte Carlo.
More than a century and a quarter have passed since its opening, but it has not lost any of its exclusivity and luxury since its beginnings. Men dressed in formal attire and women wearing the most prestigious designers walk its magnificent stairways every day. It is world renowned and visited by celebrities of all kinds, including, of course, Agent 007 James Bond, the fictional character created by Ian Fleming.
Located next to the sea, its design and construction are the work of Charles Garnier, who was also responsible for the Paris Opera. It is an architectural wonder whose construction began in 1863 and, since then, has had new buildings added, always with great luxury of detail both inside and outside.
At the entrance, there is a wrought iron canopy and two towers topped by domes covered in ceramics. Previously, the two towers each had a clock, one set to Monaco time and the other to Paris time. The two sculptures on these towers represent the River Seine and the Mediterranean Sea. They are the work of Italian sculptor Fabio Stecchi. On the right-hand side of the façade, there is an elegant balustrade and figures representing the four seasons. Whichever way you look at it, it is one of the most photographed images of all of Monaco.
Its main entrance, which is accessed by climbing its famous stairway, allows us to enter the casino. Its rooms are spectacular. All without exception. From among them, five particularly stand out.
The Atrium, or entrance hall, was designed and built by the architect Dutrou. Classical in style, 28 imposing columns, coffered ceiling, works of art, marble floor, sophistication... Luxury and glamour to give the warmest welcome to players. This was, in fact, the location of the first casino.
Le Salon Europe, the Europe Room, was historically the first of the rooms to be equipped for gambling in the casino. Its original design was also the work of Charles Garnier and, at the end of the 19th century, it was redesigned by Henri Schmit. It is a spectacular room adorned with allegorical murals dedicated to the four seasons and Monegasque landscapes, classically-styled statues and eight huge lights made from Bohemian crystal weighing over 150 kg each. This room is currently the area of the casino where the roulette tables are located.
La Salle Blanche, the White Room, was created to offer players a place to relax and chat comfortably without tables, but due to the great success of visitors, it ended up housing games like the others. Today, coffered ceilings, sculptures, lights and crimson curtains are the backdrop to the room where the slot machines are located.
Le Salon Touzet, designed by the architect Touzet, was opened in 1890, the same year in which electricity arrived in Monaco. It is a large room of 21 x 24 metres with a height of 12 metres, and is divided into two. It is decorated with mahogany, oak and oriental jasper and adorned with bucolic paintings like the four murals that depict the seasons of the year. This is where to go to find the blackjack and craps tables.
Also worthy of note is the Empire Gallery which leads to the Medical Room, tastefully decorated and in which, for example, one can see an enormous mural symbolising the main hours of the day.
If you look at the paintings and sculptures in these and other rooms, you will see that beautiful and elegant women predominate. This is because the artists were commissioned to give the casino a feeling of beauty in every corner.
The casino also has private rooms only available to the wealthiest gamblers seeking privacy, away from the eyes of the other players. There are even rooms that are super private, which are opened only on express request.
As you can see, the art of gambling has never had a more beautiful and unique setting, and because of this, the Monte Carlo Casino remains, for real players, the benchmark against which all others are measured.
Make sure you pay a visit, but remember that you will need to dress appropriately: no shorts or sandals are allowed and, in the private rooms, from 8 pm onwards, a jacket is required and, of course, the minimum age for admission is 18.
If you are going to try your luck, remember that, although the bank always wins, there have been historical cases in which people have broken the bank. The first was Terry Benedict who in 1873 discovered a small deviation in one of the roulette wheels. Interestingly, in the Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen films, Andy Garcia played the owner of a casino in Las Vegas. His name was Terry Benedict.
And then there is the case of Charles Wells who broke the bank in 1891. And on several occasions. Although it was believed that he had cheated and he was sent to jail, he never revealed the secret to his gambling success.
The Casino is also home to the Monte Carlo Opera and the National Ballet Company, which stage outstanding performances in the most stunning of settings.
This district is also the location of highly-distinguished hotels such as the Hotel de Paris and the Hotel Hermitage, and the Avenue des Beaux Arts, with its luxury boutiques specialising in fashion, accessories, antiques and jewellery... Monaco is simply pure luxury.